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Cheap Seats Online 2011

December 14, 2011 - The Most Unscientific of All

December 7, 2011 - Double Standards on Display

November 30, 2011 - Home Improvements

November 23, 2011 - Ever More Bureaucratic Brilliance

November 16, 2011 - Present!

November 9, 2011 - More Fun With the Occupation

November 2, 2011 - Occupy This

October 26, 2011 - Smokin!

October 19, 20111 - New Horizons

October 12, 2011 - Kids Today

October 5, 2011 - Solargate Spreads

September 28, 2011 - You Learn Something New…

September 21, 2011 - What’s Another Half Billion?

September 14, 2011 - Ten Years Later

September 7, 2011 - Spoiled Brats

August 31, 2011 - Number Two, Part Two

August 24, 2011 - Number Two, Just For You

August 10, 2011 - No Deal

August 3, 2011 - The Pointless Petulance of the Environmental Movement

July 27, 2011 - Shanghai Express

July 20, 2011 - Tempests in a British Teapot

July 13, 2011 - The Way It Was

July 6, 2011 - Defending Patriotism

June 29, 2011 - Both Meaningless And Pointless

June 15, 2011 - Libya

June 8, 2011 - Illifornia

June 1, 2011 - Another Embarrassment

May 25, 2011 - Just Plain Stupid

May 18, 2011 - Shooting the Messenger

May 11, 2011 - The War Goes On

May 4, 2011 - WikiLeaks Goes After Gitmo

April 27, 2011 - America’s Credit At Risk

April 20, 2011 - The GOP Drops the Ball – Again

April 13, 2011 - Campus Intolerance

April 6, 2011 - The Disaster That Wasn’t

March 30, 2011 - Use it or lose it

March 23, 2011 - Free Markets: An Object Lesson

March 16, 2011 - The Left Loses in Wisconsin

March 9, 2011 - Customer Service

March 2, 2011 - Hypocrisy in the Dairy State

February 23, 2011 - Wisconsin Leads, Illinois Loses

February 16, 2011 - A Matter of Faith

February 9, 2011 - Egypt and Democracy – An Uncertain Mix

February 2, 2011 - Chaos in the Middle East

January 26, 2011 - China on the Rise

January 19, 2011 - Exploiting Tragedy

January 12, 2011 - Taking Aim at Healthcare

January 5, 2011 - When Cooling Becomes Warming

December 22, 2010 - Center Ice


The Most Unscientific of All

By Rich Trzupek

  The great book tour continues, bringing yours truly to WGN studios last week for a stint on the Extension 720 radio show with Milt Rosenberg. It was a fun time, but what distinguished this particular interview was that Milt invited Jack Darin, Director of the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club to take part as well.

  You can listen to the two hours of give and take on the interwebs if you’re so inclined. Just search “Milt Rosenberg podcast” and you’ll get there. I think you’ll be entertained and – just maybe – informed as well.  But, the reason I’m highlighting this particular interview is that it provides an object lesson in just how un-scientific the environmental left has become.

  Jack Darin is a nice guy, the kind of fellow you’d like to have for a neighbor. But, Jack is no scientist. He is rather a communications major, which is pretty symbolic of today’s environmental movement as a whole. They’re not really all that interested in science, they’re rather all about talking points.

  For example, at one point Darin goes after one of the Illinois environmental movement’s favorite targets: the two coal-fired power plants located within the Chicago city limits, Crawford and Fisk stations. According to Jack, both of these “dirty” coal-fired plants represent a grave danger to the neighborhoods in which they are located.

  While that sounds plausible to the untrained ear, there isn’t a shred of scientific truth to the claim. Emissions from tall power plant smokestacks don’t drop straight down. The emissions are hot, buoyant and they are being released at a great height. Accordingly, they disperse over a tremendously wide area. Among the people that are the least impacted are those people living close to the power plant.

  To a non-scientist that seems counter-intuitive. When you see the big smokestack down the street, it’s hard to imagine that what comes out of it has no effect on the neighborhood in which it sits. Yet, that is the scientific fact of the matter.

  That kind of hard science doesn’t seem to matter to the leaders of the “green” movement however. Understandably so, I suppose. There isn’t anything sexy or provocative in educating the public about plume dispersion from power plant smoke stacks. More importantly, doing so wouldn’t be particularly helpful in terms of fund-raising, which is really what matters. The old adage “follow the money” applies as much to the environmental industry as it does anywhere.

  At another point in our discussion, Darin goes on and on about the dangers of mercury exposure and blames the ills of mercury exposure on coal-fired power plants located in the United States. Again, there’s little scientific substance behind the talking points.

  Can exposure to mercury affect one’s health? Certainly. But – as is the case with every substance – the amount of exposure is what matters. The dose makes the poison, in other words. And, there is no data that suggests that Americans are being exposed to levels of mercury in the air that is anywhere near levels that are considered toxic.

  Do American coal-fired power plants emit mercury? Sure. But, the amount of mercury emitted in America is paltry compared to emissions from Asia. Now you’re probably thinking: “So what? Emissions from Asia can’t possibly affect me!” Ah, that’s where you would be incorrect, for mercury is truly a global pollutant. You don’t have to take my word for it though. Here’s what the USEPA has to say about mercury pollution:

  “Mercury is a global problem that knows no national or continental boundaries. It can travel thousands of miles in the atmosphere before it is eventually deposited back to the earth in rainfall or in dry gaseous forms.”

  Accordingly, if the Sierra Club or any other environmental group was truly concerned that there is an unacceptable amount of mercury in the atmosphere today, they would be working to get the two largest mercury emitting nations in the world (by far) to upgrade their controls. Together, China and India are responsible for about ninety per cent of the mercury pollution on the planet, but you’d never know it by listening to environmental groups.

  One final example for ya: this whole greenhouse gas thing. (You may have heard of it). To listen to the lamestream media and the left, you would think that the United States isn’t doing a darn thing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And, they go on, that’s all the fault of those damn conservatives who refuse to acknowledge the scientific reality of man-made global warming.

  Putting aside for the moment the dubious science of global warming, the premise that the United States hasn’t been (and will continue to) reduce greenhouse gas emissions is just plain wrong. Thirty three of these United States have Renewable Portfolio Standards in place that will continue to drive down the use of fossil fuels. There is a cap and trade program up and running on the east coast. There are slew of new rules that forcing coal plants to shut down by the score.

  The fact is that we have reduced greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by about 15% over the last ten years and reductions will continue. It’s foolish to say that we need to do even more. We should rather wonder if we’ve done too much already.

  Unfortunately, you’d hard pressed to find an environmentalist who is even aware of those kinds of facts, much less one who cares about them. For, they’re on a mission to save the planet, and if this portion of the planet doesn’t actually need saving, that doesn’t really matter – as long as those donations keep rolling in.

Double Standards on Display

By Rich Trzupek

  We’ll never know the truth of Herman Cain’s personal life. At worst Cain is something of a lothario, but then that’s not all that unusual among presidents. The forty second President of the United States seemed to spend a disproportionate amount of time enjoying the charms of women with whom he did not share marital vows, for example.

  What’s most significant about Cain’s failed run for the nation’s top office does not involve what he did or did not do, but rather the glee with which the left and the mainstream media reacted to the possibility that a black Republican might have a skeleton or two in his closet.

  It’s apparent to all but the simplest of minds that there is double standard on the left when it comes to race and sex. Liberals claim to abhor racism and sexism, but they practice it to abhorrent degrees when a person of color or a woman dares to embrace conservative principles.

  They hate conservative women and they despise conservative African Americans. I suppose they see them as betrayers, since liberal mythology holds that the left is the sole defender of both groups. But for their efforts, the tale goes, women and minorities would be exploited as badly as ever. Sure it’s the twenty first century, but America is a hairs breadth away from slipping back into the nineteenth in their minds.

  For the left, the key to preventing all of us racist, sexist, profit-mongering conservatives from turning America back into a bigoted hell is government. Only government is powerful enough to combat all the evil bubbling just below the surface. That’s why it’s vital to continue electing as many leftist Democrats as humanly possible.

  That’s the essence of the leftist narrative as we know it and it must be admitted that it has suited them remarkably well over the decades. A majority of women and an overwhelming  majority of African Americans continue to vote for Democrats, election after election.

  Unfortunately – for the Dems – there’s a problem with the plan. Government isn’t terribly efficient at doing, well, anything at the grass-roots level. What government does well is to come at problems from the 50,000 foot level. But, once you slide down into everyday lives, government is about the least effective institution around.

  Consider the civil rights movement, for example. The original Civil Rights Act (which was primarily opposed by Democrats, by the by) was both necessary and effective. It steered the ship of state onto a new direction, one that was long overdue, removing the official barriers and many of the unofficial barriers that stood in the way of equality.

  However, as much good as the original Civil Rights Act did, subsequent attempts by government to delve into the minutia of everyday life to eradicate racism have been dismal failures at best, and outright disasters at worst. Government can make certain actions illegal, but you cannot legislate attitudes. That has to happen on its own.

  Some black thinkers, people like Condi Rice, Thomas Sowell and Herman Cain get that. They identify with conservative thinking because they can see that the nanny state has not done their people any good at all. While the private sector is far from perfect, its downsides are far preferable from the tremendous pitfalls that beset the public sector.

  Now one may or may not agree with that perspective, but we should all be able to agree that nobody should be demonized for having that – or any other – reasonable opinion. And yet, how the left hates the Herman Cains and Sarah Palins of the world. To listen to them, you would think that the devil incarnate had descended on the planet.

  The sneering, sputtering, foaming-at-the-mouth reaction to conservative women and African Americans almost defies belief. For people who spend so much time yapping about how we should all get along, the left is amazingly quick to condemn anyone who dares to stray from the reservation.

  Herman Cain is just the latest, and certainly not the last, victim of that particular way of thinking. It’s a sad state of affairs, but hypocrisy is a staple of the left if nothing else.

By Rich Trzupek

  A few humble suggestions from your humble correspondent, with an eye toward building a better world:

  1) Good for the Gander

  Now that Bartlett Trustees Mike Airdo, Greg Martin, Eric Shipman, and Frank Napolitano have declared that an elected official’s personal tax-paying habits should be a matter of public concern, I certainly hope that they will apply the principal universally in the future.

  To wit: whomever is chosen as the new Bartlett Village President should certainly release their personal tax returns to the public for review before taking office, don’t you think? It only seems fair.

  And while I personally don’t give a fig about the tax-paying habits of elected officials in the Village of Bartlett, these four seem to believe that it’s an issue of vital importance. So how about it boys? Let’s see the tax returns of the new Village President for the last five years. 

  Might as well throw in the tax returns of Hanover Township Supervisor as well. One can never be too careful! As a public service, I’m fairly certain that the powers-that-be at The Examiner will be more than happy to publish the documents so that qualified financial professionals can go over them with fine tooth combs. We are, after all, here to help.

  2) Power Play

  With little of any consequence left to do in the way of actual environmental problems, the green crowd continues to demonize coal. (Everybody needs a hobby I guess). This, in spite of the fact that pollution of all kinds has been so dramatically reduced over the last forty years and the fact that – in the case of almost every air pollutant – coal-fired power plants are small contributors to the pollution that remains.

  So, how about we do something a little different this coming March? Instead of the usual “Earth Hour” nonsense, let’s do something really dramatic: shut down all the coal-fired power plants in the United States for seven days. We’ll call it “Earth WEEK” and it will be totally awesome!

  After all, we’ve got plenty of crappy windmills and solar panels to bear the load now, right? And, should there be a few massive blackouts – well, that’s a small price to pay for saving the planet.

  3) No Debating It

  I think I speak for every American when I say that I am thoroughly sick of political debates in their current format. There is absolutely nothing enlightening about lining up candidates to recite rehearsed talking points in response to dopey questions posed by dopier media-types.

  It’s 2011. We’ve got communication technology up the wazoo. (Which explains that nagging pain in your wazoo by the way). Can’t we use it to make political debates a little more interesting and – dare we say it – informative?

  Here’s the plan: sit the candidates down around a table. No moderator. No dopey questions. Just let ‘em talk to each other. Let ‘em have a normal conversation about those things they think are important like grown-ups.

  “Pish-posh” you say. (A silly thing to say on your part, since you can’t hope to compete with me when it comes to arcane expressions, but I digress…). “What’s to stop one candidate from dominating all of the time available?”

  That’s where the technology part comes in. Each candidate gets a set amount of total speaking time. Software can keep track of it. Once a candidate uses up his allotment, his mike goes dead and he’s done for the evening.

  Brilliant no? Now somebody go do it.

  4) Stop Regulating Every Darn Thing

  Somebody ought to write a book on the topic, don’t you think? Oh wait – I already did. Have you bought it yet? You haven’t? For shame!

  Go to Amazon.com right now, search my name and place your order this very minute. Buy several! They make fantastic stocking-stuffers.

By Rich Trzupek

  Guess what kids – that wacky EPA is at it again! New rules just went into effect that regulate the way that farmers can use pesticides, herbacides and other forms of pest control. You’re feeling safer already, aren’t you – knowing that the EPA is finally going to tell those yokels how to manage their crops. YAY!!!!

  The heart of the rule is a 147 page General Permit that dictates a process that farmers are supposed to follow before choosing to control pests, what methods to use to control pests, the records they have to keep, the reports they have to file, the monitoring they have to do and a pile of other requirements. You can download the document yourself at the EPA website by going to this address: http://www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/final_pgp.pdf. The permit is truly precious.

  I’ll give you a taste. The following is one tiny little piece of the 147 page document, detailing what farmers are supposed to do before you even consider using pesticides to control mosquitoes.

  Prior to the first pesticide application covered under this permit that will result in a discharge to Waters of the United States, and at least once each calendar year thereafter prior to the first pesticide application for that calendar year, Decision-maker who is or will be required to submit an NOI must do the following for each pest management area, as defined in Appendix A:

  1. Establish densities for larval and adult mosquito or flying insect pest populations or identify environmental condition(s), either current or based on historical data, to serve as action threshold(s) for implementing Pest Management Measures;

  2. Identify target pest(s) to develop Pest Management Measures based on developmental and behavioral considerations for each pest;

  3. Identify known breeding sites for source reduction, larval control program, and habitat management;

  4. Analyze existing surveillance data to identify new or unidentified sources of mosquito or flying insect pest problems as well as sites that have recurring pest problems; and

  5. In the event there are no data for the pest management area in the past calendar year, use other available data as appropriate to meet the permit conditions in Part 2.2.1.a.

  There are also procedures that apply to weed control, algae control, animal control and forest management canopy control. There are monitoring procedures. There is the requirement to develop a detailed Pesticide Discharge Monitoring Plan. There are records to keep and reports to file. And, if a farmer spots a dead fish in the stream, farmers have the obligation to report the “incident” within 24 hours of discovery if you suspect pesticides might have contributed to the fishes untimely demise, lest he face the wrath of the EPA.

  What’s exceptionally stupid about this piece of bureaucratic nonsense is how unnecessary it is. I have never, ever met a farmer who didn’t watch every last penny. They’re not going to spray one drop more pesticide, or herbicide, or anything than they actually need. But then, every time you think they can’t get any stupider in D.C. they manage to prove you wrong.

  These requirements go into place immediately in those areas over which the feds have jurisdictional control. That’s good news, because even though over 300,000 farmers are immediately affected, farmers in Illinois are not among them – yet. Illinois has jurisdiction over the governing program, so the state gets to develop its own pesticide rules.

  The bad news is that the feds have to approve the rules that Illinois EPA develops and the feds tend to want the states to design programs that look a whole lot like federal programs. So, crazy new rules will be coming to the Prairie State, and soon. Wonder how the agricultural community will react?

By Rich Trzupek

  As a Senator, Barack Obama was addicted to a particular word: “present”. Time and again Senator Obama employed his favorite word to avoid taking a position on the great issues of the day. Once he was elected President, voting “present” was no longer an option. Or, so we thought.

  The President’s decision not to make a decision on the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline is, in all effects, another present vote. Caught between two opposing points of view, Obama understood that taking one side or another was fraught with political consequences. So, he did what he does best: the President kicked the can down the road.

  On the one hand, this administration’s singular inability to do anything to fight unemployment is a huge liability as we roll into the next election cycle. Construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, would ultimately bring about 800,000 barrels per day of Canadian oil down to U.S. refineries, would create tens of thousands of jobs, and would secure an important source of non-OPEC oil.

  If Obama has come out squarely against Keystone XL, he would have left himself open to charges – entirely justified – that he refused to take an action that would have immediate and measureable effect on both the economy and the unemployment situation. Moreover, it would also anger the unions that would stand to benefit from the massive construction project.

  Think about it. Construction of Keystone XL would result in billions of dollars pouring into the economy, much of it in the form of wages, and the government wouldn’t have to shell out even one of our tax dollars to make it happen. How can anybody possibly be against it?

  But, on the other hand, the so-called “green vote” is also important to this president. It’s hard to see why. I mean – seriously – is a hard-core enviro-activist going to vote for the Republican candidate? They should, since Republican administrations have been responsible for more draconian environmental statutes than any Democratic administration, but that’s not the way the tree-hugging crowd sees it. (Reality being something of an alien concept among the greenies).

  The enviros despise Keystone XL, for a couple of reasons. They’re certain that oil from the pipeline will leak into shallow aquifers in Nebraska, which will contaminate the water that farmers in the state use to grow government-subsidized corn crops which is turned into government-mandated ethanol at government-subsidized plants.

  This would, of course, be a disaster – for the government at least – and it must be admitted that pipelines do leak now and again. On the other hand, a gigantic pile of government laws and regulations ensure that when anyone contaminates soil or groundwater the guilty parties are held financially liable and forced to pay for a thorough clean up.

  The other objection makes even less sense. The enviros are convinced that if we don’t build Keystone XL then the Canadians won’t be able to sell their evil crude oil and thus the planet will be spared the emissions of the deadly greenhouse gases that would be created by using Canuck crude.

  In a world that includes only the United States and Canada, this logic might hold true. Unfortunately, there are a few other nations out there that are more than likely interested in Canadian oil. China and India – nations whose appetites for petroleum grows by leaps and bounds ever year – spring immediately to mind.

  In fact, China has already made it abundantly clear that they will be more than happy to buy Canadian crude if we don’t. No matter what dreams the enviros have, the fact is that the world’s appetite for oil isn’t going away anytime soon.

  And so President Obama was caught in between two very important parts of his core constituency. He concluded that he could afford to offend neither and so, as is all so typical of the man, he chose to offend the rest of the nation instead.

By Rich Trzupek

  I am now officially enjoying the “occupy” movement so much that there must be something sinful about doing so. It is the perfect storm of stupidity meets selfishness, playing out in front of cameras for our entertainment. Here’s hoping that the goofballs got the stones to stick with it until next November. How about a few highlights from the week that was?

  In Oakland, the seething anger of the movement turned into a full-blown riot that managed to shut down America’s fifth largest port. Anarchists and socialists of the world unite!

  Seeing what was coming, some leftist-leaning businesses tried to assuage the tender feelings of the occupiers. Whole Foods Regional President David Lannon posted this on Facebook before the riots: "We totally support our Team Members participating in the General Strike today – rumors are false!" Didn’t matter. His store got trashed.

  Clothing store chain Men’s Warehouse also got run over by the karma train. The Oakland store printed up a giant poster declaring: “We Stand With The 99%" and announcing they'd be closed on riot day. Do you think it helped? Nah. Men’s Warehouse went down with rest of the dirty rotten capitalists in the bay.

  And there’s delicious irony for you. George Zimmer, the founder of Men’s Warehouse, is a big backer of lefty causes and candidates. So, offering support to a bunch of clods who would never buy (much less wear) the business attire his stores sell was a natural. And, just as naturally, that support got his store nothing but a kick in the teeth.

  Then there’s the story of Joe Therrien, one of the Occupiers, that was recently highlighted in Nation. Who is Joe Therrien? Glad you asked. From the article:

  “A few years ago, Joe Therrien, a graduate of the NYC Teaching Fellows program, was working as a full-time drama teacher at a public elementary school in New York City. Frustrated by huge class sizes, sparse resources and a disorganized bureaucracy, he set off to the University of Connecticut to get an Masters of Fine Arts in his passion—puppetry. Three years and $35,000 in student loans later, he emerged with degree in hand, and because puppeteers aren’t exactly in high demand, he went looking for work at his old school.”

  The story goes on to describe how Therrien went back to his old school in search of another teaching gig, only to find out that budget cuts meant that all he could get was a job as a sub, without any health care coverage. This made Joe angry, so he’s occupying Wall Street protesting the system that he says let him down.

  Understand this is a story published in a left-wing magazine that’s sympathetic to the Occupy Movement. They think Therrien’s tale has merit. You and I see a moron who quit a secure full time job to run up debt in pursuit of narcissistic degree that wouldn’t improve his employment prospects one iota. Libs see a fellow who “worked hard” only to be let down by the system. Who knew that there wasn’t a market for people with Masters degrees in puppetry? (For that matter, who knew that one could get a Masters degree in puppetry?)

  Finally, there’s the “follow the money” part of the story. Increasing evidence shows that the powers-that-be behind Occupy Wall Street are the same folks who brought you ACORN. Having reorganized themselves as New York Communities for Change, it has been reported that those wacky folks who brought you ACORN bullying and scandals have been paying “protestors” involved in the Occupy Movement.

  No real surprise there, when you think about it. These are professional whiners after all, and there’s no better example of the whining, me-first cancer that is liberalism in America today than the Occupy Movement.

By Rich Trzupek

  There’s nothing quite so uniquely American as a bunch of entitled, unemployed kids coming together with a pile of aging, unreformed socialists in a movement founded and funded by wealthy leftists to angrily protest the creation of wealth in a free society.

  The “Occupy Wall Street” protest and the clones that sprung up across the country rely on perpetuating the myth that economics is a zero sum game. According to this view, there is a fixed amount of wealth available for distribution. If that is the case, it follows that it’s possible for certain individuals to grab disproportionate shares of the limited riches available.

  That’s the essences of the leftist view of economics. The kid who complains that he worked hard in school and got his degree, but still can’t find a job believes that J.P. Morgan Chase must be to blame. The idea that he chose to get a degree in “gender studies” and has been playing X-Box nonstop since graduation might be the problem never occurs to him.

  The fact is that wealth is unlimited. People can create more or less, depending on their talents, their imagination and their willingness to work hard. Do some folks draw the short straw? Of course they do – and that stinks. But, no system yet invented can guarantee absolute fairness.

  The wonderful thing about capitalism is that it is the least unfair of economic systems. For we know, from decades of experience throughout the world, that the chief feature of socialist systems is to force misery upon huge swaths of people in the name of equity.

  It’s remarkable that we’re having this argument as a nation again. There was a certain logic to having the socialism vs capitalism discussion in the thirties. An inconceivable economic catastrophe had struck the nation and there was a certain logic to considering whether there might be a better way of doing things.

  That was the thirties. Eighty years later, we’ve got all the evidence we need to prove that real, free-market capitalism works far better than anything else. Ask anyone who lived in eastern Europe in the 1980’s whether they’d rather be back there or living in America in 2011? Ask people living in today’s socialist paradises, like Cuba and North Korea, which they prefer.

  There’s a reason that China abandoned statist control of their economy in favor of allowing the free market to do its thing: that’s the system that works. Nobody should be arguing the point, least of all a pile of free-loading kids and old hippies.

  But the left needed something to offset the success of the Tea Party movement and this is what they came up with. Way to go libs – you’ve got your own grass roots movement! Now, how about teaching them how to clean up after themselves?

  At every Tea Party event that I’ve been at (and I’ve been at a few across the country) people have been very careful to leave the venue of the rally cleaner than they’ve found it. It’s become a matter of pride for Tea Partiers, something that so clearly sets them apart from the “deranged mob” label that the mainstream media tried to pin on them.

  On the other hand, the “Occupy” idiots are slobs incarnate, according to report after report. How typical. If paying off one’s student loan is somebody else’s problem, then clearly picking up old cheeseburger wrappers must be as well.

  If I was a Democrat (can’t believe that I just typed those words) I would be running from these idiots as quickly and as far as possible. But that’s just me. As a conservative, I hope that liberal Dems associate themselves with the “Occupiers” as closely as they can. Come next November, that will be of immeasurable value in demonstrating to middle America just what liberalism has become today.




By Rich Trzupek

  Despite the combined efforts of government and public health-advocates to eradicate the habit, the number of smokers in the United States has basically leveled off over the last five years, ending a forty year decline. About 45 million Americans still puff away, in spite of exorbitant taxes, frequently having to pay more for insurance, the increasing stigma that goes along with being a smoker and the undoubted damage that the habit does to one’s body.

  Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to reduce the risk associated with tobacco use among that hard-core group of smokers? Guess what – there is, but our over-controlling government doesn’t want anyone to know about it.

  Full disclosure here: I was a smoker for thirty-four years, until I quit at the beginning of this year. Health concerns played a part in that decision to be sure, but the amount of money I was throwing away on the habit – most of it to government – made me sicker still. The trick to kicking the habit? It’s easy: stop buying cigarettes.

  But of course it’s not actually that easy. Quitting cold turkey well and truly sucks, which is why few people do it that way. There are a number of aids out there designed to make quitting easier, but it’s pretty clear by now that the core of American smokers aren’t interested in making use of them. What to do?

  The answer – an answer that’s working in other countries – is to push the hard-core tobacco user over to smokeless tobacco products as the less risky alternative to lighting up. There are a wide variety of smokeless products out there these days, from the old-fashioned chaw that requires the user to carry around a rather disgusting spit cup to tiny lozenges and films that are undetectable and don’t generate the juice that the older products do.

  “Ah, but smokeless tobacco causes oral cancer!” you’re thinking. “All you’re doing is trading one form of cancer for another. Fie on this plan! FIE!”

  OK, you’re probably not actually using Shakespearean curses when you’re thinking about this issue unless you’re me, which – all things considered – you’re probably not.

  But, note that I did not claim that smokeless tobacco is “healthy”. I rather said that it’s “less risky” than smoking. In point of fact, it’s far, far less risky than smoking. For example, statistics tell us that smoking increases your risk of developing lung cancer by more than twenty times. Using smokeless products, on the other hand, increase your risk of developing oral cancer by a factor of about two.

  A long term study in Sweden, where smokeless products are advertised as the less risky alternative to smoking, has shown that smoking rates have steadily declined as the use of smokeless products has risen. Clearly, more and more Swedes are taking advantage of the less risky alternative to get their nicotine fix. Wouldn’t it be better if everyone just gave up tobacco in any form? Sure, but that’s not the world we live in. If there’s a way to reduce the risk, knowing that we can’t completely eliminate it, why wouldn’t we want to do so?

  Our government, in its infinite wisdom, doesn’t see the issue that way. They have imposed a gag order on the companies that make smokeless tobacco products, prohibiting them from telling the tale that I have just outlined to the public. Because I do not work for a tobacco company nor am I employed as an agent for a tobacco company or the tobacco industry, I am free to tell this particular story. Were that not the case, I could be arrested and the first amendment be damned. Welcome to Amerika comrades!

  Now there are legitimate arguments against offering smokeless products as the less risky alternative to smoking. Might, for example, doing so result in a net increase of tobacco users because some people who wouldn’t have ever picked up a cigarette will be tempted to use snuff because it’s not nearly as harmful? The Swedish experience suggests this isn’t the case, but it’s a legitimate point to consider as part of an informed discussion nonetheless.

  What is vexing about this issue is that we can’t actually have the informed discussion, because Big Brother has clamped a gag on those people who can initiate the dialogue. That stinks and the situation demonstrates once again the lack of courage that big government exhibits day after day. If they can’t win an argument, they’ll simply alter the playing field so they don’t have to argue at all.

By Rich Trzupek

  In the eleven years (can you believe it!) that I have been writing this column, I count the number of times that I’ve written the “it’s all about me” column on one hand. I much prefer to write about what’s going on in the world than what’s going on in my own life. Yet, every rule has an exception and this is one of those times.

  And I guess that the reason I feel the need to write this particular column is that I do feel a certain kinship with you readers. Writing is such a joy for me and without you reading it, I would not have had this wonderful outlet for so long.

  I appreciate the fact that you scan over the Cheap Seats every week, whether you love where I’m coming from or despise my point of view. And though I am a notoriously poor correspondent, I appreciate all the words of encouragement over the years, as I oddly appreciate the notes of derision as well. Taking the time to write means something and not all family members have to get along to be part of a family.

  So, in the spirit of comradeship, I will relate that the journey that began with me penning my first column for The Examiner in 2000 might be taking another step forward. No, not one that would see me departing page eight in my beloved Examiner, but perhaps – just perhaps – one that might lead to new horizons.

  As you are probably aware (and painfully so when it comes to those of you who don’t like my positions) I have just released my third book, entitled: Regulators Gone Wild: How the EPA is Ruining American Industry. It’s the first book that I’ve published that is aimed at a broad audience and the very early returns suggest it may actually do so.

  For you aspiring authors out there, understand that I wrote the first version of Regulators Gone Wild back in 2004. It wasn’t until 2010 that I found a publisher that was enthusiastic about the project: Encounter Books. So when they say that perseverance is the key to publication, they’re not kidding. If you believe in your work, hang in there.

  And, in that amazing way that things turn out, the book couldn’t have come out at a better time. Excessive regulation is a hot button issue in a way that it would never have been back in 2004. While I’m not sure the degree to which God actively directs each individual life, I am certain that His guiding touch is present in all of our lives to some extent and I feel immense gratitude to Him for all He has given me, especially now. I know that you atheists out there will snigger at that declaration, but that’s the way I feel.

  If all turned out as planned, this column will have arrived at your home a day after I made an appearance on Fox and Friends to publicize the book. Another popular television news program has contacted me about doing a one hour special based on the book, to air next spring. Radio appearances and speaking opportunities are rolling in. After a speaking gig at the Heartland Institute, I was invited to assume a role there as an Advisor on Environmental Affairs.

  It’s all pretty heady stuff. In my mind, I’m still the son of a hard-working, tough south-side steel worker in whose foot-steps I am not worthy to tread. This is a very odd place to be.

  Please understand that I don’t share this with you as a means of saying “look how cool I am!” For the fact is that I’m anything but. I look at writing this way: I have been given a gift. That gift has almost nothing to do with me earning it. But, I do believe that when you are given a gift you should do your best to make the most of it. That’s your obligation. Not surprisingly, the parable of the talents is one that speaks to me quite loudly.

  Writing a book about a subject that I think is vitally important is as much a part of doing the right thing with that gift as writing this column has been. We’ll see what happens from here. But I must say this: having this much fun should be illegal.



  P.S. If choose to order the book, consider dropping by threedonia.com, using the easy-link to amazon and hang out with some very cool people.

  By Rich Trzupek

  It’s official: at the age of 52 I am now a card-carrying crabby old man. I’ve tried mightily hard to put off the inevitable, but it’s time to surrender, for I have officially entered the “what’s the matter with today’s damn kids?” phase of the aging process.

  For those of you who are kids, understand that this particular rant does not apply to every one of you. I understand that there are some kids who get it (my own daughtorial unit included), but it seems that there are more and more of you who have turned laziness and entitlement into a lifestyle.

  Perhaps this is a reflection of America today in general, but for those of us who grew up immersed in the ideas that hard work was a virtue in its own right, rather than something to be avoided like the plague, it’s a rather disturbing trend.

  Like many a fellow baby-boomer, I entered the work force at a young age and have never left it. Moreover, having grown up in a working class household, the expectations were very different. It was a given that I would take any job that was available and that I would turn over my paycheck to my parents. This all seemed entirely reasonable, since it was easy to see that my folks – who provided me with food, shelter and an education – didn’t have a lot of dough to throw around.

  That attitude still exists in some families, but it’s dwindling. More and more young people – and by young people I’m mostly referring to teens – seem to turn up their noses at jobs that they believe are somehow beneath them. And, even worse, more and more young people – believing themselves far too important to engage in menial labor – seem to think that it is their parent’s duty to provide them with all of the goodies that they could hope for.

  From a car, to a cell phone, to the very latest in video game equipment, there are few things that the entitled generation does not feel it should be supplied with, at no cost to themselves of course. That’s what mom and pop are for, right?

  It’s an attitude so far removed from what my generation grew up believing that it’s almost like living in on an alien planet. When you’re young, the idea that a particular job is “beneath you” or should be avoided because “it’s no fun” is ludicrous. They call it “work” for a reason.

  Yet, so many of today’s young people not only demand instant gratification, they believe that a world unable to provide that to them is positively wicked. Whenever I talk to people who run businesses that traditionally employ youths – like fast food restaurants and convenience stores – they tell the same story over and over again. For every kid that sticks around and does a good job, they go through a handful of others who either leave because they can’t (or won’t) hack it, or whom they fire because they refuse to do the job responsibly. That’s a very sad state of affairs.

  And there’s a sneering, sullen attitude that pervades those young people who operate under a constant sense of entitlement. They seem convinced that the world owes them anything they want. When they get something, there’s no appreciation and when they don’t there’s nothing but petulance.

  There are few better examples of the trend then the yahoos who are currently camping out on Wall Street. I watched some of them being interviewed and all I could do was shake my head. One of the idiots even admitted that he had quit his job to protest corporate “greed”. Think about that for a minute. You think you deserve more so you abandon your means of earning income in order to sit on the street and bitch about people who create wealth and jobs. Good Lord.

  If those of the younger generation who are like minded put half as much effort into doing a good job as they did into complaining about how unfair life is, we’d all be a lot better off.

Solargate Spreads

By Rich Trzupek

  New revelations suggest that the brewing scandal involving the solar panel industry may run much deeper than the failed Solyndra company. According to a report published by The Daily Caller, officials at least four other solar companies that received billions in loan guarantees have donated large sums of money to prominent Democrats like President Obama, Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senator Barbara Boxer. In addition, tumbling stock prices suggest that some, if not all, of the companies in question may be heading for financial trouble.

  Solyndra, the solar panel manufacturer based in Fremont, California that received $535 million in federal loans was touted by the Obama administration as an example of the kind of cutting edge, green technology leader that America needs to invest in. The company subsequently declared bankruptcy and, when called upon to testify before a Congressional committee, Solyndra executives repeatedly invoked the 5th Amendment rather than answer questions about the fiasco. Now it appears that the scandal is spreading. According to The Daily Caller’s John Rossomando:

  “Companies like First Solar, SolarReserve, SunPower Corporation and Abengoa SA have already, collectively, received billions in loans through Obama administration stimulus programs to build solar power plants in the southwestern United States. Yet each, with the exception of the privately held SolarReserve, has seen its stock price hammered at the same time it was lobbying the Obama administration and Congress for billions in loan guarantees.”

  For example, according to The Daily Caller Oklahoma billionaire George Kaiser raised over $50,000 for President Obama in 2008. Kaiser has ties to both SolarReserve and Solyndra. Lee Bailey, a SolarReserve board member and U.S. Renewables Group investor, has donated $21,850 since 2008 to Democratic candidates including President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and California Sen. Barbara Boxer. SolarReserve also paid more than $100,000 of lobbying fees to the Podesta Group. The Podesta Group is run by Tony Podesta, brother of Obama transition team head Leon Podesta. In the same vein, SunPower, spent almost $300,000 in lobbying fees with a close confidante of Harry Reid’s, as well as making hefty campaign donations to influential Democrats.

  Meanwhile, the value of these companies appears to be dropping precipitously. The price of both SolarReserve and SunPower stock has dropped more than sixty per cent in just a few months and Abengoa SA stock dropped over thirty five per cent in six months. (First Solar is privately held, so financial data is not available). Nonetheless, not only have they received billions in federal loan guarantees, the Department of Energy just authorized a billion more.

  The administration and “green energy” advocates tout solar as a vitally important source of green energy and claim that DOE seed money pouring into companies like these will pay off in the long run. There is certainly some demand for solar panels in the residential and commercial markets, but it’s hard to see how any US company will be able to compete with solar panels built in China given all of that nation’s manufacturing advantages in commodity markets. Solyndra tried to compete in that market and failed miserably, if predictably.

  But, as dubious an investment in the residential and commercial market is, investment in the power market is even shakier. Solar power does not, will not and cannot play any significant role in electrical generation for a couple of very good reasons. First, the installed cost of a solar plant is more than double that of an equivalently sized coal plant, and more than ten times the cost of a gas turbine plant. And then, because the sun doesn’t shine all of the time, solar plants spend most of their time not running. The metric used to determine availability is called capacity factor. This is a measure of how much power a plant actually produces, as compared to the amount of power the plant could produce if it were running at peak capacity every hour of the year. A typical nuclear plant runs at an annual capacity factor around ninety per cent. Coal plants usually operate in the sixty to seventy-five per cent range. Most solar plants operate at capacity factors of less than twenty five per cent.

  There’s no free market incentive to build power plants that are much more expensive to build and operate far less than other technologies. Without the grants, loans, subsidies and tax breaks, no one would choose to use solar energy to enter the power market. Yet, that is the very market that First Solar, SolarReserve, SunPower Corporation and Abengoa SA are going after and Obama’s Department of Energy is pouring billions and billions into the companies to make it possible.

  To provide a little perspective on just how paltry a contribution solar power makes to electric generation, consider that the entire United States’ electric generation fleet totals a little over 1.1 million megawatts of capacity. Of this about 640 megawatts, or 0.05% is currently solar. Over the next five years, the Department of Energy projects that over 75,000 megawatts of new capacity of all sorts will come on line, a figure that includes 2,883 megawatts of solar power. That will move solar’s potential contribution up to a whopping 0.3% of the total.

  Solar power combines enormous construction costs and pitiful reliability in a way that no other power source does and the numbers reflect that simple truth. The fact is that solar power can do virtually nothing to replace reliable fossil and nuclear plants. The only thing that solar power has been able to achieve is to separate taxpayers from billions of their hard-earned dollars. As the solargate scandal spreads, more and more Americans are wondering why that has been allowed to happen.


You Learn Something New…

By Rich Trzupek

  My bride and I attended a marvelous lecture given by a prominent economist Brian Wesbury last week. Wesbury, if you don’t know him, is a heavyweight, often appearing on media outlets like Fox, CNBC and Bloomberg to discuss economic issues and sitting on the Academic Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve of Chicago.

  He’s also an engaging guy, with a healthy sense of humor, innate optimism and belief in both the basic goodness of his fellow man and in the benevolence of our Creator. The man has a personality in other words, which is about as unusual among economists as it is among scientists. Flattering myself to be in the minority of scientists who actually know how to communicate with our fellow human beings, it’s not at all surprising that I felt an instant kinship with Wesbury.

  Note to my wife: don’t worry – I’m not planning on leaving you for Brian Wesbury. It’s just that it was so refreshing to find someone do in the economic sphere what I’ve long wished my fellow scientists would do: distill the complexity of a specialty down so that any average Joe or Josephine can understand it. Too often, professionals tend to deliberately maintain this idiotic air of supremacy, using language designed to prove how much smarter they are than you, for no ordinary person could possibly understand the nuances of their discipline!

  It’s all hogwash of course. A good communicator can make anyone understand anything, given a little bit of time. I’ve often said that if you give me half an hour and a white board, I can make just about anyone (other than a true believer) understand why the science is far from “settled” when it comes to global warming. And, in the same vein, Wesbury outlined where we are economically in terms that were both easy to understand and fun to listen to.

  The metaphor that struck home the most powerfully was the following. Imagine, he said, that you were living on an island with nine other people. Every day all ten of you caught two fish, which provided the food you needed for a day. After a while, somebody invents the fishing net and, all of the sudden, two guys can out and catch twenty fish, feeding the whole island.

  Fantastic! Ideally, the other eight people will get to work advancing the standard of living for everybody. Maybe one will operate a restaurant. Another might use the time to make and sell better clothing than the lice-ridden rags everybody has been wearing. Now that everyone doesn’t have to fish all day, they can find other ways to create wealth.

  However, that can’t happen if the other eight people decide that the two guys catching the twenty fish are “rich” and have to give away sixteen fish so that everybody else can eat without paying for it. In that case, either the two guys say to hell with it and stop fishing with nets or they go along and distribute the fish for free. In the first case, nobody is any better off than they were before. In the latter case, you’ve get eighty per cent of the island freeloading off the efforts of the productive twenty per cent, while no other part of the society advances a bit.

  While we are not at the point where twenty per cent support eighty per cent (at least not yet) the growth in redistribution of wealth has grown to frightening levels. According to Wesbury, the amount of GDP spent by the government has never exceeded ten or eleven per cent until very recently. Today, government spends about eighteen per cent of GDP. That’s appalling.

  The fact that unemployment stubbornly hovers close to ten per cent, Wesbury says, is not because companies are not making money. Companies are recording record profits. The problem is that too much of the wealth that is being created heads for the public sector instead of remaining in the private sector, where that capital can create meaningful (rather than parasitic) jobs.

  Now I’m not going to claim that I know that Brian Wesbury’s analyses is correct in every particular. But I do have to observe that it makes a lot more sense than the current administration’s economic plans, which seem to center around the idea that the best way to pay down a dangerously bloated debt is to spend more money.

  But that’s just me.


By Rich Trzupek

  Somehow, solar panels became the symbol of all of the supposed promise that the “green energy” market held. At least that’s the way that President Obama talked about them. He was constantly going on and on and on – as only he can do – about how America was falling behind in green energy markets and exhibit one was the way China was out producing us in solar panels. Woe is us.

  Given the symbolic importance that solar panels held for this administration, it’s more than a little ironic to find that the poster boy of green job stimulation, solar panel manufacturer Solyndra, went under, taking over half a billion in taxpayer dollars with it. Congress is now investigating that government loan – as they should – but I doubt that much will come of it. More’s the pity.

  Unfortunately, the Department of Energy loans money to people whose companies and/or ideas don’t make sense all of the time. Mind you, I don’t have anything against a little basic research, but trying to circumvent free-market economics and one or two laws of thermodynamics at the same time using taxpayer money is more than a little distasteful.

  In the day job, we have a name for these sorts of projects – we call them pixie-dust projects. There are plenty of people in the private sector willing to fund pixie-dust projects too, but that’s a different story. If some billionaire wants to throw his money away on a perpetual motion machine, I say: have at it my man. But please, I expect my government to guard every single dollar I grudgingly send its way as though it was the most important dollar in the history of the world. Instead, they toss them around like a Cincinnati Bengal at a strip club.

  The administration made the usual whining excuses in a vain attempt to deflect criticism over the Solyndra loan. China can make them cheaper! Demand dropped with the recession! My dog ate the loan application!

  Gee, China can produce a manufactured commodity cheaper than the United States? Who saw that coming? Cheap labor – no unions – no EPA – no OSHA – no attorneys lurking around every corner waiting to sue your ass – no respect for intellectual property – there are a lot of reasons that people go to China to build things. It takes a truly dedicated progressive, or a truly remarkable idiot (please excuse me for being repetitious) to turn a blind eye to that glaringly obvious truth.

  Given the fact that it’s damned-near impossible to compete with China in commodity markets and given the fact that there was a recession on, George W. Bush’s Department of Energy prudently declined to act on Solyndra’s loan application. But, once the Chosen One took office, it took DOE all of nine days to approve the loan and Vice President Joe Biden all of about five minutes more to jump in front of camera and rave on about the wonderful, job-creating loan with all the enthusiasm of Neville Chamberlin returning from Munich. Half a billion to build solar panels! Truly, this was jobs in our time!

  The Obama administration denies that any political pressure was applied to get the loan approved. The average screening time for DOE loan applications is about twenty eight days and, as noted, the Solyndra loan was approved in nine. If that doesn’t reek of political pressure to you, then you need to get your nose examined right quick. There is little doubt that an administration as obsessed by solar panels as this one would do everything in its power to sell that story and dump cash into companies building them. By the same token, there’s little chance that we’ll ever be able to prove that’s what happened. Everybody who plays these games – and both parties do – is far too skilled in covering their tracks.

  But sadly, we’ve come to expect mediocrity from our government. In fact, we’d be pretty happy with mere mediocrity today, instead of the stifling, unbelievable incompetence that we have now. For the Solyndra fiasco is the latest symptom of the disease that is slowly eating away at the soul of our nation.

Ten Years Late

By Rich Trzupek

  It’s hard to believe that ten years could have passed so quickly. I remember leaving for work on September 11, 2001, a bit agitated because my then twelve year old daughter was feeling poorly and I never liked leaving her home alone when she was ill. Yet, she wasn’t that sick and – as she constantly reminded me – she was capable of taking care of herself.

  Flipping on the car radio about half-way to the office, I noticed there we something decidedly odd about the “Mike and Mike” show on ESPN. No laughing. No needling. The tone was positively somber. What in the hell was going on? Had somebody important died?

  It turned out that a lot of important people died of course: New Yorkers, people who worked for the Department of Defense and the heroic passengers who brought down United flight 93 before it could be flown into the White House. Along with those thousands, a handful of bigoted religious zealots crossed into eternity as well, but not before wreaking havoc on this nation of the sort that America hadn’t known since December 7, 1941.

  Like just about every other American I remember that morning as a waking nightmare, one that moved along at a maniac pace with each new revelation more horrifying than the last. One plane, then two planes, then three and God only knows how many more flying bombs were circling for a target. One of the twin towers collapsing on itself. My God – how could that happen? And then, before you even had a chance to digest that reality, the second tower fell. The pall of smoke that blanketed Manhattan cast a shadow over every American that day.

  For my part, once the towers starting falling, I decided that my place was with my daughter. I raced home, for I wanted her to learn the day’s events from me, not from some talking head on the tube. We spent the rest of that morning talking about life and death, the difference between religion and fanaticism and the nature of evil.

  In the weeks that followed that fateful day, it was gratifying to see the nation come together for a moment, as we always seem to do when the trial is grave enough. For a brief period of time, under strangely silent skies, we were not Democrats nor Republicans, we were not conservatives nor liberals, we weren’t even labor nor management – we were simply Americans.

  We were also angry Americans, which was very bad news for al Qaeda, the Taliban and their supporters. Al Qaeda’s objective – bin Laden’s entire reason for  being – was to get Americans out of the middle east, and especially to stop them from desecrating the holy kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Rather than sending our armed forces scurrying for home, bin Laden’s suicide hijackers had the opposite effect: hundreds of thousands of American troops were destined to head for the middle east, determined to wipe out the infestation at its core.

  Ten years and so many lives later, we still ask ourselves: who is this enemy that we fight and why do we continue to fight him? The short answer – “never again” – satisfies some these days and distresses others. The unity we knew back then has long since splintered apart, perhaps as badly as ever, so the reasons that we fight and the way we fight is endlessly analyzed, criticized and rationalized, most often as a way of defining and justifying a person’s particular worldview. This war on terror means one thing to people who see America as a global bully and quite another to those of us who believe America is the greatest force for good in the world today.

  But the enemy today is the same as the enemy that this nation battled in 1941, 1861 and 1776: an idea. Specifically, the idea that some men can force their ideas and ideals down the throats of their fellow man at the point of a gun. It’s so much harder to focus on that basic truth this time around, because this particular version of that evil idea intertwines itself into religion and hides behind our modern fear of appearing in the least racist.

  As long as that kind of an idea exists, someone – somewhere – will stand up to fight it. It may not always be America, but history tells us quite clearly that people at their core are never tolerant of intolerance. If those thousands who paid the ultimate price ten years ago rest easily today, it is because we have done so much to fight this evil, not in the name of vengeance, but to put truth to those noble four syllables: never again.

By Rich Trzupek

  So did you happen to see the story about the Steven and Kathryn Miner, aka: the whiniest spoiled rich kids in the history of the planet? Let’s review:

  According to published reports, Steven and Kathryn were raised in a $1.5 million home in Barrington Hills, Illinois. After a decade of marriage, their parents divorced. The kids grew up, got an education and were well-provided for. Or so it seemed, until Steven and Kathryn – now 23 and 20 years old respectively – revealed the full horror of what it was like to have a mother as brutal as theirs.

  Steven and Kathryn did what any whiny, spoiled rich kid would be expected to do: they sued their mom, looking for over $50,000 in compensation for the “emotional distress” they suffered under Kimberly Garrity’s “bad mothering”.

  How bad a mother could Garrity possibly be to drive her kids to seek revenge in court? The details will shock and sicken you. Really. I’ll give you a moment to clear the kiddies out of the room.

They gone? Good. Here’s just some of the grizzly details, as published in the August 27 edition of the Chicago Tribune:

  “The alleged offenses include failing to take her daughter to a car show, telling her then 7-year-old son to buckle his seat belt or she would contact police, "haggling" over the amount to spend on party dresses and calling her daughter at midnight to ask that she return home from celebrating homecoming.”

  Oh. My. God. What kind of monster would fail to take her daughter to a car show, or threaten to call John Law if her seven year old doesn’t voluntarily place himself in restraints? How deeply sociopathic a personality tries to restrain a teen-agers spending or impose a curfew! These are depredations that have not been seen since the days of the Spanish Inquisition (which nobody expects, by the by).

  I hesitate to reveal more of the horrors that young Steven and Kathryn were subjected to, but here at The Examiner we are committed to providing you with all the news we see fit to print (unless, of course, it involves people we don’t like very much). See if you can hold down your lunch as you digest these blood-curdling details:

  “Among the exhibits filed in the case is a birthday card Garrity sent her son, who in his lawsuit sought damages because the card was "inappropriate" and failed to include cash or a check. He also alleged she failed to send a card for years or, while he was in college, care packages.

  On the front of the American Greetings card is a picture of tomatoes spread across a table that are indistinguishable except for one in the middle with craft-store googly eyes attached. "Son I got you this Birthday card because it’s just like you ... different from all the rest!" the card reads. On the inside Garrity wrote ‘Have a great day! Love & Hugs, Mom xoxoxo.’”

  Well there it is! What more to you need to know? What self-respecting person wouldn’t sue when subjected to such…

  Hang on. I have to stop now. Even I can’t keep up the sarcasm for long until the disgust comes bubbling through. Frivolous lawsuits are bane in America as it is. Two spoiled kids suing mommy over crap like the style of a birthday card and failure to receive a check in said card is about as moronic as lawsuits get.

  You want some “emotional distress” Steven and Kathryn? Try having your spoiled behinds whipped raw when you misbehave. Try sleeping in a detached garage in the middle of January because you missed curfew and the doors to your home were bolted when curfew came. You didn’t get a check from mommy in the birthday card you sneered out? How about starting to work for a living at twelve and having to turn over your earnings to mom and dad, because every little bit mattered so much.

  That’s the way I grew up, as did so many of my baby-boomer contemporaries. And, far from wanting to sue my parents when I matured, I came to realize that they had given me a childhood of incalculable value, one that drove home the value of concepts like character, responsibility and honor. But, it’s pretty obvious that kids like Steven and Kathryn Miner have no conception of what those words mean.

By Rich Trzupek

  When we last got together, we had an opportunity to explore the many virtues of poo as an energy source. Enough of that crap though. You’ll recall that we observed that – for all of its marvelous qualities as a fuel – we just can’t generate enough poo as a nation to replace all of the coal that we will no longer be able to burn. That means we have to look at (or perhaps “take a whiff of” would be more appropriate) natural gas.

  Natural gas exploration and production is booming in the United States. In the energy industry, the US is now known as the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. It’s remarkable – one of the very few bright spots in our miserable economy.

  North Dakota is one of the states that is profiting from the natural gas boom. Indeed, as a result of the boom I saw multiple examples of an item that I thought had disappeared from the American landscape: the “Help Wanted” sign.

  For those of you who are too young to remember those signs, allow me to explain. There was a time when you could spot them in Illinois. Really. “Help Wanted” indicated that the owner of a business was making a profit and needed to hire additional employees to help him or her grow the business.

  Now days of course, the iconic “Help Wanted” sign has all but disappeared from states like Illinois, California and New York that have decided that a combination of socialism and cronyism is the best way to run a state. Which, come to think of it, is the best way to run a state if you happen to be one of the people running it. For those subject to your rule: not so much.

  Anyway, unemployment in North Dakota has been hovering around 3.5%, which basically means that the only people not working in North Dakota are the people who don’t care to work. It should also be noted that the number of Democrats occupying high federal or state office in North Dakota is: one. And, he’s about to retire. As dead as the GOP is in Illinois, the Democrats are even more so in North Dakota. You can now ponder whether that’s cause or effect in each case.

  So, you’re probably wondering where all of the natural gas came from. If you happen to be around my age, you may even recall how, back in the seventies, the early enviro-heads predicted that our natural gas supplies would run out by the year 2000. Turns out that not only did that not happen, we now know that we have over one hundred years worth of natural gas reserves.

  The vast majority of the “new” natural gas is tied up in shale formations, deep underground. Thanks to improvements in drilling technology, we can use an old, proven technique called “hydro-fracturing” (or “fracking” for short) to recover that gas.

   Some states, like North Dakota, Arkansas and Pennsylvania have been blessed with huge shale formation and are currently generating huge amounts of money and jobs by tapping into the natural gas trapped within. Other states, most notably New York, have the shale but choose not to drill.

  Why? Because of crazy environmentalists or course. Duh! Today’s crazy environmentalist positively hates the idea of burning anything, so the thought of us finding new resources of fuel – even something as clean burning as natural gas – is positively abhorrent to them.

  They’ve created all kind of goofy “evidence” that fracking is bad, following the environmentalist playbook: scare the crap out of everybody! They even got HBO to air a truly awful special entitled “Gasland” which was full of more half-truths and bad science than an Al Gore production, which is really saying something.

  At the end of the day, success will tell. The divide between the have and have not states will continue to grow all the wider as time goes on. At some point one model or the other will take hold and we will decide whether we’re going to continue to be a nation that creates wealth, or become a nation that destroys it.

Number Two, Just For You

By Rich Trzupek

  Just flew back after a week in North Dakota (and yes, my arms are quite tired). Why North Dakota you ask? Because that’s where you go to do test burns of bio-solids. What are bio-solids you ask? (Geez, you’re full of questions aren’t you?) Bio-solids are the hep new name for what we used to call “poo”.

  It’s got a nice ring to it, don’t it? In this fabulous new green world of ours, you can attach the prefix “bio” to just about anything and the product instantly becomes environmentally friendly. Well almost. It would be a little more difficult to sell a fuel if it was called “bio-crap” (even though that would be a more honest representation), but “bio-solids” works quite well.

  Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re rolling your eyes and thinking “great – Trzupek is going to use this as an excuse to dump on tree-huggers (again) and trot out the poddy humor.” And, you’d be right. But don’t think I’m enjoying this. It’s just that if I spent a week burning poo in North Dakota and didn’t use it as an excuse to dump on tree-huggers (again) and trot out the poddy humor, I would be mustered out of the Trzupek clan in disgrace. My family has is standards. They’re very low standards, to be sure, but they are standards.

  The reason we need to burn poo is that we’re not supposed to burn coal anymore. The plan is to burn less and less coal here, while shipping more and more of it to China and India, so they can burn it instead. This apparently saves planet, although exactly how is far beyond my ability to comprehend.

  I’m OK with burning poo, if for no other reason than it gives me the opportunity to use the word “poo” over and over again in a newspaper that’s distributed to over 40,000 homes in the Chicago suburbs.


  (Lord, but I love The Examiner). 

  Anyway, if somebody is going to burn poo, it’s probably better that we do it in the United States, where we have the technology to burn it safely and efficiently and the environmental regulations to ensure that we do so. As opposed to much of the third world, where they have been burning poo of all kinds for centuries, but without either the rules or the technology.

  In your third world countries, dried poo isn’t burned in high-tech boilers equipped with the latest pollution control equipment. Instead, it’s just kind of piled up and burned in the spirit of the classic “ring and run, flaming bag of poo” trick of legend and yore, without the door-bell, door or bag of course.

  Now you might be thinking to yourself, but what about all those windmills we’re building – won’t they make up for all the coal we’re losing? Sadly, no. Wind power is neither free, nor reliable. The actual cost of wind power – when it’s running – is more than four times the cost of coal power. Worse, the wind doesn’t blow all the time. Nationally, your average wind turbine generates power about one-fifth of the year. Since most of us like to have electricity the other four-fifths of the year too, we have to have other sources of power that run all the time. In the energy biz, we call this “base load” power.

  Neither wind nor solar have, or can, provide base load power. Thus, we return full circle to the poo solution. But is it a solution? That depends on the answer to the question that has surely been running through your mind: can we, as a nation, produce enough poo to fill our energy needs?

  Sadly, the answer to that question is “no”. And we must gratefully acknowledge the prodigious efforts of the Obama administration is particular and the Democratic Party in general to generate bigger and bigger piles of crap than the nation has ever known. But, it’s just not enough. Poo will do its part, as poo is wont to do, but as more and more coal plants come off line, we’ll have to find other sources of base load power.

  What will that be? There’s only one energy source that we have access to and can actually use without the Sierra Club throwing a total conniption fit that can provide base load power: natural gas. And, there is only one kind of power plant that can be built quickly enough to replace the gigawatts of coal that be retired: natural gas fired turbine plants. And who will provide a big hunk of those natural gas fired turbines? Why the same folks who provide so many of those pointless windmills: General Electric. You gotta admire the way GE has played the game.

  Which brings us to wonder: will we have enough natural gas to repower the United States and, if so, what will it mean to my heating bill? The answer will wait to next week, as it relates to part two of my North Dakota sojourn. Until then, next time you head for the rest room, don’t think of it was an exercise in waste generation, but rather take pride in doing your part to secure America’s energy future.

  Which is poo.

No Deal

By Rich Trzupek

  The pathetic predictability of modern American politics would be a matter of hilarity, were it not so damned sad. The budget deal went down to the last minute! Who woulda thunk? Of course it went down to the last bloody minute. Why? Because everyone involved was far more interested in posturing for their constituents than actually solving America’s financial crisis.

  Two things were absolute certainties when the latest budget crisis began: 1) Congress was not going to allow the United States to default on its obligations (that would make Congressmen look bad), and 2) Congress still wasn’t going to step on the “third rail” of American politics – entitlements (because that would result in Congressmen not getting re-elected). Thanks for the non-solution guys. Since it was damned obvious this is where you were going to end up anyway, couldn’t you have announced the decision three months ago and saved everyone the soap opera?  

  Now I know that there are some good folks in Washington, if only because the law of averages says that there has to be. But it’s pretty clear that there aren’t nearly enough of them to overcome the partisanship, propaganda and all round idiocy that festers on the banks of the Potomac.

  Nothing was really fixed, other than kicking our systemic economic problems down the road a little farther, which has pretty much been government policy in one form or another since the end of the Eisenhower administration. Oh, but we avoided default! Like that was going to happen. My God, but what a bunch of gullible, hysterical fools we have become.

  Now that the other shoe has dropped and Standard and Poors has lowered the United States’s credit rating, the posturing has kicked into hyperdrive. Let’s start with failed Presidential candidate and professional Herman Munster impersonator John Kerry (D-Mass.):

  “I believe this is without question the Tea Party downgrade," he harrumphed. "This is the Tea Party downgrade because a minority of people in the House of Representatives countered even the will of many Republicans in the United States Senate who were prepared to do a bigger deal."

  For my part, I believe – without question – that John Kerry is an idiot. We are borrowing forty cents for every dollar we spend, the economy is in the toilet and the best John Kerry and the rest of the liberal zombie patrol is offer higher taxes both on the wealthy (which don’t come close to covering the red ink) and – inevitably – on the rest of us, because that’s the only way to really get rid of the red ink from the revenue side. But, because the economy is so incredibly screwed up, the rest of us can’t afford more taxes, as I’m sure even John Kerry’s economic advisors understand, but if you’re John Bloody Kerry and you expect to be re-elected in the workers paradise of Massachusetts, this is the kind of blather you are expected to spout.

  On the other side of the aisle, there was John McCain, another failed presidential candidate whose brain has been addled by spending too much time sucking in exhausts fumes on the Beltway.

  "I agree that there is dysfunction in our system, and a lot of it has to do with the failure of the president of the United States to lead," he said. "The fact is that the president never came forward with a plan. I was gratified to hear that he had plans, but it was never a specific plan, it was always the so-called leading from behind." 

  So that was the Republican plant in the Senate, to wait for Obama’s plan?  Puh-lease. The only thing more tiresome that Democrats crapping on the Tea Party for expecting a budget reform package that actually contained reform was listening to Republicans bitch and moan about the fantasy of a White House plan. Of course there was not White House plan and everybody understood that there could be no White House plan, because the net effect of a White House plan – especially this close to an election – would have been to back everybody into corners. Democrats could hardly not  back a White House plan without looking disloyal and Republicans could hardly look kindly on one because the flip side of that coin applies.

  There are many, many woes that I blame on President Obama – including most of the insane, out of control spending that got us to this crisis point so quickly – but the blame for the credit downgrade lies squarely on the shoulders of Congress, on both sides of the aisle. They’ve done what they’ve always done: they played keep-away with an issue that is vital to the welfare of the nation. It’s a damn shame, but it’s a measure of how far our expectations have been lowered that the end result comes as absolutely no surprise.

  The arrogance of the environmental movement was in full display in Salt Lake City this week, as radical environmentalist Tim DeChristopher was sentenced to two years in prison and fined $10,000 for sabotaging an oil and gas lease auction. In 2007, DeChristopher was awarded leases that would have allowed him to explore for gas and oil on 22,500 acres of public land in Utah after paying up on successful bids totaling $1.8 million for drilling rights.

  At the time DeChristopher, a former wilderness guide, was 27 years old and didn’t have anything close to $1.8 million in actual assets. His goal, as he cheerfully admits, was to disrupt the auction in the name of saving the planet from climate catastrophe.  

  “I would do it again in a heartbeat,” he said in an interview with Yes! magazine. “In a general way I'd actually been preparing for this for a long time, building up the general commitment to take this level of risk, to be ready when the time came. I knew I would probably go to jail for it, but my mindset was: It’s worth it to keep this oil in the ground.”

  Radical environmentalists have rallied to DeChristopher’s side, declaring that he is a hero who has merely been engaged in the time-honored practice of civil disobedience in order to do harm to the corporate beast that – in their fervid imaginations – threatens existence itself. But, even if one subscribes to the dubious notion that the earth’s climate is so incredibly sensitive that a few parts per million of carbon dioxide can throw it dangerously out of whack, DeChristopher’s actions are hardly heroic or noble, they are rather pointless and childish.

  Reducing domestic production of oil and natural gas - DeChristopher’s utlimate goal – doesn’t do anything to change demand, here or anywhere else on planet earth. By sabotaging one action, he didn’t reduce fossil fuel use in the United States an iota. Instead, he just ensured that we use a bit less of our own fuel and pay a bit more to buy it from some other nation. But this young man is clearly part of the petulant, neo-revolutionary crowd that is increasingly exerting itself through green tyranny.

  “We’re missing out on the fact that even if 10 to 15 percent of the U.S. population really get the issue of climate change, that’s 30 or 40 million people,” he said. “That’s more than enough to bring the fossil fuel industry to its knees. We think we have no power when in fact we have more than enough power. Right now, we have a big enough movement to win this battle; we just need to start acting like it.”

  DeChristopher envisions an America in which millions of committed radical activists “bring the fossil fuel industry to its knees” by shutting down mines and coal-fired power plants by the score. The economic ruin and consequent, unparalleled human misery that would be sure to follow doesn’t even begin to enter into the equation for such zealots.

Ironically, the United States has been spectacularly successful at reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the past decade. According to USEPA data, net greenhouse gas emissions are down about 15% over the last ten years. Some of that reduction is surely do to with the economic downturn of course, but a greater part is attributable to the vast number of greenhouse gas reduction programs that have been implemented on the state, regional and federal levels. The fact is, that while arrogant activists like DeChristopher are certain they are the only ones who understand the grave threat that global warming supposedly represents, they’re not even remotely clued in enough to understand that the United States has been making massive reductions in the gases they demonize and we will continue to make such deep reductions far into the future.

  But then, however much the United States reduces greenhouse gas emissions, it doesn’t really matter as far as global concentrations of those gases are concerned. For all the millions of tons that we have reduced, China and India are pumping out millions of tons more. It’s more than ironic that the long, slow death of cheap coal-fired power in this nation hardly portends the death of the domestic coal-mining industry itself. China is happy to pay premium prices for American coal in order to feed the increasingly monstrous appetite of its coal-fired power plants.

  Tim DeChristopher is thus just the latest poster-boy for the spectacular, almost unbelievable narcissism that represents the modern American environmental activist. He and his supporters are convinced that he is nobly marching off to jail because he had the courage to stand up and make a difference. But, outside of feeding the insatiable martyr’s complex that characterizes so many of the left’s causes today, he hasn’t actually produced a single tangible result. This wasn’t a case of courageous civil disobedience in the grand tradition of Rosa Parks, this was rather just another example of mindless, angry, self-centered grandstanding, of the sort you’d expect from Rosie O’Donnell. The left ought to be embarrassed, if they were capable of being embarrassed at all.

By Rich Trzupek

  An interesting thing happened on the way to global warming: over the last ten years net greenhouse gas emissions in the United States have dropped about fifteen percent, according to USEPA data. Some of that reduction is due to the economic downturn of course, but a whole lot of it is due to laws and regulations passed over the course of the last decade. You won’t hear that rather spectacular figure quoted in the mainstream media of course, because it doesn’t fit with the narrative.

  Yet, there it is: skeptics like myself have been wholly unsuccessful at preventing the United States from implementing all sorts of measures designed to “save the planet” by making cheap energy less available, which is what greenhouse gas reduction is all about at the end of the day.

  The most remarkable thing – although it’s rather predictable upon further reflection – is the enviro-weenies aren’t satisfied with victory. They’re still yammering that we need “cap and tax” or a “carbon tax” or some other such nonsense. Those of us who have been paying attention (which cannot be said for ninety percent of the politicos and so-called journalists out there) can only roll our eyes and wonder just how much horse-puckey one gang of yahoos can generate before they finally drown in the stuff.

  The whole point of this planet-saving nonsense was reducing fossil fuel use, right? Well, three quarters of the states now have laws in place (this includes Illinois, by the by) that require the use of less fossil fuels and more renewables year after year. The federal government has published new requirements that will force automakers to produce higher mileage cars than ever before. And, to top it off, the EPA is now wholly committed to pushing down greenhouse gas emissions even further by piling on more and more regulations.

  Yet “planet saving” is still a campaign issue. It’s amazing. It’s fantastic. Also, it’s delusional. Enough already kids. We are awash in greenhouse gas reduction regulation and legislation. The last thing our crippled economy needs is more. Over the next ten to twenty years, for example, about one third of existing coal-fired power plants will shut their doors thanks to the laws and regulations that already exist. And, because of those same laws and regulations, modern, more efficient replacement plants will not be built – and cannot be built – in America.

  Repeat: in America. China? India? Those are different stories. Greenies prattle on and on about all the solar panels that China produces, but the fact that China turns around and sells most of them to the west seems lost on everybody. The most important fuel behind China’s economic growth is – by far – coal. China has been putting new, coal fired power plants on line at the rate of one ~500 MW plant per week for some time now.

  And where does all that coal come from? A whole lot of it comes from the United States of America. Coal production in this nation has shot up over the last two years, not because we’re using more, but because we’re selling so much more. The Chinese are willing to pay premium prices of U.S. coal and the coal companies are more than happy to oblige them.

  But the silliness doesn’t end there. Ideally, we’d ship U.S. coal destined for China through a port in Oregon or Washington state. That would make the most sense. Coal companies have proposed building a state of the art coal terminal in both states, a project that would bring jobs and revenue not only to private citizens, but to federal and state coffers as well.

  That makes too much sense for enviro-crazies of course, who have thus far been wholly successful in preventing the construction of a new coal terminal in either state. In their fervid imaginations, if they can prevent the coal from passing through their states, then it will never be burned.

  Which might be the case if the United States and China were the only two nations on earth. Unfortunately, it’s a big planet and there are a number of other nations who are more than happy to accept Chinese cash in exchange for the privilege to shipping them coal. To put a point on it, our neighbors to the north are doing just that. A mountain of U.S. coal heading for China is thus shipped through Vancouver, where Canucks get the jobs and the province of British Columbia and Dominion of Canada collect their duties.

  Wish that I could say this is an unusual story, but it’s an all too familiar kind of theme these days. The nation has gone thoroughly mad, so about the only thing to do is enjoy the ride and hope that it doesn’t end too soon.

Tempests in a British Teapot

By Rich Trzupek

  There’s no doubt that the News Corp. scandal in the United Kingdom is indeed a scandal. Yet, is it the end of the world for Rupert Murdoch? Is it definitive proof that Murdoch’s media empire is unprincipled, undisciplined and evil? Does it warrant and congressional investigation? Is it the singular event that will bring down Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, as the left so fervently hopes?

  The answer to all of these questions is, of course, a resounding “no”. Phone hacking is reprehensible even by the sketchy standards of tabloid journalism, in addition to actually being illegal. But that self-righteous hullabaloo you hear resounding from the left over a British scandal is a couple of orders of magnitude removed from the story’s importance to American audiences. The left’s unqualified delight in finding a piece of Murdoch’s media empire caught doing something wrong says a lot more about the way the left thinks than it does about News Corp.

  The nation is in the midst of a high-stakes struggle over the debt, taxes and spending, but you’d hardly know it from looking at Media Matters For America’s website. The Fox-obsessed recent journalism grads at MMFA have been foaming at the mouth since the scandal broke. “The DOJ And Congress Need To Get Involved In Murdoch Hacking Scandal.” “Senators: Investigate News Corp.” “Expert: Hacking May Have Violated U.S. Law.” Those are just some of the headlines featured on the MMFA banner as of Sunday night. For MMFA, as for much of the rest of the left, this is the most important story in the world.

  Even the relatively less-delusional AP couldn’t help but piling on. An AP story dated July 17 related the facts of the scandal, as well as much of the speculation, but not before taking a gratuitous swipe at Murdoch’s media empire:

  “Though the former executive, Rebekah Brooks, and the police chief, Paul Stephenson, have denied wrongdoing, both developments are ominous not only for Murdoch's News Corp., but for a British power structure that nurtured a cozy relationship with his papers for years.”

  Forget the rabid, hateful hyperbole that passes for journalism at outlets like MMFA for a moment. That one sentence, in the midst of an otherwise relatively factual AP story, is indicative of so much that is wrong with modern journalism. We have seen incidents like the hacking scandal before and we will see them again. Much like plagiarism scandals at the New York Times, the abhorrent conduct of a couple of News of the World reporters will – at the end of the day – likely turn out to be an isolated series of events that management might have tried to cover up, but certainly didn’t condone.

  But what of mainstream journalism in general in 2011? What are we to make of that? Re-read that sentence above from the AP story again. We find in it a presumption of guilt, an editorial judgment and a political message, all presented so smoothly that the average reader wouldn’t begin to suspect that he or she is being manipulated. Language is a powerful tool and today’s journalists, trained to pluck at emotion much more than to deliver facts, are expert at neatly packaging messages and sneaking them into news stories.

  Now, I’m not just nit-picking over the construction of a single sentence here. Instead, I think it’s important to consider the bigger picture we deal with whenever a spectacular distraction of any sort comes up. The big problem with journalism today is not about reporters who clearly and flagrantly step over the line or with bosses who try to protect them. They need to be punished, but they hardly compromise the institution or journalism – whatever their political leaning.

  We should be far more concerned about the state of the institution itself and the norms and mores that define it. News of the World News of the World royal reporter Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire have been prosecuted for the hackings and anyone who connived with them, or covered up for them, should be as well.

  But what of the thousands of other “mainstream” reporters who play a deeper, much more subtle game every single day? What of the subtle turns of phrases and clever shifts of focus that are designed to slowly erode away one manner of thinking and replace it with another? What of the editing tricks that television journalists and leftist film-makers use to elicit powerful emotions, directed toward those causes they support?

  Clearly, no journalist or film-maker is going to be prosecuted for these sins and I’m not suggesting that they should be. But, in the grand scheme of things, we must ask ourselves: are we more troubled by individuals who would break the law in pursuit of story, or by an institution that regularly twists the story in support of an ideal?

The Way It Was - “Save the light bulb”

By Rich Trzupek

  Once upon a time there was thing we used to call the free market. Here’s how it worked: people decided what kind of stuff they wanted and other people supplied that stuff. If somebody came up with cheaper stuff or better stuff, then people would buy that stuff instead of the old stuff.

  The free market had its faults to be sure, but Winston Churchill’s observation regarding democracy applies equally well: the free market is a rotten system, except that it’s better than anything else mankind has come up with.

  I mention the free market in part so that there will be a historical record of the institution for future generations to ponder and – I have no doubt – to gasp in horror at the thought that there was a time when the long, grasping arm of government was involved in steering the tiller of commerce.

  But there is another consideration, or perhaps explanation is a better choice of words. “Save the light bulb” has become a rallying cry among tea partiers across the nation, generating a tsunami of unqualified scorn from liberals and their mainstream media allies alike.

   There is nothing unusual about scorn directed at tea partiers from the left of course. In politics and public relations (not that there is much to distinguish the two) scorn is a powerful weapon, particularly when the enemy is feared as much as the left fears the tea party movement.

  Unless there is some unexpected change, Americans will no longer be able to buy “old style” incandescent bulbs after the end of this year. The underlying statute forcing the change was passed by Congress during the Bush years and was duly signed by the president.

  It should be noted that the law doesn’t require anyone to buy the annoying, expensive and potentially toxic curlicue fluorescent bulbs that we have all grown to hate. It rather forbids the sale of light bulbs that don’t meet certain energy efficiency standards. Old style incandescent bulbs cannot meet those standards. Annoying, expensive and potentially toxic curlicue fluorescent bulbs can.

  It should also be noted that some expensive halogen bulbs can also meet the new standards. (As an aside, we should understand that the word “halogen” refers to the type of chemical – usually iodine or bromine – that is in the bulb. I mention this not a desire to frighten anyone, since as a chemist I am not unduly concerned with the toxicity of iodine or bromine, but because certain green types are deathly afraid of halogens in other contexts and a little consistency would be nice in that part of the world from time to time).

  In time, some ingenious inventor will probably design a new light bulb that is neither annoying nor expensive, although (since there is no escaping chemistry) I don’t hold out a lot of hope for getting rid of the “potentially toxic” part of the equation, at least by today’s “America is a giant fraidy-cat” standard of accessing risk.

  When and if that happens, it will be grand. Truly. Sadly, it won’t lessen our dependence on foreign oil, as some terribly confused media outlets have suggested, because we don’t burn oil to generate the electricity that powers any of the aforementioned types of light bulbs. Mostly we burn coal, of which we have an abundance, even though more and more of that abundance is being burned in China rather than fueling prosperity in our own nation. We also split a fair number of uranium atoms to generate a great deal of the balance and we don’t appear to be running out of that element either.

  So why kill off the old style incandescent bulb? Aside from the “planet saving” hogwash that you are either inclined to accept or dismiss, we have been told that this measure will ultimately save consumers energy and therefore money. It is here that we return to this old-fashioned “free market” concept.

  Let us assume that new bulbs – annoying, expensive and potentially toxic though they may be – ultimately save consumers money. So what? It is not (or should not be) the business of government to force consumers to save money in a free market system. If the market demands – and there is little doubt that it undoubtedly does – unannoying, cheap, non-toxic light bulbs, even if they are more expensive to operate, then there is obviously a reason for it and government ought to but the hell out.

  It’s symbolic issue to be sure. We’ll survive the new, craptastic light bulbs, but it’s not just about the light bulbs. It’s about this whole free market thing and an administration that seems bent on ruining it.


Defending Patriotism

By Rich Trzupek

  Patriotism, or at least the kind of patriotism that Americans associate with the 4th of July, is becoming the exclusive purview of the Republican Party, at least according to a Harvard study released last week. Key findings in the study conducted by Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor David Yanagizawa-Drott and Bocconi University Assistant Professor Andreas Madestam include:

- If someone attends a Fourth of July celebration before turning 18, it increases the likelihood of the young person identifying as a Republican by at least 2 percent.

- It raises the likelihood that parade watchers will vote for a Republican candidate by 4 percent.

- It increases the chances that a person will vote by about 1 percent and the chance they'll make a political contribution by 3 percent.

  The professors concluded that there is no point in a Democrat elected official attending a Fourth of July celebration because the nature of the event necessarily hurt their cause. The palatable smugness of the stereotypical left-wing academic is on full display as Yanagizawa-Drott and Madestam discussed how this state-of-affairs came to be:

  “The political right has been more successful in appropriating American patriotism and its symbols during the 20th century,” they wrote. “Survey evidence also confirms that Republicans consider themselves more patriotic than Democrats. According to this interpretation, there is a political congruence between the patriotism promoted on Fourth of July and the values associated with the Republican party. Fourth of July celebrations in Republican dominated counties may thus be more politically biased events that socialize children into Republicans.”

  It is surely a sad testament on the state of mind within academia that two professors would decide to undertake a study that was ultimately aimed at politicizing America’s birthday, but their rather dubious conclusions are all the more remarkable.

  The pair of Ivy-league professors are trying to turn 4th of July celebrations into sinister rites that magically turn innocent, vulnerable youths into crazed right-wing fanatics. It’s a ridiculous conclusion, but one can hope that Democrats take the duo’s advice and stay away from “radical celebrations” memorializing the founding of this nation in the future. Anything that further marginalizes and exposes the left in the court of public opinion is ultimately good for America. 

  Is the Republican party guilty of “appropriating” American patriotism and its symbols? That’s nonsense. If anything, the GOP – for all its faults – has helped save the ideals of American patriotism, its symbols and its defenders.  The left tried to turn patriotism into a dirty word during the late sixties and seventies. Radicals burned flags, spit on soldiers and scorned the idea that American ideals and values were at all worthwhile, much less noble.

  By and large, Republicans consistently rejected that kind of thinking, even when the patriotic tide had ebbed. No doubt some GOP elected officials did so because the political calculus demanded it. The folks who voted Republican – even during the worst of the Viet Nam era turbulence – were the people who still got misty-eyed when they heard the strains of “America the Beautiful” or saw the flag waving in a mid-summer’s breeze.

  Democrats in general and the left in particular hate when someone from the right questions their patriotism. “We’re as patriotic as anyone!” they’ll cry. “You don’t get to make patriotism a right-wing virtue.” Except, what the left defines as patriotism has nothing to do with the way that most Americans understand the word. The left sees America as a kindly, infinitely wealthy rich uncle. Our duty, according to their vision, is to shower riches on the less fortunate in the global community and to gently intercede to correct those wrongs that our more worldly and wise partners in international governance deign to explain to us. The rest of us, which is to say most of us, see little patriotic about getting excited over a “one world”, UN-led vision of utopia in which American ideas and ideals are given due and equal consideration, but ultimately don’t count for all that much.

  The rest of us – mainstream Americans in other words – believe there is something remarkable about this nation and its vision. It’s not that we’re better or smarter or more worthy than everybody else, it’s that we’re more fortunate than so many other nations. We were blessed with founders who had a vision and who believed that the people of the nation – if given the right tools, direction and authority – could fulfill that vision. We have succeeded beyond (I suspect) their wildest expectations. This hodgepodge collection of races, creeds, colors and ideas somehow managed not only to survive, but to thrive. It would be the height of folly to believe that a country could be created out of whole cloth and become the most powerful, most wealthy nation on earth unless the systems, values and institutions that form the backbone of that nation were not immensely important.

  Those of us who proudly identify ourselves as patriots are thus not patriotic out of bigoted arrogance – as a couple of Harvard professors would like the world to believe – put because of equal measures of pride, gratitude and benevolence.  We’re certainly very proud of being part of this wonderful country and we surely appreciate the hard work and sacrifices of all of those Americans who came before us that was instrumental in shaping this nation. And, finally, we hope that we can continue to share these blessings with the world, because that is both our duty and our destiny. It’s not about parades in other words, it’s about understanding the past and using that knowledge to create a new, bright future for everyone.

  Hope you had a great Fourth of July folks.

Both Meaningless And Pointless

By Rich Trzupek

  Last Thursday, the Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that the United States would release thirty million barrels of crude oil from the nation’s strategic petroleum reserve. Other members of the International Energy Agency will match the move, releasing another thirty million barrels from their reserves.

  “We are taking this action in response to the ongoing loss of crude oil due to supply disruptions in Libya and other countries and their impact on the global economic recovery,” Chu said in a statement. “As we move forward, we will continue to monitor the situation and stand ready to take additional steps if necessary.”

  Spot crude oil prices dropped about $4 dollars a barrel after the announcement, prompting some mainstream media outlets to gush over what appeared to them to be a brilliant move. The New York Times, in a Sunday editorial, played its cheerleader role to the hilt.

  “It should provide a modest boost to the American economy,” the Times gushed. “It will help consumers at the pump as they head into the summer vacation season. And it sends an important message to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries that the United States is capable of protecting its domestic market, at least in the short term, even when those countries refuse to increase production.”

  A more thorough analysis leads to much different conclusions. The size of the United States’ release equates to less than two days domestic consumption at current levels, while the entire international release of sixty million barrels doesn’t even account for a single day’s world consumption. It is – as even the Times reluctantly admitted – a pitifully small amount of oil.

  It’s a pitifully small release for good reason: the nation’s entire strategic petroleum reserve amounts to about 700 million barrels, or a little more than a month’s supply. The stated purpose of the reserve is to provide a means to fill the gaps when there are supply emergencies, such as we saw in after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when President Bush released 11 million barrels to fill a short-term reduction in supply, not drive long-term market trends.

  Administration supporters liken the Obama administration’s move to that of his predecessor. They claim that Obama’s so-called “Arab spring” release helps mitigate the loss of Libyan oil resulting from upheaval in that nation. But Libyan crude has been off the board for a while and will be for the foreseeable future. Adjusting to this decrease in supply calls for market-driven adaptation, not for meaningless government intervention. The free market must find the extra oil, in other words, because governments clearly cannot continue to chew up their reserves for very long.

  The timing of the release was interesting as well. It’s true that crude prices fell after Chu made his announcement, but the fact is that national retail gasoline prices peaked in April and May and have been dropping for about the last thirty days. The market, in other words, has already started to adjust to losing Libya. So why release thirty million barrels of crude to “help consumers at the pump” when gas prices were already headed south? A cynical mind might conclude that this release was not timed to help reduce gasoline prices, but to take advantage of – if not credit for – reductions that were already occurring.

  One of the biggest reasons for recent price drops was Saudi Arabia’s announcement that it will increase production in order to cover the loss of Libyan supplies. That move will help stabilize markets going forward, even though we now live in kind of economic Catch 22 when it comes to the energy sector. Today, worldwide crude oil supply and crude oil demand roughly match. If the economy heats up, oil demand will increase and – in the absence of new supplies – energy prices will increase, which will in turn help kill off economic recovery.

  Injecting a few more million barrels a day into the equation, or committing to doing so in the future, would change the economic climate considerably. The United States has the reserves and the ability to put at least another 2 million barrels per day on line in the next ten years. That’s probably a low estimate, given the immense reserves we know that we have in the Bakken Fields, off shore and in Alaska.

  Opening up more domestic fields for drilling would have and profound and immediate effect on the market. Leftists sneer that more domestic production doesn’t matter because the new oil won’t hit the market for ten years. Discounting the obvious truth that had we ignored that “wisdom” ten years ago, we wouldn’t be in this fix today, there is another economic reality at work here. Oil markets are – to a great extent – driven by oil futures and what happens ten years from now is of immense importance when it comes to futures. If traders knew that the United States was committed to ramping domestic production back up, crude prices would plummet, no matter what happens in Libya.

  Presumably, there are people in the Obama administration who understand this most basic of market realities. Surely the president himself has listened to the argument when he sat down with industry leaders. Yet, he knows and they know that this administration will not dare to increase domestic crude production because it will not chance offending the always quick to take offense environmental crowd. Instead, Obama will promise that the nation will become Brazil’s biggest customer and he’ll make pointless withdrawals from our strategic reserves. It may be a good way to appease the tree-hugger wing of his party, but it might also be just enough to lose him the next election.



By Rich Trzupek

  So many people talk about bridging the gap between left and right, about leaving the rhetoric behind and about finding common ground. Nobody actually does it of course, but it’s a fine theoretical point of discussion, kind of like peace in the middle east – it’s not going happen, but – damn! – wouldn’t it be nice.

  And yet, there is at least one modern day issue that has managed to draw many liberals and conservatives together: American participation in the Libyan conflict. People who belong to both ideological wings oppose the president’s decision to support Libyan rebel efforts to depose strongman Moammar Qaddafi.

  Naturally, the reasons for the opposition vary widely. Liberal opposition to participation in this war follows the familiar themes that characterize liberal opposition to any war: war is bad, death is bad, America should mind her own business, corporate interests are working their evil ways, etc. This is the Dennis Kucinich/Daily Kos crowd’s position and I must say this: good for them. As much as I disagree with their arguments, at least these folks are being consistent, rather than basing their support or opposition on the party that happens to be in power.

  There are also many on the left who – sadly – are more than happy to go along with whatever overseas adventure Barack Obama wants to get involved in, simply because the president sports a “D” rather an “R” behind his name. Yet, that is the nature of politics and there are as many Republican politicians guilty of such short-sighted behavior as there are Democrats.

  As a conservative, it grieves me (although it does not surprise me) whenever Republicans react with knee-jerk obstinacy when a Democratic President takes action abroad. I thought it was petty and silly when some Republicans took President Clinton to task for participating in bringing peace to Kosovo, for example. Some (but by no means all) of my colleagues in the conservative community took me to task for saying so back then, but subsequent events proved me correct. We were needed in Kosovo and we accomplished our mission there.

  And now, history is repeating it itself when it comes to Libya. Some Republicans and conservative thinkers have stood with the president and I applaud them for it. Others, unfortunately, haven’t acquitted themselves as well. Their opposition arguments don’t hold up to any kind of close examination. Let’s consider a few:

  Argument 1: The president violated the War Powers Act, so our troops shouldn’t be involved.

  Response 1: The War Powers Act? Seriously? No conservative, and damned few legal scholars of any stripe, believe the War Powers Act is constitutional. It is true that every president has scrupulously adhered to its terms (including George W. Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan, by the by) since it was passed during the Nixon administration, but so what? We should applaud Obama for blowing off a statute that should never have seen the light of day in the first place.

  Argument 2: American interests aren’t directly involved (we buy very little oil from Libya) so we should stay out.

  Response 2: Defining “American interests” in strictly financial terms does great disservice to America, its people and the men and women serving in the armed forces. America is interested in justice, and Qaddafi is a vicious thug who murdered Americans. America is interested in freedom and the Libyan people are plainly oppressed by a tyrannical regime. America wants to see a more stable, democratic middle east and – although there are no guarantees – the revolution in Libya is at least a potential next step in that direction.

  Argument 3: Why get involved in trying to get rid of this tyrant, when there are so many other tyrants? We can’t solve all of the world’s problems!

  Response 3: This is the “if you can’t do everything, then you shouldn’t do anything” argument. It’s utter crap. Yeah, if Qaddafi is gotten rid of, there will still be billions of people living under dictatorial, oppressive regimes. But, there will also be a few million less. It’s all about baby steps folks. You can’t change the whole world in a day, but you can change a little bit of it every day. And, when you think about it, that’s the only way you can really change it at all.

  Argument 4: Do you spell his name “Qaddafi” or “Gaddafi” or some other way?

  Response 4: I have absolutely no clue.

  There are many Obama administration decisions and policies that I heartily disagree with. The decision to support the rebels in Libya is not among them. We’re doing the right thing, for the right reasons, as we almost always do when tyrants oppress innocent people and there is a chance that we can do some good. Here’s praying that the men and women involved in that conflict stay safe, accomplish their mission and come home soon.



By Rich Trzupek

  Congratulations Illinois – you asked for it and you got it. Way to go!

  Our brilliant new legislative district map represents the final phase of the plan that will irrevocably turn the Prairie State into East California. That sound you hear emanating from Springfield is Abe Lincoln’s corpse whirring about at seven thousand RPM.

  Did I use the future tense there? Sorry about that. My mistake. Illinois has irrevocably turned into East California. The ship has sailed. Consider the evidence:

  Moonbat governor who never saw a tax he didn’t like? Check.

  Unsustainable state financial model? Check.

  Tax structure designed to keep private sector employers out? Check.

  Legislature that passes out “free” goodies to secure votes while racking up debt? Check.

  Head stuck firmly in the sand when it comes to illegal immigration? Check.

  We are so completely California people. Everybody go out and grab a latte, buy a pretentious car that you can’t actually afford and have a meaningless affair with somebody who is either half or twice your age. Do it right now. We’ll wait.

  Whoo – that didn’t take long! Welcome back.

  As we were saying, the new legislative map, which will ensure that the bloated, corrupt Chicago machine will continue to dominate Illinois politics for the next decade, is the final nail in Illinois’ coffin. Game over.

  And you’re scoffing, aren’t you – you scoffer you. I know what you’re thinking: They’re Democrats, not idiots; they’re not going to let the state go completely to hell. To argue that point, we must presuppose that there is a substantial difference between Democrats and idiots, which – for the sake of argument – we will for a moment.

  Of course they’re going to let the state go completely to hell, for two very good reasons: 1) As they state goes (more and more) to hell, they’ll find somebody else to blame. It might be “corporate greed”, it might be the federal government, it might be global warming, but it’s always somebody else’s fault. 2) Illinois Dems have spent ten years kicking the can of ever-increasing, crushing debt down the road and they’re not going to stop now. Their state income tax hike merely delays the inevitable day of reckoning, it doesn’t eliminate it.

  What matters, what really matters to these jokers, is the next election. What happens between now and November is vitally important. What happens five or ten years from now? That’s somebody else’s problem.

  The only bright spot in this whole mess is that as Democrats consolidate their hold on power in Illinois, the state itself inevitably loses more and more power and prestige on a national basis. United Van Lines, the moving company that keeps track of such things, issues an annual report detailing migration trends between these United States. Care to guess which state ranked number one for net population loss, measured as a percentage of its population? The answer is…

  Michigan! Of course it’s Michigan. Michigan includes Detroit: America’s premier urban wasteland, a museum to bloated unionism and government largess. (Wonder if we slip Detroit into Ontario without the Canucks noticing?) People are fleeing Detroit faster than Cubs fans answering a booty call.

  So, Illinois is not number one in net population loss. Happy days.


  We’re number two!

  We are SO number two.

  (Sidebar story: working at a sewage treatment plant in the day job, I espied the following sign on the desk of the plant’s general manager: “You’re number two, is our number one!” Poddy humor never goes out of style.)

  So where is everybody going? The answers should be obvious. If you want to make your fortune, if you want to work, if you want to escape crushing taxes there’s only one direction to go: south, and Americans are figuring that out in ever-increasing numbers.

  Texas governor Rick Perry is laughing his ass off right about now. People are moving to the Lone Star in droves, enjoying an economy that’s held its own, a state that doesn’t have an income tax and property values that survived the real estate crunch intact.

  Last year, the state of Texas added over a quarter of million new jobs. That’s more jobs than the state of Illinois has added over the last ten years. Wrap your mind around that one kids.

  We are so screwed.

  Ah well, there’s no fixing it now. The die is cast and all that. East California we are and East California we shall be. Time to go out and find a twenty-five year old tootsie I guess.

  Just doing my part.

By Rich Trzupek

  Former United States Representative Cynthia McKinney was at it again last week: spouting nonsense on the world stage and lending aid and comfort to America’s enemies via an apparently never-ending stream of ridiculous and unfounded pronouncements. McKinney took her show on the road to the Middle East, where she fanned the flames of American hatred by telling Muslims living in Libya and Iran that the United States is exactly what they believe it is: a fat, bloated nation controlled by Israel that exploits the poor in order to line the pockets of the wealthy.

  Appearing on Libyan state television, McKinney said that the United States had no business being involved the conflict there, especially given the way that Obama administration is exploiting America’s poor.

  “Under the economic policies of the Obama administration, those who have the least are losing the most. And those who have the most are getting even more," she said. "The situation in the United States is becoming more dire for average ordinary Americans, and the last thing we need to do is to spend money on death, destruction and war.”

  That’s classic McKinney of course. As a Congresswoman, she never displayed the slightest understanding of economics, nor did she show the even the faintest interest in learning about how modern economies function. Her job, as she saw it, was to secure the largest possible piece of the juicy federal pie for her district – period. And so, if real unemployment in America has been stuck over fifteen per cent throughout the Obama administration, the only conclusion McKinney is capable of coming to grips with is that the administration is passing out too many goodies to the wrong people.

  Yet, ignoring the realities of free market economics was just the tip of the iceberg. McKinney saved her most outrageous statements for the people of the nation that represents the most dangerous and powerful threat to peace in the Middle East: Iran. In an interview on Iranian state TV, she threw Israel under the bus and stoked Muslim anti-American paranoia at the same time.

McKinney expressed outrage and disgust because the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) expected her to sign a pledge to support Israel before they would consider sending her donations for her campaigns. This is of course common practice for any number of PACs, left, right or in the middle. At a minimum, PACs expect you to answer a questionnaire so they can determine how reliable your vote will be. Quite often, they ask candidates to sign pledges that formalize their commitment.

  Anybody familiar with American politics understands that this is the way fundraising works, all across the board, for better or for worse. But, one must assume that the Iranian interviewer and her audience aren’t at all familiar with American-style politics and fund-raising. Accordingly, a person discussing something like a pledge to AIPAC surely has a moral obligation to put those kind of fund-raising tools into proper context. Not so Cynthia McKinney.

  As the interview develops, it’s clear that the interviewer believes that signing the AIPAC pledge is a requirement for anyone running for Congress and that signing this pledge is a unique – and therefore sinister – occurrence in American politics. McKinney plays right into the paranoia, making it sound like if you don’t support Israel, you can’t get possibly get any money and therefore can’t be elected to public office:

  “McKinney: You make a commitment that you would vote to support the military superiority of Israel that the economic assistant that Israel wants that you would vote to provide that.

  Press TV: This is not a question for the Congress people serving that they are representing or they are supposed to be representing the people of the United States not a foreign country and yet they have to pledge allegiance to a foreign state? No one questions this?

  McKinney: That is what I was asked to do and I made it public.”

  Any American interviewer worth their salt would have asked the logical next question: “Ms. McKinney, if you can’t elected without big campaign contributions  and if you can’t get big campaign contributions without committing to support the military superiority of Israel, how did you manage to get elected six times? You must have got campaign contributions from somewhere.”

  Because she was appearing on television in a totalitarian state with a tame interviewer, that question would never be asked. The point of the exercise was to demonize Israel as much as possible and to fan the flames of anti-American hatred and paranoia as much as possible, and the facts be damned. It’s hard to believe that McKinney could be a bigger embarrassment out of office that she was when served in Congress, but that’s proving to be the case. The administration and Congress need to denounce her in the strongest possible terms, before she does even more damage to American and Israeli interests throughout the world.

Just Plain Stupid

By Rich Trzupek

  There has been a great deal of talk about shutting down Midwest Generation’s two coal fired power plants located within the city of Chicago: Crawford Station and Fisk Station. There are many reasons that opponents want the facilities cease operation, but one of the most persistent rationalizations is pure, unscientific mythology: the proposition that emissions from the two plants somehow poison the air in surrounding neighborhoods.

  Some people look at the size of the plants and the height of the smokestacks and conclude that Crawford and Fisk must be the major sources of air pollution in the city of Chicago. That’s not even close to the truth. Consider nitrogen oxide emissions for example. Nitrogen oxides contribute to smog formation and are thus a concern in most urban areas.

  According to USEPA’s latest National Emissions Inventory, Crawford and Fisk combined are responsible for less than 3% of all nitrogen oxide emissions in Cook County, about half of much as is generated at O’Hare Airport and a drop in the bucket to the amount generated by motorized vehicles like cars, truck and buses. All told, motorized vehicles generate more than three quarters of all nitrogen oxide emissions in Cook County.

  The same is true when we consider other pollutants, like carbon monoxide and particulate matter. Crawford and Fisk are responsible for less than 0.2% of all carbon monoxide emissions and less than 4% of all particulate emissions in the county. Motorized vehicles are responsible for over 95% of all carbon monoxide emissions, and the combination of motorized vehicles, natural sources and other non-industrial activities generate over 85% of all particulate matter emissions.

  The two power stations are relatively large contributors in terms of sulfur dioxide emissions (about one third of the county wide total) but Cook County does not, and has never had, a problem with excess sulfur dioxide in the air its citizens breathe. More importantly, the last places that emissions from Crawford and Fisk are going to affect are the neighborhoods immediately adjacent to the plants. Hot exhaust gases from smokestacks hundreds of feet tall do not magically fall straight down. They disperse far and wide and never, ever have any kind of significant affect in the local area.

  That’s the way the science actually works, but don’t take my word for it. The scientists at the USEPA and Illinois EPA understand these issues better than anyone. If aldermen want to cut through the hype and get to the truth, all they have to do is place a call to either agency and ask relevant questions. Questions like: “What effect do emissions from Crawford and Fisk stations have on people living within a five mile radius of the plants?”  Or, “How much of a contribution do emissions from those plants make to air pollution in the surrounding neighborhoods, compared to all other sources of air pollution?” Aldermen who want to demonize the plants won’t like the answers to those questions, but a painful dose of reality is just what this situation calls for.

  There may be legitimate reasons to carve out a 800 megawatt hole in the power grid and deal with all of the instability that will cause in the Chicago area, but concerns over the welfare of the communities surrounding Crawford and Fisk aren’t among them. Opponents should stop the emotional fear-mongering and stick to science, or admit that they don’t have a case.

Shooting the Messenger

By Rich Trzupek

  With gasoline prices crossing the four dollar per gallon line in many parts of the country the Republican majority in the House and the Democrat led Senate have taken two very different approaches to address rising energy prices. The House passed a bill requiring the Interior Department to offer new lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and off the Virginia coast. Then, the House passed another bill that would require the government to make decisions on drilling permits within sixty days. And, at the same time that the House was addressing the supply side of this economic challenge, the Senate was demanding that oil companies stop making profits.

  Democrat Senators grilled executives representing the nation’s five biggest oil companies, criticizing them for providing their shareholders with a return on investment and threatening to rescind tax breaks that the industry currently enjoys. The Senate hearing made for great Capitol Hill theater and it will surely provide leading leftist Senators with some great sound bites, proving to their constituents how hard they tried to fight the evil of big oil. But, unlike the House, the Senate did nothing to address or the economic realities and energy challenges that we must deal with.

  It’s embarrassing to find that United States Senators don’t understand, or choose to ignore, the realities of energy production. The fact is that the margins that oil companies operate at have remained consistent for decades as a percentage of the cost of fuel and that government makes more on every gallon of gas sold than anyone involved in the supply chain. The reason gasoline is so expensive is because crude oil is so expensive – period. There is no price gouging. There is no profiteering. Some people like to blame rising prices on something they call “speculation”, but use of that particular word creates a mistaken impression. Crude prices are high because worldwide demand is expanding at a rate we have never seen and nobody is sure how we’re going to deliver enough oil to meet that demand.

  Nations that understand what is happening – China and India in particular – are positioning themselves to secure the necessary supply by entering into long term, big dollar deals for crude. Those kind of contracts reduce the projected supply available in the future and, as any tenth grade student of Adam Smith can tell you, constricted supply and rising demand means higher prices.

  Today, worldwide crude oil production pretty much matches demand. The world consumes about 85 million barrels of crude per day, and we produce about 85 million barrels per day. We’ve lived with that kind of balance (plus or minus a couple million barrels per day) for a while. So what’s changed? Three important pieces of the worldwide puzzle have shifted the way the people who drive the market look at the future:

  1) United States production continues to decline. Despite President Obama’s ludicrous assertion that “we’re actually producing more oil here than ever” the fact is that domestic crude production has steadily declined over the past forty years, from about 10 million barrels per day in 1970 to about 5 million barrels per day today.

  2) Demand in China continues to increase. China has moved from a total daily demand of about 2 million barrels per day twenty years ago to about 9 million barrels per day today. The Department of Energy expects that demand in China will continue to increase as that nation’s economy grows.

  3) Unrest in the Middle East creates uncertainty. Until and unless the actual revolutions and brewing revolutions in the Middle East sort themselves out, futures contracts involving suppliers in that region of the world must necessarily reflect the premium that one pays for uncertainty.

  The recession that started in 2008 and successful American efforts to reduce energy consumption have heretofore disguised the inevitable problem of increasing Chinese demand for crude oil. For example, over the past five years US imports of crude have dropped from about 14 million barrels per day to about 11 million barrels per day. That’s oil that China could, and did, use without pushing energy markets out of balance.

  However, if the world’s economic outlook is improving, as many say it is, then increased demand for all forms of energy must inevitably follow. Energy markets are thus responding to what looks like a tipping point: China is going to need more and more oil to feed its spectacular economic growth and we appear to have maxed out our ability to produce more crude on a global basis. Might the United States further reduce petroleum usage and thus effectively release more supply to China? Eventually – maybe. But not anytime soon.

  In the short term, the only way to knock down gasoline prices would be to send the world a clear, unambiguous signal that we are going to use our considerable skills to ramp domestic production up so as to offset increased demand from China. That kind of move would stabilize markets and return some degree of sanity to the gas pump. The House appears to have received that particular message. But the Senate? The Democrat majority seems far more interested in perpetuating class warfare than it does with addressing actual consumer woes.


By Rich Trzupek

  The left would dearly like to see two things to happen now that Osama bin Laden has passed into the afterlife. First, they hope that the event will convince America that Barack Obama is a strong decisive leader and thus see him re-elected in 2012. Second, and as importantly, they want Obama to use this moment to declare victory and pull all of our troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq, thus (in their minds) effectively ending the war on terror in their eyes. Neither result is very likely, but that hasn’t kept the shriller voices on the left from wishing it so. Let’s consider a few examples.

  “Let us not sink into a false sense of triumphalism in the wake of Bin Laden's passing,” Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin wrote at the Huffington Post. “His death will only have meaning if it marks the beginning of the end of this ruthless cycle of violence.” She went on to explain that now that bin Laden is dead, there was no need to maintain a US military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq. The fanatics will simply fade away, in Benjamin’s view and we will have peace in our time.

  The National Journal’s Yochi Dreazen speculated that bin Laden’s death “…could have an even bigger impact on public support for the Afghan war itself, as many Americans take bin Laden's death as a sign that the United States has accomplished its mission in Afghanistan and should now begin winding down the unpopular conflict.”

  Writing for The Nation, unrepentant sixties radical Tom Hayden wondered: “If bin Laden is gone, and his network heavily damaged, what is left of the terrorist threat to our national security that justifies so many trillions of dollars and costs in thousands of lives?”

  Contrast that sort of wishful thinking to what certain other people with a particular interest in imposing their will on the rest of the world are saying in the wake of bin Laden’s demise:

  In a Reuters story entitled “Islamists vow bin Laden death will not mute Jihad call,” the following post from an Arab language website was highlighted: "Oh God, please make this news not true... God curse you Obama," said one message posted on an Arabic language forum. "Oh Americans... it is still legal for us to cut your necks." Indeed, the Quran – the Incarnate Word of God according to Islam – directs Muslims to treat infidel necks in just such a fashion.

  But that’s just a random web post, right? Surely such sentiments are not representative, right? How about this quote from an imam preaching in the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in the wake of bin Laden’s death: “You personally instructed to kill Muslims,” he warns president Obama on a video posted at You Tube. “You should know that soon you'll hang together with Bush Junior. We are a nation of billions, a good nation. We'll teach you about politics and military ways very soon, with God's help." Or perhaps you’d prefer the statement issued by the Islamic Defenders Front, an Indonesian Muslim group that plans “…to hold a memorial service to express gratitude to the late martyr Sheikh Osama bin Laden.”

  It would be wonderful if the death of a single monster like bin Laden spelled the end of a radical, violent movement, but that’s clearly not the case. Bin Laden may have served as an important catalyst to rekindle a resurgent, aggressive Islamofascism in the modern world, but those flames have long since roared out of control. This war is going to continue for a long time whatever the west does or does not. Barack Obama realizes that even if the Medea Benjamins and Tom Haydens of the world can’t grasp such a basic truth.

  As far as the president’s personal political fortunes go, it would be ludicrous to expect that Obama has personally played any significant role in neutralizing bin Laden. This victory belongs first and foremost to the military and the intelligence professionals who found bin Laden and executed the plant. Next in line for credit is Obama’s predecessor in office, for it’s clear that bin Laden would not have been brought to justice but for intelligence gleaned while George W. Bush was president. Obama deserves credit for approving an action plan developed by the pros in the military, but that contribution won’t be enough to carry him to reelection eighteen months from now if the economy continues to stumble along.

  The president’s supporters want this to be the turning point in Obama’s administration, as they happily speculate about how big a bump they’ll see in his poll numbers. What’s forgotten on the left  – or at least conveniently ignored – is the fact that it was enhanced interrogation techniques utilized in selected cases during the Bush administration that provided the raw intelligence that eventually allowed us to find bin Laden. It was a long, arduous task to root out the Saudi terrorist leader, but that is the nature of intelligence work.

  Now that bin Laden is dead, we should thank those who made it possible, but we shouldn’t allow the left to deceive us into believing that Islamic terrorists are simply going to fade way now that bin Laden is dead. The opposite is true. Now that this symbol of aggression in the name of religious purity has been sent to his watery grave, the millions of Muslims who revere him are going to be angrier than ever. Both the nation and our president need to face up to that simple fact.

WikiLeaks Goes After Gitmo

By Rich Trzupek

  After a rather long lull in activity, WikiLeaks was back in the headlines again. This time the target was United States base at Guantanamo Bay, with WikiLeaks releasing almost 800 classified military documents relating to the detainees who have been held at Gitmo.

  As is the case whenever WikiLeaks releases classified material, this episode raises national security concerns. Revealing details regarding our intelligence-gathering techniques and knowledge base lends aid and comfort to the enemy and allows terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda to refine their tactics. If WikiLeaks isn’t – as it claims – consciously trying to aid terrorist organizations, this latest release demonstrates once again the Julian Assange and his partners aren’t the benign, disinterested whistle-blowers they would like the world to believe they are. This is an organization that is blatantly anti-American and anti-west in its outlook and that prejudice shines through every time WikiLeaks releases new information.

  WikiLeaks wrestles with the same problem that the mainstream media has: they want the public to believe that they are unbiased sources of factual information, but – being leftists – they don’t trust the public to reach the “correct” conclusions on their own. So, rather than simply disseminating information and allowing people to form their own judgments, WikiLeaks feels obliged to steer readers’ opinions.

  By the third sentence on their “Gitmo Files” introductory webpage, WikiLeaks abandoned any pretense of impartiality, telling readers that they were about to learn more about “…a notorious icon of the Bush administration's "War on Terror" -- the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which opened on January 11, 2002, and remains open under President Obama, despite his promise to close the much-criticized facility within a year of taking office.”

  Adjectives like “notorious” and “much-criticized” don’t leave much wiggle room for the reader. But, just in case there was any doubt, WikiLeaks moves on to lead readers further toward forming what is – in their opinion – the right conclusion, declaring that: “Most of these documents reveal accounts of incompetence familiar to those who have studied Guantánamo closely, with innocent men detained by mistake (or because the US was offering substantial bounties to its allies for al-Qaeda or Taliban suspects), and numerous insignificant Taliban conscripts from Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

  Intelligence professionals will tell you that analyzing data, especially human intelligence data, is more of an art than a science. The pros in the military, the NSA, the CIA and all of the other alphabet agencies pore over reams of documents, photographs, interviews and other sources of information to try and separate those rare grains of wheat from the avalanche of chaff that characterizes intelligence work.

  It’s a very difficult and demanding profession. And yet, a collection of computer hackers have essentially told the world that they know more about intelligence gathering than people who have been trained and who have spent their professional careers determining and evaluating enemy intentions.

  It is a given that, when it comes to Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organizations, America faces an enemy that avoids a rigid, centralized command structure and that uses disinformation and distortion to hide their intentions. Will Al-Qaeda operatives attempt to deceive us? Of course they will. Can enhanced interrogation techniques like sleep deprivation and water-boarding break through the deceptions and yield useful information that saves innocent lives? You bet.

  The flip side of that discussion is that no one can guarantee that any enhanced interrogation technique will be 100% successful, or that the information gleaned during those sessions will always be useful. Sometimes you strike out. Yet, if we were to apply the WikiLeaks test to intelligence gathering in this war against fundamentalist Islamic intolerance, the west might just as well wave a white flag.

  Will America’s intelligence-gathering efforts ever be 100% accurate? Nope. We’ll always get something wrong, no matter how hard we try. “Press on” should be our motto of choice. Given that we have an enemy that doesn’t give a darn about using supposed innocence to disguise an idealistic agenda, we need to drill down – as often as possible – to define exactly what those particular miscreants were trying to do. If it’s a matter of simple mischief , no problem. We’ve been there and done that. But, if the decision involves actual principle, it’s time to move on.

America’s Credit At Risk

By Rich Trzupek

  Although additional evidence regarding the severity of America’s debt crisis should not be necessary, Standard & Poors provided some more, lowering its future outlook for United States creditworthiness from “stable” to “negative.” That move effectively amounts to a warning that the nation needs to put its fiscal house in order or face disastrous consequences.

  Standard & Poors did not downgrade the United States’ actual credit rating, which remains at AAA/A-1+, Standard & Poors’ highest possible score. Instead, the agency is putting the nation on notice that if we don’t do something to start paying down our massive debt, our national credit rating could be downgraded in the future. The United States has never had a credit rating below AAA with Standard & Poors, and of the 127 nations that the agency rates, only nineteen have AAA ratings.

  Losing that AAA rating would be a disaster for the country, meaning that the United States government would have to offer higher interest rates when selling its debt, which would in turn lead to even more government spending. In issuing its warning, Standard & Poors noted how the federal government’s debt varied between two and five per cent of GDP from 2003 through 2008. That, the agency said, is a higher percentage than it usually allows in the case of other nations that carry the treasured top rating.

  In 2009, the first year of the Obama administration, the nation’s debt load exploded to eleven per cent of GDP and has yet to come down, prompting the Standard & Poors outlook warning. "The outlook reflects our view of the increased risk that the political negotiations over when and how to address both the medium- and long-term fiscal challenges will persist until at least after national elections in 2012," said S&P credit analyst Nikola Swann.

  The magnitude of our national debt, now in excess of $14 trillion, and our commitment to paying out entitlement programs is hard to fathom. According to economist Bruce Bartlett, meeting all of our unfunded Social Security and Medicare commitments would require an immediate eighty one per cent increase in federal income taxes, which would have to remain in effect forever. The gap between revenues to meet entitlement commitments and the commitments themselves stands at approximately $100 trillion today and the longer we do nothing, the bigger that chasm becomes.

  Will conservatives be able to use the Standard & Poors warning to leverage some meaningful budget cuts out of the administration, like those contained in the budget that Republican congressman Paul Ryan proposed? Maybe, but it’s probably a long shot at best. The deficit debate boils down to whether we use tax hikes and modest budget cuts to start closing the gaps, as the president has proposed, or whether we start making some really meaningful spending reductions like the Ryan plan lays out.

  As a credit rating agency, Standard & Poors  doesn’t care how a government closes the gap between spending and revenue, so long as the gap closes. Over at City Journal, Nicole Gelinas cited the United Kingdom’s experience with Standard & Poors as an example of how the agency’s warnings can be used to send exactly the wrong message. Standard & Poors had downgraded the UK’s future creditworthiness outlook to “negative” under Gordon Brown’s regime, but the agency changed its mind after David Cameron’s government applied some leftist solutions to “fix” the problem:

  “The Conservative-led coalition government increased taxes on VAT earlier this year, from 17.5 to 20 percent, dampening retail sales. It also went ahead last year with former prime minister Gordon Brown’s plan to hike the top personal-income tax rate to 51 percent (compared with America’s top rate of 35 percent). Though Britain has promised spending cuts, those cuts remain mostly in the future. Yet the Conservatives have reaped a political reward. S&P last year returned their nation’s outlook to ‘stable’.”

  The left would very much like to see the same kind of “solution” applied here. A tax hike could possibly make a dent in the deficit, but no conceivable tax hike could do anything but delay the onset of the entitlement crisis for a few more years. The only real solution is for the government to make the kind of meaningful, painful spending reductions that will restore some kind of balance between what we spend and what we have to spend. That’s the point that lawmakers ought to take away from Standard & Poors warning, but history tells us that lawmakers rarely hear the messages that really matter.

The GOP Drops the Ball – Again

By Rich Trzupek

  Republicans were swept into a majority in the House of Representatives last November because they promised to take a stand on one very simple, disturbing and dangerous issue: out of control government spending. We were promised at least $100 billion in spending cuts. Last Thursday we got $38 billion in cuts – maybe. Depending on how you do the accounting, the cuts might be a lot less than that.

  "After some politics as usual and accounting gimmicks, we find out that it’s not even $38 billion dollars,” Sarah Palin observed. “It’s less than $1 billion dollars in real cuts. That is not courage, that is capitulation. We didn't elect you just to rearrange the deck chairs on a sinking Titanic. We didn't elect you just to stand back and watch Obama redistribute those deck chairs."

  “We’re flat broke and he thinks these solar shingles and really fast trains will magically save us. So now he’s shouting ‘all aboard’ his bullet train to bankruptcy. Win the future? WTF is about right.”

  Senator Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, was brutally blunt in a letter to colleagues urging them to vote no on the bill. "The much-ballyhooed 2011 continuing resolution will leave the federal government spending $1.6 trillion more than it takes in," he wrote. "The only 'good news' from the 2011 continuing resolution would be that it adds less debt than President Obama's plan, but it does not appreciably change the accumulation of debt." 

  The budget supposedly reduces spending by $38 billion, as compared to President Obama’s proposed budget. As Senator Paul observed, the 2011 budget as a whole remains a deficit budget that will increase the national debt, just not quite as quickly. While passing a balanced budget was never considered even a remote possibility by hard-line fiscal conservatives, the spending reduction is pitifully small and Republicans ought to be embarrassed.

  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor expressed sympathy with his colleague’s frustrations, but said this was the best deal the GOP was going to get this year. “I’m frustrated too,” he said. “The House position was $61 billion. This is the best deal we could have gotten, given the situation we were served up by the Democrats being in charge of the Senate and the White House.”

  On the other end of the political spectrum, some Democrats from the far left complained that spending cuts were too deep to tolerate. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., complained that the cuts were “draconian” and would hurt the poor. Got that? We’re facing a mountain a debt and liberals can’t even bring themselves to vote for the tiniest cuts imaginable.

  An unlikely, unwitting coalition of conservative Republican budget hawks and left-wing, big-government Democrats could have combined to defeat the measure and force a partial shutdown of the government, but – sadly – that didn’t happen. Leaders of both parties found enough votes in the middle to pass the bill, but the faster the national debt increases, the harder it is to avoid the question that President Obama, most Democrats and too many Republicans are unwilling to face: how do we start living within our means before it’s too late?  The right believes that deep, meaningful cuts – including cuts to the big entitlement programs – are necessary. On the other hand, the left believes that tax increases aimed at higher income individuals and corporations are the way to go. Both sides know in their hearts that the compromise position they voted for essentially kicks the can down the road a little farther and, in that sense, the vote over the 2011 budget was a microcosm of the more important and far bigger battle to reign in the national debt.

  Some of the cuts included in the bill are certainly be popular on the right, like reducing the EPA’s budget by $1.6 billion and cutting spending for community health centers by $600 million. Likewise, some Democrats trumpeted the deal as a victory for their side, because Republicans didn’t get all of the cuts they wanted. Senator Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, praised the bill for preserving “critical programs” like Head Start and Pell Grants. Yet, no one is kidding themselves into believing that this bill addresses the nation’s $14 trillion deficit in any meaningful way. We’re drowning in a pile of debt and last week’s pitiful performance by the GOP did nothing to change that.

Campus Intolerance

By Rich Trzupek

  Jamie Pizzi, a freshman at Rollins College in Florida, penned an op-ed for the college’s student newspaper The Sandspur on March 17 in which Ms. Pizzi discussed aspects of the continuing national debate over illegal immigration. She focused on the issue of “anchor babies” – children born to illegal immigrants residing in the United States and who are, under the 14th Amendment, automatically granted full citizenship. Like many Americans, Ms. Pizzi believes that children born to people who entered the nation illegally and/or who continue to live here illegally should not be granted the same rights and privileges that legal immigrants obtain only after negotiating a mountain of paperwork and waiting for a very long time.

  Some members of the academic establishment at Rollins College were outraged that Ms. Pizzi would dare harbor such “extreme” views, much less commit them to writing. Worse, in the opinion of the intelligentsia, was the fact that the fact that The Sandpiper actually published such “inflammatory” opinions. For example, Rollins faculty member Kathryn Norsworthy sent mass e-mails around the school denouncing Pizzi’s piece. A comment that Norsworthy posted at The Sandspur’s website is typical of the academic community’s hysterical reaction:

  “This kind of media contributes to a climate of hate and intolerance in our community and is potentially traumatizing to our friends, colleagues, and students who are immigrants, their families and friends, and to those of us who are allies and/or members of other marginalized groups. Finally, I cannot imagine what people outside of Rollins will conclude about our college community and climate when they read this kind of thing in our college newspaper. I am extremely embarrassed to know that this is being put forward as part of the public face of Rollins and, sadly, regardless of how many letters we write, we can't take back the fact that this has already gone to print and been disseminated widely inside and outside our campus.”

  Steve Doocy brought such intimidation to light on Fox & Friends last week. When the incident then garnered national attention, George Soros’ spin-machine went into action. The billionaire’s media watch-dog organizations ignored any part of the story that involved attempts to stifle the free expression of ideas on campus. Instead, they attempted to demonize a college freshman for having an opinion that they don’t agree with.

  College Media Matters gave prominent play to Pizzi critics who accused her of being a Nazi, supporting genocide and promoting an atmosphere of hate and intolerance. Media Matters Simon Maloy went after the freshman as well, in a personal attack that was questionable even by MMFA standards. Maloy declared: “I'm not here to bash on (sic) a college op-ed…” and then proceeded to do just that, although practically nothing of his criticism had anything to with what Pizzi actually wrote. Maloy slammed Pizzi for “her poorly articulated nativism,” declared that the anchor babies are a myth and dismissed the very idea that liberal academia might attempt to stifle opinions it doesn’t like instead of fairly debating the issues of the day.

  How well or how poorly a college freshman manages to express her ideas is hardly relevant and such gratuitous insults shouldn’t play any part in civilized discourse, but Maloy – like so many on the left – finds it difficult to disguise his contempt for anyone who disagrees with him. It’s clear to any dispassionate reader what Ms. Pizzi was trying to say: some immigrants enter this nation illegally, while others follow the tedious requirements of the law before entering the nation. Is it fair to treat children born in America to both groups the same way? Ms. Pizzi, and millions of other Americans, would say it’s not, and saying that does not make any of them racist, supporters of genocide, hateful or intolerant.

  Edward Leffler, a student at Rollins College who serves as Sandspur Section Editor: Opinions, Vice President of the Jewish Student Union, and Student Government Association Parliamentarian is pressing the college to create a “Student Bill of Rights” in order to protect “…academic integrity, justice, and equality” at Rollins College. Like many Rollins students, Leffler has been appalled at the way members of the faculty and media have attacked Pizzi because she expressed a particular opinion.

  “The Sandspur is not a left leaning or right-leaning publication at all,” Leffler said in an interview with this writer. “We try to cover both sides of any issue. Our editors always review submissions for anything that is profane or could incite a riot at Rollins. But, we also train our writers to make the first paragraph of an article a grabber.”

   “The majority of the student body believe that if this were a student, they would get a punishment or worse. Student at Rollins College believe this situation deserves a strong reaction.”

  For now, Leffler and other concerned students are focusing on developing an Academic Bill of Rights, and plan to meet with the President and the Dean of Faculty to discuss the issue further. They hope to come up with something that we’ll be acceptable to students and faculty members of all political persuasions, so that ugly responses to free expressions of opinion do not occur again at Rollins College, or at any of America’s universities that have grown so intolerant of those who don’t agree with the leftist agenda most academics subscribe to.

The Disaster That Wasn’t

By Rich Trzupek

  There was a disaster in Japan last month. Actually, there was a series of cascading disasters: the fifth largest earthquake ever recorded, followed by thirty foot tsunami, followed by all the horrific destruction, loss of life and injuries that the world watched – dumbfounded – on television and the internet.

  Yet, among all of the hell on earth that Japan went through, and is still going through, there is one disaster that never happened: the Fukushima nuclear plant that was in the front line of the earthquake survived the blow and hasn’t been responsible for a single death, as engineers have worked to shut the reactors down.

  Think about that for a moment. Thousands died in Japan from the twin hammer blows of a massive earthquake and towering tsunami. Buildings collapsed. Dams were breached. Entire neighborhoods were washed away. And yet, the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex shrugged off the earthquake as though nothing happened. Not one reactor was damaged. No containment vessels were breached. That’s one hell of a design and the engineers from Japan and General Electric who put the plans for Fukushima together should be damned proud of their work.

  So what went wrong at Fukushima? The short answer is simple: the tsunami. The earthquake knocked out the power grid at Fukushima, which meant that the pumps which keep water flowing into the reactors had to go to back up power. No problem, except that nobody thought to protect the back-up generators from a thirty foot wall of water. The massive tsunami that followed the earthquake shut down the back-up units. Once the generators died, things got “interesting” at Fukushima.

  There wasn’t a meltdown and, despite what the dolts in the mainstream media reported, there really wasn’t any significant possibility of a meltdown. The engineers at Fukushima always knew that they had the option to use sea-water to cool the reactor cores, but using sea water creates other problems, like getting rid of the radio-active water and the corrosive nature of salt-water.

  So they initially tried to manage the reactors without using sea water. Unfortunately, as happened at Three Mile Island, the water in some reactors got hot enough to create hydrogen which, when vented, exploded and destroyed some secondary containment structures. That was spectacular, but not very important. The massive primary containment vessels continued to do their job – just as they did at TMI.

  Eventually, the Japanese engineers used sea water to cool some of the reactors. This led to two results. The first is that some radioactive sea water made its way back to the ocean. The lame-stream media made a big deal of this, but – as a scientist – my response was: so what? At the point of discharge the radioactivity might be strong enough to damage a limited amount of flora and fauna. That’s regrettable, but hardly a catastrophe. The radioactivity will dissipate quickly the farther you go from the initial point of impact, until it’s undetectable against the natural, baseline radioactivity of the oceans.

  The second result of using corrosive sea water is that Tokyo Electric will have to write-off the reactors in which sea water was used, just because of the damage to metallic surfaces. That’s a bummer for Tokyo Electric and their shareholders, but not really a relevant fact as far as the rest of us are concerned.

  And that’s really it, as far as the Fukushima part of last month’s earthquake story goes. Japanese engineers will continue to work to shut down the reactors safely and completely, but I have no doubt that they will be successful. They’ve done great work to date and the people of Japan should be immensely proud of their spirit, innovation and energy.

  A few people working at Fukushima have been exposed to higher than normal levels of radiation, but no one has been exposed to lethal levels. Caution and care remain the watchwords of the day as the clean up and shut down work continues. The all important primary containment vessels continue to do the job they were designed to do so many decades ago: keeping the nuclear fuel in a safe place until all nuclear reactions can be stopped.

  It’s unfortunate that our politicians and the media can’t seem to comprehend that what happened – or more properly didn’t happen – at Fukushima isn’t a reason to shy away from using nuclear power, it’s all the evidence we need to show how safe this technology is. When Mother Nature unleashed her fury on the islands of Japan last month, thousands died. Yet, not one of those deaths can be traced to a nuclear disaster that never happened. That’s remarkable and – though it surely won’t work this way – what didn’t happen at Fukushima ought to inspire us all to trust technology and science more than ever.

Use it or lose it

By Rich Trzupek

  Gasoline prices are on the rise again, mostly due to a combination of turmoil in the Middle East and increased worldwide demand that has driven crude prices up over $100 per barrel. When refiners switch to EPA-required summer blends starting on May 1, gasoline prices will increase even more. The left understands that the harder consumers are hit at the pump, the more sympathetic they are to calls for more domestic oil exploration. In an attempt head off the issue, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other leftists have fallen back on a tired, discredited canard: the “use it or lose it” approach.

  The theory – one that President Obama himself embraced during the 2008 campaign – is that energy companies are “sitting on” leases covering millions of acres of public and Native American lands. Why should the Interior Department issue new leases for oil and gas exploration when the industry isn’t using the resources it already has? 

  “In fact, it is those same Big Oil companies that are quite literally sitting on the oil that Republicans demand,” Reid said. “Big Oil is sitting on more than 60 million acres of federal land and water. That means nearly 20 percent of our nation’s oil refinery capacity sits idle. They have shown much more interest in making profits than in making oil.”

  “The issue we are confronting is not a failure of the government to lease lands or authorize drilling, it's that millions of acres under lease exist but the industry is not developing them," Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said. Menendez, along with Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced a bill that would force lease holders to drill of forfeit their leases.

  Like so many other simplistic leftist ideas, the benefits of this sort of government-mandated approach to oil exploration quickly falls apart as one peels away the layers of the arguments. The basic concept starts with an obvious contradiction, for it presupposes that “Big Oil” is so greedy that it will recklessly and knowingly drive up the cost of the product it sells, but is at the same time too stupid to take advantage of those market conditions by producing more of it. In the view of Reid, Salazar and Menendez, the law of supply and demand is somehow suspended when it comes to oil production.

  Here’s the way the industry actually works, written from the perspective of a fellow who has been working with energy companies for about three decades: When federal lands go up for lease, companies bid on them with an eye toward possible long-term production. There’s no guarantee that a particular area will yield enough oil or gas to generate a profit, so every lease involves what is more or less an educated gamble.

  It should be noted that Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) lease areas are, in the scheme of things, pretty small. (These are the deepwater areas in the Gulf and along the Atlantic coast). Accordingly, it’s common for bidders to secure leases to multiple leases covering contiguous areas. The flip side of that strategy is that if the lease-holder performs some further exploration and determines that one lease area isn’t profitable, then he will not pursue contiguous lease areas. This means large swaths of potential production areas will ultimately go untapped.

  It should also be understood that energy companies don’t bid on a lease because they know that they’ll find oil or gas, they bid because they believe there’s a possibility that they might find oil or gas. When Reid, Salazar, Menendez and the rest of the left tries to paint a picture that suggests energy companies are knowingly sitting on known reserves they’re being intentionally disingenuous or willfully ignorant. No one outside of OPEC is going to sit on proven, profitable reserves in this market.

  Once an energy company secures a lease, the next step is conducting seismic survey. This provides the company with a much greater level of surety that it can make a profit. Before it can conduct a seismic survey, the company must first obtain a permit. If the seismic survey looks promising, the company then must obtain an additional permit to drill exploratory wells. The farther along in this process the company goes, the more money it expends.

  Right now, the Obama administration is severely restricting the issuance of permits to conduct seismic studies and to drill exploratory wells. The policy is commonly referred to as “permit-torium” within the energy industry. That is: while the Obama administration has not officially declared a moratorium on drilling, the fact that it has basically refused to issue permits for seismic studies and new drilling in all but a few cases effectively amounts to a moratorium.

  But, let’s ignore all of the facts detailed above. Let’s pretend that energy companies are actually knowingly sitting atop of vast oil reserves that they stubbornly refuse to tap. Would we then need a “use it or lose it” law? The answer is no, because “use it or lose it” already exists. Public land energy leases have five to ten year terms (depending on the lease). If the lease-holder can’t produce oil or gas within that time, the lease expires.

  And so the bottom line is this: not only does “use it or lose it” ignore the realities of energy production, it’s a superfluous concept. Energy companies are already subject to “use it or lose it”.   The only thing standing in their way is an administration that demands the latter, without allowing the former.

Free Markets: An Object Lesson

By Rich Trzupek

  You may have seen the story in the paper last week: Governor Pat Quinn vetoed a bill that would have allowed for the construction of two big plants that would have made “synthetic natural gas” (there’s an oxymoron if there ever was one) out of Illinois coal. While I have been disappointed – but not surprised – by most of Quinn’s decisions, I’ll offer a rare tip of the hat in the Guv’s direction in this case. He made the right call.

  In the day job, I was involved in one of the two coal to gas projects for a few years, helping the plant secure permits with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Accordingly, I can provide you readers with a bit of the back story on the way that dreams grow and then wither in a rapidly-changing world.

  The partners who started Power Holdings (the coal to gas plant I was involved in) were – and are – good guys. They’re ex-utility folks who saw an opportunity to help out Illinois beleaguered coal industry and consumers, while making a nice piece of change themselves. The idea: turn coal into the natural gas that we use to heat our homes and power industry.

  The gasification technology to turn coal into natural gas has been around for a long, long time. The Germans used a version of it during WWII, for example. What made it attractive in Illinois, back when Power Holdings kicked off the project more than a decade ago, was the price of natural gas. Back then, natural gas prices were crossing the $10 per million British Thermal Unit (Btu) line and nobody could imagine them dropping.

  You can economically turn coal into natural gas for about half that, so the gasification of coal made all the sense in the world. There was only one problem: in order to secure the loan to build the plant (about $1 billion), the developers would have to show that they could pay back the money. How to do that? Long term contracts with utilities like Nicor to purchase the gas at a price that would ensure enough profit to pay back the loan.

  The problem is that the Illinois Commerce Commission prohibits utilities from entering into long-term contracts, so that consumers are assured of always getting the best prices. With the price of natural gas skyrocketing, it seemed that an exception to that rule was in order. And so the General Assembly approved legislation that allowed utilities to enter into long-term contracts with plants that produced natural gas from coal. It seemed to be a classic win/win situation.

  Then a funny thing happened on the way to coal gasification: American innovation flared up once more. Other people in the industry were working to find ways to produce more natural gas in other ways, simply because the high price of natural gas meant that there was a lot of economic incentive to do so.

  Exploration and production companies found new ways to economically get at natural gas trapped in the huge shale formations that crisscross America. As a result of their efforts, domestic natural gas production has exploded in the United States. We’re awash in the stuff and America is now known as the “Saudi Arabia of natural gas” in the energy world.

  The price of natural gas plummeted as production increased. It’s a little more than $4 per million Btu today and there is no indication that it will rise back to the record highs we saw a decade ago anytime soon. In this kind of market, coal gasification now makes no economic sense.

  The only way coal gasification would work in Illinois is if the General Assembly forced consumers to buy the natural gas product at a higher-than-market price that was set in stone in a long-term contract. To his credit, Governor Quinn realized that would be the wrong thing to do and vetoed the bill that would have done so. And so two projects that began with so much promise have been dealt what looks like death blows.

  The lesson to be learned here should be obvious: the free market figures its way through a crisis, so long as government stays out of the way. Back when natural gas prices were high, voices on the left were screaming for more government oversight of the industry, claiming that natural gas producers were gouging the consumer.

  In fact, what those record prices were doing was enticing the innovators who drive our economic growth when government gets out of the way. There was money to be made by finding ways to get more natural gas out of the ground at lower costs. And, at the end of the day, that’s exactly what the innovators did.

  The free market solution ultimately trumped the heck out of the government-subsidized solution. And yeah, it took a little time for that to play out, but as the saying goes: good things come to those who wait.

The Left Loses in Wisconsin

By Rich Trzupek

  Well, it turns out that the political equivalent of the “I’ll hold my breath till I turn blue unless I get my way” strategy is no more effective for a legislator than it is for a five year old. The left lost the only part of the fight that it really wanted to win in Wisconsin – retention of collective bargaining rights for public sector employees – and it lost because the left is either too stupid or too stubborn to see that the mood of the nation has changed quite a lot in the last few years. Had the unions agreed to the very modest concessions in benefits that Governor Scott Walker asked for shortly after he was elected, collective bargaining would never have been put on the table in the first place.

  Then, when Walker upped the ante by making collective bargaining an issue, the unions could have negotiated away some parts of the bill they found objectionable, but the left’s preferred means of debate in Madison was to scream, shout and threaten while Democratic Senators remained in hiding. So now they’ve lost the thing they most wanted to save and they have only themselves to blame.

  Of course that’s not the way the left saw it. The rhetoric went into hyper-drive when the collective bargaining bill passed in the Assembly by a vote of 53 to 42, and in the Senate by a 19 to 1. No Democrats were on hand for the Senate vote. Here’s a sampling reactions on the left:

  Blithely ignoring the fact nobody had kidnapped Democratic Senators in Wisconsin and forced them out of the state, Think Progress’ Ian Millhiser urged Dairy State voters to recall every Republican in the state and repeal the collective bargaining law. Millhiser slammed the GOP, saying: “Last night, Wisconsin Senate Republicans abandoned any remaining pretenses that a bill stripping state workers of their collective bargaining rights has anything whatsoever to do with the state’s finances, and rammed the bill through the senate without any Democrats present.”

  The Nation’s John Nichols put his money on a forlorn hope to recall eight Republican Senators, a move that some say may have originated in the White House. He sneered at the vote, saying “… it will inspire an appropriate response: Protests now, and the recall and removal of Republican senators in short order. Some of the Republicans may think that "cooler heads will prevail." They are wrong. The cool heads, the calm and rational Wisconsinites, will be busy in coming days: collecting signatures of recall petitions.”

  AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka called the bill “a corruption of democracy,” and added: "It's our job, each and every one of us, it's our job to transform the outrage and to make this moment a movement, to make sure this corruption in the Midwest doesn't stand." Retired Madison teacher June Roohr echoed the sentiment of her fellow protestors when she called Walker “…an unethical lying man who doesn't deserve to sit in the governor's chair.”

  Those remarks represent some of the least inflammatory rhetoric to emanate from the left in the wake of the two votes in Wisconsin. At the other end of the spectrum, the left’s outrage took a much more sinister turn. Republican legislators, including the leaders of both houses, revealed that they have received multiple death threats. The showdown in Madison has thus been a remarkable case study in the way that the left routinely talks out of both sides of their mouths simultaneously. They claim to cherish democracy and the majority rule, but Democratic Wisconsin senators chose to withdraw from the democratic process in an attempt to undermine the will of the majority. They say that public discourse should be respectful and people should avoid any hint of violent imagery, but protestors in Madison have rolled out some of the most violent, reprehensible rhetoric in recent memory and it’s no surprise at all to find that death threats are the natural outgrowth of those overheated pronouncements on the left.

  Many union supporters claimed that bringing collective bargaining alone up for a vote comes as a complete shock, characterizing it as an underhanded parliamentary maneuver that somehow undermined the system. In fact, everyone – on both sides of the aisle – understood that Wisconsin Republicans could have played this particular card at any time. Taking away collective bargaining privileges is not a financial measure and thus a quorum was not required.   Democrats hoped that boycotting the Senate would generate sympathy for the union’s cause, but significant support never actually materialized.

  In the intervening weeks Governor Walker gave the Dems an opportunity to make some kind of a face-saving deal. When it became obvious that wasn’t going to happen, Walker and his party let the other shoe drop. Thus, Democrat senators are now officially abandoning their responsibilities for no reason whatsoever. It’s only a matter of time before they slink back into Madison to face the inevitable: another vote that will force the teachers union to contribute a bit more toward their pensions and insurance.

  No doubt the left will continue to demonize Walker and Wisconsin Republicans, characterizing their actions as “union busting” and claiming that they tried to stifle debate. In fact, the opposite has been true. Public sector unions in Wisconsin chose to commit suicide, after having been given the opportunity to remain relevant. And so, public employees in the Dairy State join their brothers and sisters in the employ of the federal government and dozens of other states who do not enjoy the privilege of collective bargaining. Moreover, the right did nothing to inhibit the exchange of ideas or to quell opposing voices in Wisconsin. Instead, Republicans exercised remarkable restraint as the rhetoric on the left grew ever more incendiary. The left has thus suffered a massive defeat in the Midwest and they only have their own hubris to blame.

Customer Service

By Rich Trzupek

  Sometimes, I think it’s just the crabby old man growing inside of me, but other times I take a step back and think: this really is different. That process applies to a whole lot of subjects, but the one that sparked this particular rant is a two word description of a segment of the economy that is increasingly becoming more and more of an oxymoron: customer service.

  Fifty one years ago, when your humble correspondent first hit the ground crawling on planet Earth, customer service was the hallmark of any successful retail establishment. Marshall Field built an empire on the credo that “the customer is always right!” When you pulled into the gas station, an ultra-polite, uniformed gas station attendant not only filled your tank, he checked your oil and your tire pressures too. No matter where you went, the people who sold you something, or who wanted to, bent over backwards to make you feel like you were the most important thing in their worlds.

  Some of that was plainly overkill. We figured out that we can not only pump our gas, we can check the oil and tire pressure too. As nice as it was having somebody take care of those tasks for you as if you were a member of the English gentry, there was no practical reason for such a job to exist. And so it went away, to be replaced by the self-serve pump and the service station that doubles as a convenience store.

  So far so good, or at least no harm done. The smiling, helpful Texaco guy in the bow tie can disappear and no one’s life is substantially diminished. But that icon of the 50’s and 60’s has been replaced by another: the sullen, disinterested clerk who can’t wait to get you and your transaction out of his or her sight.

  If you’re in my age group, think about how things worked when you were a kid. Can you ever remember a cashier at a grocery store chatting with a co-worker when they were ringing up your purchases? Did the clerk at the pharmacy chat on the phone when he we was supposed to checking you out? Those things didn’t happen forty years ago, because – as a society – we said that behaving in such a fashion was unacceptable.

  Flash forward four decades and see how the world has changed. As often as not, transactions between customer and retailer pass without a word being spoken between them. The cashier is way too busy on the cell phone to have even the briefest exchange with the person making a purchase. So, bar codes are scanned, a cash register does a few calculations the clerk points to the total. The customer slides a card through a reader, the transaction is complete and everyone moves on. The human equation has been eliminated – hurrah!

  We’ve come to accept rude behavior today in a way that we would never have a few decades ago, in all sorts of situations. But rudeness in the retail setting is particularly galling. When you’re forking over your hard earned money to somebody, the least they can do is make eye contact and exchange a couple of sentences worth of polite conversation.

  Just to be fair, there are some organizations that seem to emphasize good customer service. I suspect that corporate policy is at work within those blessed few retailers whose employees all seem to get it.

  For the most part though, the last thing the average person waiting on you in a store, gas station or fast food joint seems to care about is the person they’re helping at the time. I suspect there’s a combination of factors at work here. One is the overall sullen attitude that seems to permeate more and more through modern society. More and more people – and not just young people – seem to believe that adopting an air of petulant indifference makes them appear cool and tough. It doesn’t of course, it just makes them seem like an ass, but such is the world we live in.

  The other piece of the puzzle is society’s demand for instant gratification. The clerk isn’t going to put his buddy on hold for thirty seconds so that he can wait on you. That would mean waiting a whole half minute to get the low-down on the tonight’s party. Can’t have that.

  And so the slow decline of civilization continues, and you really don’t have to look any farther than the nearest mall to see it.

Hypocrisy in the Dairy State

By Rich Trzupek

  The hypocrisy of the American left is on full display in the heart of America, as the teachers’ union in Wisconsin continues to show how it will use any tactic, no matter how reprehensible, to try and get its way. Threats, intimidation, violent imagery and inflammatory rhetoric – all of the sorts of tactics that the left and the mainstream media routinely accuse conservatives of using – are on full display in Madison. But, rather than condemning such behavior, left wing champions from Barack Obama to Michael Moore are falling over themselves to show solidarity with the teachers’ union.

  Protesters carried signs likening Wisconsin governor Scott Walker to Adolf Hitler and Hosni Mubarak. One protester carried a placard that posed the question “why do Republicans hate people?” while others likened Walker’s budget cutting efforts to rape. He was called a dictator by some and an image of the governor was overlaid with crosshairs by at least one protestor. A rent-a-mob marched on the governor’s home. None of this behavior seems to bother leaders on the left, no more than the same kind of extremist rhetoric and actions concerned them when the left directed it towards George W. Bush for the better part of eight years.

  Wisconsin state senator Randy Hopper, a Republican, told National Review that he and his colleagues have been receiving threats of a physically violent nature, and that law enforcement has stepped in to protect the homes and businesses of Republican legislators in the Dairy State.  And how does the President of the United States react to all this? Barack Obama, after all, called for more civil and respectful political debate in America just a few short weeks ago. Here’s what the President had to say in an interview with Milwaukee’s WTMJ:

  “Some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain, generally seems like more of an assault on unions. I think it's very important for us to understand that public employees, they're our neighbors, they're our friends.”

  Leftist hero Michael Moore was less circumspect, tweeting: “Madison is the new Cairo! Wisconsin teachers, nurses, firefighters -- shut the state down! All of working America is with u!” Like the Madison teachers who are effectively engaged in an illegal strike, Obama, Moore and all of the rest of the left don’t understand what’s happening in Wisconsin any better than they grasp what previously happened in New Jersey. It’s not about education, it’s not about collective bargaining and it’s not about freedom and democracy. It’s about the future of America, it’s about unsustainable debt and it’s about making sure that our children have the same kind of opportunities that we were blessed with.

  Wisconsin voters rejected the teachers unions’ agenda when they elected a Republican governor and gave the GOP a majority in both houses of the legislature. Walker promised that he would fix the state’s budget mess and, clearly, there is no way that he could do that without addressing teacher pensions and health care plans. Soon after he was sworn into office, he asked teachers to contribute more of their paycheck to cover their pensions and to insurance costs. The teachers’ union, used to getting its way in every particular, demonized Walker and his plan. Had the union accepted the governor’s proposal then, it’s very unlikely that Walker would have felt the need to drop the other shoe. But, as was the case in New Jersey, the Wisconsin teachers union has been able to make legislators dance to their tune for so long that even losing an election in one of the most left-leaning states in the Midwest didn’t make them wonder if they weren’t quite as powerful as they used to be.

  Walker’s proposal appears to have the votes to pass both chambers in Wisconsin, which explains why all fourteen Democratic Senators in the state are effectively in hiding. At least one Democrat has to show up for the Wisconsin State Senate to field a quorum and to thus be able to pass the bill. To prevent passage, the state’s Democrat Senators decided that a leave of absence was in order. "It's kind of unbelievable that they're elected to do a job and they wouldn't show up to do it," Republican state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald told Fox News. 

  The possibility that there could be a federal government shutdown if Republicans play hard-ball with the budget enrages many of the left. Yet, here we have duly elected representatives of the people of Wisconsin refusing to do the job that they were elected to do and are paid to do, and nobody on the left seems to care. That’s another bit of evidence to add to the hypocrisy file, demonstrating once again that the left operates with one puritanical set of standards that apply to those of us who disagree with them, but are perfectly willing to toss those standards out of the window when a pet cause of theirs is involved.

Wisconsin Leads, Illinois Loses

By Rich Trzupek

  As I write this column on Sunday night, the Battle of Wisconsin rages on. It’s a damned shame that we’re not having this conflict in Springfield, but until the people of Cook County who will vote a steaming turd into office as long as its got a “D” behind its name get a clue, we’re stuck. I still think our day of reckoning will come, one way or another, because you can’t keep kicking the can of increasing debt and obligations down the road forever. At least not unless you’re willing to rename our state “East California” anyway.

  In the meantime, all we Illinoisans can do is to watch with our faces pressed forlornly against the window of the national “government reform” candy store as state after state follows the pioneering trails that Governor Chris Christie in New Jersey and Scott Walker in Wisconsin are blazing.

  The fact is that Illinois is in far worse shape than Wisconsin and New Jersey regards its pension and healthcare obligations to government employees. That not only affects the state budget, it affects every town in Illinois as well. State mandates have driven up the amount money your municipality has to spend on pensions and healthcare for its employees and – until enough legislators in Springfield pull their heads out of their lower gastro-intestinal tracts – this will continue to be the case.

  Both parties in Springfield understand this reality. Both have heard the cries for help from cities and villages, from the Illinois Municipal League and from taxpayer advocacy groups. You’d have to blind, deaf and dumb – or perhaps be Mike Noland – not to understand that failing to address stupefying obligations to government employees is a recipe for disaster.

  And yet, Illinois Democrats went back to the well in order to pull out the only solution they seem capable of applying to any situation: raise taxes. Hooray! Again, this solution doesn’t actually solve any problems, it just pushes the day of reckoning down the road a bit. Somehow the fact that Governor Quinn, Mike Madigan, John Cullerton and their obedient lap-dogs would raise taxes when employment is hovering around ten per cent came as a surprise to some of the people who voted for the regime in 2010. That tells you something about many Cook County Democrats. “Sure, Quinn said he’d raise taxes, but we thought that only applied to rich people!” Welcome to the real world suckers.

  On the other hand, what Christie did in a liberal state like New Jersey and what Walker is trying to do in Wisconsin is breath-taking. For decades, certain public-employee unions got virtually anything they wanted out of most state legislatures. Why? Because too many of the people serving us in state legislatures have been gutless dopes who cared more out about their exalted elected position than the people they were elected to serve.

  Time and again, teachers unions, fire fighters unions and  police unions got anything they wanted out of compliant state houses, no matter how expensive or outrageous the demand. Anyone who questioned the wisdom of such proposals was quickly denounced as harboring hateful anti-teacher, anti-fire fighter or anti-police officer tendencies. In the days before fiscal reality slapped America across the face, this was electoral suicide and few officials had the courage to face such a fate. Now days, the landscape has changed and even liberal New Jersey understands that there is a huge difference between teachers who are dedicated to educating our kids, and a teachers union that it is dedicated to maintaining its own prestige and power.

  But the dying beast of public-employee unionism isn’t going to go away quietly. Wisconsin – the state where the first government employees were unionized in 1959 – may well represent the beginning of the end for this outmoded, unsustainable relationship between taxpayers and the people whose salaries are paid for by taxpayers. Wisconsin is sending a message to the rest of the states in the nation: cuts are comin’ people, and there’s no stopping them.

  Sadly, it’s going to take our once-great state a fair bit longer than the rest of America to receive and act upon that message, but therein lies the beauty of the system that Jefferson, Madison and the rest of the founders designed. All fifty states compete against each other in many ways. If a state’s neighbors charge ahead with good policies – as Indiana has done and Wisconsin appears ready to do – you can either keep up or die on the vine. It’s just a matter of time.

A Matter of Faith

By Rich Trzupek

  In a column a couple of weeks ago, my colleague Rachel remarked that those new-fangled fluorescent light bulbs that the government is forcing down our throats are something less than visually appealing. That bit of heresy prompted some readers to denounce our Tidbits columnist as selfish, environmentally insensitive and as a person who was ready and willing to sacrifice babies in order to fulfill her aesthetic visions.

  The mistake Rachel made, of course, was that she insulted someone’s religion. It is a matter of faith among those who pray at the altar of environmentalism that buying the curly-cue will save the planet, while purchasing a rounded bulb will cause Gaia to rise up and smite us all.

  There are some logical hoops that greenies have to jump through in order to arrive at such conclusions. They must ignore the mercury contained in each and every fluorescent light. It’s not a lot of mercury, but the environmental crowd has never accepted the argument “it’s not a lot” when it comes to mercury, or any other potentially toxic compound, in other circumstances.

  When industry is involved, the very mention of mercury will cause environmentalists to rise up in opposition to any project that might introduce the tiniest amount of the element into the environment. But, because fluorescent lights are sacred objects of veneration in the religion of environmentalism, this particular repository of mercury is more than welcome in an environmentalist’s home.

  According to environmental dogma, fluorescent lights “reduce pollution” because they use less energy. This too is a matter of faith among those who worship at the First Church of Earth (the Reverend Albert Gore, Pastor). We’ll grant that fluorescent lights need less electricity to produce the same amount of light, as compared to their incandescent cousins. Yet, there are other considerations.

  Incandescent bulbs give off a relatively large amount of heat, for example, as anyone who has touched an incandescent bulb when it was lit can attest. This slightly, but measurably difference, reduces the amount of natural gas you have to burn to heat your home during cold weather months. Fluorescents don’t have the same effect.

  Yeah, you might reply, but what about the opposite effect? Incandescent bulbs generate heat in the summer, which makes you use more air conditioning. So there! This is true, but you may have noticed that the sun stays out longer in the warm weather months than it does in the cold weather months, which means that we use our lights less when it’s warm outside. So, in the balance – especially in the rust belt – the heating benefit outweighs the cooling problems.

  Then there is the extra energy needed to produce and dispose of fluorescent lights. The reason that fluorescents cost more is because they’re more difficult to produce and use more energy to make. Unlike incandescent, fluorescents can’t be disposed of in a regular old municipal waste landfill. They require special handling and disposal and/or recycling. All of that means more transportation and more energy use.

  Now, since I’m a scientist and since I’ve been involved in the environmental industry for over thirty years, I don’t pay much heed to the fear mongers who tell you that we have to reduce energy use in order to save the planet. The fact is that, since the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act were first passed in 1970, we have done a truly remarkable job of cleaning up the environment in America. The amount of air pollution released into the environment since 1980 in the United States has been cut by more than half, according to USEPA statistics. We’re now at mid-nineties levels of greenhouse gas emissions in this country. The notion that America is in the midst of any sort of environmental crisis is just plain wrong.

  Thirty three states currently require their electric utilities to use more and more renewable energy each year to produce power. (Google “Renewable Portfolio Standards” to learn more about the way this works). The prevalence of Renewable Portfolio Standards means that it doesn’t matter a whit what kind of light bulb you choose to purchase, the technology used to produced that power that makes that bulb light up will continue to further reduce emissions of both conventional pollutants and greenhouse gases.

  Rachel flippantly and humorously dismissed fluorescent bulbs on account of their appearance. I would do the same, but I would do so because of the pointlessness of the exercise. It doesn’t really matter much at the end of the day. Stupid is, as Mrs. Gump sagely observed, as stupid does.  Fluorescent lights are just the latest example of the stupidity induced by the religion of environmentalism.

Egypt and Democracy – An Uncertain Mix

By Rich Trzupek

  Democracy. It’s a word that has a very particular, hallowed meaning in the west. In America the left and the right may disagree on just about everything, but just about everyone still venerates our democratic institutions. We all understand that this form of government which – if imperfectly – manages to best capture the wisdom and will of the governed has brought us freedom, prosperity and the ability to defeat murderous thugs bent on enslaving innocent people. And yet, it is this very esteem that we have for democracy that is, perversely, the west’s Achilles heel when it comes to world affairs. While there is no denying the fact that the establishment of truly sturdy democratic institutions make nations better and more prosperous, that ideal has been waved before naïve, gullible populaces time and again throughout history, only to be snatched away so that a new kind of thug can seize the reins of power. More and more, chaos in Egypt is looking as though it’s leading to another case of bait and switch on an international scale.

  We’ve seen it all before. In the eighteenth century, the French Revolution was supposed to represent the birth of freedom in Europe, until the Jacobins broke out the guillotine and replaced a monarchist tyranny for a far more bloody tyranny in the form of “progressive” idealism.  More recently, and more pointedly, modern “progressives” hailed the Iranian revolution in 1979 as a wonderful thing. The creation of an Islamic Republic under the leadership of the wildly popular Ayatollah Khomeini sounded great to naïve, eternally hopeful western ears – particularly those on the far left – because the new regime meant that the American-backed monarchy of the Shah was defeated and because Iranians were supposedly replacing despotism with democracy. 

  And so, here we are again. The mobs storming the streets in Cairo today are every bit as impassioned and misguided as the mobs that stormed the streets in Paris a little over two centuries ago. The people desperately want change. They want more of a say in the way that they are governed and they know – beyond a doubt – that if these changes come and if they can take more control of their destiny their lives will be better. How can we in the west, we who have been brought up to believe these things are true – who know from our own lives that they are true – how can we not sympathize with the plight of the ordinary, poor Egyptian and his yearning to be free?

  But we know, from painful, bitter experience that revolutions are dangerous things indeed. When successful, a revolution leaves a vacuum of power that will instantly suck in the most potent political force that was not consumed in the fires of the revolt. Late eighteenth century America was fortunate, because the most potent political force that remained after Washington bagged Cornwallis at Yorktown was a group of pragmatic idealists who believed in the rule of law and the will of the people in just about equal measure. That strange brew was, in the course of time, transformed into the Republic that we know and love today. But the vacuum of power that follows a revolution can be a very, very dangerous thing as well. The dissolution of the Weimar Republic in Germany in 1933 meant that the largest (but minority) party led by a certain Austrian corporal would take power. Iran shed itself of the Shah, only to see a far more oppressive theocracy assume the reins of government.

  The far left and, to a somewhat lesser extent, the mainstream media are tossing around the word “democracy” with respect to the situation in Egypt today as if invoking that word alone guarantees a favorable outcome. It doesn’t. There is nothing magical about uttering the word. The Muslim Brotherhood is the one organization best positioned to fill the political vacuum if the call for democracy in Egypt is successful in removing Hosni Mubarak from power. As many have documented, the Muslim Brotherhood is dedicated to defeat of the west, the elimination of western institutions and to the world-wide domination of Islam.

  Today’s situation in Egypt is the natural outgrowth of the most powerful nation in the world voting for “hope and change,” rather than voting to more aggressively pursue and eliminate the enemies of freedom, religious choice and self determination. Though Egyptian protesters invoke democratic ideals as part of their demonstrations, no organization poised to fill the power gap is actually willing to provide individual Egyptians with more of a voice in the way they are governed. If the Muslim Brotherhood comes to power, ordinary Egyptians will find themselves more oppressed than ever before. That’s the challenge that the Iranians faced in 1979 and it’s the same challenge that Egyptian’s face in 2011. Here’s hoping that these revolutionaries make better choices.

Chaos in the Middle East

By Rich Trzupek

  It took the opposition in Tunisia only a month to get rid of strongman Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who fled the country three weeks ago after twenty three years of control. Inspired and emboldened by that success, Egyptians rose up to denounce their far more powerful authoritarian government, which has been under the iron fist of Hosni Mubarak since 1981. And the dominoes continue to fall, as Yemen has been the latest nation to succumb to the wave of discontent that has been starting to sweep through North Africa and the Middle East. The transfer of power in Tunisia, a nation that has traditionally steered a middle course internationally and is not celebrated as a safe haven among terrorists, wasn’t all the significant in and of itself. But, as many predicted at the time, a successful uprising in Tunisia could be just the spark needed to ignite the fuse that will set off all of the seething discontent smoldering just below the surface in most of the Muslim world.

  We thus appear to be entering a very dangerous phase in the evolution or devolution (take your pick) of the Middle East. If dissidents are successful in effecting regime change in key nations, the west should be very concerned about whoever fills the vacuums of power thus created.  Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Ali Abdallah Salih in Yemen are hardly America’s best friends, but there is something to be said about the old saw that suggests the devil you know is usually better company than the devil you don’t.

  In neither nation does an appeal to Islamic fundamentalism appear to be a primary – or even secondary – motivating factor behind the protests. A coalition of left-leaning organizations and youth groups long opposed to the Mubarak regime joined together to orchestrate protests in Egypt.

  Protests in Yemen seem to have been well-organized as well. The “Joint Meeting Parties” is an umbrella group representing a number of groups who oppose Salih’s rule. As the situation in Tunisia was heating up, the Joint Meeting Parties decided that their time had come. Thus far the protests, by all reports, have been peaceful and the response of the government restrained. Yet, the Joint Meeting Parties say that they will continue to ramp up the pressure on Salih’s regime, although the organization promises to utilize only non-violent means of protest.

  What is interesting, and frightening, about the situations in Egypt and Yemen is how different those nations are economically. Egypt, like Tunisia, is relatively prosperous in North African/Middle Eastern terms. The unemployment rate in Egypt is less than ten per cent and “only” about twenty per cent of the populace lives below the poverty line. On the other hand, the unemployment rate in Yemen is over thirty five per cent and almost half of the nation lives in conditions of poverty. Thus, if we are looking for a common thread connecting discontent in these nations, we can’t rely on economic conditions. There has to be something else. Among the ideas that undoubtedly contribute to all the protests are these: the universal desire for self-determination, the freedom to exchange information and ideas in the modern world, and the belief that no one is entitled to virtual hereditary rule, measured in decades, in the modern world. And so we find ourselves faced with nascent revolutions in two very different countries, both of which may represent very different, but very real, threats to American and our allies if those revolutions are successful.

  Up until now, the Muslim Brotherhood, Mubarak’s most powerful opponent in Egypt, has stayed out of recent protests. This weekend the radical Islamic supremacist group joined in the fray. This is bad news for a number of reasons. Young, idealistic revolutionaries are about the worst sort of people to run the machinery of government that one can imagine. Egypt’s protests clearly represent a youth movement. If they’re successful, the “under 25” crowd won’t want to be bothered with the tedium of governing, but will rather hope that some more mature folks who say all the right things will assume that particular responsibility. The Muslim Brotherhood, which doesn’t have any qualms about completely misrepresenting itself and its aims in order to achieve its goals, is thus ideally positioned to take advantage of the chaos that would follow Mubarak’s ouster.  And, because Egypt is a much more powerful nation than most Middle Eastern states thanks to years of American aid and support, if the Muslim Brotherhood grabbed control in Egypt it would be a disaster along the lines of Khomeini taking over in Iran.

  On the other hand, Yemen remains a weak, impoverished nation. Yemen’s chief sources of revenue, its oil reserves, are rapidly drying up. Yet, it’s the poverty and hopelessness of Yemen that makes it especially attractive to Al Qaeda, the country that bin Laden’s terrorists use as their base of operations on the Arabian peninsula. It is thus important to western interests to keep Yemen within our sphere of influence, so that Al Qaeda can be contained and – hopefully – neutralized within its borders. Though Salih has been an uncertain ally, he has been an ally. Should the Yemeni opposition succeed in removing him from power, the same question that confronts us in Egypt remains: will the next regime remain at least outwardly friendly to western interests and values, or will the next regime be infinitely more dangerous than the one we know today?


China on the Rise

By Rich Trzupek

  China’s rise, in both the economic sense and military sense, presents the United States with a host of tough challenges. Those tasks will grow more and more difficult the longer that America struggles with ten percent unemployment while China’s economy continues to grow at ten percent per year. Chinese President Hu Jintao’s state visit last week highlights the many problems that a resurgent China presents to the west and the Obama administration’s spotty record of dealing with those issues effectively.

  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton deserves praise for calling out the eight-hundred pound gorilla that dominates the room labeled “US-China Relations”: human rights violations in the PRC. Clinton called on Chinese leaders to fulfill their human rights obligations to the nation’s citizens and specifically expressed support for prominent dissidents, including 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. From the lack of religious freedom to the statist control of personal freedoms inherent to the Hukou System to the absence of anything that the west would recognize as due process, the PRC continues to be a brutal, totalitarian state and – given its size and growing strength – the most important totalitarian state in the world today. Yet, America’s massive and still-growing national debt and the role China plays in securing that debt ultimately puts the current administration in an awkward position. The Secretary of State might be allowed to talk tough about China, but her boss isn’t going to dare do the same thing.

  "I want to suggest that there has been an evolution in China over the last thirty years since the first normalization of relations between the United States and China, and my expectation is that thirty years from now we will have seen further evolution and further change," President Obama said when asked about human rights in China. "And so what my approach will continue to be is to celebrate the incredible accomplishments of the Chinese people, their extraordinary civilization, the multiple areas in which we have to cooperate not only for the sakes of our countries, but for the sakes of the world, to acknowledge we are going to have certain differences and to be honest as I think any partner needs to be honest when it comes to how we view many of these issues. And so that frank and candid assessment on our part will continue. That doesn't prevent us from cooperating in these other critical areas."

  There has, of course, been an evolution in China over the last thirty years, but it’s not exactly the sort of evolution that President Obama suggests. Chinese leadership, confronted with the implosion of the USSR and the obvious economic disasters that Mao created, finally wised up. They understood that slavish devotion to the Marxist economic theories would ultimately bring about the downfall of the ruling class, but a clever melding of capitalist economic principles and communist/fascist style control could result in the best of both worlds: a nation that would grow rich, but where the vast majority of those riches would enhance the lives of the ruling class. And so has modern-day China grown. There is, to be sure, much more of a middle class in China today than there has ever been, for that is a price that must be paid for a solid economic foundation. On the other hand, the ruling class is growing richer and richer, where hundreds of millions of Chinese in the working classes are no better off today than they were thirty years ago. Chinese leaders are no more tolerant of opposing thoughts and opinions in 2011 than they were in 1981. Instead, the infusion of riches provides those leaders with the luxury of sounding a great deal more tolerant and respectable than they actually are.

  President Obama, who puts such enormous stock in words, is at his foreign policy worst whenever he has to deal with cultures in which verbal promises aren’t worth the paper they’re not printed on. Muslim-ruled nations are the best example of this phenomenon. China is another. The fact that Hu says that he wants to address the trade imbalance between our nations, and says that he wants to make progress on human rights in his country, and says that he doesn’t want to participate in another Cold War – well, none of those statements mean a thing. That’s a difficult concept for any westerner, and particularly one so naïve as Obama, to wrap their arms around. We are used to believing that when somebody makes a definitive statement, and especially when such a statement is a matter of official policy, the person making that statement is being completely and absolutely truthful. But, as anyone who has spent substantial time in most Muslim and some Asian (including China) nations can tell you, that’s not the way everyone thinks. Words in some cultures are just words: completely valueless utterances that count for nothing against the finality of actual actions.

  This actions of this new resurgent Red China are telling. The Dong Feng 21D “carrier killer” missile promises to change the balance of power in the western Pacific theater.  The J-20 fighter appears to many to be a creditable, dangerous threat to the United States’ F-22 Raptor. While everyone seems to believe that the Yuan is undervalued and thus continues to hurt the American economy (by denying American access to growing Chinese markets), China hasn’t done anything to restore currency balance and seems decidedly unwilling to do so. 

  The only way to deal effectively with China is through a position of strength, and that means – as Larry Kudlow has pointed out – through a position of economic strength. Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s policies haven’t done a thing to restore America’s economic health, much less make our nation stronger than it was. The United States can still brag the world’s most powerful economy, but every day that our current doldrums continue is another day that the PRC catches up a little bit more. If we don’t face up soon to the fact the fact that our nation’s greatness and influence is defined in large part by its economic health, America may soon find itself relegated to the position of a second-rate power by our erstwhile friend, located half a world away.

Exploiting Tragedy

By Rich Trzupek

  As a result of the tragedy in Tucson there have been renewed calls for tighter gun control laws across the nation. Arizona is one of the most gun-friendly states in the union, causing some on the left to conclude that if the Grand Canyon State had tighter controls on gun ownership, six lives would have been saved and Representative Gabrielle Giffords wouldn’t be lying in a hospital bed. There’s more here than just the usual sort of Monday morning quarterbacking that occurs whenever a tragic event touches the nation’s heart. Gun control advocates have suffered defeat after defeat and the majority of the nation today clearly supports the right of private citizens to bear arms and to defend themselves, their loved ones and their property. Second amendment opponents would like to reverse those trends and, for some, Jared Loughner’s rampage offers a golden opportunity to press forward with their old agenda.

  The New York Times led the charge with two editorials. First, the Times noted that Arizona’s ”… gun laws are among the most lenient, allowing even a disturbed man like Mr. Loughner to buy a pistol and carry it concealed without a special permit.” The paper went on to say that “…Arizona should lead the nation in quieting the voices of intolerance, demanding an end to the temptations of bloodshed, and imposing sensible controls on its instruments.” Warming to the subject, the Times then urged lawmakers to pass new gun control laws in the wake of the Arizona shootings, even though lawmakers wouldn’t find that easy to accomplish. “To do so, they will need to stand up to the National Rifle Association and its allies, whose lobbying power continues to grow despite the visceral evidence that the groups have made the country a far more dangerous place,” the Times editorial warned.

  While the Times is offering pabulum to the left, there’s little of intellectual nutritional value there. To their credit, the editorial board at the Times stayed away from the knee-jerk “blame the tea party, the GOP, Rush, Palin and Fox” reaction that permeated through so much of the left. So why then bring up “quieting the voices of intolerance” – whoever they are – when the editors acknowledge that Laughner’s “…paranoid Internet ravings about government mind control place him well beyond usual ideological categories”?  Further, the Times may believe that there is “visceral evidence” that the NRA and other second amendment champions have made America a far more dangerous place, but there’s not much in the way of actual evidence. Any dispassionate consideration of gun ownership versus crime – including violent crime – demonstrates that one cannot establish a consistent relationship of any kind between the two and that the ability of law-abiding individuals to defend themselves helps reduce crime in most cases.

  There are all kinds of ways to analyze gun laws versus crime rates, but it’s exceedingly clear that worst crime rates are found in the poor sections of large cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. For decades big cities have experimented, and continue to experiment, with gun control laws. It hasn’t made a bit of difference. On the other hand, the states with the lowest crime rates are “right to carry” states. And why not? The bad guys aren’t rocket scientists, but they’re smart enough to understand it’s a whole lot safer to break into an old couple’s house if you don’t have to worry about grandpa packing heat. According to the Cato Institute, guns are used for self-defense purposes about two million times each year, which is three to five times more than the estimated number of violent crimes committed annually using guns.

  Europe provides another useful look into the relationship between guns and crime. The nations that have the three highest murder rates in Europe – Russia, Luxemburg and Hungry -  have some of the lowest gun ownership rates on the continent. (Four percent of Russian citizens own guns, while the numbers drop to two percent in Hungry and zero in Luxemburg). In nations like Germany, Norway, France and Finland, where gun ownership rates among private citizens exceed thirty percent, the murder rate drops substantially. If that data doesn’t definitively prove a direct correlation between gun ownership and reductions in violent crime, it at least disproves the converse: the proposition that violent crime increases when more citizens own firearms.

  There are aspects of the gun control issue that some Americans might want to continue to discuss. Bans on so-called assault weapons are popular in some quarters, for example. Finding new ways to identify and get help to deranged individuals like Jared Loughner should obviously be a priority. But there is simply no reason to believe that widespread gun control in America would work or that Americans would support efforts to impose the kind of restrictions on owning firearms that the left dreams of. What happened in Arizona last weekend is a tragedy, but tragedies happen in every corner of the globe, from the most totalitarian regime to the freest of societies. Americans are not about to surrender their right to bear arms and defend themselves because one twisted individual misused that right. The left can dream of an America without firearms, but it’s hard to see how Americans would ever allow that particular nightmare to come true.


Taking Aim at Healthcare

By Rich Trzupek

  When the 112th Congress convened on Wednesday, the first thing that the new Republican leadership in the House did was to read the text of the Constitution aloud. Following that, the first bill that the GOP expects to vote on in the House will be one to repeal Obamacare. Both moves are equally symbolic, as Republicans try to convince voters that the message delivered on November 2, 2010 has been received loud and clear. The House vote to repeal the healthcare bill should take place as The Examiner hits the streets today, if everything goes according to plan.

  Is expected that the repeal bill will sail through the House, perhaps even with a veto-proof majority. Fred Upton, (R-Mich.), the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sounded upbeat about the bill’s chances on Fox News Sunday. "We have 242 Republicans. There will be a significant number of Democrats, I think, that will join us," Upton said. "Remember when [Speaker Nancy Pelosi] said we want to pass this thing because then we'll learn what's in it? Well, now the American public does know what is in it. Unpopularity numbers are as high as 60 percent across the country. I don't think we're going to be that far off from having the votes to actually override a veto."

  That’s the good news on health care, but the bad news is that is all the good news there is. The repeal will pass the House, but it’s unlikely that Majority leader Harry Reid would allow the bill to come up for a vote in the Senate, very doubtful that the bill would pass in the Senate if it did come up for a vote and – even in the stars somehow aligned to make both of the forgoing events possible – it’s inconceivable that sufficient Senate votes could be found to override a certain Presidential veto. In short, direct repeal of Obamacare isn’t going to happen. Yet, the attempt to do so must be made for at least two reasons. Resentment and dissatisfaction over the healthcare bill and all of the spending it represents runs deep. Accordingly, elected representatives must demonstrate that they are listening to their constituents and try to go after Obamacare using the most direct and effective route available. Second, this sort of frontal assault, though doomed to failure, sets the stage for the flanking attacks that must follow. An attempt to repeal Obamacare in one stroke is a signal that the tenor of the battle in the halls of Congress is changing.

  If the healthcare bill is to be effectively killed, it will almost undoubtedly require the death of a thousand cuts rather that the kind of sudden decapitation envisioned in the repeal bill. The GOP has already announced its intention to go after Obamacare from every possible angle. The hope is that while any single strategy to wound the plan might not be enough, the combination of all possible strategies might effectively rip the guts out the government’s attempt to take over America’s healthcare system. Among the strategies that Republicans are using or plan to use to achieve that end are:

  -Supporting efforts to have the courts declare key portions of the healthcare bill unconstitutional. The so-called “individual mandate” to purchase health insurance is the natural legal target. In December, US District Judge Henry Hudson found that the requirement to purchase health insurance is, in his learned opinion, unconstitutional. It seems likely that this issue will travel to the Supreme Court before it is decided once and for all.

  -The sovereignty of the states is another part of the legal strategy, and the lawsuit filed by twenty states in an attempt to void Obamacare continues to make its way through the court system.

  -If the entire healthcare bill cannot be repealed in one stroke, certain provisions of the bill may be repealed bit by bit. Some parts of the bill, such as requirements that would make small businesses fill out even more tax forms than they do already, seem ripe for the picking.

  -Finally, the GOP plans to withhold funding for some key part of Obamacare, which – it is hoped – will help make the plan unravel all the quicker.

  Finally, while it’s vitally important to dismantle the healthcare bill by any means possible, it will be incumbent upon this Congress to propose an alternative vision as well. Simply returning to the status quo pre-Obamacare isn’t going to cut it. There are common-sense, free market solutions to help reign in insurance and healthcare costs out there. Congress needs to embrace those kinds of alternatives at the same time that it rejects what is in effect, if not in name, European-style socialized medicine.

When Cooling Becomes Warming

By Rich Trzupek

  Were the stakes not so serious, the continuing efforts of global warming apologists to explain away every climatic condition using their pet theory would be comical. Unfortunately, and despite the death of cap and trade, the climate change crowd has already been very successful in undercutting the use of cheap, plentiful and economically beneficial fossil fuels in the United States. Even worse, the Obama administration will begin to clamp down even harder on the use of fossil fuels in 2011, in the midst of an economic crises that suggests America can least afford such largesse. In this context, attempts by global warming alarmists to explain away record cold temperatures and massive snowstorms by claiming that these events somehow confirm their beliefs demand refutation.

  In an Op-Ed published in the New York Times on December 25, Dr. Judah Cohen, Director of Seasonal Forecasting for Atmospheric and Environmental Research, patiently told readers why all of the unseasonably cold weather that Europe and North America has been experiencing is further proof that mankind is indeed causing global warming. According to Dr. Cohen, global warming is heating up the atmosphere, which means that the atmosphere can hold more water vapor. This in turn means that there is more water that will return to the earth in the form of snow during the winter, particularly in Siberia. More snow cover in Siberia means that more sunlight is reflected off into space, which in turn cools the planet, affects the jet stream and alters weather patterns to create colder temperatures.

  Cohen thus takes the position that water vapor is indeed a very important component of the global climate picture, something that skeptics like myself have been saying for years. That’s a position that runs contrary to assertions made by prominent global warming alarmists like NASA climatologists Dr. Andrew Lacis and Dr. Gavin Schmidt. In fact, Lacis, Schmidt and their colleagues recently published a paper that asserted that water vapor in the atmosphere really doesn’t matter at all – only carbon dioxide counts. This is a rather remarkable claim, given that water vapor is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and that the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere dwarfs the amount of carbon dioxide it contains.

  Prominent skeptics, like the University of Alabama at Huntsville’s Dr. Roy Spencer, argue that the importance of water vapor is far more significant than that of carbon dioxide and that the global climate system is more or less self correcting. That is, if a small increase in carbon dioxide means that the atmosphere will contain a bit more water vapor, mother nature will deal with the problem by forming more clouds, which help cool the earth. The ultimate issue is about how sensitive the planet is to a slight increase in the concentration of a relatively insignificant greenhouse gas. Alarmists would have us believe that the earth is hyper-sensitive to the slightest change in carbon dioxide concentrations, which pretty much means that we’re doomed whatever we do. Skeptics say that the planet is robust and full of self-correcting mechanisms and that natural cycles are far more important than human activity.

  Cohen is trying to play both ends against the middle. In his world, water vapor in causing short term cooling anomalies, but this effect ultimately won’t matter. At some point, he asserts, cooling will turn back to warming and then we’ll be doomed. On the other hand, maverick British meteorologist Piers Corbyn accurately predicted this year’s bone-chilling winter based on solar activity that he says is the most important climate driver of all. While official, government forecasters in the UK, who are completely on-board with IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)-driven global warming hysteria, were predicting a mild, unseasonably warm winter this year, Corbyn said in November that this winter would be a bear and now says that we haven’t yet seen the worst of it. 

  For Corbyn, global warming theory “…is complete nonsense, it’s fiction, it comes from a cult ideology. There’s no science in there, no facts to back [it] up.” That’s the ever-increasing consensus among the unbiased scientific community. Despite the IPCC’s prediction that average global temperatures would continue to rise precipitously, the earth’s climate has remained essentially stable since the mid nineties. Dr. Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia, one of the world’s leading global warming alarmists, admitted that fact in one of the e-mails released during last year’s climategate scandal.

  The fact is that, despite lofty claims to account for each and every aspect of the earth’s enormously complex climate system, none of the models that organizations like the IPCC and NASA have relied upon to predict global climate disaster have been proven correct by actual data. The fact is there is nothing remarkable or troubling about recent global changes when one considers any sort of historical context. The planet is a bit warmer than it has been in very recent times, a bit cooler than it has been from a slightly broader point of view and much, much warmer than it has been when one looks back across millennia. In geological terms, the recent history of planet earth suggests that Ice Ages are the norm and that we’re living in an unexpectedly bountiful era of relative warmth.

  And yet, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, old media outlets like the New York Times continue to push the tired canard that human activities can alter weather patterns around the world. As a result, more than half of the states in America have committed to reducing the use of cheap fossil fuels in order to combat this non-problem, and to thus vastly increase the cost of the energy that is vital to economic recovery. Worse still, and apparently unsatisfied by the massive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that the United States has already realized and the further reductions that the majority of the states have committed to, the Obama administration wants even more. Beginning on January 2, 2011, the USEPA will begin demanding further reductions in fossil fuel use, by utilizing provisions of the Clean Air Act to force even more cutbacks on the burning of abundant fossil fuels to create energy. It’s a recipe for economic disaster, but nobody in the current administration or within the mainstream media seems to care.

Center Ice

By Rich Trzupek

  The jury is still out, bet there are indications that Barack Obama is gritting his teeth and doing what many conservatives believed he could never bring himself to do: executing a Clintonesque pivot toward the center. Many on the right doubt the conviction of Obama’s apparent conversion, but even among those who believe that the president is indeed veering away from his cherished far left path there is a stark difference of opinion on what that might mean. One school of thought maintains that the nation will be spared the worst consequences of implementing even more leftist policies and Obama’s pivot is therefore necessary and welcome. Another group of conservatives wishes that the president would stubbornly stick to his leftist course and thus drive the nation “out of the ditch” and over a cliff, thereby proving in no uncertain terms how dangerous and disconnected the progressive movement is.

  Few issues so united the left in their conviction that George W. Bush was a lackey of the rich and powerful than Bush’s tax cuts. For years, progressives have blamed our current economic woes on those cuts and Obama himself embraced the theory. And yet, in the wake of a devastating rejection of his party last month, Obama not only extended the Bush tax cuts, his chief economic advisor said that it was vital to do so, unless we want to risk a “double-dip” recession.

  The president was exultant after the package passed, saying: “…this proves that both parties can in fact work together to grow our economy and look out for the American people." What a difference an election makes. The “party of no” has now become half of the bipartisan formula Obama said he wanted to employ to bring America together. Perhaps one can do business with hostage-takers after all? Though it’s not certain that Obama will continue along the path to the middle, his willingness to work with his political enemies on this issue is at least a step in the right direction.

  Obama’s hawkish stance on the war in Afghanistan is even more revealing. Nine years after U.S boots first hit the ground in Afghanistan to help the Northern Alliance oust the Taliban, war weariness in America has clearly set in. A Quinnipiac poll in November showed overall support for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan in negative territory for the first time, with 44 percent of the public supporting the U.S. role, and 50 percent opposing it. Nonetheless, in a recent surprise visit with troops serving on the front line, Obama spoke of taking the fight to the enemy, rather than defensively reacting to our opponents’ desires. "We said we were going to break the Taliban's momentum,” Obama told the troops. “And that's what you're doing. You're going on the offense, tired of playing defense, targeting their leaders, pushing them out of their strongholds.”

  We’ve been here before. Bill Clinton toyed with the idea of using leftist ideology as a roadmap of governance when he was elected president in 1992. America decisively rejected such a dramatic shift in 1994, embracing the conservative principles that Newt Gingrich so articulately defined in the GOP’s “Contract With America.” From the Democrats’ perspective, the election of 1994 left their party and their causes in smoking ruins. But Bill Clinton, who has never hesitated to embrace a strategy that benefitted Bill Clinton, saw the writing on the wall and swung toward the center will a seemingly effortless ease.

  Clinton abandoned “Hillarycare,” embraced welfare reform and – in large part if not in every detail – moved toward the middle in order to reap the benefits of the anti-leftist sentiments that were then sweeping the county. Bill Clinton was and is no ideologue. He did and continues to do whatever is necessary to advance the fame and fortune of Bill Clinton. He remains a hero on the left, even though his record demonstrates that he’s far less committed to the progressive agenda than he is to self-aggrandizement. No matter. With his administration and his progressive goals in deep, deep trouble, Barack Obama turned to Bill Clinton to rescue the current administration during a press conference last week. The result was a study in contrasts. The politically savvy ex-President effortlessly assumed the leadership role, fielding questions with typical grace and style, using his disarming public persona to put everyone at ease.

  On the other hand, Barack Obama fled the podium soon after Bill Clinton started talking. While Clinton smoothly engaged reporters, the president of the United States escaped to attend a Christmas party that was apparently far more important than the nation’s business. The bottom line seems to be that Barack Obama wants to find a way out of the ideological cul-de-sac that he has driven his nation, but doing so galls him. His conciliatory words following the tax cut vote probably came hard for the President, but had he continued to publicly lash out at conservatives and progressive purists it would have only made him seem even more childishly petulant and bitter. If Obama is to continue moving toward the center, Republican’s will have to keep up the pressure. This deeply narcissistic president won’t like that a bit, but the citizens of the nation he is supposed to be leading will be much happier than they are at the moment.






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