Archive for June, 2010
27 Jun 2010

Chicago Lightning

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Lightning hits the Willis Tower (formerly, the Sears Tower) and the Trump Tower in Chicago.

Chicago is a great city for weather watching and photography.

25 Jun 2010

Slavery Times

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anonymous primitive artist, Slave Wedding Celebration, watercolor, 18th century

One particularly notable manifestation of the post-1960s ascendancy of the left in education that is easily noticed is the fact that younger people emerge from school today firmly persuaded that Antebellum American slavery ranks as one of the preeminent crimes in human history. They do not watch older films or read novels like Gone With the Wind depicting affectionate, familial relations between masters and slaves without indignation. Joel Chandler Harris’s once classic stories of Uncle Remus are universally banned.

Ironically, Ta-Nehisi Coates, a liberal and an African-American writer not notoriously moderate on the subject of the politics of race, discovered the reminiscences, recorded by the Depression era Federal Writers’ Project, of an elderly woman who remembered life under slavery… and said with moving eloquence that she wished she was back there.

Coates (who carefully edited away all the dialect in the version he quoted) assures his readers that he was not surprised to find a first person account offering a positive perspective on life in servitude. He acknowledges that (inevitably) conditions under “slavery differed, as all things differ.”

Coates evidently still intends to reject firmly any and all literary portraits of affectionate relationships between masters and servants and depictions of servant life before emancipation as less than intolerable, but he admits that he found Aunt Clara’s words “beautiful. Not pleasing [but] Beautiful.”

Aunt Clara Davis (Library of Congress, Federal Writers’ Project, July 6, 1937):

pdf

I was bawn in de year 1845, white folks,” said Aunt Clara, “on the Mosley Plantation in Bellvy jus’ nawth of Monroeville. Us had a mighty pretty place back dar. Massa Mosley had near ’bout five hundred acres an’ mos’ near to one hundred slaves.

“Was Marse Mosley good to us? Lor, honey, how you talk. Co’se he was! He was de bes’ white man in de lan’. Us had eve’y thing dat we could hope to eat: turkey, chicken, beef, lamb, poke, vegetables, fruits, aigs, butter, milk…we jus’ had eve’ything. Dem was de good ole days. How I longs to be back dar wit’ my ole folks an’ a playin’ wit’ de chilluns down by de creek. ‘Tain’t nothin’ lak it today, nawsuh. An’ when I tell you ’bout it you gwine to wish you was dar too.

White folks, you can have your automobiles, an’ paved streets an’ electric lights. I don’t want ’em. You can have de buses, an’ street cars, and hot pavement and high buildin’ ‘caze I ain’t got no use for ’em no way. But I’ll tell you what I does want–I wants my old cotton bed an’ de moonlight shinin’ through de willow trees, and de cool grass under my feets as I runned aroun’ ketchin’ lightnin’ bugs. I wants to hear the sound of the hounds in de wods arter de ‘possum, an’ de smell of fresh mowed hay. I wants to feel the sway of de ol’ wagon, a-goin’ down de red, dusty road, an’ listen to de wheels groanin’ as they rolls along. I wants to sink my teeth into some of dat good ol’ ash cake, an’ suck de good ol’ sorghum offen my mouth. White folks I wants to see de boats a-passin’ up an’ down de Alabamy ribber an’ hear de slaves a-singin’ at dere work. I wants to see de dawn break over de black ridge an’ de twilight settle over de place spreadin’ a certain orange hue over de place. I wants to walk de paths th’ew de woods an’ watch de birds an’ listen to de frogs at night. But dey tuk me away f’um dat a long time ago. Twern’t long befo’ I ma’ied an’ had chilluns, but don’t none of ’em ‘tribute to my suppote now. One of ’em was killed in the big war wid Germany, an’ the res’ is all scattered out–eight of ’em. Now I jus’ lives f’om han’ to mouth, here one day, somewhere else the nex’. I guess we’s all a-goin to die iffin this dis ‘pression don’t let us alone. Maybe someday I’ll git to go home. They tells me that when a pusson crosses over dat river, de Lord gives him whut he wants. I done tol’ the Lawd I don’t wants nothin’ much—only my home, white folks. I don’t think dat’s much to ax for. I suppose he’ll send me back dar. I been a-waitin’ a long time for him to call.

Decades ago, American writers loved to record rustic dialects, and the flavorful speech of Southern African Americans in particular. Long stretches of dialect writing slow down the reader, causing him frequently to have to sound out the words in his head to decipher the meaning. Political correctness has eradicated that kind of dialectical prose. It is perceived as condescending rather than affectionate. I have been wondering how troublesome younger people will find reading Aunt Clara and just how offended they will be by all the “de-s,” “dar-s,” and s-form verbs. That sort of prose must read very differently to generations that did not grow up reading it all the time.

25 Jun 2010

“Judas Must Have Been a Republican”

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Deborah B. Sloan, at American Thinker, describes the failure of the Republican congressional leadership to rise to the challenge of educating the public and confronting the left, and their choice of cowardice and conformity to the politics of the left instead.

“I’m ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday,” Congressman Barton said. “I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown — in this case, a $20 billion shakedown. … I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong is subject to some sort of political pressure that is — again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown.”

Amen, Congressman Barton. It is horrifying to witness the constant statist attack on property rights and the rule of law while being essentially powerless to stop it. What a relief it was to hear someone who does have a modicum of power speak out against this assault on our nation.

Of course, the usual suspects on the left — most notably Joe Biden — leaped onto their soap boxes and screamed bloody murder in reaction to Congressman Barton’s statements; they regurgitated worn-out clichés about Republicans being “in the pockets of Big Oil.”

This sort of tantrum always erupts when someone takes a principled stand against the left. It was an opportunity for the Republican leadership’s response to second Mr. Barton’s concern for the enormously important principles involved, to advocate reimbursement via the constitutionally supported mechanism of due process for people who were harmed by the oil leak, and to firmly tell the Obama regime that they will not be receiving any apologies — that it is they who owe apologies to the American people for the fraud, corruption, theft, and full-blown terror they have subjected us to since January 2009.

Instead, the House Republican leadership denounced the stand taken by Mr. Barton and demanded that he apologize. This type of spinelessness on the part of the Republicans has contributed significantly to the erosion of freedom in America over the past century. Ayn Rand observed that

    [t]he uncontested absurdities of today are the accepted slogans of tomorrow. They come to be accepted by degrees, by dint of constant pressure on one side and constant retreat on the other — until one day when they are suddenly declared to be the country’s official ideology.

With the exception of the fight against ObamaCare, the current Republican leadership have demonstrated that they are unwilling to stand up to the left. The solution to this is not a third party. Instead, the Republican establishment must be phased out and replaced with a new school of leaders who will proudly fight for freedom and capitalism with the same endurance and unapologetic fervor that the left has exhibited for collectivism and tyrannical big government.

25 Jun 2010

Beware: Journalists at Work

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David Brooks writes General Stanley McChrystal’s epitaph.

Who could possibly imagine that a military commander’s staff had unkind things to say about members of the president’s staff?

Rolling Stone sold a lot of copies, reporter Michael Hastings made a big splash, and General McChrystal had his career ruined, it was all just a day’s work for the news business.

Most people in government, I find, are there because they sincerely want to do good. But they’re also exhausted and frustrated much of the time. And at these moments they can’t help letting you know that things would be much better if only there weren’t so many morons all around.

So every few weeks I find myself on the receiving end of little burst of off-the-record trash talk. Senators privately moan about other senators. Administration officials gripe about other administration officials. People in the White House complain about the idiots in Congress, and the idiots in Congress complain about the idiots in the White House — especially if they’re in the same party. Washington floats on a river of aspersion.

The system is basically set up to maximize kvetching. Government is filled with superconfident, highly competitive people who are grouped into small bands. These bands usually have one queen bee at the center — a president, senator, cabinet secretary or general — and a squad of advisers all around. These bands are perpetually jostling, elbowing and shoving each other to get control over policy.

Amid all this friction, the members of each band develop their own private language. These people often spend 16 hours a day together, and they bond by moaning and about the idiots on the outside.

It feels good to vent in this way. You demonstrate your own importance by showing your buddies that you are un-awed by the majority leader, the vice president or some other big name. You get to take a break from the formal pressures of the job by playing the blasphemous bad-boy rebel over a beer at night.

Military people are especially prone to these sorts of outbursts. In public, they pay lavish deference to civilian masters who issue orders from the comfort of home. Among themselves, they blow off steam, sometimes in the crudest possible terms. …

McChrystal, like everyone else, kvetched. And having apparently missed the last 50 years of cultural history, he did so on the record, in front of a reporter. And this reporter, being a product of the culture of exposure, made the kvetching the center of his magazine profile.

By putting the kvetching in the magazine, the reporter essentially took run-of-the-mill complaining and turned it into a direct challenge to presidential authority. He took a successful general and made it impossible for President Obama to retain him.

The reticent ethos had its flaws. But the exposure ethos, with its relentless emphasis on destroying privacy and exposing impurities, has chased good people from public life, undermined public faith in institutions and elevated the trivial over the important.

Another scalp is on the wall. Government officials will erect even higher walls between themselves and the outside world. The honest and freewheeling will continue to flee public life, and the cautious and calculating will remain.

The culture of exposure has triumphed, with results for all to see.

24 Jun 2010

Topless Valkyrie Advertisement

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Bruce Kesler, at Maggie’s Farm, links a 2:45 highly amusing ad

Just across Germany’s northern-most border with Denmark you’ll find an incredible superstore called Fleggaard. There, you can buy everything you need – tubs of gummi bears, cases of wine, industrial strength dishwashing soap – at prices 30% cheaper than you’ll find in Denmark . It is Denmark’s Costco, packaged as a German loophole. This is their advertisement! The 100+ women do stunts in the air – while free-falling – holding hands to spell out “Half-off on Dishwasher at Fleggaard.” You’d be hard-pressed to find a man in Denmark who hasn’t seen and fallen in love with that commercial.

24 Jun 2010

Refighting the Civil War

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In the aftermath of Appomatox, the process of reunifying the country naturally came to include a chivalrous recognition by victorious Northerners that their Southern adversaries had fought bravely and honorably on behalf of a sectional political perspective which, though defeated in a decisive contest of strength, had been legitimately defended.

The academic left today, of which Christopher Clausen, writing in Wilson Quarterly, is a typical example, is determined to rewrite history and delegitimize the War for Southern Independence by insisting on reducing the Southern cause to a failed battle to preserve Slavery. Any sympathetic view of Southern motivations is dismissed as “Lost Cause-ism,” the Lost Cause being defined as a false post-War romantic narrative constructed to obfuscate Southern guilt for treason and unjustified revolution on behalf of the indefensible crime of slavery.

All this is arrant nonsense and radical agitprop, not history.

Slavery was certainly a cause for secession and the Civil War, but it was what Aristotle would have referred to as the material cause. The efficient cause of secession was States’ Rights and the cause for which most Southerners fought was merely defense of family, home, and fire-side against armed invasion.

Lincoln promised in his First Inaugural Address that he had “no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists.” He assured Americans that he had “no lawful right to do so” as well as no inclination.

It is important to remember that, at that point, only seven states had seceded. It might be argued that the seven Deep South cotton states seceded on the basis of a determination to preserve a social and economic system including slavery, but Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas seceded only after Lincoln’s April 15 call for troops to invade and subjugate the states which had previously voted to leave the Union.

The most important states of the Confederacy in size of population, including Virginia which became the seat of the Confederate capital, did not secede for slavery at all, but to defend the right of self determination of the citizens of individual states against federal power.

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The rather Goreyesque Civil War Monument in front of the courthouse in the nearby county where our fox hunt’s kennels is located says on its base:

ERECTED TO THE MEMORY OF THE SONS OF CLARKE WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN DEFENSE OF THE RIGHTS OF THE STATES AND OF CONSTITUTIONAL GOVERNMENT

There is no mention of slavery.

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So demented with self-righteous infatuation with the politics of race have historians become, that the staggering corruption and misgovernment of the Reconstruction Era, in which suddenly-emancipated illiterate primitives in league with looting outsiders and corrupt locals were given control of the governments of conquered states at the point of the bayonet, has become a Golden Age of racial justice sadly ended by the electoral compromise of 1876.

When I was in school, so many decades ago, we still used to be informed of the staggering debt burdens piled up in a few short years by Reconstruction Era black governments, which kept many Southern states impoverished and unable to fund more than the most rudimentary educational systems right up to the time of WWII.

Today, we are advised by scholars like C. Vann Woodward that “the North had fought the war and imposed Reconstruction for three reasons: to save the Union, to abolish slavery, and, more equivocally, to bring about racial equality. The first two aims were achieved and soon accepted, however grudgingly, by the South. The third, seemingly assured by constitutional amendments and supporting legislation, was bargained away for most of another century.”

Most Union soldiers, certainly Grant (who tried to buy the island of Hispaniola to settle all the freed slaves upon) and Sherman (who was morally indifferent to slavery) and Lincoln himself (who intended to deport the emancipated slaves to Africa) would have been astonished to have ascribed to them the goal of racial equality. In so far as ending slavery was a major motivation to Northern soldiers, it most often took the form a desire to eliminate slavery and with it the presence of a colored population on US soil. One could argue that for a majority of Northern soldiers the Civil War was a war being fought to assure the future existence of a whites-only United States.

Clausen’s article is a disgrace, anachronistically contorting 19th century reality into a useful narrative for post-1960s racial politics.

24 Jun 2010

Enquirer Breaks Gore Sex Crime Scandal

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The National Enquirer discovered, and mainstream media like the New York Times have now picked up the story that Nobel Prize winner, once a hanging chad from the presidency, Albert Gore was accused of sexually attacking a masseuse in Oregon in 2006.

Police did not pursue the case evidently because Gore’s accuser declined to cooperate. References to her attorney handling the matter suggest that a private settlement may have been paid to induce her to withdraw the complaint.

A massage therapist accused former Vice President Al Gore of “unwanted sexual contact” at a hotel in October 2006, but no charges were filed because of lack of evidence, law officials said Wednesday.

The latest on President Obama, his administration and other news from Washington and around the nation. Join the discussion.

A lawyer for the woman contacted the police in late 2006, said the Multnomah County district attorney, Michael D. Schrunk. Mr. Schrunk said the woman, who has not been identified, had refused to be interviewed and did not want the investigation to proceed.

But in January 2009, she contacted the police and gave a statement in which she said Mr. Gore had tried to have sex with her during an appointment at the Hotel Lucia. The National Enquirer first reported the accusations on Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Gore, Kalee Kreider, said he had no comment. Mr. Gore and his wife announced on June 1 that they were separating.

A police report prepared in 2007 said the alleged incident occurred at 2 p.m. on Oct. 24, 2006. Mr. Gore was in Portland to deliver a speech on climate change.

The woman, according to the report, canceled appointments with detectives on Dec. 21 and 26. Her lawyer canceled a Jan. 4 meeting and said the matter would be handled civilly.

24 Jun 2010

Federal Government Pays Housing Incentives to Prisoners

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CNBC reports that the homebuyers stimulus program was rife with fraud. How does the administrator approving the payment fail to notice the prison address?

Nearly 1,300 prison inmates wrongly received more than $9 million in tax credits for homebuyers despite being locked up when they claimed they bought a home, a government investigator reported Wednesday.

The investigator said 241 of the inmates were serving life sentences.

In all, more than 14,100 taxpayers wrongly received at least $26.7 million in tax credits that were meant to boost the nation’s slumping housing markets, said the report by J. Russell George, the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration.

Some taxpayers received the credit for homes purchased before the tax break was started. In other cases, multiple taxpayers improperly used the same home to claim multiple credits. Investigators found one home that was used by 67 taxpayers to claim credits.

23 Jun 2010

The Cover of the Rolling Stone

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“If I had my choice I would kill every reporter in the world but I am sure we would be getting reports from hell before breakfast.”

–General William Tecumseh Sherman

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We take all kind of pills, that give us all kind of thrills
But the thrill we’ve never known,
Is the thrill that’ll getcha
When you get your picture on the cover of the Rolling Stone.

Rolling Stone,
Wanna see my picture on the cover,
Wanna buy five copies for my mother,
Wanna see my smiling face
On the cover of the Rolling Stone.

— Dr. Hook And The Medicine Show

2:54 video

General Stanley McChrystal must now wish that he had listened to General Sherman and not Dr. Hook, and never agreed to give access to his command team or be interviewed by reporter Michael Hastings for Rolling Stone.

As Hastings unsympathetically explained to Newsweek, McChrystal should have understood that his interests and career meant nothing to the reporter he admitted into his inner counsels. If somebody cracked a joke or made an unkind remark about a rival government official or a superior, however embarrassing or damaging it might be, a reporter would consider it his own good luck and publish it with delight.

I was walking around with a tape recorder and a notepad in my hand three-quarters of the time. I didn’t have the Matt Drudge press hat on, but everything short of that it was pretty obvious I was a reporter writing a profile of the general for Rolling Stone. It was always very clear.

Career-ending Rolling Stone article

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The unfortunate General McChrystal was flown back to Washington to apologize to Barack Obama and to tender his resignation. The predictions are that it will be accepted.

22 Jun 2010

“This Too Shall Pass”

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Excellent Rube Goldberg 3:54 music video by Synn Labs

Hat tip to classmates Fred Karp & David Larkin.

22 Jun 2010

You Heard the Lady, Senators, Bork Her Thoroughly

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Elena Kagan says (in a speech at Case Western Reserve in 1997) she “loved what happened in the Bork hearings… The Bork hearings were great, the Bork hearings were educational. The Bork hearings were the best thing that ever happened to Constitutional Democracy.”

0:19 video

From Breitbart via Glenn Reynolds.

22 Jun 2010

Cognitive Surplus

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Clay Shirky, in a new book titled Cognitive Surplus, maintains that the post-WWII age of suburbanization was one of those eras of abrupt, dislocating social change which left Americans morose and seeking for self-medication just like 18th century Englishmen driven by economic change from the countryside to the city.

They used gin, a new, potent yet inexpensive distilled spirit, whose method of production had arrived from Holland as part of the the fashionable baggage accompanying William and Mary. Americans used television.

Shirky contends that the Internet is bringing about the end of the age of self-narcotization via sitcoms and game shows. Leisure time sucked down the television time sink, the cognitive surplus simply wasted previously, will instead be transferred to more useful and communitarian activities (like writing Wikipedia entries and blogging) and a wonderful new era of transparency, creativity, and productivity will bloom.

Hmm. I wonder if he has ever heard of World of Warcraft.

Barnes & Noble review.

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Jonah Leher brings formidable Friedrich Nietzsche to television’s defense.

I would disagree. In some peculiar way, if I hadn’t watched and re-watched The Sopranos then this sentence wouldn’t exist. (And I would have missed out on many interesting, intelligent conversations…) The larger point, I guess, is that before we can produce anything meaningful, we need to consume and absorb, and think about what we’ve consumed and absorbed. That’s why Nietzsche, in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, said we must become a camel (drinking up everything) before we can become a lion, and properly rebel against the strictures of society.


William Hogarth, Gin Lane, Engraving, 1751

22 Jun 2010

Conservatives Are Anti-Immigration

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Conservatives like Barack Obama.

Alex Nowrasteh, in the Detroit Weekly News, explains that there is no need to elect a anti-immigration Republican, we already have a president hostile to immigration.

Barack Obama is the most anti-immigrant president since Eisenhower.

The Obama administration is setting deportation records. Almost 300,000 illegal immigrants were deported in 2009, a record, and a 5 percent increase over 2008. An Immigration and Customs Enforcement memo last February lamented that deportations for 2010 would not reach the yearly quota of 400,000 unless strategies were changed. That President Obama is presiding over a deportation quota, and that his immigration enforcement service was trying to increase the pace of deportations, was a rude shock to many immigrant supporters of the president.

Obama’s Department of Labor (DOL) has put in place new regulations that will make it more difficult for American farmers to temporarily hire foreign workers. The regulations will raise the minimum wage for foreign farm workers and transfer all compliance costs to employers. This will likely have the unintended cost of pushing more foreigners and farmers into the black market.

Obama’s administration is also mulling increasing the fees for permanent residence cards by $75, applications for naturalization certificates by $140, and applications for status as a temporary resident by $420. These hikes would raise unsubstantial sums for the government but dash the hopes of many poor potential immigrants. The administration is trying to make hiring foreigners more difficult to help American workers. Making the hiring of foreigners more bureaucratic will funnel many of them into the illegal market. But farmers can always hire people off the books if the cost of hiring legal foreign workers or Americans becomes too high. Thanks to these and other regulations, there will be plenty of willing illegal immigrants ready to snap up new job opportunities.

The Obama administration is also expanding workplace immigration raids. There are more than 25,000 random workplace H1-B visa inspections scheduled next year — a fivefold increase over last year! The H1-B is a company-sponsored temporary work visa for highly skilled and educated foreigners. Limited to 85,000 for private corporations (there is no quota for nonprofit research institutions), 25,000 inspections could well cover the majority of firms employing H-1Bs.Workplace inspections are very destructive interventions. When government agents inspect businesses, work can grind to a halt for days on end as they take their time checking paperwork, interviewing people, and comparing the acquired information with their files.

President Obama ordered 1,200 National Guard troops to Arizona recently and is seeking an additional $500 million for border security. Add that to more than 90,000 employees in the federal immigration services and more than $20 billion devoted to enforcing immigration laws, and it’s clear that Obama is doing more to combat illegal immigration than any president in living history.

21 Jun 2010

The Drums Are Talking, The Natives Are Restless

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We have a much larger journalism pollution problem than the current oil spill represents. Government responses, costs to government and private industry, and public interest in the matter have all been massively inflated by orders of magnitude beyond anything rational or appropriate, all for the self interest of journalists and news organizations. The American public is simply led around by the nose by people with the resources and ability to exploit and exaggerate the significance of certain kinds of unfortunate events.

Who cares about those oh-so-terribly-fragile, fishy-smelling, mosquito-infested marshes? What about the impact of all the journalism pollution on energy costs, people’s jobs, American due process, the rule of law, our political decision-making processes, and the ever-expanding role and power of government and the immense regulatory burden we all have to pay for?

Take sensationalist reporting out of the equation, and we have an unfortunate industrial accident with some serious economic costs and a few seasons of regional environmental impact. Add in the media and we have a circus of emotional Sturm und Drang fueling stupid policy choices and lawless governmental behavior, with devastating long-term costs to every consumer in the country, the entire economy, and the trajectory of American government.

My understanding is that there are something like 4000 oil and gas rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. The last major accident was in 1979. One oil spill every 30 years, one serious problem in a generation, strikes me as a pretty decent record.

Exactly how many gazillion dollars of extra energy cost would it be worth to reduce by some undefinable percentage the itsy bitsy, teeny weeny, remote possibility that every so many decades there could be an accident, fouling so many miles of beaches and inconveniencing the fishing industry (and a certain number of pelicans) for several seasons?

Perfection, of course, is unobtainable, even if regulations and costs are piled to the sky, there is always going to be
happenstance, human error, and acts of God.

What happens in America when something goes wrong is that the press sees an opportunity to run with the story and to play heroic watchdog of the public interest. A scapegoat is always required for our civic religious ritual. The press gets to identify some business entity as heartless, irresponsible, and greedy, and one or more public officials as incompetent or corrupt. The press can do whatever it pleases with the data. Words are easy. Capping leaking wells is hard. There is always the same moral. We need bigger and more active government. We need to spend more in taxes and regulatory costs. Then, once we have punished the scapegoat(s) and made due sacrifice to Leviathan, all will be well. The Great Big Nobodaddy Government will see to it that life will be perfect and nothing will ever go wrong again.

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