Monday, May 31, 2010

Lost on Lost

While scanning through some TV show recordings that have piled up the past few months, I happened to catch stretches of the Lost finale. I was reminded of why I never watched this show. I had, like the characters themselves apparently, no clue what was going on, despite the highly distracting running commentary along the bottom of the screen.

I can't really criticize the show effectively, since I never watched more than a few minutes of any episode. But it certainly appears at a casual glance to have been an agglomeration of nonsensical purple prose and over-the-top acting.

Worse, I can't escape the feeling that the whole thing was an outgrowth of that most dreadful of aesthetic principles: muddy the waters to make them appear deep. In this case, they appear to have been stirred up thoroughly and mixed with large helpings of too-pretty and too-ugly people combined with a dollop of weepy alternated with lots of teeth gnashing.

Not my kind of show, for sure.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pollution in the Gulf Not Just From Oil

"One of the methods used by statists to destroy capitalism consists in establishing controls that tie a given industry hand and foot, making it unable to solve its problems, then declaring that freedom has failed and stronger controls are necessary."

Ayn Rand
That statement could easily apply to any number of areas attacked addressed by the Federal government over the past 22 months. But I was thinking of it in the context of the recent oil leak off the Louisiana coast. The viro-Left and its parasitic travelers who never let a crisis go to waste have been making the usual noises. They chastise BP and rent their garments for having 'allowed' oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Set aside that everyone from Russia to Brazil is drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the U.S. couldn't stop it if it wanted to. Just ask why BP, Shell, and others aren't drilling in areas where accidents are much less likely and easier to repair. Why aren't they drilling in ANWR and Colorado and South Dakota?

Because those same viro-leftists who complain about the spill were successful in getting the Feds to make it illegal to do so. And, then, of course they clutch their pearls when an oil company has a problem capping a well in mile deep water far out at sea.

So to all those complainers: tough. Want to make a useful contribution? Invent a cost-effective, unsubsidized technology that will make petroleum as unnecessary as whale oil was made by oil and get it accepted in the marketplace. Until then, stfu.

Barring that astounding breakthrough, as an interim step, help get the Feds out of the way of safe drilling — in ANWR, the shallows off the California coast, and elsewhere. Stop polluting the political system with sludge that dirties humans. Then you won't have to worry so much about tar covering birds.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Randal Paul, Libertarianism, and Utopianism

Randal Paul is getting beat up over some politically incorrect statements about the 1964 Civil Rights Act. I don't care much one way or the other about Paul or the Civil Rights Act, so ordinarily I wouldn't weigh in. But there's one element to the criticism worth commenting on.

Whatever Paul's actual views and their proper interpretation, he is widely viewed as a libertarian. So, naturally, critics are crawling out of the woodwork to condemn his putative political philosophy. And, what's their major beef? It's 'utopian'.

True or not, one problem with that criticism is the utter hypocrisy of the Progressives (and, unfortunately, many conservatives who have jumped on the beat-down bandwagon) who utter it. Since when, among Progressives, did striving for an ideal (even one regarded as impossible to fully achieve) count as a mark against it?

If there is anything good about Progressivism at all, it is its idealistic orientation. (Never mind for now the nature of the ideals it espouses, or whether the closer one comes to them, the worse off everyone actually becomes.)

The more serious error than even the false imputation and erroneous interpretation, though, is the package deal put forth. Some aspects (according to critics) of the libertarian program are unachievable, therefore the entire orientation is mistaken. This is yet another in an endless line of false alternatives put forth by enemies of liberty to discredit even the attempt to expand it against the statist onslaught swallowing the country.

I've got my own beefs with aspects of libertarianism, particularly the anarchic strain as well as the more or less standard position on national defense. Even so, when someone criticizes it as 'utopian', my response is: "Umm, yeah, so?"

Unfortunately, even well-meaning conservatives are getting into this act in a serious way. Yuval Levin recently penned an essay discussing the need to defend capitalism morally and basically gave away the entire game to the Progressives.

Keying off Adam Smith's moral views, he wrote:
Smith began with a middling view of human nature, neither utopian nor cynical. He believed that even though human beings are fundamentally self-interested, we can be guided toward sympathy and benevolence.

Our sentiments, he said, begin with a powerful self-regard that expresses itself in our desires for attention, praise, and recognition, and motivates a great deal of human behavior. Even our sympathy for others begins with ourselves: We feel compassion for someone in distress because we can imagine ourselves in his predicament.

But for Smith, the fact that our self-regard finds expression in a desire for approval offers an opening for moral education — for moderating both our passions and our animal appetites to make civilized life possible.

Our ability to step into someone else's shoes allows us to reflect on our own behavior, and to ask: "How would what I'm doing look to someone else observing me?" In that question — about that imaginary "impartial spectator," as Smith put it — is the beginning of social order and of self-restraint, and so the first impulse to moral conformity and common social norms.

This is how, in a well-functioning society, our sentimental tendencies to self-regard can become inclinations to sympathy and decency.
Mr. Levin could benefit from a few Objectivist lectures on ethics and the philosophy of history because these are exactly the moral views that allowed modern statism to overthrow 19th century liberalism and laissez-faire.

The view that self-interest is opposed to benevolence led inevitably to the idea that it must be restrained (or at least, redirected) in order to prevent 'the strong' preying on 'the weak'.

The Humean/Smithean idea that self-regard consists of, as Rand put it, being Keating-like second-handers who long above all for attention, praise, and recognition can have only one proper response: "Speak for yourself, pal."

Worst of all, the Comtean altruistic view that society should be organized according to a warped utilitarian principle of "the greatest good for the weakest members" is responsible for virtually all of the modern welfare state depredations conservatives claim to want to combat. I don't hold with Rand's dictum (as a universal principle) that a bad argument is worse than none. But it's definitely true here.

If for no other reasons than these, Randal Paul's critics deserve a vigorous eff-you.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Car Commissar Obama Imposes Fuel Rules By Fiat

Obama continues to demonstrate that he believes he is the CEO of Amerika, Inc.
Mr. Obama plans to announce on Friday that he is ordering the creation of a new national policy that will result in less greenhouse-gas pollution from medium- and heavy-duty trucks for the first time and will further reduce exhaust from cars and light-duty trucks beyond the requirements he has already put in place.
Under rules that were eventually formalized last month, new cars have to meet a combined city and highway fuel economy average of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. The administration said the new rules would cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases by about 30 percent from 2012 to 2016.
In addition to the fuel efficiency and pollution standards, Mr. Obama’s directive will order more federal support for the development of new-generation cars like advanced electric vehicles and will instruct the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce pollutants from motor vehicles other than greenhouse gases.
What I can't figure out is why in the world this is even legal. Maybe someone in the audience can enlighten me why, even in our era of largely ignoring the Constitution, the head of the Executive Branch can simply write an Executive Order and dictate mileage thresholds.

Monday, May 24, 2010

From the "Ya Think?" File: 7 in 10 Think Congress Clueless

According to a recent Rasmussen poll, seven out of ten voters think Congress is clueless.
The latest national telephone survey of Likely Voters finds that just 27% are at least somewhat confident that Congress knows what it's doing when it comes to addressing current economic problems. An overwhelming majority (72%) are not confident in Congress to address these problems. These figures include six percent (6%) who are Very Confident and 43% who are Not at All Confident.
I have nothing to add to this except to ape what Doug Bandow said about it, only in stronger language. A little over two out of ten voters are clueless, another six percent are pure evil.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Madison on the Commerce Clause

According to James Madison,
It is very certain that [the Commerce Clause] grew out of the abuse of the power by the importing States in taxing the non-importing, and was intended as a negative and preventive provision against injustice among the States themselves, rather than as a power to be used for the positive purposes of the General Government.

Letter to Cabell, February 13, 1829.
I'm assuming he would know the motive for including the clause, and how it should be interpreted.

Yet, in Wickard v Filburn, the Supreme Court decided otherwise when they declared a farmer growing wheat for his personal consumption had to comply with FDR's arbitrary dictates. For the horrid details, see the book The Dirty Dozen by Levy and Mellor.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hey, Let's Make Firing the Ugly Illegal

Demonstrating once again that there is no limit to the absurd positions the self-appointed PC police will take, a Stanford law professor wants to make hiring and firing based on appearance illegal.

Professor Rhode writes:
As the history of civil rights legislation suggests, customer preferences should not be a defense for prejudice. During the early civil rights era, employers in the South often argued that hiring African Americans would be financially ruinous; white customers, they said, would take their business elsewhere.
Fair enough. How about the preferences of the business owners as a defense? Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments anyone? Is it asking too much for a law professor to be aware of those? Sheesh. Once upon a time, such lunatics were confined to street corners. Today, they get professorships at the country's leading law schools.

She continues:
In rejecting this logic, Congress and the courts recognized that customer preferences often reflect and reinforce precisely the attitudes that society is seeking to eliminate. Over the decades, we've seen that the most effective way of combating prejudice is to deprive people of the option to indulge it.
Right. Because there's no good reason not to fight prejudice through government coercion. What's a little thing like personal choice and property rights – when that personal choice is wrong (in the eyes of a statist feminist) and someone's employment is at stake?

But if "depriving people of the option to indulge it" is the goal, for the holy sake of acceding to 'society's desire' to eliminate it, why stop there? Why not just lock up anyone who says an unkind word about Rosie O'Donnell? Better still, why not drown anyone over the age of twelve who makes a rude remark about Elena Kagan?

Ok, fine. I'm finally going to join the "there ought to be a law" crowd. Let's toss out the First Amendment and make stupid suggestions from PC Progressives that ignore my constitutional rights illegal. If they're free to indulge their subjective desires, backed by cherry-picked data, and have them enforced by law, so am I. Let's do a little social engineering my way for a change.

Double sheesh.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Press Mistakes White House Rat Identity

According to Yahoo News:
Obama had just begun an afternoon statement to reporters lauding the end of a Senate filibuster on his financial overhaul plan when some kind of rodent — opinions differ on which — dashed out of the bushes to his right, just outside the Oval Office.
Ok, it's an easy and pathetic joke, but I'll make it anyway: the press is focusing on the wrong rat in this situation.

One bad joke deserves another, so...

The rat's appearance at that moment is not surprising, considering the pile of garbage Obama and his cronies just dumped on the country in the form of the financial 'reform' bill. (Both the House and Senate bills, incidentally, are entirely silent on Freddie and Fannie, the two entities - that continue to receive huge public assistance - at the center of the now-two year old crisis.)

It's anybody's guess when the American public is going to get worked up enough to realize that the current Federal government is spreading plague like it was 1348 and start torching the place.

I think we've reached metaphor overload now. Ixnay to any more hope and change, please.

Steyn on Greece, Why It Had To Fail

Mark Steyn sums up the crisis in Greece (and the problem with welfare states in general).
Traditionally, a bank is a means by which old people with capital lend to young people with ideas. But the advanced democracies with their mountains of sovereign debt are in effect old people who’ve blown through their capital and are all out of ideas looking for young people flush enough to bail them out.

And the idea that it might be time for the spendthrift geezers to change their ways butts up against their indestructible moral vanity. Last year, President Sarkozy said that the G20 summit provided “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give capitalism a conscience.”

European capitalism may have a conscience. It’s not clear it has a pulse. And, actually, when you’re burning Greek bank clerks to death in defence of your benefits, your “conscience” isn’t much in evidence, either.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sunstein: Volunteer For "Fairness Doctrine," Or Else

Cass Sunstein, Regulation Commissar, simply won't let go of this theme of controlling what you read.
“The sites of one point of view agree to provide links to sites of the other point of view. So if you’re reading a conservative magazine, they would provide a link to a liberal site. And vice versa, just to make it easy for people to access to competing views.

Or maybe a popup on your screen that would show you an advertisement or maybe even a quick argument for a competing view.

If we could get voluntary arrangements in that direction, it would be great and if we can’t get voluntary arrangements maybe Congress should hold hearings about mandates.”
Forced competing views. Right. Because you're too stupid to click on HuffPo and NRO. You're also too thick to decide what to believe, and anyway there's no such thing as truth, only competing narratives. So let's force everybody to publish views they believe are false or pernicious. Just to be "fair and balanced."

One has to wonder when the American people are going to have enough of this. But then, thanks to the voluntary Pravdazation of the mainstream media, they're unlikely to have heard this particular gem.

Hey, maybe Sunstein has a good idea after all. Let's force them to print it in the NYT, the LAT, WaPo, and the Chicago Tribune. If the stockholders of the rapidly sinking dead-tree press don't care about editorial content, forget market pressure. Let's have a little ol' Chicago way instead.


Pelosi, Totalitarian Wannabe

The totalitarian spirit of the current Federal government continues to grow. A recent Townhall story reports:
Like the House-passed climate bill, Kerry-Lieberman also requires an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. Once population growth and transportation, communication and electrification technologies are taken into account, this translates into requiring US emission levels last seen around 1870!

House Speaker Pelosi says “every aspect of our lives must be subjected to an inventory,” to ensure that America achieves these emission mandates.
Statements like that should be grounds for immediate impeachment. Where's the outrage in the mainstream press? I know, silly question.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Another Totalitarian Joins Obama Gang

More evidence that Obama feels comfortable appointing totalitarians to important posts. As David Harsanyi reports,
Donald Berwick, a professor at both the Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health and Obama's pick to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Berwick will be charged with managing government health care programs.
Forget for a moment that there should be no government health care programs for anyone to manage. For now, ask what does Mr. Berwick believe that merits him that horrific charge? This horrific statement:
Berwick's most revealing assertion was that he did not "believe that the individual health care consumer can enforce through choice the proper configurations of a system as massive and complex as health care. That is for leaders to do."
If there's anyone left in the United States who's actually paying attention and doesn't believe that Progressivism and its adherents are a grave danger, he or she is simply unpersuadable by evidence.

Fiesta with Esther Williams, A Short Review

I'm a big fan of Esther Williams movies. I don't get a thrill from the Busby Berkeley-like swim routines. I don't even get much of a thrill from Miss Williams. But, she was often given fine scripts and paired with outstanding leading men. One good example was Fiesta (1947), which I saw for the umpteenth time again recently.

Here's a short review...

Esther Williams shines in one of her better vehicles here. She's ably co-starred with a very young and stunningly talented Ricardo Montalban. In this American cinema debut film he acts well, plays a piano concerto with gusto, and dances superlatively. The evidence for the last is on display in a couple of outstanding numbers with the best female dancer in film history, Cyd Charisse, who has a minor supporting role.

The story is an echo of a romantic Renaissance tale adapted to then-modern Mexico. A proud father and famous ex-bullfighter pressures his son, Montalban, into becoming a bullfighter. But the son's real love is composing music (supplied behind the scenes by the American genius Aaron Copland). Complications ensue, including Esther secretly taking his place in the ring after a family argument. All is resolved to everyone's satisfaction at the end, including stoic Mother, played by Mary Astor in one of her best roles.

Along the way there's a superb rendition of Copland's El Salón México. We're also treated to one of MGM's finest dance duets with Montalban and Charisse, choreographed by the ABT ballet master Eugene Loring.

All of the supporting cast do a fine job as well — with Akim Tamiroff the standout as loyal sidekick and second father figure to Esther. There are also a few bloodless bullfights (displaying some fine balletic moves all their own) to flesh out the entertainment.

More than the usual '40s MGM musical froth, there's some real substance here - the importance of family bonds, the value of honor, pursuing a life's passion - topped off with some extraordinary music and dance.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Woody Allen Touts Obama For Dictator

I've never heard Woody Allen make a political statement before. I've been lucky, until now. He's reported to have said this to a Spanish newspaper recently:
I am pleased with Obama. I think he’s brilliant. The Republican Party should get out of his way and stop trying to hurt him.... [I]t would be good…if he could be a dictator for a few years because he could do a lot of good things quickly.
An attempt at humor? Maybe, but I doubt it. Apart from a clever line here and there, Woody Allen isn't funny. I wrote in December, 2008:
Woody Allen released a new film a few months ago, Vicky Christine Barcelona. I haven't seen it and don't intend to; every Woody Allen film I have seen — about a half dozen or so, more in parts — has been pointless, plotless, and not particularly funny or interesting. But I have to give the filmmaker credit where it's due. He is one of the cleverest guys around.

He's made a healthy living doing what he wants for more than 40 years now by producing pointless, plotless, and not particularly funny or interesting films. They usually star very dishy damsels, too. Not bad for a guy who's not insightful, handsome, or talented. (Except as a musician. He does play a mean clarinet.)

This latest incarnation, an unadmitted rip-off of Henry James' Wings of the Dove, shows every sign of being more of the same. That is no doubt why he's the darling of the Anti crowd. Since anything with a hint of moral or mental health (not to mention a movie with an actual story) is anathema to them, Allen is their perfect artist.
And that was the complimentary part. [Read the rest here.]

So, I'm not really surprised to read that he loves Obama and wants him to be dictator in order to "do a lot of good things quickly." Maybe he and NYT columnist Thomas Friedman, who says pretty much the same thing about the Chinese government, can discuss it over brie and cappuccino at a tony bistro in Paris.

[Hat tip Jonah Goldberg at NRO.]

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Venezuela's Socialist Makeover Nearly Complete

... and its face is showing the lacerations ever more clearly.

The socialist vice in Venezuela continues to squeeze out freedom and prosperity, leaving a bloody pulp in its place. Chavez latest move is to nationalize several mining companies. What's the justification this time?
Venezuela's socialist president said in a televised that his government was going to take over Matesi because "we couldn't reach an amicable and reasonable settlement with the owners."
It's a serious topic but this can't help but make any decent person laugh. The man lies as easily as his buddy, Barack Obama. I'm sure that Luxembourg-based steel maker Tenaris SA, the former owner of Matesi, regards the expropriation of its property as just a friendly, albeit tough bargaining maneuver.

That's the same sort of 'bargaining' Henry Paulson conducted with the banks when he TARPed them, the same sort Obama engaged in when he semi-nationalized two of the three car makers. "Accept the deal, or we just take your property." Some bargain. They're all brothers under the thin skin.

I wrote a longish essay on Venezuela's march to dictatorship three years ago. I'm sad to see that it's still ongoing, despite the heroic efforts of some of its citizens. The essay, published first in The Atlasphere, is reprinted here in full.

[Incidentally, anyone interested in seeing some of my other essays can do a search on that site by my name and bring up a dozen or so.]

Venezuela, Your Three Minutes Are Up

Venezuela has been marching towards socialism for years. News reports now reveal, with daily urgency, that the country’s march has only accelerated further under the leadership of dictator-in-training President Hugo Chavez and his cohorts.

In the many abstract debates of the merits of socialism versus capitalism, it’s easy for those of us living under a capitalistic system to lose sight of the very real horrors suffered by those living under socialism.

The following words, however, from a Venezuelan college student named Corina, bring the issue closer to home. Her English may be garbled, but her reasoning is clear enough in blog posts like this one:
Before I turn 18, I was already went to several manifestations [political demonstrations], run from the military, smell the tear gas..., seen people die not only because of political violence but also for poverty, hungry and common delincuence.
In a subsequent post (titled “Too Late”) she writes:
Hard day, after spending about an hour reading the news. When you see a red assambly (used to be a parlament), that got together for a special session in the main square of Caracas (Bolívar square, the same one where we took the first step for our freedom from Spain, in 1810) and aproved a law that gives special powers to the president; surrounded by Chavez supporters that screamed [...] ‘larga vida al socialismo’ [long live socialism]; you know that if the democracy was in danger before, now it was killed for sure... in a very legal way. Of course, people should understand, that not all things legal are democratic or fair. The law its a tool, depends on how do you use it.”
Wise words, particularly from a young college student in an increasingly third-world country like Venezuela that is experiencing the growing hardships of a socialist revolution.

Shades of Soviet Russia

Increasingly frequent reports reveal that — in true 1960s Soviet style — grocery stores in Venezuela are no longer stocking items we would take for granted, such as sugar or black beans. These items, it happens, are staples of the traditional Venezuelan diet. However, because Chavez is so determined to “help the poor,” the socialist way, soon neither rich nor poor will be able to find such items in Venezuelan grocery stores.

Chavez’s price controls are having the same effects in Venezuela they’ve had everywhere else they’ve been tried. The Venezuelan President’s moral purity — he excoriates George Bush while cozying up to Iran’s puppet dictator — is, apparently, matched by an equal understanding of elementary economics. True to form, Chavez has threatened to jail price control violators.

In addition to their gradual takeover of the media, Venezuela’s socialists, led by Chavez and his Vice President Jorge Rodriguez, are nationalizing everything in sight as rapidly as possible.

The economic effects of these socialist programs speak for themselves. Per-capita GDP in Chile is $12,600 per year. In Argentina, it’s $15,000. In Mexico — not exactly a rich country, by any standard — it is $10,600. In Venezuela, the figure is $6,900, behind even the Dominican Republic at $8,000.

Remember, this is a country that supplies 11% of U.S. oil imports, and who received over $46 billion last year in oil receipts (assuming 2.55 mb/d at $50 per barrel). Of course, as oil production continues to decline, those numbers will worsen. Revenues for Venezuela will decrease, and exports will decrease, as Chavez continues to forego infrastructure investment in favor of social welfare spending.

No Quarter for Venezuela

In the 1960s, it was common for residents of New York City and other urban areas to use pay phones to call one another. Mobile phones, at the time, were largely limited to limousines.

Inserting a quarter into the pay phone would give you three minutes of talk time. When your time was up, a recorded monotone voice would come on the line to inform you, “Your three minutes are up.” At this point, you had the option of hanging up, or depositing more money to continue the conversation.

Often it signaled the end of your conversation. Before long, however, the expression “your three minutes are up” became a euphemism for someone whose impending death seemed inevitable.

Sadly, some citizens of Venezuela will be unable to deposit another quarter — or perhaps even to own quarters — in the near future. President Hugo Chavez and his supporters will make sure of that. Those who would be willing to pay a quarter — for a phone call, a slice of meat, or other things we commonly take for granted — will simply find those things not there.

This Is Not John Galt Speaking

Recently, Chavez and his socialist government goons decided to nationalize Venezuela’s telecommunications industry. Other industries had already received similar treatment, such as the de facto nationalization of TV and other media. When Chavez gives a speech, for example, all stations are required to interrupt their programming and broadcast his speech — in its entirety — live. That entirety sometimes lasts for hours.

In at least one instance, an opposing voice was able to briefly break through Chavez’s endless tirade. As Corina put it so eloquently on her blog:
[S]uddendly theres a line in the middle of the TV screen and the rebels TV Channels shows in the right side Chávez speaking and in the left side, a familiar street of Caracas downtown, some smoke and confusion and some letters that says “1 muerto..2 muertos” [1 death, 2 deaths] And then no TV at all, no Chavez, no streets, like the TV were damaged or something.”
These days, Venezuela could use its own John Galt to ensure opposing views aren’t completely suppressed. Alas, no such thing is likely to occur anytime soon.

On the contrary, soon no one in Venezuela will be allowed to say anything of which the government disapproves — even were they able to obtain a platform in the media. To help guarantee this, Venezuela’s National Assembly recently passed its “Law on the Social Responsibility of Radio and Television.”

Fatherland, Socialism or Death

Chavez and his gang have made no secret of their goals and plans. As the new law granting Chavez sweeping powers was enacted, for example, National Assembly President Cilia Flores declared, “Fatherland, socialism or death. We will prevail!”

Citizens of Nazi Germany would have found the rallying cry familiar. The word “Nazi,” after all, was a foreshortened German phrase for “National Socialism.” The Nazis failed in the end — but many people had to die first to bring that about.

Your Time Is Up

In January 1969, Ayn Rand published an essay titled “The ‘Inexplicable Personal Alchemy,’” in which she discussed a New York Times editorial about the Soviet trial of several young dissidents. After hearing his sentence for the crime of merely speaking his mind about the Soviet Union’s then-recent invasion, one of the young men stated, “For three minutes in Red Square, I felt free. For that, I’m happy to take your three years.”

These words rang in my ears as I read Corina’s blog. History has an unfortunate way of repeating itself.

Venezuela’s three minutes are nearly up. Given the country’s current trajectory, it’s almost inevitable that many people will have to suffer and die, needlessly, before Chavez’s increasingly harsh and unworkable socialist policies are discarded. With luck, Corina in Caracas won’t be among them, for she and those like her are the country’s best hope for the future, if it is to have one.


A final note: Frankly, I'm surprised it's taken Chavez this long to get around to the mining companies, given the oil companies were swallowed two years ago. The wonder is that any foreign company would still do business there. It looks like the lament I offered in that essay three years ago is even more apropos today. I just hope Corina got out alive.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fascinating Jupiter

Seen through a telescope Jupiter appears as a large ball with brown and white stripes, highlighted by a gigantic red spot. Jupiter has lost a big brown stripe.
The planet is a giant ball of gas and liquid around 500 million miles from the Sun. It's surface is composed of dense red, brown, yellow, and white clouds arranged in light-coloured areas called zones and darker regions called belts.

These clouds are created by chemicals that have formed at different heights. The highest white clouds in the zones are made of crystals of frozen ammonia. Darker, lower clouds are created from chemicals including sulphur and phosphorus. The clouds are blown into bands by 350 mph winds caused by Jupiter's rapid rotation.
One of the puzzling aspects of this enormous gas planet is that it loses or gains a large stripe about once every 15 years. No one knows why. Also, no one knows for sure why the famed Great Red Spot, a hurricane like swirl of gas in the southern hemisphere, has remained stable for centuries.

Though, it does appear to be shrinking. It is about the width of three Earths side by side, but has shrunk by about 15% from 1996-2006. And, scientists are not even sure why it is red. The shape has changed over the past couple of centuries, however. It used to be much more 'squashed', i.e. sausage shaped, rather than eye-like. By "stable" I just mean that, despite the huge winds blowing it around through other gases, it doesn't disappear and reappear.

Planetary astrophysics was never my bag but I confess that sometimes it's very easy to see why a few get hooked on it. Even though the phenomena are ultimately explained by Newtonian fluid mechanics, it shows that — even without the weirdness of Quantum Mechanics or the counter-intuitive effects of Relativity — we still have much to learn about 'ordinary' things.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Totalitarian Two Step

The EPA,
is completing a rule requiring large polluters to reduce the amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that they release into the air. Those emissions can exacerbate asthma and other breathing problems.

The rule would require companies to install better technology and improve energy efficiency whenever they build, or significantly modify, a plant.
(We'll pass over the absurd claim about asthma, which not even viro activists have pushed. It's an Associated Press story, after all.)

Having taken control of the health care financing of every individual in the country, the Federal Government is now engaged in Step Two of establishing a totalitarian dictatorship in America.

To be sure, it has the appearance of a benign dictatorship, more like Denmark's today than that of Italy in the 1920s. So, of course calling it that will inevitably garner a few reactions charging wingnuttery. So be it. It's not so extreme a description in this case. The ability of (or at least the quasi-legal framework for) the government to control every action you take — since all of them produce CO2 — is the definition of totalitarianism.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the rule applies only to large polluters such as power plants, refineries and cement production facilities that collectively are responsible for 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
These things are never static. Expect a gradual defining down of 'large' until it reaches the level of the Feds worrying about the smoke from an outdoor BBQ grill. After all, if the EPA can worry — as it already has — about a farmer's stream on his own land, it will sooner or later get around to that. As Mises discovered generations ago, controls breed more controls. Even the relatively smaller ones today will have a hobbling effect on an already overburdened energy sector.

Still, money cost is actually the least troubling aspect of the ruling. It is just one more way, and not a small one, in which an unelected bureaucracy sets rules that have no useful purpose, solve no real problem, and expand Federal control over individuals and their Constitutionally guaranteed ignored property rights.

And, to tie this into other recent events, this is all the result of a Supreme Court ruling three years ago. (Combined, of course, with decades of environmentalism poisoning the culture.) For those who believe SCOTUS is like some gentleman's club that has no relevance to the day-to-day life of every American (no SL readers, I'm sure), here's proof positive of the reverse.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Elena Kagan, Free Speech Foe

I've been deferring writing about Elena Kagan, the new nominee to the Supreme Court, until I had time to do some reading. I've done enough.

Given that her legal resume is so thin – zero experience as a judge, barely any as a litigator, but decades as an academic, administrator, and political functionary (during which she's been very cagey about stating her views) — I didn't expect to find any clear Sotomayer moment. Surprisingly, that moment has arrived.

From a brief filed on behalf of the government in, of all things, a case involving depiction of animal cruelty, Kagan wrote:
“Whether a given category of speech enjoys First Amendment protection depends upon a categorical balancing of the value of the speech against its societal costs.”
Here is the full text of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
There is nothing ambiguous about that language. It doesn't provide any wiggle room for dividing speech into two classes, one of which is off-limits from government censorship because of social utility, the other vulnerable to quashing for lacking value in the eyes of Federal censors.

The Solicitor General's stance in that case didn't even turn on such not-really-very-complex issues as whether a corporation's speech is suppressible in a way that individuals' is not, as in Citizens United*. (A clever Progressive red herring, since corporations are owned ultimately by individuals, but never mind that now.) No, it was just plain advocacy of censorship of speech lacking the golden passkey to the public's ear: social value.

[Note: That the videos the brief describes are revolting, that the animal cruelty depicted might well be justifiably suppressed on other grounds, is irrelevant here. (PDF warning)]

Sadly, it's almost a given that Elena Kagan will be given a pass by the Senate. If Sotomayer could be approved then, paraphrasing a line from The Lion In Winter, "there's hope for every ape in Africa." But it will be yet another travesty inflicted by the current Administration, and among the worst. As I said during the campaign, policies can be undone, legislation diluted. There's no undoing a Supreme Court pick and little likelihood of undoing its effects for two generations or more.

Of course, the Republicans really couldn't stop it if they wanted to, and most show no signs of caring very much. (There are notable exceptions, such as Sen. Inhofe.) But whether anything can be done to stop it, I'm with Jeffrey Lord who argues she should be grilled anyway. At least it would have value in bringing the issue of the proper role of government into the center ring.

Unfortunately, that's about the best we can hope for this time around.

And, oh by the way, before I forget. About that money quote that should shock the conscience of any right thinking person... That's pretty much been the standard Supreme Court view for a century. It's something of a wonder that Kagan lost the argument.

*[Update: (5/15/2010) Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority in the Citizens United case, said:
"When government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought. This is unlawful. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves." (Hat Tip Terry Eastland, Weekly Standard.)
This is what Kagan, and Obama in his revolting STFU Address, disagree with.]

Henry Hazlitt Reads "Economics In One Lesson"

A ten-minute sample from a past master of explaining economics to the layman, reading from his superb book.

[Hat Tip Vulcan's Hammer.]

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Views on Political Words By Age Group

From a recent Pew survey:

Either most people don't know what these words mean (likely) or they do (not wholly implausible, to a degree) and are sanguine about things like Progressivism and Socialism.

Either way, here are my words in reaction: liberty lovers are in deep shit.

[Hat tip: Sometimes Right.]

Was Woodrow Wilson a Progressive?

I have many disagreements with Jonah Goldberg. But he is one of the foremost popular-level writers on Progressivism and he has earned that rank. He's done his homework and he knows his stuff, and is very able at showing that without showing off.

He demonstrates his skill once again with a thorough takedown of Scott Galupo at U.S. News who wants us to believe that Woodrow Wilson was not a Progressive.

This fellow would also have us believe that "progressivism — which is indeed guilty of much of the baggage that Goldberg lays at its doorstep — is on the same family tree as classical liberalism." Worse still, Galupo claims, "Lockean insistence on individual civil liberties [is] the possession of the Left."

Now, there is a guy who has not done his homework. Or, more accurately, if he had and were in one of my former physics courses, would fail the test. I fear, at minimum, that he has not been keeping up with events of the past 40 years, and has a serious misunderstanding of the history and philosophy of the past 100. Whatever respect old leftists had for 'civil liberties' faded with the rise of the New Left over the past generation.

The tip off comes at the end when Goldberg shows how Mr. Galupo belongs in the same "I hate Glen Beck" wing of faux conservatism as David Frum. 'Nuff said on that score. I've got plenty of beefs with conservatism myself, not least the fact that no one who claims to be one can seem to define it. (I've had my own recent difficulties defining what I mean by 'the Left', but never mind that now.)

The bottom line is: believing that support for individual rights a la Locke is a feature of the Left means you simply don't understand individual rights, Locke, or the Left. Three strikes and you're out.

Anyway, read Goldberg's superbly well-reasoned and empirically-based response and enjoy the short history lesson in real-world political philosophizing.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cathy McMorris-Rodgers on the Greece Bailout

Rep. McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA), one of the few politicians I positively like and admire, has written a stellar editorial on the price U.S. taxpayers are paying to help bailout socialist Greece.
Concerned that the fiscal damage could spread throughout the EU and the world, other European Union members and the IMF have pledged $145 billion to bail out Greece. And since the United States is the largest contributor to the IMF budget, our government will be funneling billions of American tax dollars to Greece.
And it's unlikely that Greece will be the last major EU member to seek financial help. High-debt Portugal, Spain and Italy could all face similar crises soon. Piero Ghezzi, an economist at Barclay's Capital, estimates that Spain may need a $450 billion bailout. Italy might well need more.

The United States pays 17 percent of total member contributions to the IMF; No. 2 Japan provides just 6 percent. That entitles us to a claim on the overall IMF balance sheet, not a share of any specific loan -- but it still means that our "share" of the $40 billion IMF package for Greece is equivalent to $6.8 billion.
If this isn't "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" I can't imagine what would qualify. When it was popular, I thought the anti-drug commercials in which teens were exhorted to "Just Say No" was silly. Here, it definitely applies.

Beware Obama's Scyth

I was going to write an essay on Obama's recent idiotic remark that "[A]t a certain point you've made enough money." Before I could get around to it, I discovered that Ralph Reiland writing at the Pittsburgh Tribune Review has said about everything I was going to say. The whole (short) article is worthwhile, but here is — Obama should excuse the expression — the money quote:
[S]hould the central committee of White House czars decide how much of Ben [Roethlisberger's] $25 million was due to the lucky inheritance of a good throwing arm and how much was "fairly earned" for hard work?
So who decides when we've "made enough money"? Should we tell Julia Roberts not to make another movie, tell her she's "made enough"? Should the czars tell Tiger Woods that he's way past that "certain point" when he's earned "enough," unless he wants to play for free or donate 100 percent of the winnings to the needs of the collective?
Egalitarianism is one of the ugliest aspects of Progressivism and Obama embraces it wholeheartedly. Tall poppies everywhere, beware. The crab bucket mentality is now government policy.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dusty Springfield: The Look of Love

There are a few examples of the perfect marriage of song and performer. This is one of the best.

Dedicated to Vibeke.

The Size of the Federal Govt, Then and Now

According to Nick Schulz at AEI,
In 1871… only 51,020 civilians worked for the federal government, of whom 36,696 were postal employees. The remaining 14,424 constituted the national government for a country whose population exceeded 40 million.
So, while the size of the population has increased less than 10 times, the Federal leviathan has bloated a thousandfold. (Not counting lobbyists and other secondary parasites, of course.)

Somehow, it seems an unfair fight. But then I remember the words of Victor Hugo: "Not all the united armies can stand against an idea whose time has come." Judging by recent events, I'm laying my bet that a Renaissance of freedom in America is one such.

MGM Near Bankruptcy, A Morality Tale

A sad, sad outcome for a once-mighty studio. The amount and variety of entertaining films produced by MGM over the decades easily numbers in the thousands.

Everything from musicals with Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor to dramatic films like The Picture of Dorian Gray and Madame Bovary were grist for its mill. It distributed intense westerns like Naked Spur and the Russian melodrama Doctor Zhivago. Then, of course, there were the many Bond films.

Even a borderline case like Gone With the Wind — by some measures the largest box office generator ever — might not have been possible without MGM. Not only did the studio loan Clark Gable for the lead, but producer David O. Selznick learned his trade under the oft-chafing thumb of father-in-law Louis B. Mayer.

It was without question the largest 'star factory' in Hollywood for at least three decades. And that fact points to an important element missing from today's incarnation of film production: the producer.

There are still superb writers (most of whom work for television shows). There are fine actors. There are even a few good directors. But there is no Harry Cohn, Darryl Zanuck, or Samuel Goldwyn anywhere in view. And, before anyone mentions Steven Spielberg or George Lucas (or even the Weinstein Brothers), I'll hasten to borrow a line from one of MGM's greatest films, The Big Country: They're "not fit to shine the Major's boots."

Hollywood won't be even a shadow of its former self until another like them arises. When that may be, or even if it's possible in today's cultural climate, no one can say. That last, after all, is the basic reason the movies are what they are today. And that is perhaps the saddest outcome of all.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

15, 257 Jihadist Attacks Since 9-11

According to the website, Islam: the Religion of Peace, there have been 15, 257 jihadist attacks since 9/11/2001. Could they be exaggerating? Sure, but I can count (with the help of Dr. John Lewis' research) a couple of hundred in the past 30 years, (many of which I remember reading about at the time). By my reckoning, that's 199 too many.

If Jimmy Carter had had any balls thirty years ago — a near contradiction in terms — a huge portion of that could have been avoided for a fraction of the monetary and political cost we've suffered.

And, yet, for some reason - even if the Navy SEALS had been guilty, which they were not - I'm supposed to care about a jihadist getting a fat lip? The world is truly upside down.

Third and Final Navy SEAL Acquitted

Justice has been served as the third and final Navy SEAL is acquitted of allegedly giving a fat lip to a known jihadist during his arrest.
A military jury in Norfolk, Va. acquitted the third and final Navy SEAL court martialed in connection with the alleged assault of an Iraqi suspected in the 2004 murders of four U.S. contractors in Fallujah.
Two other SEALS, Julio Huertas and Jonathan Keefe, were found not guilty in the incident in separate trials in Baghdad. The defense's argument centered on testimony from an oral surgeon who said Ahmed Hashim Abed's injury could have been self-inflicted. Al Qaeda operatives are known to be trained to claim abuse by American captors.
Good riddance to a process that never should have started. I'd say the PC brass who let it get rolling owe these men an apology. No, I ain't gonna hold my breath waiting for it either.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Thomas Jefferson on the Commerce Clause

One of the prime architects of America's political system gives a valuable lesson in how to analyze and apply the Constitution.
“For the power given to Congress by the Constitution does not extend to the internal regulation of the commerce of a State, (that is to say of the commerce between citizen and citizen,) which remain exclusively with its own legislature; but to its external commerce only, that is to say, its commerce with another State, or with foreign nations, or with the Indian tribes.”
"I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground: That 'all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people.' To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition."
Of course, if the Federal Government took this point of view today, it would require wiping out 90% of its economic regulations, not to mention dissolving the Federal Reserve.

Note, Jefferson was prompted to state this simply in considering the establishment of a National Bank in 1791. Imagine what he would say today about the encroaching establishment of National Socialism in America*, already half complete.

*Think I'm exaggerating? Read Ed Cline's latest column, on Obama's recent commencement speech at the U of Michigan.

Oil Spills Over the Years

Though the total amount released by the recent BP oil spill can't yet be known, here is a graph that puts the issue in perspective.

[Hat Tip: Kate at something called Small Dead Animals, or The RoadKill Diaries. Really, who picks such a weird name for her blog? (Said he with the perfectly mundane blog name...)]

Anyway, there's more good news about the BP spill: it's already getting capped.
BP declared a partial victory today in its battle to control a spreading oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, after the company said it had successfully capped one of three leaks from a pipe by applying a valve.

The oil giant, which is under mounting pressure from the US government to stop the leak, admitted that the operation would not reduce the overall rate of flow of the oil. But it claimed it was nevertheless a positive step because it “reduced the complexity of the situation being dealt with on the seabed”.

BP said the half-tonne valve had been installed on the end of a broken drill pipe last night using remote-controlled sub sea robots.

The robots first cut the end of the pipe to leave a clean end and the valve was then placed in position on the seabed. [Note: Once again, the British newspapers cover the story while the American press continues to act like Pravda for the viros.]
That it's being dealt with at all possible speed will surprise no one knowledgeable about the history and technology of such things. (I would say it would surprise those on the Left but, even if they accidentally read about it, they'll deny it.)

Apart from everything else, aren't the oil companies consumed with greed? Therefore, don't they have a vested interest in capping a big leak that is costing them lost revenue? Don't expect the viros to make that point, either, anytime soon.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Hero of the Day: Li Li, Pig Researcher

From pig guts to riches. I love this guy.
A pharmaceutical researcher who discovered a way to harvest blood thinner from pig’s intestines has become the richest man in China.

Mr Li owns about 40 per cent of the company and his wife holds 32 per cent.

Interest was fueled by the fact that Hepalink is the only Chinese company accredited by the US Food and Drug Administration to export heparin – a blood thinner harvested from pigs’ intestines and used in kidney dialysis and many types of surgery.
After failed attempts to co-operate with state-owned firms, the couple set up Hepalink in 1998 to produce heparin using a procedure that Mr Li had been perfecting for 25 years.
He certainly doesn't need the charity, but given the chance I would buy dinner for Mr. Li in the most expensive restaurant in New York. So far, knock on wood, I have no need for his discovery. But the mere fact that he created it — and made a bundle off it — is such a joyous sight, that I would consider it money well spent.

Bravo, Mr. Li!

The Sierra Club Hates the Oil Business

... So what else is new?

Unlike many on 'the Right', when I hear a Leftist call someone on the Right 'a whack job' I don't immediately think they are projecting. I just take it that they are saying "I hate your values." Well, likewise. Here's a case in point:
Kristina Johnson, of the Sierra Club, America's largest grassroots environmental group, said: "They're the ones who have profited from oil and from our oceans. They're the ones who put the Gulf Coast at risk so that they could rake in record profits."
Now, forget for a moment that the spokesperson of an environmentalist organization made this idiotic anti-profit statement. That's to be expected. What galls me is her apparent belief that her readers are as stupid (or vicious) as she is.

Sure, oil companies sometimes make big profits. Good for them. But for every seller, there is a buyer, or there's no transaction. So, the attempt to make it seem as if oil exploration, production, distribution, and sales is somehow a one-sided benefit is simply (and transparently) ludicrous. Clearly, many individuals and companies believe the oil is worth buying at the price at which it is offered. Otherwise, BP would be out of business post haste.

One would think by the time a woman has reached the vaunted position of spokesperson for one of the world's largest, most influential environmental groups she would think a little more before she speaks. Either she's not aware of this perfectly obvious fact about business, or she's simply misdirecting to make a point. Neither reflects well on her or her organization.

But, then, The Sierra Club has been dedicated to the dismantling of industrial civilization for 100 years, so no doubt this is all wasted outrage on my part.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Terrorist Threats: Left, Right, And Other

Apropos the response to the recent jihadist near-miss attack in Times Square, it's useful to consider some of the attitudes expressed by creatures like Mayor Bloomberg. He said in a CBS interview hours after the incident:
The bomb could have been placed by “somebody with a political agenda who doesn’t like the health care bill or something. It could be anything.”
This not-so-subtle allusion to Tea Party sympathizers is a sentiment that comes more or less automatically to the mind of a Leftist.

[Update 17:55:] Here is one where there is no subtlety involved at all:
The Nation’s Robert Dreyfuss discounted the possibility of a jihadi from the Pakistan-based Taliban: “It seems far more likely to me [he] was either a lone nut job or a member of some squirrely branch of the Tea Party, anti-government far right.”
Yet, according to the FBI, what is the source of the #1 domestic threat? Eco-terrorism.
The FBI currently has 180 ongoing eco-terror investigations and over the last several years has tied them to some 1,800 criminal acts, Kolko said.
Anyone who, like me, lives in the Pacific Northwest is fully familiar with the sort of thing the FBI has in mind. Everything from tree-spiking to torching upscale homes occurs with frightening frequency. And, though it should not have to be said, let us hasten to point out that viro-paganism and the political movement to which it gives rise, Environmentalism, are phenomena of the Left, not the Right.

[Hat Tip: Jonah Goldberg, NRO for the Bloomberg quote.]

William Tucker Reviews "Power Hungry"

William Tucker writing at The American Spectator has produced a useful review of Robert Bryce's book Power Hungry: The Myths of "Green" Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future. Here's a sample of the many gems in this fact-filled work that show how so-called Green energy is wasteful and inefficient.
    • The concrete and steel requirements for windmills are 9.6 and 11.5 times as great as nuclear reactors and 32 and 139 times greater as natural gas plants. That is what makes wind so expensive.

    • Gasoline has eighty times the energy density of the lithium-ion battery, the latest in battery technology. Even old newspapers have thirty times the energy density of batteries. This makes the widespread use of electric vehicles unlikely.

    • Although Texas now leads the country in wind production, engineers at ERCOT, the state's grid operator, estimate windmill electricity is available only 9 percent of the time.

    • When measured on per-output basis, wind and solar energy get 15 times as much in federal subsidies as nuclear power.

    • A 1000-MW nuclear reactor produces only 20 cubic meters of waste annually, while in one year the U.S. coal industry produces 2,200 times as much solid waste as our nuclear fleet has produced in the last four decades. Yet nuclear waste considered the bigger problem.

The entire review is highly recommended, as is the article that brought it to my attention, Peter Ferrara's Keep the Lights On. [Update:] From Ferrara's article, just as one stellar example:
The South Texas Project nuclear plant produces 300 horsepower per acre of land used, about the same as natural gas, with oil close behind. Wind power produces 6.4 horsepower per acre, solar photovoltaic 36 hp per acre, biomass 2.1. Corn ethanol requires about 1,150 times as much land as nuclear to produce the same horsepower.
The conclusion is obvious: oil powers civilization in a cost-effective way. Might that not be the reason the Anti(s) oppose it?

[Update 2:] Vulcan's Hammer has an excellent post on the subject of the recent BP Oil Spill, keyed off a recent WSJ editorial and focusing on the issues of safety. Here's a sample:
When an airliner tragically crashes and kills everyone aboard, does anyone suggest that society should revert back to ocean liners to get from, let’s say, Boston to London? No. When there is a pile up of cars where passengers are killed, does anyone suggest that society revert to the alternative of horse and buggy? No. Accidents happen even in a perfect world and no reasonable person is going to revert to a lower standard of living because of the threat of the odd incident. So why is oil held to a different standard than other technologies?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The BP Oil Spill, Some Facts and a Few Questions

Andrew Cline has written a fine article on The American Spectator discussing the recent BP platform oil spill. Not surprisingly, the anti-oil crowd instantly jumped in to pollute the comments section. Obviously anticipating some of them, Cline included a few facts about oil spills worth mentioning:
In fact, natural seepage leaks far more oil into the oceans than man-made spills do, according to a joint study by NASA and the Smithsonian Institution. The study found that natural underground leaks put an average of 62 million gallons of oil a year into the world's oceans. Offshore drilling? Just 15 million gallons a year. Tanker spills leak 37 million gallons a year.
Though he doesn't say so, in fact that seepage has been going on for untold centuries. If I recall correctly, the early 16th century explorer Magellan notes the fact of oil slicks in the Santa Barbara Channel in one of his journals.

Of course, the environmentalist response to all this is utterly reactionary. Cline quotes one,
"We're appalled that the president is unleashing a wholesale assault on the oceans," Jackie Savitz of Oceana told the New York Times.
I long for the day when these crackpots are treated by the major media as exactly that, rather than responsible adults stating a (faux, as it happens) mainstream view. I fully expect the New York Times to be out of business (or officially, rather than unofficially, performing the role of Pravda) before that happens.

(Thank heavens for 'new media'.)

To the anti-oil crowd, I have a question: what would you advocate doing without?

1. Medical devices of every variety (most of which use plastic in some form, made from oil),

2. Food transported more than a few miles from its source,

3. Clothing for billions of people (nearly all of whom would be poorly clad if not naked or even dead without oil products),

4. Shelter that keeps out killing cold...

The list could be made thousands of items long, of course.

Also, would you accept the construction of thousands of new nuclear plants to power electric cars (roughly half of whose components still require oil to make synthetics)? How would you power airplanes, then?

Sadly, the Left's answers to all these questions are well known. They consist of equal parts fantasy ("new Green technology will miraculously transform the world while raising costs only modestly, if at all") and Puritanism ("You should make do with less, a lot less.")

[This article has been updated since first publication. 13:05 5/1.]

[Update 2:] Vulcan's Hammer has an excellent post on the subject keyed off a recent WSJ editorial and focusing on the issues of safety. Here's a sample:
When an airliner tragically crashes and kills everyone aboard, does anyone suggest that society should revert back to ocean liners to get from, let’s say, Boston to London? No. When there is a pile up of cars where passengers are killed, does anyone suggest that society revert to the alternative of horse and buggy? No. Accidents happen even in a perfect world and no reasonable person is going to revert to a lower standard of living because of the threat of the odd incident. So why is oil held to a different standard than other technologies?

Sadly, the answer is by now obvious: The rabid environmentalist's concern is not with safety, and there is no achievable, rational standard that would satisfy them. They desire to shut down industrial civilization, as much and as fast as possible.