Friday, July 28, 2006

Democracy Wheezes By

At times I am amazed and frightened at how slender a thread sustains our democracy and our culture. Wednesday, the Washington State Supreme Court, by a single vote, upheld the power of a democratic majority to make laws. By a single vote, the Washington State Supreme Courts allowed centuries of culture to prevail over the MTV culture. That democracy and culture should even be vulnerable to the capricious whims of nine judges is unnerving.
And as close as that single vote victory was, the majority made clear its dissatisfaction with both democratic majorities and cultural traditions. The majority cited the “clear hardship” that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) imposed on homosexuals and invited the legislature to correct matters to the court’s satisfaction. Frankly, it read very much like a threat. The court seemed to be saying, “you fix it or we will.”
Democratic politicians seemed decidedly uncomfortable knowing full well that one of their wealthiest and most politically active special interest pressure groups would be demanding action during the next legislative session.
Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown responded to the ruling with her finest Pontius Pilate impersonation: "Just as the public is divided over the issue, so is the Legislature." As good as that was, she was outdone by Governor Christina Gregoire who said: "The Supreme Court has ruled, and we must accept their decision whether we agree with it or not."
This is a tar baby neither wants to pick a fight with.
But even if the status quo manages to survive the next legislative session, the court’s majority lit an exploding cigar that could easily provide the next séance of the Supremes with the pretext to overturn the decision. Indeed, at least one phrase from the majority opinion is so bizarre that it almost invites a future court to throw the opinion out as the creation of lunatics.
Justice Barbara Madsen wrote for the majority that the Defense of Marriage Act "is constitutional because the Legislature was entitled to believe that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers procreation, essential to survival."
Not even my fevered mind can imagine a scenario in which extending marriage rights to homosexuals would reduce the libido or fertility of heterosexuals.
At least one of the court’s dissenters made no attempt to conceal her contempt for majority rule. Justice Mary Fairhurst complained that, "Unfortunately, the (majority) are willing to turn a blind eye to DOMA's discrimination because a popular majority still favors that discrimination."
While I doubt that the majority considered public opinion polls before voting, Ms. Fairhurst’s sniffing disapproval for those who might consider majority opinion, such as legislators who will someday stand for election, is abundantly evident.
If the elected representatives of the people do not have the power to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman, then it also lacks the power to outlaw bigamy. It probably doesn’t even have the power to define marriage as a union between two members of the same species. One of those butchy Seattle man-haters could choose to marry her German shepherd so that she could put the dog on her health insurance. Treating hip dysplasia can get pretty expensive. Having to pay veterinary bills out of one’s own pocket could certainly qualify as a clear hardship.
I would love to hear Ms. Fairhurst explain how it could be that a legislature that lacks the authority to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman could still retain the authority to prohibit any of the preceding unions. Ms. Fairhurst might be disdainful of that broad majority of Washingtonians that would include people with dirt under their fingernails and Budweiser in their refrigerators, but she’s very mindful of the majority opinion of her manicured pals at the wine tasting parties and poetry readings she attends.
Courts have been shockingly contemptuous of democracy and culture on a number of occasions. Courts have ruled that taxpayers must shell out tax money to underwrite the irresponsibility of illegal aliens. Courts have erased parental sovereignty over families where abortion is concerned. We owe pornography to courts that have held that dirty pictures deserve more First Amendment protection than political debates.
So, it was no wonder that both sides of the homosexual marriage issue were surprised by the ruling. Nobody trusts courts to respect democracy.

Friday, July 07, 2006

When Will Al Gore Take Global Warming Seriously?

I was not terribly surprised when Al Gore ignored me the other day. Yahoo was hosting a chat with the former vice president regarding his renewed interest in global warming. Quite predictably, the messiah was lambasting the Bush administration and Republicans in general for not doing enough to stop global warming, which he now insists will destroy all civilization in about 10 years.
My question was straightforward. “When will the left take global warming seriously enough to permit the construction of nuclear power plants?”
As this was a tightly moderated discussion intended only to promote Al Gore’s point of view, my question not only went unanswered and was never seen by other participants or observers of the discussion. It was meant as an honest question. Conservatives are caricaturized as tools of the oil industry willing to destroy the earth for a buck. But the left has its own issues that obstruct progress toward reducing carbon dioxide emissions, starting with its antipathy toward nuclear energy.
When asked how to make up the deficit between energy requirements and energy production without burning fossil fuels (or uranium), the environmental left relies upon two clichés – conservation and renewable energy. Here in the Northwest, renewable energy has come to mean two things, wind and/or waterpower. And waterpower is very politically incorrect these days. That leaves wind, something we have a surplus of.
I came across a news story regarding wind power earlier this week that gained my attention more than is usual. A company has proposed erecting 300 wind turbines in the Columbia Gorge that will supposedly generate 750 megawatts of electricity, enough for 188,000 homes. That’s about 60% of the total generating power of the lower Snake River dams, or about 3% of all the generating capacity in the Northwest – assuming that the wind blows all the time, which it does not.
One reason that this news captured my attention is because my energy bill each month asks me to donate to wind energy. That strikes me as the equivalent of standing on a street corner with a cardboard sign proclaiming a willingness to “work for food.” But it also points up a deficiency in these renewable energy resources. They are not economically self-sustainable. Wind farms don’t just wave their tin cups in front of ratepayers. They come to big government with wheel barrels to collect big bucks.
A wind farm makes for a great tax shelter. The accelerated depreciation given wind farms means that owners can recoup about 1/3 of the construction costs in the first two years of operation. Another 7 or 8 percent is recovered annually by federal subsidies for wind farm generated power. In Washington, wind farms are excused from sales and use taxes. This translates into tens of millions of dollars.
And what do we get for this? We get an unreliable power source. Nuclear and fossil fuel plants deliver as much energy as we demand from them. Heat waves frequently coincide with very still air – not a good combination for the electricity that is required by air conditioners. Typically, a wind farm averages about 30% of its capacity. This means that the proposed Columbia Gorge wind farm will only deliver about 1% of the northwest’s power needs. Considering the enormous expense, and the area required (nearly 50 square miles), wind energy as represented by the proposed wind farm doesn’t seem to be a very sensible option.
So it’s really too bad that Al Gore ignored my question, because as wind farm deficiencies demonstrate, the solution to reducing carbon emissions lies not in so-called renewable energy resources, but in more efficient exploitation of sources we’ve had at our disposable for decades. France generates most of its electricity from nuclear power. My gosh! If they can do it, we certainly can.
I would have liked to ask Al Gore another question, this one a bit more mischievous than the previous one.
“Why,” I would have asked, “do you not criticize Ted Kennedy and John Kerry for obstructing wind farm development off the Massachusetts shoreline?”
The reason is obvious. The Kennedy’s and Kerry’s of the world are exempt from criticism. Why should they have to endure the clutter? And besides, it would lower the property value of their enormous estates. Forestalling the end of the world isn’t worth that much sacrifice.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Let's Take Up a Collection

Cindy Sheehan says that she would rather live in Chavez's Venezuela than in the United States.

0.3 Micrograms Larger Than Your Average Mosquito

A new "super mosquito" takes wing in Greece.

Athens-based mosquitoes can detect humans at a distance of 25-30 metres (yards) and also distinguish colours, unlike their colour-blind counterparts elsewhere in the country that only smell blood at 15-20 metres, Ta Nea daily reported.

The "super mosquitoes" of the Greek capital also beat their wings up to 500 times a second -- compared to 350 beats for other variations

Be bored. Be very bored.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Not On Our Side

Time magazine makes it clear that the magazine is not pro-American when it comes to war.

Freedom Equals A Hostile Environment on College Campuses

The left is pouring big bucks opposing the academic bill of rights that would protect anyone of any ideology from being punished or discriminated against on college campuses.

Despite the document's political neutrality, critics fear that if it becomes state law, it will be used as a hammer to promote conservative thought and squelch liberal dissent.
"I think what they're doing is curtailing academic freedom," said Adam Jentleson, policy and advocacy manager of Campus Progress. "I don't think they're really making that much progress because every state that's considered it has either voted it down or referred it to committee."
In 2003, the American Association of University Professors condemned the Academic Bill of Rights as "a grave threat to academic freedom."

It's interesting isn't it that the left does not believe that it can survive in an environment of freedom.