American Elephants

The Ugly Side of the Environmental Movement, And it’s Deplorable Actions by The Elephant's Child

Aubrey McClendon, former CEO of Chesapeake Energy, “died March 2 in a car wreck the day after being indicted for conspiracy to rig bids on oil and natural gas leases. He will likely be remembered for two things: being a pioneer of the shale gas boom and a possible criminal who, in death, may have eluded a prison sentence. But McClendon may have had one other lasting legacy: he helped hasten the collapse of the coal industry in the United States.”

Between 2007 and 2012, McClendon and his associates contributed around $26 million to the Sierra Club to oppose the building of new coal-fired power plants. McClendon’s motivations were hardly pure; he knew that preventing new coal plants meant more demand for his company’s product, natural gas. And the contributions led to a scandal for the environmental group, whose well-funded “Beyond Coal” campaign has been instrumental in not only preventing new plants, but also shutting down aging ones.

Executive director Michael Brune had a simple explanation for accepting money from a big gas company that was drilling hundreds of wells using hydraulic fracturing: the enemy of our enemy is our friend. “The Sierra Club board of directors … determined that natural gas, while far from ideal as a fuel source, might play a necessary role in helping us reach the clean energy future our children deserve,” Brune wrote in <aref=””>a 2012 blog post. “The idea was that we shared at least one common purpose [with Chesapeake]—to move our country away from dirty coal.”

The Sierra Club turned down further contributions from McClendon and his Chesapeake colleagues as it began to worry about the boom in natural gas fracking. That didn’t affect the outcome: McClendon’s philanthropy helped make it very unlikely that any new coal plants will be built in the U.S.—and helped push coal, the backbone of America’s power sector for more than a century, into a sudden and dramatic twilight.

Here’s another excellent example of the rot in the Green movement. If you can get rid of coal as a resource for power generation by claiming that it is the cause of anthropogenic global warming, what’s the big deal if you cause thousands of coal miners to lose their jobs, if you can force the country to depend on your natural gas for their electric power, and make your company and yourself rich by so doing?

The Sierra Club was once a nice organization with the goal of protecting the Sierra Mountains. They sponsored catered pack trips through the Sierras, and publicized Ansel Adams beautiful photography of the Sierras and Yosemite National Park. But at some point they became a leftist political agency under the cover of being a nice environmental club.

But then the coal industry once supplied nearly half of America’s power needs, and kept the cost of power low for American homes and businesses, enabling the prosperous industrial country we live in.  Mr. McClendon is hardly the only person who has been trying to enrich himself and his business by using the fear of a crisis of global warming that has been pushed by so many environmental organizations.

The cheap and affordable energy that coal-fired plants produce cannot be replaced by renewables, no matter how much investors hope it to become fact instead of wishful thinking. Wind is highly intermittent — we had a minor wind storm today that deposited bushels of fir cones and branches on the roof and on the streets (and on the driveway I laboriously swept yesterday) yet there were long periods with no wind at all, and even some blue sky.

Wind energy proponents talk about optimum performance — what a wind farm could produce if all the turbines were turning at the speed that would be produced by a perfect flow of wind. But Mother Nature doesn’t work that way.Wind is intermittent at best, and even shuts down for long periods. When it isn’t blowing at the perfect speed, then the power has to come from somewhere else. Hopes for battery walls ignore the availability and expense of the rare earths required which largely come from China, who has cornered the market and can raise prices as they choose.

President Obama’s Clean Power Plan will prevent 0.03 degrees of warming by 2100.

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, admitted that the goal of environmental activists is not to save the world from ecological calamity — but to destroy capitalism.

“This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution,” she said.

Puncturing the Pretensions of the Progressives by The Elephant's Child

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I wrote earlier about the problem of “Diversity”— that progressive catch-word — around which they attempt to arrange all their bright ideas. “Diversity,” they believe, is a positive good. Wealthy neighborhoods, or for that matter any neighborhoods that do not house the correct numbers of varying races and ethnicities need to be “fixed.”

And, on the other side,  we have the victims of progressive diversity demands (affirmative action) such as National Merit scholars who can’t get into elite universities like Harvard because the category of Asian students already matches the percentage of Asians in the economy, so students of different race and ethnicity must be admitted instead despite lower SAT scores. So we are trading brighter doctors and scientists and businessmen for the precious idea of diversity. And that makes sense just how?

The real problem is that “diversity” doesn’t produce the desired effect. The more diverse or integrated a neighborhood becomes, the less socially cohesive it becomes, and the more homogenous or segregated, the more socially cohesive. Simple. A mom and dad prefer their children to other children. Having a child does not produce liking for all children. People prefer their compatriots to strangers from another country. This is not prejudice, but a natural affinity for those with whom you have something in common. It’s what humans do.

Progressives believe “diversity” is a necessity in the quest for social justice which is the shining goal of the left. The pursuit of social justice is the reason for empathy, for welfare, for caring for others. The pursuit of that goal renders philanthropy harmful. William Voegeli notes:

The alliance of experts and victims will progress toward its goals more slowly and with greater difficulty if amateurs, hobbyists, and dilettantes are mucking about, trying to alleviate a victim’s suffering. They don’t know what they’re doing, and should keep out of the way of people who do. Furthermore, caring for others by any other means than supporting with votes and taxes, welfare state programs to enact and adequately fund those programs postpones rather than hastens the realization of social justice.

“I gave at the office” should mean just one thing: the taxes withheld from my paycheck are funding government programs, the only path to social justice. If it means, instead, charitable contributions are activities that endorse the efficacy and virtue of extragovernmental efforts to ameliorate suffering situations, the pursuit of social justice is thwarted. The more government takes over welfare — the weaker the fellow feeling of the other ties.

The famous American skeptic H.L Mencken once wrote, “The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it. Power is what all messiahs really seek: not the chance to serve.” Or to put it a little differently — Social Justice doesn’t mean that at last everybody is finally equal. It means that you are all equal, and we are in charge.

Can Inequality Be Fixed? Can There Be Social Justice? by The Elephant's Child

The current theme of the Democrats seems to be “Inequality.” Or “Social Justice” if you prefer. They speak of a growing gap between the very rich and ordinary folk, with the insinuation that anyone who gets very rich must have been unjust in their accumulation of wealth. Certainly this has been a major theme for Barack Obama. He spoke of redistribution even farther back than his famed encounter with Joe the Plumber. Michelle Obama spoke on the campaign trail of coercive redistribution of wealth, and the basic unfairness of America.

I have trouble with the concept of ‘social justice’— for the definition seems to vary from equality of opportunity, equal ability to develop one’s human potential, to the idea that society should treat all equally well who deserve being treated equally.

The gap between our IT billionaires and the poor is measured and remeasured.  We have had successful products in the past, but never before a product that is required by every person in every business and even in the poorest homes. Of course those who came up with new products, the applications and the updates and the new improved versions were going to be rewarded with fabulous wealth. Does the life of a poor person become worse because a new product enters the world? Is it somehow unfair that someone had the ideas and skills to develop those products is rewarded for so doing? How is this in any way— unjust?

If we must redistribute wealth to be just, how much do we have to redistribute? How much do we have to take away from the rich man to give to the poor man? Barack Obama promised “change” and millions of black Americans were sure that meant that their situation in life would improve. He has vigorously promoted redistribution of wealth for 4½ years, and the welfare of poor black Americans has steadily declined. The unemployment rate for black young people is a staggering 60%. The president wants to raise the minimum wage, but statistics show that will increase the unemployment rate for beginning workers, not help them.

Creating jobs for the unemployed is not what the redistributionists have in mind, however. What they have in mind is more welfare, and making the poor more dependent on government largesse. If they depend on government and their politicians for their food and housing, their health care, welfare and social services, they are very likely to vote for those who make the largesse available. The object is not “social justice” or “equality” but power for those who distribute the welfare.

The Secret Knowledge: The Origins of “Social Justice” by The Elephant's Child

From the archives: October 28, 2012

The Left is deeply concerned about income inequality, you know that, they tell us so often enough. They have observed that some people live in poverty while others, particularly corporate CEOs, who get ridiculously enormous salaries that they certainly don’t deserve, are very rich. The Left considers this observed inequality as unnatural. In his book The Secret Knowledge, playwright David Mamet tackles the origins of the problem:

To correct this observed inequality, which the Left sees as unnatural, it invented the term “social justice.” But a system of Justice already exists, formulated by Legislature, in supposed expression of the will of the people, and administered by the Judiciary. This is called the Judicial System.  What then is this additional, amorphous “social justice”? It can only mean, as Hayek wrote, “State Justice.” Here, though the Left will not follow the reasoning out to its end, the State (operating upon what basis it alone knows, and responsible to no law enacted by the people) confiscates wealth accumulated under existing laws and redistributes it to those it deems worthy.

History proves that the worthiest in these Marxist schemes are or quickly become, those in charge of distribution, which is to say “the State,” it’s constitutional powers usurped by those we know as “dictators.”

To the Left it is the State which should distribute place, wealth, and status.  This is called “correcting structural error,” or redressing the legacy of Slavery,” or Affirmative Action, or constraining unfair Executive Compensation; but it is and can only be that spoils System which is decided at the ward level as “cronyism.” And lauded at the national level as “social justice.” It is nothing other than the distribution of goods and services by the government for ends not specified in the Constitution; and in response to pressure from or in attempts to curry favor with groups seeking preferment or goods not obtainable either under the law, or through those practices of mutual benefit called the Free Market. What obscenities are created in the name of “social justice?” What could possibly be less just than policies destructive of initiative and based upon genetics?

David Mamet was once a Democrat, and thought better of it. Actually he thought long and deeply about it, read a lot, and turned his considerable writing skills to explaining just why he changed his mind. It is a perfectly delightful book, and as a lifelong Conservative, I learned a lot.

David Mamet is an American playwright, screenwriter, author,and director renowned for Glengarry Glen Ross (Pulitzer, Tony nomination). As a screenwriter, he received Oscar nominations for The Verdict and Wag the Dog. His books include: The Old Religion, Five Cities of Refuge, The Wicked Son, and a long list of books and movies, television shows and even radio dramas.

 The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture,  is Mamet’s book detailing his conversion from modern liberalism to “a reformed liberal.” It was released in June of 2011, and I recommend it heartily.

Wise Words from Thomas Sowell: by The Elephant's Child

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“Social Justice” and Other Silly Ideas. by The Elephant's Child
January 27, 2011, 8:52 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Politics, Statism, Taxes | Tags: , ,

Many economic concepts are counter-intuitive.  And that becomes a political problem.  It emerges in every campaign as “class warfare.”

The goal of the far left is “social justice.” They love the phrase, but explaining it is hard.  Things, they are sure, ought to be fair, and it is not fair if some people are rich and some people are poor.  It’s not fair if some people drive Mercedes and others have trouble buying a used car.  It’s not fair if some people live in big houses and others live in slums.  So “social justice” is to be attained by redistribution of income. It means not equality of opportunity, but equality of outcome.

The thing about redistribution of income for the left, is that it is to be accomplished by taking away other people’s money.  Many of those who are most concerned about “social justice” are notorious for their stinginess with their own money. Our current deficit and debt indicate how easy it is to spend other people’s money.

Income mobility in the American economy is one of the wonders of the world. A young person in America, according to Brookings economists Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill, needs only to observe 3 basic rules to  have a 75% chance of being in the middle class: 1. Graduate from high school.  2.  Get a job.  3.  Get married and wait until they are 21 before having a baby.

Americans don’t envy the rich, they hope to become rich.  Here in Washington State, which Obama carried with 57% of the vote in 2008, a proposal was on the ballot to add an income tax applicable only to individuals making more than $200,000 a year or families making over $400,000.  65% of the state’s voters opposed the tax. That’s not envy of “the rich.”

In his State of the Union Speech, President Obama felt compelled to raise the class warfare theme. Although he had just agreed to extend the Bush tax-cuts, he wanted to make it clear that he didn’t like it and would be back to raise taxes on the rich. Whether this is conviction or simply a sop to the far left is unknown.But long-range planning is very difficult when the government has a constant threat of higher taxes hanging over business.

Class warfare does not create jobs.  Attacking the rich or the successful does not create jobs. Government has no clue about creating jobs, they have made that quite clear.  They need to get out-of-the-way and let creative, hard-working Americans restore the economy.

The Stories Told to Justify a Very Bad Bill. by The Elephant's Child

The real reason behind ObamaCare, said Byron York in an interesting article in the Examiner:

It wasn’t just about making insurance more affordable. It wasn’t just about bending the cost curve. It wasn’t just about cutting the federal deficit. It was about redistributing wealth.

Health reform is “an income shift,” Democratic Sen. Max Baucus said on March 25. “It is a shift, a leveling, to help lower-income, middle-income Americans.”

In his halting, jumbled style, Baucus explained that in recent years “the maldistribution of income in America has gone up way too much, the wealthy are getting way, way too wealthy, and the middle-income class is left behind.” The new health care legislation, Baucus promised, “will have the effect of addressing that maldistribution of income in America.”

Former Democratic National Committee chairman and presidential candidate Howard Dean said, around the same time, that the health care bill was needed to correct economic inequities.  Democrats rate what they call “social justice” highly, for it gives them warm fuzzy feeling to “take from the rich to give to the poor.”

This is based on the idea, deeply favored by the Left and based on one of the biggest fallacies in economics, that an economy is a ‘zero-sum’ situation.  That there is only a fixed amount of money in an economy, and for one person to get rich, others must get poorer.  Lately the cause of people getting richer has been the technological revolution that is transforming the world.

“The Industrial Revolution,” pointed out John Steele Gordon, “produced so many new rich that Benjamin Disraeli had to coin the word millionaire in 1827 to describe them. Railroads, steel, oil, automobiles, the movies, television, all produced prodigious new fortunes.”

The dynamic American economy has always produced vibrant movement over the income classes.   The poor get richer, the rich get poorer.  Even the Forbes Magazine list has new entrants every year, while other names drop from the list. The poor may always be with us, but they are not the same people over time, nor are the rich.

Senator Baucus may just have been trying to encourage his leftist constituents,  to whom everything seems more virtuous if clothed in the cloak of wealth redistribution.

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