Sunday, January 31, 2010


In his State of the Union speech President Obama made noises about how resurgent nuclear power can contribute to the country's energy needs, and in a "green" way naturally. Long time proponents took this as a good sign and hailed proposed subsidies intended to jump start the struggling industry. This long time proponent of nuclear power thinks this is a lousy idea. Not the power but the subsidies. After years of carping about how pointless and anti-market the billions thrown at green power projects have been it is more than a little disingenuous to approve of subsidies for nuclear power.

Nuclear power is a good idea in any number of ways but if it is not a sound commercial idea then why should we encourage it? Nuclear power needs to make economic sense in terms of an energy company's generation portfolio before a spade of earth is turned. Subsidies can only distort those economics because subsidies always distort the economics of any project that aspires to commercial viability. Either the country needs nuclear power badly enough to spend investor money on it or it does not. I think that it does and that investors will respond if the government will just stay the hell out of the way.

Subsidies will mean regulators will be even more intrusive than they already are which in the case of nuclear power is about as extreme as it gets. Bad enough that new nuclear plant building will attract the usual legions of anti-nuke whack-jobs prostrating themselves at work sites followed by phalanxes of lawsuit happy foundations trailing battalions of eager pinstriped shysters in their wakes. To add political overseers to the mix should rightly give pause to any sane company contemplating nuclear generation expansion. Really who needs that kind of grief?

Damn shame. We really do badly need more nuclear power, a lot more, but I suspect that we won't get a lot more due to the decades long flood of noisy activist bile ranged against it. The bile, the nuts, the foundations, and the shysters have conspired to increase both the financial burdens and the public relations problems to crippling degrees. Which has been the point of the whole exercise of course, and has been extremely successful, thus I'm skeptical that the changed minds of a few environmental apostates will be enough to undo the damage.

Obama's first instinct, as in all things, is to fling money at the "problem". The problem is not money. The Problem is half a century of heedless agitation against one of the most resource efficient and overall cleanest methods of generating electricity yet devised. Even Obama's alleged prodigies of soothing, albeit increasingly threadbare, rhetoric will not cause the ever ready regiments of antinukers to slink back to their coffee houses and campuses in chastened contrition. In fact the prez's recent nuke approving speechifying might well enrage them further.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Realigning a Pivot

The aftermath of the Massachusetts senate election has produced the predictable flood of punditry expounding on its import with a significant subset of opinion devoted to whether or not Obama should "realign" or perform a political "pivot" back toward the center. The most salient problem with that approach is that it is likely to enrage his progressive base and be entirely unconvincing to centrist and conservative skeptics. Regardless of the advisability of such a course I am not sure that it would even be possible for Obama to attempt.

Obama is a thoroughgoing creature of the modern Liberal weltanshaung, a perfectly adapted swimmer in the warm comforting sea of progressive pieties and emotions, and a shining exemplar of the near monolithic leftist intellectual certitude of the Academy. How can such a person consider even slight political movement in the direction of the reviled "Party of No"? The short answer is that he really can't and evidence is provided by his risible assertion that his programmatics have failed because he has neglected to keep the American people adequately informed of the exquisiteness of his legislative efforts. In effect he thinks that a sufficient number of rhetorical spoonfuls of sugar can still make the progressive medicine go down.

He's not that good. Is anyone that good? Is there a progressive Professor Harold Hill out there silver-tongued enough to sell the program to a still largely center-right voting population? Further is anyone good enough to not only sell the product but to sneak the sale past the legion of gimlet-eyed Mayor Shinns of conservative punditry? The NYT, WaPo, MSNBC, NPR barbershop quartet has proven ineffective in distracting the populace from the reality of the neo-Music Man's honeyed entreaties.

It appears that the public was fooled by the celebrity of Obama into ignoring his clear progressive tendencies and it also appears that in winning the election Obama was equally fooled into thinking that broad public approval for an historic expansion of government was finally at hand. A fickle public may, for a while, buy the Snake Oil but stands ever ready with the tar and feathers for national politicians of extremist bent. Just ask George Wallace and Ross Perot.

Pivoting towards the center will do little but bring out the pitchforks of the left and the sneers of the right and will send Obama's poll numbers ever southward. To be chastened or humbled by all this will require not a mere pivot or realignment but a wholesale abandonment of the effects of an entire lifetime spent basking in the comforting currents of the Tropic of Progressivism. That's about as likely as a clandestine love tryst involving Rush Limbaugh and Nancy Pelosi.

A lifelong doctrinaire progressive such as the prez tends to think of conservatives not as the opposition but as the enemy--an aggressive insurgency whose rhetorical IEDs threaten the ultimate triumph of the caring liberal educrat intelligentsia. Obama may extend a tentative olive branch to the GOP but I feel sure that gurgling away in his mind/triangulation computer are thoughts not of how they can be accommodated but rather how they can be cleverly co-opted and soothingly enticed away from the enemy camp. He will find that there really are differences that will fail to be reconciled. Selling the GOP on any part of a huge expansion of the power of the federal government will be a considerably tougher sell than merely getting folks to pull a lever in a voting booth.

Monday, January 18, 2010

On A Clear Day

There is an interesting piece in the latest Weekly Standard by James W. Ceaser titled "The Roots of Obama Worship". The central thesis involves Obama being an incarnation of Auguste Comte's Religion of Humanity. There's much to admire in the piece but a major quibble of mine would be Ceaser's contention that "His campaign, which was so brilliant in building enthusiasm and attracting support, did little to provide Americans with a clear idea of where he planned to take the country."

Bollocks. Obama's intentions were about as unclear as a mile wide asteroid strike, at least to myself not to mention legions of grumpy pundits who catalogued his bright colorful displays of progressivism and conservative bashing that were as just about as far from recondite as is humanly possible. The biggest problem was not Obama's alleged stealthiness but rather much of the general public's notion that for a candidate to be as un-Bush-like as possible was a cracking good idea.

Much of the public, bless their clueless little hearts, was determined to throw the rascals out so non-stop Bush and conservative bashing was what got and retained their attentions which by all appearances were oblivious to the steady drenching rain of promises to re-arrange the political landscape much more to the liking of progressives.

Obama's "intentions" were hidden only to the extent that the relentless drum beat and exaltation of the brain numbing "Hope and Change" malarky served as a masking camouflage for those unencumbered by the thought process. That it was camouflage of the most sheerly diaphanous sort did not seem to matter.

Cynics might say that this describes politics in general and bewildered liberal pundits made similar observations about the two previous national elections but the last cycle must be counted as a record setting exemplar of the phenomenon. Big time turnabout is fair play in this game and brother it is a corker. Primary evidence for it is that though it took some eight years for the public to become largely un-entranced by the Bush ascendancy the same has happened to Obama in a scant single turn of the calendar.

Secondary, and spectacular, evidence is illustrated by the possibility that a Republican might win (on date of writing this) the Senate seat vacated by the late Teddy K. This seat has been a virtual Democratic sinecure since the Cretaceous Era and even the faint likelihood of them losing it is nothing short of astounding. A clearer rebuke to donkeydom is difficult to imagine.

Awfully early for buyer's remorse to have set in but if political overreach is severe enough the counter reaction is usually just as severe. Overreach there may have been but those intentions were telegraphed at mega decibel levels during the campaign so it took grand prodigies of self-delusion to not take them at face value. The Obamanation has reacted, log-rolled, and legislated in 100 percent predictable fashion. If you'uns are surprised by all this then you're gonna have to take your dope slap in good humor and endeavor to peek a nanometer beneath the glossy surface of the next demagogue's soaring inspirhetoric in three, seven, eleven, or whatever years. Possibly the electorate's idiocy will be a bit less blithering in future but don't bet the grocery money on it.