TCS Daily

Worshipping the Frozen Cocytus

By Nick Schulz - March 29, 2002 12:00 AM

The Los Angeles Times this week said that President Bush has an "obsession" with drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Now, this is an amazing, howling hypocrisy. The barren, desolate, inhospitable sliver of ANWR that has been targeted for resource exploration has played Jodie Foster to the environmental left's (and especially the Los Angeles Times edit page's) John Hinckley - it's an unhealthy fixation that clouds all reasonable judgment.

To get a sense of how weird the obsession over this refrigerated Cocytus is, take a look at these pictures snapped by someone who has actually been there, National Review's amateur photographer turned professional scribbling pugilist, Jonah Goldberg:

Ah... The... Great... Outdoors.

Energetic Foes - As ANWR demonstrates, energy issues make for terrific political kabuki. Consider the Bush administration's comprehensive energy plan. Just this week the White House was reeling from press reports that it didn't consult with environmental groups when crafting its energy plan. They did meet with big donors from the energy sector, however.

Now, let's give the administration its deserved lumps. Politically speaking, the administration was stupid, careless, or lazy. They had to know they were going to catch heat for whatever they did on energy policy, so they should have at least gathered all of the green groups into a room for a grand photo op coffee klatch and let them throw rhetorical tomatoes at Spence Abraham and Dick Cheney. If they weren't going to listen to them anyway, they at least could have gone through the publicity motions, as the Clinton administration often did. ("You're right, we can't drill our way to energy independence. Thanks for your input. I'm late for lunch with Ken Lay. B'bye.")

But the White House's political stupidity doesn't excuse the press -- the Washington Times being the one notable exception -- for being thoroughly irresponsible in its coverage of the administration's outreach to the greens and on energy issues in general. The press often likes to portray the world as a Manichean universe with noble, courageous environmentalists on the one hand and greedy, reckless energy producers on the other. The least reporters could do is extend their caricature. After all, at a minimum, there are noble environmentalists, reckless energy producers, PLUS wasteful suburban SUV driving soccer moms demanding cheap gas (otherwise known as "consumers"). But the press is so hell-bent on presenting a neat-and-tidy account of a two-sided energy debate, it crowds out a more nuanced and balanced portrait of the nation's energy needs and how they will be met.

Lessons Learned the Hard Way -- That said, the administration did learn something valuable, namely, that no matter what it does just doesn't matter. Listening to green groups doesn't assuage those groups, a lesson the administration found out last month when it abandoned principle and bowed to environmentalist pressure, agreeing to promote "voluntary" restrictions on carbon emissions in an effort to combat climate change. In return for its consideration, the administration was pilloried by greens for not going far enough. The administration is damned if it does heed their advice, and damned if it doesn't.

Which ought to teach the administration the most important lesson of all -- stick to your guns and act on principle. You are going to get unfairly savaged by greens and their lapdogs in the press anyway, so you might as well have something to show for it by doing the right thing.

'Fall of the Berlin Wall' -- There was some good news coming from the Indian sub-continent this week, the first good news out of there in recent memory. According to a report in the New Scientist, "India has become the latest developing country to embrace genetically modified crops, following government approval of cotton engineered to produce a bacterial toxin." How big a deal is this? One farmer told the magazine, "This is like the fall of the Berlin Wall for Indian agriculture... Farmers have been deprived of new technology for a long time but now they will have access to it."

We're Congress and We're Corrupt! -- Meanwhile, the president signed the campaign finance overhaul this week.

Let's be clear. This was the silliest piece of legislation that has crossed a president's desk in decades. Only in Washington could it be considered "courageous" for politicians to affirm a piece of legislation that has at its core the following logic: Politicians are pathologically venal and corrupt and need to be saved from themselves; voters are chronically stupid and can't be trusted to make intelligent judgments on their own.

The most egregious aspect of the legislation is that it allows corporate-owned press entities (such as The New York Times/Sulzbergers or Fox/News Corp./Rupert Murdoch or theWall Street Journal/Dow Jones or ABC/Disney/Michael Eisner) to monopolize political speech in the days leading up to an election. In other words, one special interest group with scores of issues before federal legislators and regulators is allowed to dominate political speech while every other group, interest, company, or organization is silenced. Why is this acceptable?

Good Tunes -- The delightfully funny TCS contributor Dave Shiflett has a new CD out. Do yourself a favor and buy one.

URL Next Door -- Lastly, the TCS editors will each week highlight a website that we think is particularly cool or useful or both. This week we'd like to direct your attention to Corante, a site that filters all the technology news on the web on a daily basis and provides you everything you'd ever need to know. This site is that rare find on the web - an indispensable resource worth checking every day.

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