March 19, 2012

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Charles Krauthammer looks at the president’s energy ideas.

… Obama offers what he fancies to be the fuels of the future. You would think that he’d be a tad more modest today about his powers of divination after the Solyndra bankruptcy, the collapse of government-subsidized Ener1 (past makers of the batteries of the future) and GM’s suspension of production — for lack of demand — of another federally dictated confection, the flammable Chevy Volt.

Deterred? Hardly. Our undaunted seer of the energy future has come up with his own miracle fuel: algae.

Why, explained Obama, “we can grow it right here in the United States.” (Sounds like a miraculous local find — except that it grows just about everywhere on earth.) Accordingly, yet another $14 million of taxpayer money will be sprinkled on algae research by Steven Chu’s Energy Department.

This is the very same Dr. Chu who famously said in 2008 that he wanted U.S. gas prices to rise to European levels of $8-$10 a gallon — and who on Tuesday, eight months before Election Day, publicly recanted before Congress, Galileo-style.

Who do they think they’re fooling? An oil crisis looms, prices are spiking — and our president is extolling algae. After Solyndra, Keystone and promises of seaweed in their gas tanks, Americans sense a president so ideologically antipathetic to fossil fuels — which we possess in staggering abundance — that he is utterly unserious about the real world of oil in which the rest of us live.

High gasoline prices are a major political problem for Obama. They are not just a pain at the pump, however. They are a constant reminder of three years of a rigid, fatuous, fantasy-driven energy policy that has rendered us scandalously dependent and excessively vulnerable.


Mark Steyn has a take on the Rutherford Hays flap.

… Delivering his big speech on energy at Prince George’s Community College, he insisted the American economy will be going gangbusters again just as soon as we start running it on algae and windmills. He noted that, as with Wilbur and his brother, there were those inclined to titter:

“Let me tell you something. If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail – [Laughter] – they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society [Laughter]. They would not have believed that the world was round [Applause]. We’ve heard these folks in the past. They probably would have agreed with one of the pioneers of the radio who said, ‘Television won’t last. It’s a flash in the pan’ [Laughter]. One of Henry Ford’s advisers was quoted as saying, ‘The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a fad’ [Laughter].”

The crowd loved it. But President Algae Solyndra wasn’t done:

“There always have been folks who are the naysayers and don’t believe in the future, and don’t believe in trying to do things differently. One of my predecessors, Rutherford B. Hayes, reportedly said about the telephone, ‘It’s a great invention, but who would ever want to use one?’ [Laughter]. That’s why he’s not on Mount Rushmore – [laughter and applause] – because he’s looking backwards. He’s not looking forwards [Applause]. He’s explaining why we can’t do something, instead of why we can do something.”

It fell to Nan Card of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Ohio to inform the website Talking Points Memo that the quotation was apocryphal. Hayes had the first telephone in the White House, and the first typewriter, and Edison visited him to demonstrate the phonograph.

But obviously Rutherford B. Hayes isn’t as “forward-looking” as a 21st century president who believes in Jimmy Carter malaise, 1970s Eurostatist industrial policy, 1940s British health care reforms, 1930s New Deal-size entitlements premised on mid-20th century birth rates and life expectancy, and all paid for by a budget with more zeroes than anybody’s seen since the Weimar Republic. ……

… It’s not clear why it (A great nation) needs a smug over-credentialed President Solyndra to recycle “Crowd-Pleasing For Dummies” as a keynote address.

They all laughed at Christopher Columbus, they all laughed at Edison… How does that song continue? “They laughed at me…”

At Prince George’s Community College they didn’t. But history will, and they will laugh at us for ever taking him seriously.


Jennifer Rubin has more.

For a guy touted as an “intellectual,” President Obama does get a lot of history wrong. In a speech attacking Republicans as “flat-earthers” Obama asserted: “One of my predecessors, Rutherford B. Hayes, reportedly said about the telephone, ‘It’s a great invention, but who would ever want to use one?’ That’s why he’s not on Mount Rushmore because he’s looking backwards. He’s not looking forwards. He’s explaining why we can’t do something, instead of why we can do something.” The Post’s Glenn Kessler easily nails him with four Pinocchios for his slur on Hayes:

‘ Hayes, in fact, was such a technology buff that he installed the first telephone in the White House. A list of telephone subscribers published in the article “The Telephones Comes to Washington,” by Richard T. Loomis, shows that the White House was given the number “1.” . . .

Note that Hayes first tried the “wonderful” telephone at the end of June, and then had it installed in the White House just four months later. So, rather than “not looking forwards,” as Obama put it, Hayes quickly embraced the new technology. . . . ‘ …


Thomas Sowell examines another area where the president knows lots of things that are not so.

… As a full professor at the Harvard law school, Derrick Bell was also surrounded by colleagues who were out of his league as academic scholars. What were his options at this point?

If he played it straight, he could not expect to command the respect of either faculty or students at the Harvard law school — or, more important, his own self-respect. Bell himself admitted that he did not have the scholarly credentials that most full professors at the Harvard law school have.

There were no doubt other law schools where he would have been a respected colleague, but these were not Stanford or Harvard. Yet it is worth remembering that millions of people have led happy and fulfilling lives without ever being at Harvard or Stanford.

Derrick Bell’s options were to be a nobody, living in the shadow of more accomplished legal scholars — or to go off on some wild tangent of his own, and appeal to a radical racial constituency on campus and beyond.

His writings showed clearly that the latter was the path he chose. His previous writings had been those of a sensible man saying sensible things about civil rights issues that he understood from his years of experience as an attorney. But now he wrote all sorts of incoherent speculations and pronouncements, the main drift of which was that white people were the cause of black people’s problems.

Bell even said that he took it as his mission to say things to annoy white people. Perhaps he thought that was better than being insignificant in his academic setting. But it was in fact far worse, because the real damage was to impressionable young blacks who took him seriously, including one who went on to become President of the United States.


Abby Thernstrom says Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act may soon get the ax.

Minority-voting-rights activists are all aflutter over the possibility that the Supreme Court will soon hold an important section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act unconstitutional — or at least in need of drastic modification. Section 5 is the provision whose life may be on the line. It gives federal authorities the power to veto proposed new methods of voting in what are called “covered jurisdictions” — almost all of them in the South — if they see them as racially suspect. That constitutionally extraordinary power may not survive a new round of close judicial scrutiny — although the Court’s view of Section 5 may end up being quite irrelevant to the long-run fate of the provision.

When a districting map, newly drawn after a decennial census, does not meet with federal approval (and is thus not “precleared”), state legislators must start again and draw lines that increase the odds that minority voters will have the ability to elect the candidates of their choice. Courts have described the revised, racially gerrymandered districts as resembling a “Rorschach ink-blot test” or a “bug splattered on a windshield.” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, among others, has labeled them “segregated.” Their race-conscious contours are designed to separate whites from blacks or Hispanics in an effort to protect minority candidates from white competition in contests for legislative office. The result is that seats are reserved for minority officeholders: De facto racial quotas are created on legislative bodies, on the assumption that only black and Hispanic legislators can authentically speak for minority interests.

Although Hispanics as well as blacks are covered by Section 5, ensuring a political voice for blacks has always been the main concern. Yet what the ACLU has called “max-black” districting is possible only if black voters remain residentially concentrated enough to allow the creation of constituencies in which blacks are a majority. If a significant number of black families escape inner-city Chicago, for example, and move to suburban Oak Park, it’s no longer so easy to draw lines that promise minority voters a safe seat for the candidates of their choice, assumed to be almost always black or Hispanic. And in fact, neither blacks nor Hispanics are staying put. Their residential mobility and resulting residential integration — which civil-rights groups would normally applaud — is a problem for voting-rights activists.

In 1960, just 15.2 percent of blacks lived in a suburb, while today — strikingly — a majority of blacks (51 percent) who live in the 100 largest metropolitan areas reside in the suburbs rather than the central city. Over the 1990s, the total number of blacks declined in eight of the 25 cities with the largest black populations, and between 2000 and 2010, black flight occurred in 16 of the 25. …

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