Recently I read an essay by Juan Williams (not exactly a Tea Party guy) regarding a cabal of leftist university radicals who want to bully Dr. Condoleeza Rice into not appearing as commencement speaker at Rutgers. Never mind that she is far, far, far more accomplished in just about every way, and far more representative of the American Dream, than any of these intolerant, insular, ivory-tower lemmings of the left-wing mutual admiration club who sit there bereft of real-world American experience.
Rightfully, Williams supports Condi and opposes the leftists in this one. He states: “Before her commencement speech, I would like to see any of one of the members of faculty council debate Secretary Rice on foreign policy and then let their students see how well their professors’ critique holds up. Hell, how about we invite the entire faculty council to take their best shot at Secretary Rice in a debate.” Oh yeah…
You bet your backside I’d love to see that! The intellectual arse-whipping she could deliver to these pinheaded professors–slicing, dicing and Ricing them every which way, all while perfectly at ease and with her typically plainspoken yet deeply insightful delivery…I’m practically foaming at the possibilities. I suspect part of the angst is that they’re just intimidated by her–or more precisely, the ideas and understanding that she represents and elucidates so expertly.
Another, bigger truth behind these protests boils down to something else Williams states with his typical bluntness: “I am not a conservative but I have spoken out for years against the staggering amount of blind hatred directed at black conservatives by liberals.” Jackpot! The daylight shines on the problem right there.
The headline, asks, “Why do liberals have so much hate for black conservatives?” I know the answer–because they and other increasingly well-known racial-minority conservatives (e.g., Hispanics like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio) are highly intelligent, achievement-oriented, independent thinkers who don’t tow the leftist company line. By their life examples, these thinkers resoundingly discredit the leftists’ stereotypes of how they should act and believe a certain way, based on their skin color. They’re not blindly following the talking points of patronizing ideological dogma dictated to them as mandatory by the so-called “progressives”.
Contrary to the spin they want you to buy, leftists value independent thinking as long as it’s not independent from their own. A white male conservative (especially if Christian) is easily and stereotypically dismissed: old fuddy-duddy, out of touch, product of a bygone era, past his expiration date, on the wrong side of history, homophobe, god-idiot, wingnut, tea-bagger, and other empty-headed pejorative concoctions that reveal their own shameless hate and bigotry.
An outspoken, white, female conservative, such as Sarah Palin, Laura Ingraham, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, etc., simply cannot be allowed the tiniest crumb of credit in their minds. She is slapped with the label of bimbo, bitch, kept-woman, or any number of other misogynist catcalls that play to the stereotype that a lady can’t be pretty and intelligent at the same time (or horror of horrors–pretty, intelligent and conservative at the same time). Leftist sexism, unfortunately, is alive and well across America today! Most ironically and hypocritically, self-proclaimed feminists often are at the very head of that hate line.
Yet it seems the left’s greatest vitriol is reserved for the minority conservative–especially if he or she is black. Why? To me, it is blindingly obvious: a palpable aura of plantation racism–yes, racism–lurks behind the leftist message that says, “You, as a minority, have to think like us to be intelligent, to be legitimate, to be a credible activist.” A black-female conservative? The very concept doesn’t register with leftists, as if her very existence is impossible; their synapses suffer “!DIV/0″ errors and the best they can do is shout “Uncle Tom! Wait, she’s a she…Aunt Tom! Wait, that doesn’t work…Aunt Tomette…wait, that’s lame too…like, you know, uh…what do we do?”
I have an answer to that question too: shut up and listen. When such a conservative speaks, her message is authentic, meaningful, and represents a real phenomenon that soon will roar forth at the forefront of American sociopolitics. In the meantime…enough! I call on leftists to stop this coded (and sometimes uncoded) racism and sexism of minority and female conservatives. Of course, many won’t, and as a result, the “wrong side of history” label they love to wield will end up stuck on their own backs like a giant “KICK ME” sign. Hey leftists: how will it feel to be on the receiving end, to get a dose of your own medicine? Can you take it as well as you dish it out?
As for me: I stand by Condi Rice! I stand by Dr. Ben Carson! I stand by Colonel Allen West! I stand by JC Watts! I stand by Mia Love! I stand by TW Shannon! I stand by Dr. Carol Swain! I stand by Tim Scott! I stand by Clarence Thomas! I stand by Thomas Sowell! I wholeheartedly support all of these and others, because many rose from impoverished backgrounds (as I can relate). As such, they truly understand (instead of just paying lip service to) the meaning of virtues such as thrift, work ethic, self-sufficiency, honor, patriotism, wholesome family values, service to God and country, the nobility of fatherhood, avoiding the addiction of governmental dependency, and building/rebuilding America from the bottom up with minimal involvement from distant, faceless, ignorant Washington bureaucrats.
I’m proud that these men and women are fellow conservatives. I look defiantly, eye to eye with steely determination, directly in the face of naysayers, while reminding them that I care not a bit what the “progressives” think of me as a result of the conservative ideals we represent. I’ve picked my side of this argument, long ago, and there is no looking back. Instead…onward with the most truly progressive solution: conservatism. As I did physically on the playground, I refuse to be pushed around ideologically. Test me if you dare.
We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.
— C.S. Lewis
Wind farms: I’ve got mixed sentiments about them. They can and do extract relatively clean and easy energy that’s renewable on a daily basis–it’s basically solar energy converted by the atmosphere to kinetic. The energy isn’t simply “lost” by the atmosphere, since the sun will supply more of its own power to be translated to wind tomorrow.
Turbines, and clusters thereof, can be an absolute eyesore in some settings, rather photogenic in others, sometimes even in the same setting under different circumstances. Besides, what’s an eyesore or beautiful is completely subjective; without very intense community consensus one way or the other, this should not be a decision factor.
Bird kills by these turbines sadden me, especially with raptors. Is it acceptable “collateral damage”? That’s hard to say. It probably depends on whether the population can be increased through other means (e.g., habitat gains, rehab efforts) for a net gain. There are some fairly easy strategies that can help, especially for bats.
Yet let’s not be delusional that other “clean” energy is guilt-free on the animal-impact front. Solar arrays can disrupt and kill wildlife too. So can hydroelectricity in some instances. Those are two other common forms of natural, “clean” energy, each of whose hardware takes energy to design, manufacture and install. Let’s be real–there is no loss-free energy form with respect to wildlife. Pick your poison.
I’ve long been a strong supporter of nuclear energy in the U.S., especially now that the technology to keep them secure and safer is so much advanced over the 1960s/70s when most existing plants were built (and those have a remarkable track record in this country…Fukushima and Chernobyl being stupidly built and sited overseas). Still, its drawbacks (namely waste disposal and fuel security point-to-point) are duly acknowledged. Nuclear power must be a part of the U.S. energy portfolio, and if the desired outcome is lowered particulate and/or carbon emission, it has to be a much bigger player than presently. Even some formerly strident anti-nuke greens have backed off, changed their minds and decided nuclear is at least a lesser-of-evils option, if not outright good.
Fossil fuels are demonized continually, sometimes (but not always) justifiably. Let’s be real–for energy affordabilty’s sake, they MUST continue to be mined to serve as a bridge to more long-term energy sources of the future. Otherwise costs go even higher than now and the economy (including tens of millions of poor) suffer from said high prices.
Any regulatory measures that ratchet gasoline taxes, base prices, or (relatively) clean-coal costs up will affect the poorest folks disproportionately–a factor conveniently ignored by the most ardent zealots of at-any-cost “green” energy. As someone who actually has lived in the American version of poverty and therefore has first-hand understanding of it, I see that the latte-sipping, city-slicker eco-hipsters have no clue about living for many years in a state of financial duress severe enough that every nickel of higher fuel, transportation and goods costs, or larger electric bills, makes a big difference in whether or not rent is paid this month. Those who propose measures that yield big energy-cost increases aren’t the folks greatly affected! Hence, the costs to the poor get lip service and are merely treated as collateral damage to the napalm bomb of energy-price increases.
Conservation? That’s great! I like it! We all should rally around this ethic regardless of sociopolitical affiliation, but especially if we call ourselves conservative. To me, a central part of being conservative means to conserve…and that includes energy. If we use more here, we should offset with less there. It’s a simple concept. Somehow, too few fellow political conservatives are onboard with this.
As noble as it is morally, conservation will delay energy crises and mute their intensity, but not eliminate them. Demand outpaces conservation as long as technological (e.g. huge servers) and plugged-in population (India, China) are exploding. Even with a mass infusion and market-driven cost lowering of more “green” energy sources, some of the current ways rightfully will take time to draw down because of their own low cost and pre-existing infrastructure. It’s not as simple as, “out with the old, in with the new.”
In short, there is no fail-safe, completely harmless energy panacea–not unless you become an unsociable hermit, entirely off-grid and 100% self-reliant somewhere on the side of a mountain with a dependable water supply. A big, diverse ensemble of energy sources is the best mass-societal approach, and whether we like it or not, that will include wind and some substantial components of fossil fuels for the foreseeable future. As with the others, we’ll have to figure out how to reduce their bad effects (e.g., killing wildlife with blades and spills, respectively) while enhancing their good ones.
Wind farms are here to stay. That’s reality. Most of the time I like them, sometimes not. It doesn’t matter. As long as those turbines are out there, I’ll be finding ways to incorporate them into photogenic compositions. Sometimes they’ll even experience too much wind, whereupon I try to witness the ensuing spectacle, once again…
Photo courtesy Georgia D.o.T.
A horrendous winter-weather debacle unfolded in Atlanta and a few other Southeastern cities two nights ago, far, far out of proportion to the puny total of precipitation that fell. Less then three inches of snow basically paralyzed a metro area. As I got wind of this, and as a professional meteorologist with an unnamed entity that I’m not representing here, I couldn’t help but think, “Why”?
Notice the question isn’t, “Who is to blame?”, but is the more fair and balanced, “Why?” That’s a deliberate distinction. Asking questions, trying to get to the bottom of things, and finding holes in the Integrated Warning System that lead to disasters, is not the same as blaming. If you can’t understand the difference, stop reading right now. The rest will make no sense.
Being an atmospheric scientist and forecaster by trade, my first inclination was to look at the available public- and private-sector predictions for the event. My impression was they, while not perfect, they generally were very good–including and especially the forecasts from NWS Peachtree City. Contrary to the impulsive, borderline slanderous scapegoating by the Georgia governor and city officials, with no understanding or justification of how forecasting uncertainty works, I came away with the impression that an extremely difficult forecast was performed fairly well. This story on the backlash from some private-sector meteorologists illustrates that well.
Were all the forecasts from all sources good? Probably not. James Spann, Birmingham TV meteorologist for whom I have a great deal of respect, perhaps was too hard on himself when he said, “Days like yesterday, unfortunately, are part of my job. There have been bad forecasts in the past, and there will be bad ones in the future. Football coaches don’t win every game, and we don’t get every forecast right. But, when you lose, you do deep study into what went wrong, and work to be sure it doesn’t happen again.” The undercurrent there, however, is that forecasting cannot be totally right; and to expect perfection is just plain stupid. Please understand a key part of what James stated: There will be bad ones in the future. His ethic of learning and improvement is exactly the right attitude to take–not only in weather forecasting, but in preparedness for bad weather (more on that below).
Meanwhile this quote from Nathan Deal illustrates the problem that politics causes: “If we closed the city of Atlanta and our interstate system based on maybes, then we would not be a very productive government or a city. We can’t do it based on the maybes.” News flash, Nathan: forecasting necessarily involves maybes. It’s called uncertainty, and is unavoidable in forecasting. Get used to it, and plan accordingly, instead of complaining about forecasters failing to meet impossible standards of perfection.
While those ignorant blowhard politicians thunder their hollow indignation across the TV screen and throw the local NWS under the bus, I’d like to put Peachtree City up for a medal. Although not a forecaster by trade, Marshall Shepherd offered a hugely appreciated and very well-reasoned summary of the problem, including a strong message of thanks to the forecasters. So…thank you, Marshall. You beat me to a lot of the same points, and saved this BLOG entry from being even longer than it already is.
To that, there’s little I can add regarding the forecasting. A better predictive performance with such a hard and uncommon (for them) type of event as a sub-mesoscale northern edge of a snow band–especially more than a few hours out (when a winter storm warning was in effect)–would be demanding the unreasonable. Alas, because the response to the event and the resulting impact thereof each were so ghastly (which is out of control of the meteorologists), such an award isn’t likely to happen. That’s a shame.
Response and preparedness–which are two different but interlocking facets of the Integrated Warning System–absolutely do matter! The readiness in Atlanta, both governmentally and on individual levels multiplied by hundreds of thousands, was nothing short of wretched. Even in Dallas, San Antonio and Houston–cities of roughly similar metro populations as ATL that are farther south in latitude–hasn’t experienced an ordeal like that in their winter-weather events. Could it be that even in those places, just enough folks know to cancel plans in advance when winter weather is forecast?
Vehicular traffic is horrid in Atlanta on many a fair-weather day, and just one or two well-misplaced wrecks can render the situation FUBAR. Have you looked at a road map of that place? There are hardly any gridded, straightforward alternative routes to the freeway system, which itself looks like twisted noodles. Throw hundreds of thousands of vehicles onto that nonsensically chaotic spaghetti diagram at once, and into conditions for which few of their drivers are individually experienced or prepared, with essentially no pre-treatment or treatment of roads thanks to lack of suitable equipment, material and foresight at the civic level, and voila! You get what they got. In such gridlock, with the cars that can spin their wheels going nowhere in the process, the situation goes from FUBAR for a couple of hours to unprecedented and dangerous stasis. This was preventable.
Individuals: There is individual responsibility in this! Be aware of the forecast–the very latest forecast, since they can and do and should change as the event gets closer. Pay heed. If you’re inexperienced at driving on ice and snow, then don’t drive in ice and snow. Stay at home. Leave the roads clear for those who really need to be out there. If already at work, stay there awhile and let things clear up–it’s a warm place and beats sitting in traffic the same amount of time or longer with a hundred thousand other lemmings, burning gobs of fuel, stressing over being stuck, risking hypothermia should the need to evacuate the vehicle arise, and potentially being hit by idiots sliding into you.
State and local governments: All disasters are local. This means it’s up to you to be ready–not 1-3 days before, but months before. It’s not up to forecasters to do the impossible and tell you exact snow depths tomorrow down to the block and lot. You have to make decisions based on uncertainty! Deal with it…that’s your job. Maybe it’s not “cost-effective” for a big southern city that does get pretty cold sometimes to have access to lots of sand and salt trucks, and the sand and salt to go therein, and a strategic contingency plan with short-fused, priority-driven disbursement of the vehicles and material. Fine–don’t complain, then, when the cost/benefit ratio you so carefully weighed turns out to be wrong and comes back to bite you hard. Learn from this and quit trying to play childish blame games. Cooperate across city and county and school-district borders instead of myopically operating as insular little fiefdoms; the North-Central Texas Council of Governments (“230 member governments including 16 counties, numerous cities, school districts, and special districts”) is a great template to follow! Finally, emergency management exists for a reason, and this qualifies as an emergency. Make use of that expertise already located right under your noses.
Politicians: Admit your mistakes, for once, in a very specific manner, with clearly stated plans for how you’re not going to repeat them. Quit trying to blame those least deserving of it (and as public servants, least in a position to defend themselves). The Ray Nagin school of blame-shifting should have been closed long ago.
Media: You are the mainline communicators between meteorology and the public. I have one “don’t” and a lot more “do’s” here. Don’t give mixed signals, multiple model forecasts, and other confusing messages. Do keep it clear and straightforward. Do express uncertainty, and use that to convey the “better safe than sorry” message. Do keep up with changes in the forecast, because uncertainty mostly tends to shrink as the event gets closer. Do everything possible to encourage caution, safety and preventative avoidance of the roadways in a winter-storm scenario.
Forecasters: You (we) did well, overall. Not perfectly, but under the circumstances, not bad either. We all can learn and improve from this event, as James alluded. Remember: there’s more to consistently reliable forecasting than just models. Some folks actually hand-analyze surface and upper-air charts, investigate satellite imagery, examine and modify real soundings, and perform other physically insightful diagnostics of the actual atmosphere before ever invoking the prognostic models. Thorough analysis is the difference between merely seeing and truly understanding. This is also part of Snellman’s “Forecast Funnel” approach and is time-tested. The day we let the models do our jobs for us is the day those jobs can be automated.
This event was a woeful concatenation of misfortunes: natural forecast uncertainty, unprepared and ignorant individuals times hundreds of thousands, communications failures, badly designed transportation options, terribly ill-prepared governmental entities, and the worst timing of a snow event with respect to a weekday commuting scenario. The bottom line: Winter weather is only as bad as your preparedness for it. Take heed, Atlanta, and do it better next time. Let’s all learn from this, lest it be repeated.