Category Archives: Henninger

Wildfire Sanity. Why’d it take this long?

I guess painful loss creates an incentive, and incentives matter. mrossol.

WSJ – 9/15/2020. by Daniel Henninger

Wow. Overnight, apparently there’s nobody who does not understand that climate policy is not an answer to California’s wildfire crisis.

Even the do-gooder, nonprofit news group ProPublica plaintively asks in a headline, “They Know How to Prevent Megafires. Why Won’t Anybody Listen?” The article goes on to assert: “The pattern is a form of insanity: We keep doing overzealous fire suppression across California landscapes where the fire poses little risk to people and structures. As a result, wildland fuels keep building up.”

I guess when thousands of people might be burned out of their homes, it concentrates the mind.

But then why was California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s most quoted response to the fires “Never have I felt more of a sense of obligation . . .to face climate change head on”?

Confusion abounds. One admirable New York Times article makes clear the immediate answer does not lie in climate policy: “Millions of Americans are moving into wildfire-prone areas outside of cities, and communities often resist restrictions on development. A century of federal policy to aggressively extinguish all wildfires rather than letting some burn at low levels, an approach now seen as misguided, has left forests with plenty of fuel for especially destructive blazes.”

But another Times article on the same day insists that “the mechanism driving the wildfire crisis is straightforward: Human behavior, chiefly the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil.”

Such sentences are a counsel purely of despair. People who take an interest in global warming can only conclude fires are unstoppable and must be endured as a result of our accumulated planet sins.

I promise no long foray into social psychology, but take the most textbook finding of behavioral economics: “prospect theory,” or the observed tendency of human beings irrationally to overvalue a bird in the hand vs. multiple birds in the bush.

 

This discovery really tells us that people, in their mind’s eye, overweight a potential loss against a potential gain because the loss might be visible to others. Human beings are intensely social creatures even in the ways they systematically misconstrue their own interests. This is also why it’s such an enormous, heavy lift to get past virtue-signaling before we can speak rationally about key matters. We have to spend 20 minutes talking about climate change before we can spend one minute talking about policies that would actually affect wildfires.

But, as I say, their houses burning down are an incentive for people to grow up.

A bit of history: It’s been nearly 32 years since climate change became a mainstream political cause—I date the beginning to then-NASA scientist James Hansen’s public fight with the first Bush White House in 1989. In the decades that followed, as nature dictates, climate politics became institutionalized. Institutionalized means interest groups and business lobbies becoming self-sustaining based on the money that climate fears generate. A cynic might note that during this time the world’s greenhouse emissions rose more steeply than ever. Problems that become institutionalized aren’t solved. They become a multigenerational meal ticket by not being solved.

And yet 32 years have taught us a few things. It was always implausible that the world’s politicians and electorates would require their economies to forgo the advantages of fossil fuels and so it has proved. But we also have discovered a lot about the likely track of future emissions. The world seems to be adhering to RCP 4.5, the second-lowest of the CO2 scenarios sketched by scientists. And not because of penny-ante handouts to solar panels and electric cars, but because of very large social and economic megatrends: urbanization, slower population growth, a shift to service- and digitally-based economies, advancing technology and a declining energy intensity of GDP. One example: Fracking led to a multiyear decline in U.S. greenhouse gas output. Last year, before the pandemic hit, global emissions would have been flat if not for China’s.

Though this column has frequently mentioned the virtues of a carbon tax, nothing is more important for climate change than making sure this socioeconomic progress continues.

Progress in politics is harder to come by, but I can point to some. In the past 24 months, it likely has become impossible for government and private agencies to continue peddling dire climate forecasts, as they have in recent years, based on an unrealistic, worst-case RCP 8.5 emissions scenario.

A surprising thing has happened: Even greens have become embarrassed at the institutionalized dishonesty of such forecasts. (I cited a significant example in a column here in January.)

If we can start being rational about fire-suppression policy, we can start being rational about climate change too.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/finally-wildfire-sanity-11599856913?mod=opinion_featst_pos2

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Progressives to Cities: Drop Dead

“There is no reason for the president to send federal troops into a city where people are demanding change peacefully and respectfully.” Joe Biden. (Which city is he looking at?)

7/22/2020. WSJ by Daniel Henninger

On Tuesday the New York City sky was clear, blue and filled with sunshine. That’s it for this week’s good news. We turn now to Portland, Ore.; Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco and all of America’s other seemingly Godforsaken cities.

President Trump watches a lot of television, so he’s seeing the same daily urban nightmares we’re seeing. It’s hard not to sympathize with his instinct to send in federal authorities to restore civil order to cities like Portland, as he proposed Wednesday with the expansion of an urban anticrime initiative called Operation Legend to Chicago and Albuquerque.

It’s equally hard to disagree that, other than protecting federal facilities, Mr. Trump should let all of these smug Portlandia American cities stew in their own juices.

I loved it when Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, said the federal presence “is actually leading to more violence and more vandalism.” Where’s Groucho Marx when we need him to make sense of nonsense?

 

Still, no matter one’s politics, it is sickening to see this happening to any U.S. city—mobs hammering and burning buildings along Portland’s streets and then a carbon-copy mob battering Seattle.

Days before, we’d watched video of two groups of police beaten bloody on the Brooklyn Bridge. Days later 15 people were wounded in a gun battle at a Chicago funeral for the victim of a drive-by gang shooting.

There is a serious matter of civil order at issue here, but if you can look beyond the mayhem, something else quite sad is happening. The irrepressible vitality of these cities—their reason for being—is disappearing, undone by pandemic, lockdowns and a new culture of permanent protest.

For years, I’ve been on the email list of Spike Wilner, the owner-founder of two jewel-like jazz clubs in New York’s Greenwich Village—Small’s and Mezzrow. Mr. Wilner’s weekly paeans to jazz and the people who play it are always a good, diverting read. This week’s email was different. Here is a chunk of it, because he’s got the city exactly right:

 

“It’s hard to describe but the feeling is gone, the vibe absent. The thing that made New York, New York is missing. What’s it like now?

“It’s very tense. People are very anxious and angry. Everything is closed or, if open, listless. There is no nightlife. If you leave your apartment after 9 p.m. it’s a complete ghost town inhabited by wraiths and zombies, dangerous people. . . . In certain parts of town you have a mob of folks partying outside, like a street fair. Other folks keep their masks tightly on and live in fear. The only place I’ve found some civility and warmth is the city playgrounds where I take my daughter each day. The children are oblivious to the pandemic and just play and climb.”

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Outside wartime, with bombardments turning blocks into rubble, I’m hard put to think of any precedent for what is happening to these U.S. cities now. The enforced pandemic closures and isolation were bad enough. But the endless protests—with their instinct to violence and atmosphere of dread—have broken the spirit of many cities.

The political story of the 2016 presidential election was Donald Trump’s identification of overlooked lower-middle-class white voters in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. A new political division may be taking place now in big cities—between progressive elites and working-class residents, primarily the people who own or work for the storefront businesses that are the lifeblood of these cities.

A story recently in Crain’s New York Business described how the outdoor dining tables of restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen on Manhattan’s West Side are overrun by disturbed or half-dressed beggars, whom Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has housed in nearby hotels. Said one restaurant owner: “Every bit of progress this neighborhood has made over the years is stepping backwards.”

 

During New York’s 1970s financial crisis, the Daily News ran a famous headline about then-President Gerald Ford —“Ford to City: Drop Dead.” Here’s the update—“Progressives to Cities: Drop Dead.”

People living and working in these cities, most of whom consider themselves liberal, are being sold out by progressive politicians and activists blinded by politics to the quality of daily life.

Progressive prosecutors refuse to prosecute. Cops are holding back because progressive mayors and governors don’t have their backs.

Responding to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s directive that no alcohol can be served without food, many bar owners say they won’t survive. The state’s Labor Department just reported an unemployment rate in the Bronx of 24.7%, Depression level.

The progressive ruin of major cities inhabited by liberals is a significant political event. Consequences that might have emerged over years have been compressed into months by the pandemic and protests.

It is doubtful many will check the box for Mr. Trump in November, but who knows? Their alternative is Joe Biden, whose contribution to the urban chaos this week was: “There is no reason for the president to send federal troops into a city where people are demanding change peacefully and respectfully.” Which city is he looking at?

Write henninger@wsj.com.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/progressives-to-cities-drop-dead-11595458490?mod=trending_now_pos5

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Oh Yes, Ban the Redskins

Yep, this is where the spineless are “dragging” us. mrossol

7/16/2020 WSJ by Daniel Henninger

The Washington Redskins logo on the team’s home field in Landover, Md., Aug. 28, 2009.

PHOTO: NICK WASS/ASSOCIATED PRESS

For now, the Washington Redskins are just the Washington Something or Others, a team with no name. After holding out for years against the inertial forces of political correctness, the Washington football team caved. Hmm, maybe “caved” is inappropriate language now. They gave up.

You knew the Redskins were done as soon as Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream said it was dropping Eskimo Pie so the company could be “part of the solution on racial equality.” When I was growing up, Eskimo Pie always made me think Eskimos were great. But what did I know?

I’ve been fighting the team-name wars for years, most recently over baseball commissioner Rob Manfred’s goofy suppression of the Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo.

You have to know when you’re licked. Sorry, wrong word. I mean beaten. Double-sorry; no one should be beaten. I mean defeated. I am defeated. Instead of complaining about the Redskins, it’s time to get ahead of the logo posse and eliminate a lot of really terrible sports-team names. Many of these teams probably think there’s no way their names would offend anyone. They are about to find out how wrong they are.

 

First we get rid of the low-hanging, already rotting fruit: The Chicago White Sox, the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Browns. White, red, brown and black are unspeakable and unthinkable colors now—for anything. The Chicago Green Sox would be ok. Many pro athletes are weirdly attracted to the color pink, so the Boston Pink Sox would work.

Clevelanders will object that even if most people under 20-years-old think the Cleveland Browns offends the race gods, the Browns are named after team founder Paul Brown, who, as luck would have it, was a white guy. The easiest solution would be to abolish the Browns once and for all. Who would notice?

Sing “hey hey, goodbye” to any team whose name suggests centuries of systemic privilege: the Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Kings, Sacramento Kings, Vegas Golden Knights and Cleveland Cavaliers. And hasn’t the moment come for LeBron James to renounce “King James”?

Let’s admit it: Times have changed. The highest value in modern American life is feeling safe. Not “safe” in the sense of not being gunned down tomorrow night. I mean safe the way a college student or street protester feels “unsafe” if bad thoughts are brought to mind.

By this measure, the list of violative professional sports-team names is endless.

 

The Denver Broncos? Broncos are abused horses forced to buck and then submit by a Dallas Cowboy kicking them with San Antonio Spurs. They’ve all gotta go. Ford Motor just resurrected its Bronco SUV. What terrible timing. Dump it.

Too many teams are still dependent on fossil fuels: the Detroit Pistons, Edmonton Oilers and Pittsburgh Steelers. Let’s clean up the Steelers by renaming them the Pittsburgh Windmills.

The Philadelphia 76ers? Surely they’re already on their way to being rehabilitated as the Philadelphia 1619s.

The Miami Marlins shamelessly expropriated the name of a vulnerable species. They should be renamed the Miami Minnows.

Anyone who thinks names like this honor endangered species doesn’t understand why statues of George Washington have to go. The Minnesota Timberwolves should leave the wolves alone and call themselves the Minnesota Lutefisk.

Names associated with religious belief are also a problem. The New Jersey Devils imply God exists. Ditto the New Orleans Saints, and the Boston Celtics evoke Irish Catholics. Get rid of them.

The Portland Trail Blazers celebrate genocidal pioneers. The San Francisco 49ers are named after 19th-century California gold-diggers who raped the environment.

The Houston Rockets have an impossibly male-sounding name and should compensate by becoming the Houston Rockettes.

The Colorado Avalanche evokes death. The New York Rangers sound like the police. The Texas Rangers are the police. What were the San Diego Padres thinking?

The Chicago Bulls are another team named after an abused animal, not to mention the consumption of animal protein. A new name that comes to mind is the Chicago Jordans in honor of Michael, but that will remind some people of the Jordan River and the plight of the Palestinians.

 

Don’t get me started on teams who think they’re safe by hiding behind the names of birds or animals. The Toronto Blue Jays are named after a nasty bird. The Atlanta Hawks kill rabbits. Just the words “Miami Dolphins” make me want to cry.

The Miami Heat may be the future, invoking the problem of climate change, and we can’t be reminded of that too often. The about-to-die Cleveland Indians could become the Cleveland Cold.

The team name of the Utah Jazz never made sense to me, but it does suggest that rebranding teams as musical instruments might be safe. The New England Patriots are problematic in so many ways. Patriotism? Are you kidding me? I look forward to them coming back as the New England Trombones.

For now, Washington sits with a nameless football team. How about calling the team in the nation’s capital the Washington Nothings? That sounds like something we could all agree on.

Write henninger@wsj.com.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/oh-yes-ban-the-redskins-11594854707?mod=opinion_lead_pos8

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The honorable revolution

The elites in leadership make me sick. Absolutely no backbone or appreciate for why America became to be the great country that it is. MAGA. mrossol

WSJ. 7/3/2020

They can take down Teddy Roosevelt, and Princeton can cancel Woodrow Wilson. They can topple Ulysses Grant, deface the Lincoln Memorial, throw ropes around Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square, knock down the author of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” put Thomas Jefferson in storage, and say America’s founding began in 1619. But they can’t make the Fourth of July disappear.

Rewriting history doesn’t yet include eliminating daily turns of the calendar, so they will have to endure the hard fact that between July 3 and July 5 falls the Fourth of July and that most Americans still believe this day is about the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

 

Until now, the Fourth of July was the holiday celebrated by everyone in the U.S. as an American tradition. The message being sent by the protesters in the streets is, “Your traditions don’t mean a thing to us, and we will toss them out as we see fit.”

 

Each year, nearly every town holds a Fourth of July parade and celebrates with evening fireworks. This year, the coronavirus pandemic means few parades, while in New York City and elsewhere, massive nightly fireworks are intended to intimidate, not celebrate.

 

The Fourth of July is, or was, a day of families joined in quiet expressions of patriotism, with American flags flying. This year, families are divided, the air filled with shouted bitterness and somewhere this weekend an American flag will be burned.

The U.S. is in a revolutionary moment not just because of the street protests after the death of George Floyd or because of the pulling down of presidents’ monuments. On their own, these demonstrations wouldn’t come to much, primarily because—if the on-camera interviews conducted with protesters are representative—the substance of their protest is so unformed and diffused. Fireworks—loud, startling and self-extinguishing—are an apt metaphor.

The important element is the acts of consent from America’s elites. These people sit atop the country’s commanding institutions—in academia, business, politics, bureaucracies, media, book publishing, museums, philanthropies—and their instant assent provides legitimacy and puts us into something resembling a revolutionary situation. Which means this will be a revolutionary presidential election, the second in a row.

In that spirit, let me recommend some weekend reading: the Declaration of Independence. See how you react to revisiting the ideas that made a real revolution, stated in less than 1,500 words.

Even amid that upheaval there was wit. Without once naming George III, they refer merely to “the present King of Great Britain.” Today you would search in vain for a member of the “resistance” who consigns Mr. Trump to anonymity as “the current president of the United States.” That no such sophisticated insult is possible reflects how far we’ve come, or gone.

Among the most striking differences between revolutionaries then and now is that the signers included in their Declaration a bill of particulars for their intention to separate. Once past Jefferson’s famous phrases about all men created equal and unalienable rights, he states, “let facts be submitted” and lays them out in 27 staccato paragraphs.

One is struck by the tone of optimistic defiance in the Declaration’s text. Compare it with the pro forma, almost cookie-cutter language in statements from the boards of directors at Princeton or the American Museum of Natural History, who instead sound like defeated men and women. Wherever the current revolt may end, it’s hard to see our own confused, wan elites as the heirs to the country’s original leadership.

A forewarning to Trumpians: These first declarers also take “the Tyrant” to task on immigrants, for “refusing to pass” laws “to encourage their migrations hither.” And international commerce, “for cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world.” All sides today will claim to find supporting language in the Declaration’s text, such as, “They too have been deaf to the voice of justice.”

 

Times change—and that’s the point. Through the Revolution, the Civil War and all the years since that signing, the American idea has been about social, political and economic progress.

In contrast, the defining symbol that now attaches to the current revolution—and their conscious choice—is the removing of monuments, including the general who won the War for Independence and the general who won the Civil War over slavery.

It is a misstatement to call what is going on now an American revolution. The Declaration’s revolution was about creating a new nation. Today’s claimants see the future as de novo, a blank slate, an exercise in elimination. It is closer to what the ever-ironic 1960s radical anarchist Abbie Hoffman called “revolution for the hell of it.” That isn’t enough.

This weekend’s Fourth of July is the 244th anniversary of American’s first revolution. It remains the benchmark against which any successor idea must be measured.

Write henninger@wsj.com.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/you-say-you-want-a-revolution-11593642468?mod=opinion_featst_pos3

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