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Advertise on the Tentacle

March 1, 2010

Change you can shovel

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

There is no doubt that global climate change is an issue. Scientists might argue about the differences between cyclical changes and man-made forces as the principal accelerant behind the changes, but there are definitely verifiable changes.


This is not some flat-earther treatise on how the polar ice caps aren’t melting, or that there is a direct correlation between our consumption-based society and ozone depletion.


As much as climatology geeks and tree huggers fuss about the lack of truth in their opponent’s arguments, their own hyperbole and inability to provide proof for claims is subject to scorn and scrutiny.


Leading the charge for major social change and punitive measures against free enterprise on behalf of the global warming advocates is the son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. Bobby the Younger realized many years ago that he could make a comfortable living writing and lecturing about how our lifestyle was destroying our planet, and he wouldn’t ever have to prove it, he just needed to say his opponents couldn’t prove their position.


Case in point: A few years ago, Mr. Kennedy penned an editorial for the Los Angeles Times, something I’m certain they were happy to print because his view tracks with their own ideological bent. In his letter, Bobby Junior reminisces about his days as a child, harkening back to winters spent in suburban Virginia. One particular paragraph still brings a smile, magnified by a few feet of global warming by-product piled up outside the window.


“In Virginia, the weather also has changed dramatically. Recently arrived residents in the northern suburbs, accustomed to today's anemic winters, might find it astonishing to learn that there were once ski runs on Ballantrae Hill in McLean, with a rope tow and local ski club. Snow is so scarce today that most Virginia children probably don't own a sled. But neighbors came to our home at Hickory Hill nearly every winter weekend to ride saucers and Flexible Flyers.” – Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Los Angeles Times, September 24, 2008


Anemic winters in McLean? Snow is so scarce in February 2010 that the District of Columbia, northern Virginia, and all of Maryland were under a state of declared emergency. Federal troops have been dispatched to help plow and clear main roads and Interstate highways. We’ve seen more snow in a shorter time than any period since the 1800’s.


For all you sky-is-falling adherents, please excuse the desire to point out how silly your hero’s admonition seems in retrospect. If Sarah Palin is demonized for saying there is no proof whatsoever that mankind is contributing to global climate change, then isn’t Bobby Kennedy, Jr., just as guilty of going overboard with hyperbole in the other direction?


Speaking of the Kennedy’s, how about Bobby’s other son, Joe? Joe has become a shill for CITGO, and by extension, Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez. You remember Hugo, the populist Socialist who convinced the forward-thinking people of his country that capitalism was bad, and that under his “leadership,” he would wrest control of utilities, media, and commerce in general from private companies and improve services through government takeover.


Heh, heh. What a cut-up. Improving services by turning them over to the government. Now there’s comedy for you!


The Venezuelan economy is in the tank. President Chavez is destroying what little economic vitality existed there, but one thing he has done is to take control of the assets of CITGO. When people don’t eat because the market cannot deliver food at reasonable prices and in sufficient quantity, shouldn’t that be proof enough of the folly of socialism?


It seems that many believe our nation can’t function without a Kennedy in the Congress. CNN actually had a roundtable discussion of the likelihood of a Kennedy, any Kennedy, running in a congressional race in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, or New York. Is it that important to our nation’s future that a member of that family serves in the U.S. Congress? Really?


Our federal government is adrift. Our federal legislators are more concerned about their next election and who will control the agenda than they are with fixing problems. Is the answer that we can fix things if we add Kennedys? Couldn’t one make a cogent argument that it was at least partially the Kennedy’s who got us to where we are?


* * * * * * * * *


Right here in Frederick, the overwhelming nature of The Blizzard of 2010 crippled our government’s ability to respond. State, county, and municipal governments don’t budget for worst case, once-in-a-century storms. At the height of the second storm, in a blizzard that was dumping a couple of inches of snow per hour, most local governments pulled their plow equipment off the roads. The fear was that plow drivers might themselves become stuck.


All across the area, drivers found themselves buried in drifts up to their windows, sometimes even higher. Tractor-trailers with Interstate loads became snowbound on U.S. 340, unaware as they came east that in Frederick County, conditions were unstable and that roads were closed.


The Frederick County Emergency Communications Center was busy throughout the worst of the storm, as dispatchers tried to maintain minimal contact with stranded motorists. Calls were spaced out to protect the remaining battery life of those stuck in the snow. Transcripts of those calls provide a frightening record; demonstrating the anxiety of the callers and the attempted reassurance from the call-takers.


The reaction of some of the stranded callers seems to make the fundamental point even more clear. They demanded to know why first responders weren’t coming right away. They, the ones who chose to drive in spite of the state and county prohibition against driving, were angry that someone else wouldn’t head out to free them from their cold and lonely snow prisons.


It is unrealistic, bordering on irresponsible, to expect that government was going to be able to meet our collective expectations as a result of these storms. Whether the stranded driver or the subdivision street still down to one bumpy lane two weeks after the storm, we’re getting the snow removal response we’re willing to pay for. It isn’t some magical money tree that funds faster street clearing, and it isn’t some Powerball game that funds faster public safety response.


These services are paid for through the general tax base. On one hand, tea-partiers claim too much government interference and tax rates that are choking off entrepreneurialism. On the other hand, people want the snow taken off their streets so their lives can more quickly return to normal. The two positions are at fundamental odds.


Now county and city governments will line up at the federal disaster trough to dip into the hoped-for reimbursements. Historic snowfalls are normally followed by a dispersal of federal dollars to reimburse verifiable costs.


It follows the gravity theory of government funding. Feds give money to the states, states grant money to the counties, and counties apportion a share back to the towns. At each stop in the chain, a little more gets siphoned off. At the bottom of the hill, municipal governments are being reimbursed for a small percentage of their true costs.


That won’t matter to Jane and Joe cul-de-sac resident, though. They just want the government to make the snow go away. They’ll wait until Spring to argue about government spending too much of their money.


The coming warmth will help them forget the snow piles and the aching backs from another shovel full of global climate change. Thank goodness for that!


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