Thursday, March 17, 2011
The Japan Syndrome
The Japan Syndrome
By Cal Thomas
In the 1979 movie "The China Syndrome," reporter Kimberly Wells (played by Jane Fonda) witnesses an accident at a nuclear power plant and then uncovers a plot to keep it a secret in order to protect the power company's billion-dollar investment. The film was a gift to the political left, which at the time opposed the pursuit of nuclear energy to reduce our addiction to foreign oil. In some liberal circles, that opposition remains strong.
The film, along with real-life accidents such as Three Mile Island (also in 1979), in which no one was killed, and Chernobyl (1986), which, according to the World Nuclear Association, "killed two Chernobyl plant workers on the night of the accident, and a further 28 people within a few weeks, as a result of acute radiation poisoning," account for much of our modern thinking about all things nuclear. Other films, like "Dr. Strangelove," "Fail-Safe" and "On the Beach" -- along with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which ended World War II and launched the Cold War with the Soviet Union in which "mutual assured destruction" (MAD) and civil defense drills became the norm -- make us nervous about what the unrestrained power of the atom can do.
The nuclear reactors at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant were damaged by the tsunami, not the earthquake, and not by faulty construction or worker error, as was the case at Chernobyl and to a lesser extent Three Mile Island. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has significantly tightened standards since those incidents, but no regulation or safety precaution can offer a 100 percent guarantee against an accident or natural disaster.
Politicians tend to overreact to such things and stoke public fear. The otherwise cautious and principled German Chancellor Angela Merkel quickly announced plans to shut down seven of her country's nuclear power plants pending a safety review.
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a proponent of nuclear energy, told members of a House subcommittee on Tuesday that, "The American people should have full confidence that the United States has rigorous safety regulations in place to ensure that our nuclear power is generated safely and responsibly." He faces off against nuclear energy opponents, including Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), who was recently quoted as saying, "We have to listen to what is happening in Japan and protect ourselves and our people." Run for the hills! Chicken Little lives!
The Houston Chronicle quoted Peter Cardillo, chief market economist for Avalon Partners, a brokerage house in New York: "It's a situation where you sell (your stocks now), and you ask questions later," thus indulging in self-fulfilling prophecy as Japanese and American markets dipped.
The Obama administration continues to stonewall when it comes to exploring for new sources of oil in or near American territory. (It has approved just two deepwater drilling sites since the BP oil spill in the Gulf, which, contrary to doomsday predictions, did not foul beaches for a decade or cripple the seafood industry, which seems to have recovered well in plenty of time for the summer vacation rush.) Too many politicians continue to oppose coal exploration, an American natural resource. Without advances in nuclear energy, the U.S. will continue to face not only the petroleum price equivalent of mood swings, but also deepen our dependency on foreign oil, a dependence that will ultimately lead to a host of domestic and international problems.
Cooler heads must prevail and conclusions avoided until a full assessment of the Japan disaster is known. Science cannot prevent earthquakes or tsunamis, but that does not keep people from wanting to live near the shore. Scientists and engineers have made great progress in addressing safety issues raised by Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, but again, nothing is foolproof or there would be no traffic accidents or airplane crashes. And we still drive and fly, don't we?
We need clean energy that can be developed on our own territory. Nuclear power, in conjunction with the discovery of more oil and the use of coal, natural gas, bio fuels, wind and solar power, offers the best option for the foreseeable future.
National Pathetic Radio
By Cal Thomas
If the resignations at National Public Radio continue at last week's pace, there may be no need for Congress to defund the aging dinosaur, because there will be no one left there to turn the lights on.
The latest is Betsy Liley, NPR's director of institutional giving. Conservative activist James O'Keefe secretly recorded phone conversations between Liley and a man masquerading as a potential donor from a fictitious group called the Muslim Education Action Center, which the man said had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. The fake donor said his group was worried about a government audit. Liley told him that a $5 million contribution might not have to be reported to the IRS. Liley has been placed on administrative leave.
This incident followed the resignation of Vivian Schiller, NPR's president and CEO, and Ronald Schiller (no relation), another NPR fund-raiser, who was caught on video calling tea party members "seriously racist." Ronald Schiller also said, "Speaking of Zionist influence at NPR: I don't actually find it at NPR. ... No. I mean it's there in those who own newspapers, obviously; but no one owns NPR."
All of this is damning enough, but it begs the larger question of whether in a multimedia age the federal government should subsidize a network that could stand on its own if it wanted to. The same people who are quick to allege bias when it comes to Fox News and talk radio are just as quick to defend NPR from liberal bias, claiming NPR is, to borrow a phrase, "fair and balanced."
The problem for NPR and other media is not only bias, but also blindness. Large numbers of Americans believe NPR and the broadcast networks are hostile to their beliefs. Rather than address that justified perception, the media deny what to their conservative critics is obvious.
NPR's interim CEO, Joyce Slocum, told the Associated Press, "I think if anyone believes that NPR's coverage is biased in one direction or another, all they need to do to correct that misperception is turn on their radio or log onto their computer and listen or read for an hour or two. What they will find is balanced journalism that brings all relevant points of view to an issue and covers it in depth so that people understand the subtlety and the nuance."
If that were true, would the ultra-liberal George Soros have contributed $1.8 million to NPR to, according to Fox News, "hire 100 new reporters for 50 of its member stations"?
Space keeps me from listing all the examples of NPR's left-wing bias. Here are a few, courtesy of the Media Research Center (www.mrc.org). Rebutting the Republican rebuttal to the State of the Union address, "NPR's John Ydstie tried to claim both conservative and liberal economists disagreed with Paul Ryan on the notion there was a 'failed stimulus.' " That's called picking only those economists who reinforce your point of view and not naming them. It's like reporting, "some people say..."
Also according to the MRC, "The NPR weekend game show, 'Wait! Wait! Don't Tell Me!' did a mock interview using George W. Bush soundbites from his book tour to present him as a drunk in the White House." And, "NPR's Neda Ulaby set out to criticize conservative critics of the National Portrait Gallery's "Hide/Seek" exhibit of LGBT art, and included zero conservatives in her piece."
There is much more, including the reliably liberal Nina Totenberg. In her "reporting" on Elena's Kagan's nomination for the Supreme Court, Totenberg presented Kagan "as a modern-day Superman." Why not Wonder Woman?
In 1993, I wrote a column about comments made by Washington Post reporter Michael Weisskopf, who claimed that evangelicals were "largely poor, uneducated and easy to command." When some of them flooded the newspaper with their educational and professional bona fides, Weisskopf said he meant to say that "most" evangelicals were "poor, uneducated and easy to command." That triggered more protests. The Post ombudsman at the time, Joann Byrd, tried to defend Weisskopf, saying that readers needed to understand most journalists don't know any of "these people."
And the big media wonder why they are losing audience, money and credibility.
To read another article by Cal Thomas, click here.
Posted by Brett at 11:18 AM