Archive for February, 2017

Two-Faced Trump Haters

Originally appeared in “The increasing hysteria around Trump from the absolute resistance crowd brought to mind the former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and her statement that peace would come when Israel’s enemies “love their children more than they hate us.” An appropriate parallel would be: Americans will not see peace until Trump’s opposition loves this country more than they hate him.

We have learned that Trump’s progressive opposition will literally protest, violently in some cases, the very things they cared nothing about only one or two years prior:

  1.  James Clapper lied under oath to Congress and never stepped down. No protests.
  2. President Obama ended America’s wet-foot dry-foot policy with Cuba, which left poor Cuban refugees stranded in transit or stuck permanently under the despotism of an emboldened Communist government. No protests.
  3. The Obama administration literally laundered cash and delivered it under the cover of darkness to the greatest state-sponsor of terror. No protests.
  4. President Obama handed out Obamacare waivers at random and then changed the requirements of the law at will. No protests.
  5. Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and others previously supported school choice options. No protests.

Here’s what that teaches us about politics and society:

  1. Hypocritical protests are not organic. Genuine, organized protests challenge an idea regardless of the actor. Premediated, often violent protests, are based on the actor.
  2.  Progressives see their political ideas as deities to be worshipped, not policy solutions to be negotiated. Don’t believe me? Tell a progressive that you are willing to allow national gun confiscation only if they agree to outlawing all forms of abortion. Although you have gone as far as sacrificing a constitutional right for an extra-constitutional privilege, they will not accept it.
  3.  The peaceful transition of power does not end on inauguration day. Democrats in office have chosen self over constitutional duty by refusing to attend hearings or otherwise stonewalling appointments. And now Michael Flynn is out in what Bloomberg’s Eli Lake believes to be a political assassination by Obama holdovers.
  4.  Allegations matter more than facts. The Trump administration is learning that in politics if you are responding, you are losing. It was never a Muslim ban and now it doesn’t matter.
  5.  The most powerful position in the world is not liberating. Undoing executive orders put in place by Obama is a valid objective. However, governing through EOs will not have the same staying power as those results that come from work with the legislative branch.
And where does the  administration go from here:
  1. Move quickly to fill all other cabinet positions, particularly those held by Obama loyalists. This slow, disjointed approach to building a government will continue to undermine the president, especially since Americans now know Obama has effectively constructed a shadow unit to undermine any attempts at erasing his harmful policies.
  2. Become more organized, more professional and more calculating. This “you can cash me outside” strategy to governance is more than just unbecoming – it’s cavalier and dangerous. Vice President Pence should take a greater role in crafting an improved image, message and strategy for the administration.
  3.  Remove Steve Bannon from the National Security Council. His presence is unnecessary and unwise.
  4.  Move forward with anti-terrorism goals, like concentrating the focus of the counter-extremism program on radical Islam. Those that always beat a hasty retreat to their “not all Muslims are terrorists” safe space after a terrorist attack must understand that such a reaction does not help good Muslims – it hurts them. Defining the enemy protects the innocent. Sebastian Gorka, James Mattis and K.T. McFarland can together define the enemy like no one else.
  5. Encourage more high-profile, off-season debates like the recent engagement between Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders. Cruz thoroughly dismantled Sanders’ deity of democratic socialism, showing his political religion to be completely unrealistic in both concept and execution. Reaffirming political philosophies in the public square can help forthcoming legislation.”

The Failure of a Dam in California Is Warning About the Grid

This column originally appeared in “What in the world does the frightening news about the Oroville Dam in California have to do with America’s electric grid? Answer: the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The California state government is scrambling to address the failing dam after heavy rains have damaged the main concrete spillway and water is now pouring over the emergency spillway for the first time in history.  The erosion of the natural barrier –? the last line of defense between Californians and the emergency spillway ?? has prompted the evacuation of some 185,000 residents. Some outlets are even reporting that the dam might very well break, a mini-doomsday scenario for those in the immediate vicinity of the deteriorating infrastructure.

This brewing catastrophe might have been avoided had FERC acted some years ago to upgrade the capabilities of the dam, according to early reports. A motion was filed with the federal government on Oct. 17, 2005, “urging federal officials to require that the dam’s emergency spillway be armored with concrete, rather than remain as an earthen hillside,” Mercury News writes. FERC officials, however, rejected the fix, arguing that the upgrades were “unnecessary” when compared to the costs; and they called “overblown” the scenario that enough water could accumulate to overwhelm the emergency spillway. FERC concluded the assessment with its age-old mantra that dam’s safety measures met “engineering guidelines.”

These are the same phrases FERC uses to explain why they have not required greater protection of the electric grid. When industry leaders and FERC officials are faced with questions about the fragility of America’s grid system, the potential for damage to the grid from high impact threats and the possibility for prolonged blackouts, both groups routinely call the threats overblown, suggest that recommended upgrades are unnecessary and fall back on the mediocre conclusion that the grid “meets required guidelines.”

FERC is a U.S. federal agency that regulates the transmission and wholesale sale of electricity and natural gas in interstate commerce, and, among other things, sets reliability standards for the power grid. This organization is not to be confused with the private corporation called the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), which also regulates bulk transmission of electricity, while creating and regulating reliability standards.

But as Thomas Popik, Chairman of Foundation for Resilient Societies explains, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 created a “hybrid system” wherein NERC writes grid guidelines and FERC reviews and approves. And any FERC recommendations have to be approved by two-thirds of NERC’s members, and that includes private electric companies of all shapes and sizes. In other words, the industry can essentially set its own standards of reliability through a cost-benefit analysis, and then point to those guidelines as satisfactory for safety.

That arrangement can be a worthwhile mechanism for shielding private business from costly and unnecessary government regulation. It becomes a problem when an industry that oversees arguably the most vulnerable and most important infrastructure in America determines security measures based largely on its profit margins. Indeed, NERC and its members often fight what it calls “unfunded mandates,” government regulations that add unfunded costs to their bottom line. But it is also unacceptable that an industry can essentially set its own standards. Fire marshals can shut down the headquarters of an electric company if the building does not meet certain safety standards. Why then exactly is the grid, an infrastructure of far superior importance, able to largely avoid external oversight? This is the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse.

The incestuous FERC-NERC relationship has created a closed-system of decision making that involves the protection of America’s most vital asset. More worrisome is the fact that the use of identical phraseology to explain away threats to the dam more than a decade ago is used today to explain away threats to the grid. Americans are witnessing the consequences of this arrangement.

The failing of the Oroville Dam in California is teaching us that critical infrastructure needs rigorous protection. Rahm Emanuel reminded us to never let a serious crisis go to waste. But his intent was to empower big government.

In a free-market economy, those standards can be achieved without government interference. It requires electric companies to agree that better protection is necessary; consumers who demand higher standards; and security specialists who can field a cost-effective product that is attractive to utilities in both price and capability. One begets the other. And Oroville shows us that it’s time to harden the dam grid.”