Thursday, March 17, 2005

China Syndrome

Bill Roggio at The Fourth Rail has a very interesting analysis of the future of Chinese/ American relations. He considers the prospects of a Chinese assault on Taiwan and finds them improbable. He also considers Chinese prospects in a conventional military conflict with the U.S. and finds them dismal. His arguments are compelling. Check them out.

Environmentalists Miss an Opportunity

The senate has voted 51-49 to open the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling. It's not, however, a done deal:

Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who has fought for 24 years to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil companies, acknowledged it still could be "a long process" before a final drilling measure clears Congress. Lawmakers must agree on the final budget, something they failed to do last year, or Wednesday's vote would have been for naught.

Nevertheless, environmentalists have lost a superb opportunity to capitalize on what was, or is, inevitable: that drilling would take place in ANWR. Our preference would have been to leave ANWR alone, but given that the thirst for oil would not be quenched and no other practical solution to our energy problems is currently available or economically painless, environmentalists should have seen this coming.

What they should have done, instead of fighting extraction of ANWR's reserves with all their energies and resources, was cut a compromise years ago. They should have agreed to no longer stand in the way of drilling in ANWR if the Interior Department would guarantee that another (or several) large wildlife refuge would be created somewhere else in the United States and if guarantees could be put in place that the oil companies would leave ANWR as much like they found it as is technologically and economically feasible.

Because of the environmentalist's insistence on total victory on this issue those who care about conserving wild lands and natural beauty wind up with nothing when they might have preserved another new refuge from the depredations of developers. With foresight like this, it's no wonder the environmental movement is dying.

This isn't the only tactical mistake the environmentalists have made in this contest. For years they've fought oil drilling in ANWR, contending it would lead to "a spider web of drilling platforms, pipelines and roads that would adversely impact the calving grounds of caribou, polar bears and millions of migratory birds that use the refuge's coastal plain." No one knows if this is true, of course, but the experience we have in other places is that wildlife adjusts and in some ways even prospers. By staking their credibility on dubious arguments and indemonstrable assertions the environmentalists succeed merely in squandering their credibility.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. claimed that it is "foolish to say oil development and a wildlife refuge can coexist." But it is certainly as foolish to say that they can't. One of the jewels in the National Wildlife Refuge system is John Heinz refuge in Philadelphia which is bounded by Philadelphia International Airport, oil storage depots, a busy interstate highway and other scars upon the land. We ardently wish this weren't so, but as long as the refuge has been allowed to maintain something of a land buffer against encroachment the impact of these stressors seems to have been minimal.

Our dream is to see as much land as is possible permanently preserved from development, but sometimes one must take a step back in order to move forward. Yielding a relatively small tract of land in the midst of an inaccessible wilderness in order to acquire more critical habitat elsewhere would have been a fantastic trade-off, benefiting both wildlife and humans. Environmentalists had a chance to do this before the 2004 elections when the oil advocates were politically weaker, and they refused to do it. Now those who care about land preservation must take a step back at ANWR with no good prospect of any step forward anywhere else.

This was not the environmental movement's finest hour, but as Ted Stevens suggests above, perhaps they still have a chance to salvage a victory for preservation when lawmakers hammer out a final budget. Our suggestion is that the oil companies who will profit from ANWR oil be required to purchase and donate land in the lower 48 to the Department of the Interior for use as a refuge, or that their leasing fees be put to this purpose so that valuable wild lands can be incorporated into the National Wildlife Refuge system and preserved their for generations to come.

The Judicial Usurpation of Democracy

Viewpoint has been arguing ever since our first post last May that legalizing gay marriage will have the ultimate consequence of destroying the institution of marriage altogether. The rationale given for the recent decision by judge Richard A. Kramer of San Francisco County Superior Court overturning California's marriage laws provides all the confirmation of the validity of this concern that one could ask for.

According to the New York Times Judge Kramer stated that "the denial of marriage to same-sex couples appears impermissibly arbitrary," thus violating the equal protection clause of the state's Constitution. In other words, defining marriage as a bond between one man and one woman is unsupported by anything more than cultural habit and preference.

The fact is, of course, that any secular definition of marriage is going to be arbitrary. No matter how a legislature chooses to define marriage, if religion and tradition are ruled to be inadequate grounds for the definition, it can be based on nothing more than sociological fashion. Thus if marriage cannot be limited to one man and one woman because that would be an arbitrary restriction, on what grounds will we be able to limit marriage to just two people?

If the gender of the spouses is a matter of cultural caprice why is not the number of spouses? If two thousand years of tradition isn't enough to eliminate what is seen as the discretionary nature of heterosexual marriage, how will courts be able to uphold laws establishing marriage as a union of just two persons?

The answer is, of course, that they won't. If Judge Kramer's reasoning is accepted by the appeals courts the door will have swung wide open for redefining marriage any way some judge finds agreeable. There will certainly be no difficulty in finding courts sufficiently sympathetic to those who wish to push the social envelope by demanding the right to participate in group marriage. But when marriage means whatever anybody wants it to mean then it will really mean nothing at all and will cease to exist, at least in the form we recognize today.

The addled and myopic reasoning which afflicts Judge Kramer's opinion is not untypical of contemporary liberal jurisprudence, which is why it is imperative that conservative judges be appointed to the federal bench and Supreme Court. The Left knows its ideas, such as they are, would not prevail in state or national legislatures so it circumvents these by enacting its agenda through judicial fiat.

If Democrats are allowed to continue to obstruct and block President Bush's nominees, who are the only hope we have of turning back this "judicial usurpation of democracy", we will continue to get more sophomoric judicial opinions such as the vacuous judgment handed down by Justice Kennedy in the recent Simmons case and the witless nullity delivered by Judge Kramer in this one.