My Little Ole Ballot Box

by Katherine Dalton on April 8, 2010 · 12 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Economics & Empire,Politics & Power

power plant


Rome (“The Eternal Hamlet”), Kentucky. Cousin Kate has taken to her back forty with spring fever, and in her absence my son Lucius has once again cracked her access codes (“too obvious,” he says, “like last year”), which means for the second time I have the great pleasure of interjecting myself into this conversation on the Porch—and so hello.

As some of you out there in the ether will remember, a few months ago I created–in the spirit of innovation, individualism and Whitmanesque omnidivisibility–My Own Little Corner of the Right.

Now I’ve been inspired to venture forth into creative sub-branding.  I can’t offer you a Third Way, a Via Media, or Tertium Quiddity—we’ve got two parties the way we’ve got two arms and two eyeballs, and anything else is extraneous and (frankly!) deformed.  But what I can do is offer a little bitty straw poll right here on the Porch.  Spring has sprung and primary season is fast and expensively upon us, but here on the Porch is where you can vote on at least one of those vital issues which inexplicably never make it into the polling booth.  And goodness knows in a virtual community the size of this one you can be sure your vote in going to count.

So, children, we are going to cut through the hooey straight to the chase and take our stand right here on the line we’re toeing.  Kick your shoes off and let’s get started.

What I want to talk about today is Energy. Time was—as some of you will remember, and the rest of you have seen the documentaries–that the beardless college boys of the Left were standing on the barricades outside Three Mile Island hollering Plutonium Go Home, but that was then and this is now and the past is another country where they do things entirely different.  Lots of those boys have grown up, gotten elected and been mugged by reality—and they’ve found out that really-and-truly limited energy use is a lot less fun than flying home from D.C. every other weekend and keeping the pool warm in October.  They’ll give some lip service and maybe a little funding to wind, water, geothermal and solar, and for all I know to the unexploited possibilities of hamster exercise wheels, but when push comes to shove the choice is not really between the green stuff and the dirty stuff, now, is it? 

Pipe dreams are for people living in the past, like agrarians and classicists and other antiques.  But we like to drive, and not in chariots, either.  So let’s get real, and take a moment to click our high heels over the fact that nuclear power ain’t just for Republicans anymore.

For example, to start right here at home, my fair state’s lone Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth–as nice a Lexus liberal as you’d ever care to meet, with a 95% ADA rating–recently told a Louisville weekly that he was all for “studying” nuclear energy as a “transitional” energy source between today’s coal and tomorrow’s Green Acres.  (I don’t know what “studying” means exactly, but I know it’s not negative, and I think it means “standing by the Administration.”)

Swift-boated and hence quintessentially non-conservative Massachusetts Senator John Kerry more definitively laid it on the line in the New York Times:  the good old U.S. of A. has to “take advantage of nuclear power, our single largest contributor of emissions-free power…. We need to jettison cumbersome regulations that have stalled the construction of nuclear plants in favor of a streamlined permit system…”  Emissions-free—take that, Alec Baldwin!

And then of course there’s our President—and whatever else Mr. Obama is politically and really I’m not sure, except I’m sure he’s no Republican—our President wants to triple our nuclear construction budget to some fifty billion, which even by Washington terms is Real Money or at least a Real Chinese Credit Line.

So, dear reader, however much you might like to read about “green solutions” and replay An Inconvenient Truth on your widescreen, the choice we’re being given is not actually between coal and solar, or my Hummer and your Prius.  The choice is between (and here’s your ballot):

() global warming                                   () nuclear power

(Or “nucular,” to those of us nostalgic for the last administration.)

In other words, sweet pea, you can stick with coal, oil and natural gas, then sit back and flip between the channels as you watch Micronesia go the way of Atlantis, feel kudzu choke the Green Mountains, and hear the drip-drip-drip as the polar ice caps become polar Trappist tonsures—little bitty bare spots on the far-off ends of the Earth.  All of which is extremely politically incorrect and unfashionable.

But nuclear power, now—like paté de fois gras and the Chanel suit, it’s the French answer to a human necessity, and those Frenchies do so many things so well, don’t they?  Nuclear power means you can have lots and lots of nuclear-generated lights and videogames and espresso machines, and you can even plug in that Prius of yours.  And if you’ve read about those micro-mini pre-fab nuclear power plants then you know they are pretty exciting—they would actually fit into the backyard of the NIMBY crowd!  Of course this means Nevada needs to step up to the plate and do her national duty, and I don’t care what Harry Reid and Secretary Chu say, I’ve got “Yes to Yucca” bumperstickers available for those interested.  Or else NASA needs to get rolling on its GLOWS initiative (Globally Lobbed Orbital Waste in Space)–only they ought to keep out anybody who worked on the Challenger program in the 80′s.

Somewhere out there in the world, in a place not one in ten of you could find on a map and me neither, American boys (and a bunch of girls) are fighting the bad Muslims (not to be confused with the good Muslims) in order to keep the banner of freedom sacredly flaming here on our natal shore—well, natal for a good portion of us.  So do something to show your appreciation.  Stretch out those two index fingers of yours and make your voice heard.  It’s the American Way to vote, vote, vote and blast the consequences, or should I say fission them?

Till next time–

Cassia Clay Pigeon

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar James Matthew Wilson April 8, 2010 at 7:35 am

A (rural) electrifying post. Thanks, Cassia Clay.

avatar Bruce Smith April 8, 2010 at 10:36 am

Well given the American Neo-Liberal way you’ve given us no other option but to locate these new nuclear power plants in China or maybe Mexico and run big chunky cables across borders. Upon reflection China would be the better bet, Commie suppression of NIMBY protesters would be more efficient. Seriously though could you organize a referendum on the subject Cassia Clay or do we have to rely on politician bribes to resolve the matter yet again?

avatar John Médaille April 8, 2010 at 3:20 pm

This is a marvelous post, but I had missed the original, which is likewise great. I checked the date, and I was traveling in England at the time, sans computer (yes, that is possible.)

avatar Jason Peters April 8, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Dear Cassia:

Lovely job of getting us straight to the binaries. You have a future in American politics. But Global Warming or Nukuler–that’s a dilemma. Could we maybe have Jane Fonda and Bob Cheeks running in a hamster wheel?

avatar Albert April 9, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Cassia Clay Pigeon for 2012!

avatar D.W. Sabin April 9, 2010 at 4:51 pm

When nuclear power is considered a “green” solution, you just know the drunks at the Shriners Hall are going to gong well past eleven and into 13 or more at the Eleventh Hour Ceremony.

Yes, as long as there is a choice, we can consider “good” to be present.

avatar John Willson April 15, 2010 at 9:21 pm

It’s a no-brainer on every level. The safest, most available “energy” is NUKULAR. I guess I sound sorta modron here, but it’s true. Wendell Berry once wrote about guys who came to his neck of the woods and told all the people how it was that nuclear was safe, and Wendell asked why don’t they build it in the city?My answer is that they should build it in the city. Or next door to my house. There were 29 more guys killed last week in the rural coal mines than have ever been killed in nukular plants. I also (truly) believe that we should spend lots of public money rebuilding the railroads. Ain’t no songs about trucks that compare with the ones about trains. And there ain’t no better way of moving over land than trains.

avatar Jason Peters April 15, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Beg to differ, Willson. The safest and most available is contemporary sunlight.

avatar John Willson April 15, 2010 at 10:54 pm

In Arizona? How about Maine? Maybe we could exchange Michigan water for south Florida sunshine. Where, for goodness sake, do you get the idea that sunlight produces real power? I’m not talking about greenies and house plants, I’m talking steel mills and manufacturing plants we don’t have to send to China where they are more than willing to give their people jobs by producing real power. “Contemporary” sunlight? You sure don’t live in Michigan.

avatar Jason Peters April 16, 2010 at 6:57 am

Sorry, Willson. If you were right, I would agree with you.

I lived in Michigan for 30 years. Even there the safest and cleanest energy is contemporary sunlight. Anyone who moves a muscle uses it. You will use it to type your rebuttal. It did an astonishingly good clean safe job of running my grandfather’s farm.

I’ll grant you that “alternative” sources of “energy” have been drummed up precisely so that no one has to move a muscle (ancient sunlight in the form of fossil fuels was once contemporary sunlight, and we use it to displace the work of the body), but that’s another problem, not a solution to a problem.

Like nuclear, for example. I wouldn’t have us proceed under the assumption that because we’re smart and enterprising and progressive people we’ll one day figure out what to do with its hazardous by-product. I wouldn’t have us just hand that dangerous stuff over to our kids and grandkids and great-grandkids with a card that reads “Happy Chemo.” Let’s not externalize that cost too.

avatar John Willson April 16, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Please tell me that sunlight runs steel mills and builds cars. By the way, if you believe all the hype about sunlight causing cancer, then pass the chemo, granddaughters. What to do with sunlight is as problematical as what to do with nuclear waste, don’t you think? Or is nature always benevolent, and man-made always pernicious? Would you, really, refuse an axe when having to cut wood so that your family could survive the winter? Where do good axes come from? Let’s not, please, make what men make into the evil that chased us from the garden. It’s what we are, not what we make.

avatar Aaron Schroeder April 20, 2010 at 12:01 am

Mr Willson,

You neglect that such a claim wasn’t all Wendell Berry had to say on the matter of energy sources the limitations of which we do not understand (take another look at “Discipline and Hope”). And such neglect gets at the heart of what you’ve misunderstood in Peters’s comments.

We understand the limitations of natural sunlight. Stay in it for X amount of time: get higher serotonin levels, do meaningful work, etc. Stay in it for X+ amount of time: get sunburned/skin cancer, etc. We do not understand the limitations of nuclear power, for matter how you use it, you get nuclear waste. In other words, it’s reasonable to think that there are virtuous varieties of interaction with sunlight (that is, interactions that conduce to human flourishing alone, and not to human viciousness at all), and it’s just as reasonable to think that there are no virtuous varieties of interaction with nuclear power, since there is no use of it that does not produce a vicious effect.

And similarly for your disanalogous axe analogy. We can use the axe virtuously, and we can use it viciously. Not so for nuclear power, which we can use viciously alone.

Of course, you might claim that our inability to use nuclear power virtuously is a claim relative to our contemporary epistemic state, something like, “We can’t use nuclear power virtuously NOW, but we’ll learn how to deal with the nuclear waste eventually, thus amending the current missuses.” Apart from the fact that such a claim is false (How will you amend the risk of nuclear fallout under which all of those near power plants would and do live?), it’s just the typical progressive line from a progressive-in-conservative-clothing, and to paint you with such a brush reveals much of the motivation for your responses to Peters’s comments.

You declaim solar power for its inability to (among other things, one presumes) mill steel or assemble cars, but you do not declaim an economy for which such milling or assembly are so required. But as a point of fact, such an economy is precisely one that those who might deserve the title of conservative (say, Christopher Lasch, Russell Kirk, John Ransom, and especially Wendell Berry) spilled more than a little ink condemning. Indeed, to the degree that such an economy is ‘progressive’ (and surely, it is) just is the degree to which true conservatives ought to oppose it. Your responses seem to say, “Let’s power the status quo as conservatively as possible,” (the Democratic Party’s party line, one notes) when a reproval of and retreat from the status quo will lie at the heart of any truly conservative recommendation.

Now, perhaps James Kunstler’s line on nuclear power–that, very soon, we’ll be unable to warm ourselves without it–is an argument amenable to conservative consideration. But to claim that we should nuclearize lest we “lose” the “competition” to China? I doubt you’ll find warrant for that in anything Wendell Berry has ever written.

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