Decision to stop off-shore drilling because of risk betrays American Exceptionalism.
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Wilbur and Orville, as every American school child was once taught, finally manifested man’s centuries’ old dream to fly with the invention of the heavier-than-air flying machine — the airplane. A couple of bicycle mechanics from Dayton, Ohio they struggled, failed, persisted and finally got off the ground at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in December of 1903. The era of manned flight had begun, obviously now a major part of everyday life not just in 21st century America but around the world.
But there was and is a problem. You might call it the oil spill problem of air travel.
Planes, shocker that this may be, can in fact crash. Wilbur and Orville figured a way around gravity, but they couldn’t get rid of it. And try as they and their successors have to improve the flying machine product, planes made by the imperfect human being can be nothing other than imperfect. As a result, from 1903 to this moment there has always been an understanding of risk when one steps into a flying machine. People both on the plane and the ground can be hurt. Actually, they can be killed. In considerable numbers. Since Wilbur and Orville got us all airborne not a year has passed without death from air travel. Thousands of people have died doing this let’s-pretend-I’m-a-bird thing. To cite a tiny fraction of headline grabbing incidents through the decades: in 1945 it was the 13 people who died when an Army B-25 Bomber plowed into the Empire State Building; the 128 who perished in the fiery crash of TWA and United passenger jets over the Grand Canyon in 1956; the All-Nippon airline that went down in Tokyo Bay in 1966 with 133 fatalities; the Air Canada plane that crashed during a landing approach in Toronto killing 109 in 1970; the United Airlines DC-10 in Sioux City, Iowa, that lost 111 during an emergency landing in 1989; Flight 800 of TWA that exploded in 1996 off the coast of Long Island killing all 230 aboard or…well, you get the picture. Lots and lots and lots of people have been killed. Perhaps the most spectacular in terms of sheer carnage before the 9/11 terrorist attacks involving four jetliners was the 1977 crash on a fog bound runway on Tenerife, part of the Canary Islands. In a tragic mix-up, Pan Am and KLM jetliners collided on the runway, killing almost 600 people.
All of these incidents are a mere snapshot of what has gone on up there in the not-so-friendly skies, where everybody from average Americans to famous rock stars and politicians have met very public and horrific fates. Only weeks ago the President and First Lady of Poland, along with a chunk of the Polish government, died in an especially tragic airborne accident. Not a decade has gone by since the invention of air travel — not one — when people haven’t died by the hundreds if not thousands while using Wilbur and Orville’s invention.
So if you’re a Luddite, what?
Obviously, not flying is safer then going aloft. So after you take the hammer to every airplane in America (and the world) you could venture forth and take a chance on a car. Henry Ford’s baby — the mass produced automobile. Uh-oh. Think again. In 2009, the U.S. Department of Transportation tells us that 33, 963 Americans died in car crashes — averaging out at 93 dead Americans every single day of 2009. That’s 10,000 more people dead in a year then are living and breathing in all of the Washington, D.C. suburb of Fairfax, Virginia! Quick, get that Luddite hammer and get busy in Detroit! What in the world was Henry thinking inventing something as death driven as an automobile? Smash the factories, disband the unions. It’s over!
The point, of course, is that if you want to eliminate the inventions that kill people (the BP oil spill killed 11) and ruins lives, you will need a lot of hammers. Do cell phones cause brain tumors? Car crashes with inattentive drivers? Get the hammer. Eat some bad hamburger? Kill the cows. Lead paint? Get that lawyer’s legal hammer. How about the errant baby carriages, badly wired houses (no house fires if you live outdoors), boats that sink, tractors that tip, bridges that cave, knives that end up inside people instead of steaks, glass that cuts, coal mines that explode and…well, again. You get the picture.
From the moment you popped out of the womb — assuming, of course, you successfully avoided the abortion doctor — you have emerged into a totally unsafe environment.
CURIOUSLY, IN ALL THE MEDIA coverage of this accident there is one large fact being left out. All those good people with boats? The people who run the restaurants? The tourist industry? Every single one of them is dependent on the existence of that black crude bubbling up from the bottom of the sea. Without it there is no commercial fishing, no driving to and from the docks where the boats are stored. Tourists? None — not, at least, if tourists to the Gulf Coast get to that Gulf Coast by plane, train or automobile.
But if Governor Schwarzenegger’s new Luddite sensibilities and those lurking barely beneath the surface of the Obama Administration hold sway (over the weekend the President let loose with a blast at technology and those evil geniuses at places like Apple and Microsoft), the Luddite philosophy will begin tightening the screws on everyday Americans — even as Obamanomics has set the deadly course for Greek-style economic bankruptcy.
Consider the Luddites at work in America today in the energy sector alone:
• Opposition to mountaintop coal mining as seen here.
• Opposition to nuclear power as seen here.
• Opposition to natural gas drilling here.
• Opposition to off-shore oil drilling here.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?