MINOT, N.D. — It's Friday, my friends, and life is good here in the Port household.
Nobody has COVID-19, and the lights are on. What more can you ask for these days?
I have some good feedback and questions to get to in today's mailbag about things like Rush Limbaugh, the power outages, and gerrymandering, but before we do that, remember you can always drop me a line with a question or feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your submissions may be edited for brevity and clarity.
Now, to the feedback!
A reader in Twitter responds thusly to my column about the death of hugely influential conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh:
Rush Limbaugh had a standing bit where he’d mock gay people who died of AIDS. I spoke ill of him in life, and will in death. Actually it absolutely whips ass that he’s dead as hell. If you don’t want people to dance on your grave, don’t give them a reason to, Rob.— Himbo Slice @ SPLATOON 3 HELL 🎊 (@zackmoney) February 18, 2021
What's remarkable to me is how many people can't see the hypocrisy in claiming the moral high ground against someone like Limbaugh, who admittedly said many awful things during his long career in broadcasting, while simultaneously delighting in their misfortune.
When did schadenfreude become a virtue?
Many of the Limbaugh quotes being circulated through the sewers of social media are taken out of context or flat-out fake, but there's no question that Rush, for all his talent, crossed the lines of decency many times.
But is that license to be indecent about his death? If Limbaugh was wrong to delight in the plight of his political enemies, are you justified in delighting in his suffering?
If you want to stand in judgment of someone like Limbaugh, maybe don't emulate the very sort of behavior you're condemning.
Mark responds to my recent criticisms of wind energy in the context of the widespread power outages: "Wind power is the problem when it's 10 to 16% of the generated power. Are you that stupid saying it's the problem? Are you that stupid, or just get all your information from Fox News?"
I can't even remember the last time I watched Fox News. I think I've made my opinions about cable news pretty clear.
You really have to admire the wind energy proponents and their ability to side-step culpability for our nation's declining power grid resiliency. The typical headline you'll see from the various ideological "fact-checkers" and wind apologists is that renewables, generally, and wind, specifically, is not why we're having power outages across Texas and the middle of the country.
That's true, as far as it goes. Arctic weather is to blame. The power producers in the southern part of the country — coal, gas, nuclear, and wind — weren't prepared for the cold weather.
That's the first problem, but it's not an uncommon problem. Things like extreme weather or flooding or earthquakes happen, and when they do they take out the power.
Contributing mightily to our power grids' inability to deal with those problems is wind power, which, unlike baseload power sources like coal, cannot be called on to increase production to meet demand. A wind turbine is only going to produce power when the wind is blowing.
That's why wind power's rapid proliferation in our power grids is so alarming. Wind turbines often produce a lot of power when we don't really need it. When that glut happens, wind power has a negative price, meaning producers have to pay to offload their power on the grid, which is still profitable for them because of the massive production subsidies taxpayers fork over to the wind industry.
Yet when we need power the most, like when the weather is really hot or freezing, other power sources have to be available to meet demand.
This is nonsensical. The sort of thing that happens when giant corporations organize an industry round pursuing government handouts instead of the laws of supply and demand.
The lesson from the Great Power Outage of 2021 is that we need more baseload power, like coal and nuclear, and less intermittent power, such as wind.
Edward asks: "I think that when one party dominates the state Legislature, gerrymandering is a serious concern. I'd say this no matter which party is in control. Don't you agree?"
I would say that correlation isn't the same thing as causation. Republicans dominate North Dakota's politics, which means Republicans are in charge of drawing the state's legislative district lines, but does that mean the NDGOP is winning by cheating? Or are North Dakotans just very, very Republican?
I would argue that it's the latter. You're going to hear a lot about gerrymandering in the coming weeks and months because, after the census, we are obligated by our state constitution to reapportion representation in the Legislature based on updated population counts. You're going to hear a lot of heavy breathing about Republicans supposedly gerrymandering because a left-wing group calling itself North Dakota Voters First (despite being funded by Hollywood activists and at least one billionaire) is going to spend a lot of money promoting that idea.
They want the state's district lines drawn by an independent commission. Or, at the very least, they want Democrats to have equal representation on the committee that draws the lines. Both of these proposals are nonsense. The former because it supposes that a group calling itself "independent" is, actually, independent. No group of human beings is free of bias. At least when the lawmakers draw the lines, they're up-front about their partisan affiliations.
The latter proposal is also nonsense because Democrats haven't earned equal representation on such a committee. The voters have whittled down the Democratic-NPL's presence in elected office to historic lows. I mean, if we're going down this path, why not give Libertarians some seats on the redistricting committee too? They hold exactly zero elected offices in our state, but their party exists, so I guess they should get equal representation too?
If North Dakota voters wanted Democrats or Libertarians in charge of this stuff, they'd vote that way.
Bernie writes: "I do not understand your near-vicious animus regarding Trump. It borders on the anti-Trump hatred of CNN and NBC. I am inclined to follow Trump's advice, not that of 'armchair' generals like yourself and others who always seem to have all the answers."
I don't have all the answers, and I wouldn't call my animus toward the former president "vicious." In fact, I've defended him at times when our friends on the left or the news media got carried away with their animus. My problem with Trump is that he has done many repugnant things that are a disgrace to the office.
Trump supporters usually dismiss this line of criticism as style-over-substance pablum, but if you hold an office like the presidency, the symbolism of your actions in that office often matters as much as the actions themselves. Besides, Trump wasn't an effective leader. Most of his policies, including some that were quite good, were accomplished through executive order and have already been wiped out by the Biden administration.
Outside of his tax reforms, Trump really has no lasting legacy. Worse, by inciting a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on his way out the door and engaging in a rampant sort of fabulism throughout his tenure in office, he has hurt the ability of Republicans to advance the conservative cause.
Trump's supporters don't want to hear this, and perhaps our liberal friends don't either, but the Trump era will turn out to be a boon for progressivism, I'm afraid.
What a terrible, terrible mistake Republicans made by promoting that man.
Preston writes: "Rob, I subscribed to the Forum ... for the sole reason to get your posts."
That's great to hear! After years and years of news sites mostly giving their content away online for free, it's been a tough adjustment to go back to a subscriber model, but there really is no other way. There is a lot of hard work behind the content you read on our sites, and if you like that work, it's worth paying a reasonable fee to support it.
The alternative is a media landscape studded by listicles and clickbait, and sponsored posts.
I'm totally biased, but I think Forum Communications offers a great deal on subscriptions. You get access to our dozens and dozens of news sites for one monthly fee that's just a couple of bucks a week.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com.