woody_zimmerman_118_2007"The Lord works in mysterious ways," my grandma used to say. I often repeat it, and I thought of it again, last week, when the latest celebrity "blizzard" hit our electronic media outlets. Was it the Lord's purpose to wake up a sleeping country at the last minute, before our crazed "leaders" run the nation's ship directly into an iceberg? Or was He just wafting an extra dose of sleeping gas over us, so we could doze peacefully on, while our destruction is completed? I'm hoping it's the former, but it's too soon to tell.

The uncertainty about our situation evokes the anecdote about Joe, who happened to meet his guardian angel one day. After some amusing reminiscences about various close scrapes the angel had helped Joe through, Joe asked if he was going to heaven. The angel said he'd get back to Joe on that, as he didn't know the answer. A few days later, the angel reappeared to say that he had good news and bad news on the heaven-thing. The good news was that Joe would definitely be going to heaven; the bad news was that it would be next Tuesday...

Just so, the question of whether the country has finally awakened, or is headed for The Big Sleep, has yet to be answered. The next few months will reveal more about the Lord's purposes, and those of Barack Obama (a.k.a. The One), than we might have wanted to know.

In case you were on Mars during the past week, the big events of last Thursday (June 25) and Friday were: (a) the death of Michael Jackson; (b) his failure to rise again; and (c) the House of Representatives' passage of "America's Clean Energy and Security Act." The latter is Democrats' much-touted "Cap-and-Trade" bill, which would restrict carbon dioxide emissions by American industry and transportation, and set up "carbon allowances" to be traded across industry. "Bill" is an apt term, as the legislation will - if enacted - levy the largest tax in history on American life. The tab could run into the trillions of dollars. It will certainly disadvantage us in manufacturing, trade and living standards. Cheap, readily available energy will become a distant memory. The country we have known will disappear before our eyes.

How did the untimely death of Michael Jackson figure into the momentous (but almost unnoticed) passage of this huge, revolutionary energy bill? Entirely accidentally. "Timing" (as they say in show biz) is everything.

At about 6:00 PM (EST) on Thursday - just in time for the nation's prime television news hour - Michael Jackson was rushed by ambulance to a Los Angeles hospital with what was reported as cardiac arrest. All regular news programming was suspended, as network camera crews panned the hospital's exterior for a full half hour. When Michael Jackson's death was announced, the entire American news media went wall-to-wall with Michael Jackson - as though a president had died. Indeed, I wondered if even a president's death would have caused such a reaction. ("In other news - the president died in a motorcade accident this afternoon - details at 11...")

Comprehensive coverage of Jackson's death and related matters - which still continues, at a lower level, a week later - displaced all news reports about Cap and Trade. Fox News - usually a serious news organ - showed that nobody is perfect (in case we needed reminding). The night before the vote on one of the most significant - and potentially ruinous - pieces of tax legislation in America's history, Fox dropped everything and became the Michael Jackson Network.

Millions of viewers, anticipating a robust presentation and debate of Cap-and-Trade during the Fox News hour (hosted by Bret Baier at 6:00 PM, Eastern time), watched with disbelieving eyes as Fox spent 30 minutes projecting the exterior of the UCLA hospital where Michael Jackson had been admitted. Once the pop star's death was confirmed, the network went into "Jackson overdrive" with an orgy of obsessive emoting on every possible aspect of Michael Jackson's career. (To call it "reporting" would do unjustified violence to a once-proud tradition of keeping the public informed on matters of import to their lives.) Other networks, of course, did the same.

Americans tend to be saddened by celebrity deaths. Naturally, famous people who reach the pinnacle of success, only to die young from self-abusive living, fascinate us. Michael Jackson obviously had a world of talent. Millions of Americans would probably say that his early death, as well as the grotesque way in which his personal life played out, were tragedies. I agree. I'm sorry about him, too. It all seems a terrible waste.

But did a pop-music star's death merit the lavish scale of media coverage it received last week? (I leave that question as an exercise for the reader.)  Suffice it to say that long after we have forgotten the Moon Walk, the sequined glove, and the surreally pale countenance, we shall remember that critical coverage of the most destructive legislation in our history - coverage that might have informed a somnolent public about the monstrosity moving through the Congress - was cancelled so we could (breathlessly) watch the outside of a hospital where a performer who liked to sleep with children lay dying. The national news media - including the cable network a majority of viewers trust for responsible reporting - dropped the ball on this one.

At the end of the day, this coverage lapse might actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise - perhaps an example of the Lord's "mysterious ways" to which I alluded earlier. I hope so. After the "Michael Jackson blackout," the climate bill squeaked narrowly through a House in which Democrats outnumber Republicans 256-178, by a margin of just 219-212. Forty-four Democrats crossed over to vote against the bill, while eight Republicans voted for it. In days following, radio talk-show hosts and Fox News have redoubled their efforts to inform the public about the danger the bill represents. Information has also begun to emerge on what those 219 "aye" votes cost, in terms of special concessions to various districts, industries and individuals.

None of the 431 congressmen who voted on the bill could possibly have read its 1200+ pages. Indeed, over 300 pages detailing the political deals made to ensure the bill's passage were added in the wee hours of June 26 - far too late for anyone to read them. Incredibly, a bill that could mortally wound the American economy has passed through the People's House without a single one of the People's Representatives knowing exactly what was in it. If there is a suitable time for revolution, one would think it is certainly at hand.

The controversial bill now heads for a fight in the United States Senate. Powerful forces are arrayed to push it through, but disquiet is growing - especially among senators who will face voters in the fall of 2010. Our only hope for stopping it lies with an informed public and with the blogosphere - that same gang of unofficial reporters who tore the "comprehensive immigration reform" bill of 2007 apart, found out what was in it, informed the public, and sent the bill down to a dramatic, last-second defeat in the Senate. All that happened exactly two years ago. Columnist Rich Lowry described the switchboard-jamming, senator-intimidating blitz as "The Phone Call Mutiny" in his memorable column of June 30, 2007. [1]

This is as good a time as any for us to learn that there are crazy people making laws in the Congress of the United States. Nothing else - save outright criminality - can explain Henry Waxman's Clean Energy and Security Act. It would add thousands of unnecessary dollars to the energy bills of every American family during a deep economic recession. It would destroy or cripple many businesses. And it would increase the price of everything from food to automobiles. We don't know exactly how expensive it will be, because not even the government has read it.

The Waxman bill, it is worth adding, has no purpose except the raising of revenue and the deliberate reshaping of American industry - the latter being one of Barack Obama's clearly stated goals. Even true believers in global warming know that the bill will do nothing about climate. It is about money, not temperatures. Al Gore's "settled science" is clearly becoming less settled by the day, as Japan, Australia and most of Europe are starting to raise serious questions about the theory of anthropogenic climate-change. (See Kimberley Strassel's discussion of the status of climate-change science in "The Climate Change Climate Change." [2])

The prayer of every American who cares about the country's future should be that another "mutiny" will rise up to stop this ruinous legislation before it can monster-mash its way across America. If it isn't defeated, we'll remember Michael Jackson for more than the Moon Walk. His death will be a metaphor for the death of the America we knew and loved.

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[1] Lowry:

[2] Strassel: