U.S. could assert Monroe Doctrine over oil….

June 29, 2008



By Tony Walther

With the clamor among many for the U.S. to renew offshore drilling comes the repeated story that the Chinese are already drilling off the south Florida coast, 60 miles from our shores. Vice President Dick Cheney asserted as much recently to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce gathering.

Later, when challenged, his office allowed that the vice president was in error. But of course this story is now be repeated as fact, especially by those wanting to influence others to get on the bandwagon to drill for oil offshore. So true story or not, Cheney accomplished what he set out to do.

And, maybe, there is some element of fact in all of this. Checking the web, I see that Cuba has reportedly leased or has offered leases for some offshore sites to others, including China. But I see no confirmed reports of drilling at this time. 

As I am writing this, I really don’t know who legally (and by what law) controls what, where.

Also, there is the story circulating, mentioned casually as fact, that not only are the Chinese drilling, but they are slanting their drill bits our way, kind of like they used to do in Texas, you know, stealing oil from under the neighbor’s property. If they are not drilling yet, I do not know how they are doing this. And don’t we have satellites, and the Navy, to check all of this out?

At any rate, if any of this is true or about to become true, perhaps we should be concerned. It just doesn’t seem right that we would permit foreign powers, especially ones foreign to this hemisphere, to tap our hemisphere’s resources. I have to admit, I am not a big fan of offshore drilling – my main concerns being ecological, along with concern for aesthetics along our coasts. But oil is presently one of the world’s most important resources, like it or not.

Maybe it’s time to get into the desk drawer and dust off the trusty Monroe Doctrine. Back in 1823, President James Monroe proclaimed the doctrine, which essentially warned foreign powers to not try to colonize or re-colonize the Americas, and to not try to influence our governments. It didn’t deal with oil drilling. But oil exploration and production it would seem requires the collaboration with hemispherical governments and surly results in some type of influence.

The Monroe Doctrine has been used over and over by U.S. presidents in the exercise of foreign policy. Some examples:

The doctrine backed up the U.S. in its fight against Spain in the Spanish-American War of 1898, which began in a dispute over Cuban independence and Spanish interference with trade and resulted in the U.S. taking over the former Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico, the Philippines (independent from the U.S. since 1946), and Guam.

In 1904, President Teddy Roosevelt augmented the Monroe Doctrine with what was called the Roosevelt Corollary. It was supposedly aimed at stabilizing economic affairs of Carribean nations if they were unable to pay foreign debts. With some gun boat diplomacy, Roosevelt was able to ward of a military action by Germany and Britain against Venezuela over debt collection.

Later, President Franklin Roosevelt used the Monroe Doctrine in his Good Neighbor policy with Latin America. He and presidents since supported dictators down there as long as they were friendly to us and not outside powers, most notably the Soviet Union or Communist China.

FDR supposedly said of propping up one dictator: “He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”

Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy used the Monroe Doctrine to form their policies against Castro’s Cuba because Castro had aligned himself with the Soviet Union and declared Cuba a communist state (and that policy, outdated as it may be, holds today).

Now, to be sure, the Monroe Doctrine has not been popular with our neighbors to the south, with them seeing it as a tool we used to assert our own hegemony. But of course asserting power is what world powers do. You either assert power or someone else asserts it on you, and my don’t I sound like some kind of an imperialist and/or war hawk. No, I would prefer that we take the friendly, but firm approach (TR’s speak softly and carry a big stick). I would prefer the attitude that we want nothing more than to get along, but we also want to survive and control our own destiny without outside interference.

But before we could even think about a successful revival of the Monroe Doctrine, we will have to establish a renewed and sincere interest and friendship with our neighbors to the south, and it probably wouldn’t hurt if we didn’t treat Canada (yes, I know, it’s toward the north) like it wasn’t there or like it’s just an extension of the U.S.

And maybe the Monroe Doctrine is too much a relic from the past. We may need an updated version, the McCain or Obama Corollary, if you will.

Buckaroos boo hoo over cost of fuel…

June 28, 2008



By Tony Walther

Somehow I think we’ve lost our resolve to fight the war, if we ever had any, after I read in my morning newspaper that some cowboys are sniveling because it’s to blame for the high cost of fuel that is making it difficult for them to get around to all the rodeos.

Can you believe it? Why I thought there was nothing more all-American, fly the flag, support the troops, America love it or leave it, don’t criticize your government or commander in chief you’re a traitor if you do, than rodeo.

At the last one I went to, a horseback rider came out flying the American flag and everyone stood up and there was a call over the loudspeaker to support the troops and show your patriotism, with the clear implication that anyone who would dare say anything against our war was less than a true American.

But now the quote in my newspaper says Steve Gilbert, co-owner of a stock contracting outfit, said: “Instead of spending billions of dollars on war, we ought to be taking care of our own problems.”

And can you blame him for being so upset? The story notes that he has had to cut down on the use of his own personal airplane.

Why some cowboys are having to squeeze six into a pickup to be able to afford to make it to the rodeos (of course some of those fuel guzzling machines can comfortably seat several).

Cowboy Matt Yount of Bishop, Ca., was quoted as saying: “It brings up resentment against the United States government, because they’re not doing anything about it, because the oil companies are backing our political candidates.”

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I mean back in Iraq, the cost of fuel for our military is skyrocketing, but it’s making Iraq rich. They’re finally able to pump some of that tremendous oil reserve they have and are trying to figure out how to spend all their money. I found that out from a story conveniently juxtaposed to the crying cowboy story.

First of all, these boo hoo buckaroos can’t be serious. Please tell me they were misquoted, and surely that is what they will say if they get chided for their seemingly unpatriotic remarks by their right wing redneck buddies or fans, although the fans may have changed their tune also.

Second of all, shouldn’t that oil revenue bonanza be going to the United States? Again, I wasn’t in favor of blundering into Iraq in the first place, but if we didn’t go in there to steal their oil, then I can’t figure out why we did. Yes, I know that the Bush administration has come up with several reasons over the many years of the war, such as weapons of mass destruction that somehow have never materialized and that they morphed it all in with 9/11 even though there was no direct link between Iraq and 9/11, and I know we have to fight the terrorists over there before they come over here and we had to destroy Iraq to save the world from the onslaught of Islamic fundamentalism (in favor of Christian fundamentalism), or whatever…

(And in a strange and ironic twist, the Saddam Hussein government was non-religious, but the one we back now is some version of Islamic fundamentalist.)

So is that enough sarcasm for today? I wish I was clever and smooth enough with my writing to do a political satire column. There sure is a lot of material out there.


And for anyone who hasn’t read this blog before, please check out my continuing fictional saga – something about a small town in the 1950s. Look for Tuleville Sundown by entering the following on your yahoo search bar:



The $7-gasp over $7-gas…

June 27, 2008



By Tony Walther

Seven-dollar Gas????!!!!

That should make you gasp.

Yes, now there’s some government report that predicts $7-per-gallon gasoline by 2012, and some say by 2010, and the way things are going it might be sooner.

Now so far, in my area, I have not seen any major change in driving habits or the love affair with humongous vehicles, many of which carry around single occupants. But I am sure a lot of people are thinking, do I really need to make that trip? or can I combine errands to reduce trips?

And even if you’ve fallen out of love with your monster gas guzzler you may be stuck with it for awhile.

Also, I don’t get out much due to my health condition and due to not being able to afford gasoline that already costs in the neighborhood of $4.50 per gallon here.

I understand that there is a large global demand for oil, what with the emergence of China and India as new economic giants, but why all the sudden? The increases have come so fast.

The crisis is of course forcing us, at least many of us, into conservation, and into thinking, yes we really do have to come up with some alternatives to oil, and especially foreign oil.

In the short term, I’m thinking, we really need to develop our oil and gas supplies in the United States and North America, but I am not for off-shore drilling –- too much of an environmental risk, and I have seen the ugliness of the platforms north of Ventura.

Also, I know coal is dirty and coal mining is dangerous and in many cases it despoils the countryside, but we sure have a lot of it, coal that is.

Long term – Read an article about hydrogen powered cars, but it was not terribly informing and I understand hydrogen power is not terribly practical anyway and not really efficient (I need to do some research on that one).

And nuclear does not seem to be a good option either, if for no other reason, it is not safe. I know some will argue that point, but the evidence seems to me to say that it is, not safe.

Brazil is using sugar cane to fuel cars. We don’t have enough sugar cane growing areas, I don’t think, and isn’t that like the corn-for-fuel fiasco? –- well not quite, because sugar cane, I understand, is at least somewhat efficient, whereas corn-based ethanol is not, but then again, you’re talking about fueling tractors and other energy inputs and use of land that could otherwise be used to put food on the table.

Wait a minute – God created horses (of course they’re hay burners).

I recall that back in the 70s when the Arab oil embargo first hit that some farmer or farmers back in Illinois went back to horses. Never heard anything more about that, although I did see an Amish farmer one spring in the mid 1990s with a team of horses and a plow in Pennsylvania.

But back to the gasoline thing:

So far, unlike the 1970s, there does not seem to be a shortage. I have not seen gas lines. I have seen a few empty gas stations. And one strange sight I have to mention is when I was searching for cheaper gasoline the other day – you know wasting gas to get cheaper gas – I saw a large vintage boat car pulling out of the station I was at, where the gas was not really cheap, but a little cheaper, and then saw the same car being filled up by the driver at another station where the gas was a tad more expensive (not a major where the driver might have been using a credit card). I don’t know what the story was there. Just thought I’d throw that into the mix.

…I began this blog before I retired last night and now this morning I see that oil is trading on the Asian markets at $142 today. Investment firm Goldman Sachs recently predicted $200 oil in the near future – some say it will peak and then decline somewhat – and Libya is saying it might cut production, and oh, yes, the Dow (measurement of stock market trading) is at its lowest level in two years.

As you can see, I’ve departed from my usual essay format today and am wondering around. So many things going on.

The smoke around here (northern Sacramento Valley in California) cleared on Thursday, but then late in the afternoon we could see a giant plume of orange-tinged smoke in the distance (but it looked close) out our kitchen window (we have an excellent view of the northwest mountains even though we live in the middle of a subdivision with a fenced yard — I guess the house sits up a little high). It was the so-called Motion Fire, several thousand acres, west of Shasta Dam. There are still hundreds of fires around, most sparked last weekend by lightning. More thunderstorms are forecast for tonight and this weekend. And more smoke is forecast for today. And we’ve been getting ashes that drop on you outside, making one appear as if one had a severe case of dandruff (and just when my own real dandruff had cleared up).

And finally, I read through that Supreme Court opinion on the Second Amendment (basically that we do have a right to defend ourselves with guns) and found it to be dense, tortured logic perhaps, and just too many, or at least more, words that were needed to say what many already presumed in the first place, we have a right to keep and bear arms. I’ll have to re-read it, but basically it said that wording about the militia did not really mean you have to be a member of some type of government force –- militia, National Guard, Army –- to enjoy that right, even if the amendment does seem to tie the militia in with the right to keep and bare arms.

As I said yesterday, I am comfortable with the ruling even though I deplore our plague of gun violence, because the right to keep and bear arms has been accepted by most –- at least that’s my opinion. In the hinterlands we may be a little more strident about it. And I like the idea we can defend ourselves or at least are given that option. I may write more on this later. And by the way, I see that yesterday’s ruling does not automatically change any existing gun control laws, except in Washington D.C. The wheels of justice move ever so slowly.

And here’s a thought: rabid gun supporters are often the same folks who don’t much care for American Civil Liberties Union ideas about civil liberties – – the right to a fair trial, habeas corpus, and so on. But just as the conservatives on the high court seemed to rule in the gun enthusiasts’ favor, they also have recently ruled in favor of the right to a trial for those accused terrorists.

Message to those who only believe in civil liberties for themselves and not others: when it comes to Supreme Court conservatism, well you called for it, and you got it. True conservatives want to maintain the status quo. The Constitution and its Bill of Rights has always enumerated civil liberties. Recently conservative high court justices have recognized that.


I’m still promoting my novel, Tuleville Sundown. If you don’t already know about it, check it out by going to your Yahoo search bar and entering: http://360.yahoo.com/anthonywalther@att.net

I’m actually in progress and am posting pages as I go along. It takes place in a small Central Valley California town in the 1950s.

Right to fire back upheld…

June 26, 2008



By Tony Walther

I’m comfortable with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling today declaring a city-wide ban on handguns in Washington D.C. to be unconstitutional.

And at the same time I am appalled and even somewhat fearful of the gun violence that plagues our society. Over the past week a man and his two sons were shot to death in San Francisco in what was called a “road rage” incident, but what was probably more of an incident of wanton violence by the dregs of society. There have been several so-called road rage incidents in the Bay Area recently that resulted in death. And of course there are road rage and other senseless killings, often drug related, elsewhere and everywhere.

I have mentioned the Second Amendment, the so-called right to keep and bear arms, previously. I still believe that its wording is ambiguous and possibly that ambiguity was on purpose, a kind of political compromise. And I also believe that its authors lived in a different world with different concepts and language.

The Second Amendment, of the Bill of Rights, in the U.S. Constitution reads:

“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” (Find Law.com)

Despite the strange punctuation (the commas) and the mention of a militia, among the general public, it has been understood by most, I think, lo all these many years, that the Second Amendment gives the right to each and every one of us to have guns (whether we want them or not).

I am somewhat ambivalent about the Second Amendment, but I have always felt I have to go along with it as a right for individual gun ownership (maybe I watched too many westerns as a kid).

Seriously, though, I have to go along with the old saying that if you make it a crime to own guns, then only criminals will have guns. Simplistic, but true.

One woman argued before the high court in this case that she was threatened by drug dealers in her home and neighborhood and at one point the police themselves advised her to “get a gun.”

Another woman was on hand for the Virginia Tech massacre in which a student went on a killing rampage. She said someone has to act (on tighter gun control) before other incidents take place (and correct me if I am wrong, but I think other similar incidents have taken place since then).

When I began today’s blog, there was no word of the decision yet on the web, but as I scanned for bits of news, the report on the decision came in. The court made its ruling in a 5-4 decision. I will be interested to see the who voted which way and the arguments.

But appalling as gun violence is, I feel good that the Second Amendment, ambiguity and all, has been, well, I would say left alone. The Supreme Court has really only visited the issue one time before, in 1939, and it actually seemed to go the other way, but that ruling (U.S. vs. Miller) was never held to be a definitive one. It also let stand a lower court decision affirming a local ban on handguns in one city back in 1983, by not taking on the case itself.

So in the past, the Supreme Court has been somewhat unclear. Today’s ruling seems to be (have not seen the text of it yet) at least somewhat more clear. It upholds the right among the citizenry to keep and bear arms (maybe there can still be qualifications to that, don’t know).

I can live with that. Yes, I could also die with that should some punk take a shot at me, but I might also be able to defend myself by firing back.

Now I digress, but the old-time Libertarians are essentially correct when they say that police don’t protect us, they just take reports after crimes have been committed (no offense to police officers meant here). Really, we can only protect ourselves. Whether we choose to own guns is apparently a decision we have a right to make.

I am the God of Hell Fire and I bring you FIRE!

June 25, 2008


By Tony Walther

And now for the third time I feel compelled to write something about that summer thunderstorm over the weekend that didn’t amount to much, not much except for the fact that it seems that all of the local area and the state is lit up in flame.

A pall of smoke and ashes has hung over us here in the Northern Sacramento Valley since Sunday.

The fires so far are primarily in the mountains that nearly surround us (east and west and north).

Air quality is not good. I think the air conditioner helps filter out some of the bad air (although I need to buy a new filter pad). But I had a passing thought (fear), because someone told me that at least one of the fires was near some major electric transmissions lines. A power outage could really spell disaster. No cooling on a hot summer day. Lost food in the fridge (and food is like gold now). And horrors of all horrors, no internet, no computer, no blogging.

There are literally hundreds of fires in the local area. Most or all them were caused by lighting strikes over the weekend. I was sitting here writing my blog as the thunderstorm started, but about the time I concluded writing it, the storm seemed to have finished. Not quite so, it rained and there was lighting and thunder throughout the day, along with a small amount of hail where I live.

So, of course, I wrote a followup, an update, if you will, and used it as an excuse to mention something about the possibility of global warming and society’s reaction to it.

Today, I write another update to let you know that things are still smokey here. Don’t have my paper yet, but last I heard there was a prediction for at least a chance of more thunderstorms and definitely hot weather (in the 100s this weekend). I had also said in my first blog on the subject that we were having unseasonably low temperatures – we seem to be back to seasonably high temps.

I guess the reason we have had such an outbreak of fires is that the normal rainy season (fall, winter, early spring) did not really deliver enough this past year. That would have been a surprise to me back in December when I briefly went back to my trucking job and was slogging through the snow, dragging those heavy iron chains around and struggling to wrap them around my wheels. And when it snows in the mountains around here, it generally rains in the valley.

So far, thank goodness, the fires around here locally don’t seem to have resulted in many casualties or lost homes (and I hope I don’t have to update that with bad news).

The ranks of firefighters here in Northern California are thin, the media reports tell me. So, if you’re in that line of work, you might apply. We could bring in the military (National Guard, regular Army), but then again, I guess they’re all tied up with other projects. And yes, while I did intend sarcasm in that last sentence, I did not mean to offend the troops themselves, for they will do their duty as directed, as they continue to demonstrate.

Don’t need to wait for the paper, just checked the weather on the internet and the forecast for today is 98, but it’s expected to be up to 104 by Friday. They don’t seem to be calling for thunderstorms now, just some clouds, here in the valley. But then again, last weekend’s thunder and lightning and rain and hail episode wasn’t in the forecast either.

And to be clear, thunderstorms around here in the mountains in the summer are not so uncommon, but they are uncommon here in the valley. And they have those dry lighting strikes too up in the mountains and, in fact, that seems to have been the culprit for many of the fires. Lightning to torch them, but no rain , or not enough, to put them out or to have prevented them in the first place.

So, even with all of our technology and all of those computer models and so on, the weather remains hard to accurately predict, and at best, it seems, the forecasters can only go a day or so ahead of time.

There’s not much we can do about it either, except prepare, and prepare for what?

We are at the mercy of God, Mother Nature, the Supreme Being, George W.

Column’s headline courtesy of lyrics by Arthur Brown (1967).

Israel to our rescue???

June 24, 2008



By Tony Walther

It looks as though Israel is shaping up to be our proxy in taking care of the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. We will stand by and let Israel do our dirty work. We’ll reap the security benefits without taking the brunt of the blame.

There was even, so far as can be told as of this writing, a false report in the last 24 hours that Israel had already struck, causing oil prices to go up (anything causes them to move up now).

But all the news and news blogs are pointing to a strike by Israel, with or without our acquiescence.

And a line out of the Drudge Report caught my eye. John Bolton, our former representative in the UN, opined that if Israel were to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, the Arab world would publicly denounce the attack, but would privately be pleased. Iran is Persian, not Arab, and the Arab world is probably uncomfortable with the idea of a new Persian empire. Iran already has heavy influence in Iraq.

Mideast politics are complicated what with all the warring factions, but I have read that in general, in that part of the world, folks tend to respect power. Now the U.S. has certainly tried to project power there over the past eight years, but the ham-handed approach by our leaders (not talking about our troops over there) has at times been less than impressive or successful (and now one blog headline says Bush has no post surge strategy. I could believe that. He and his administration have had no strategy whatsoever, as far as I can tell).

The famous quote from a U.S. military officer in Vietnam was: “We had to destroy the village to save it.” And isn’t that what we did in Iraq? Destroyed it to save it.

Anyway, it seems to me now that some type of dialogue with Iran is in order. Maybe to save face for both sides it needs to be done in private (and I am no fan of secret deals. We secretly gave away the store in Vietnam, Reagan reportedly made a secret deal with Iran to make Jimmy Carter look bad, and we essentially gave away eastern Europe in World War II to the communists).

While we need to break our dependence on foreign oil, Iran does have one heck of a lot of oil we could use in the meantime. I’ve heard reports that the Iranian people tend to like the U.S. It’s their fundamentalist Islamic government that hates us. I’m not even sure if they hate us really. It’s more of a power game. In that part of the world you sometimes gain power by hating the U.S.

Existing Middle East governments always walk a tightrope between relations with the U.S. and internal threats from their own insurgents.

We really would do better to stop trying to play God by trying to shape the Middle East in our own image. The Middle East will be the Middle East.

Seems to me that we would do better by being publicly neutral, but privately cautious and watchful.

Barack Obama may have been tripped up way back in one of those so-called debates when he said he would be willing to talk to Iran (didn’t sound good at the time to many). I wrote recently that I would not be comfortable with him coming back from Iran Neville Chamberlain style and saying we would have “pace in our time.” But I have seen the indication from him that he only meant that he would give dialogue a shot before taking a shot, militarily.

I’m probably wandering here from the main thesis of all of this, whatever it is, but in the interest of fair play, I’ll note that John McCain seems to just want a military victory and he does not want to talk to Iran because its president (and I don’t want to look up how to spell his name; he’s not worth it) has vowed to destroy Israel and denies the Holocaust ever took place. True, I don’t think even Obama wants to talk to that goof ball. But Iran is really run by religious leaders. We just need to talk to the folks who are actually in charge.

While McCain’s steadfast support of something that seems hopeless most of the time (the war) gives me problems, I have to think that if he were president he’d be more pragmatic about everything and maybe get the job done (and that was not an endorsement of him).

However, I don’t see Obama as a peacenik really. He has called for going after Al-Qaeda in Pakistan if necessary. And he’s also talked about paying more attention to the almost forgotten (until recently) job in Afghanistan.

While in sports they often say that the best defense is an offense, I’m not so sure that such holds true in U.S. foreign relations. Sports is a game. Our relations with the rest of the world may be played like a game, but it is for real. We need a strong defense and an offense that is ready to roll at anytime. But we don’t need to be looking for fights. We need to take care of things here at home: the energy crisis, the economy, affordable healthcare, and the threat of our own internal breakdown in our own society (the last is really another blog subject, but I thought I’d mention it).

And another thing, I’m not so sure that we should sit here all comfortable waiting for the Israelis to do our bidding. I think we would end up taking the blame. I’d rather be blamed for something I did than something someone else did. Israel is so strong for two reasons. It has resolve. And it has us.

You see, I didn’t suggest a terribly coherent plan in all of this. I’m not running for president. I’m looking for a leader who can come up with a coherent plan or is willing to listen to wise counsel and not just surround himself with yes men or take his cues from the likes of Uncle Dick Cheney.

As daunting as the challenges that face us are, life is full of new beginnings. We need a renaissance.


A shot at survival…

June 23, 2008



By Tony Walther

Seems as if we need a moon shot approach to solve our energy problem. When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik back in the 1950s, we, the U.S., panicked, thinking that the Russians had far surpassed us in technology.

I think that panic helped get John Kennedy elected president in 1960. He was young, he was a Democrat and the current administration at the time was Republican, and he talked about vigor, which he pronounced as something like “viga,” in that Irish-tinged Boston area accent. I saw him when he campaigned and he came through Marysville, Ca. He gave a speech from the back of a train as they used to do (the whistle stop tour). With his red hair and freckles, he looked like the all-American boy. Richard Nixon, his opponent, was young too (both men were in their 40s and both were World War II veterans), but Nixon was the vice president, and he was not so handsome, and represented the administration of the aging Dwight Eisenhower (Ike), a kindly grandfatherly man, who led us to victory in World War II as Supreme Allied Commander (five star Gen. Eisenhower). The political cartoons of the day always showed Ike playing golf while the world problems festered around him. Actually, though, as I recall, there was not a lot of difference in the platforms of Nixon or Kennedy and in the end it was a close election. Some have even suggested that Nixon would have won if it were not for dead folks in Chicago showing up on the election rolls.

As fate would have it, it all turned into disaster for both men. Kennedy was assassinated in office and Nixon would go on to win the presidency later in the decade, get re-elected and then find himself forced to resign in disgrace, the only president ever to do so.

But I began this piece by writing about the need for a moon shot. Kennedy promised that we would go to the moon. And we did, within the decade of the 60s. Although the Russians gave us a run for the money, we clearly surpassed them in the space race and developed all types of new technologies along the way. But we got kind of jaded with the whole thing, and although I presume we still are the leaders in space technologies, it would not be hard for me to imagine being surpassed by the Chinese or someone else, should we remain relatively complacent.

Now I know you’ve heard this one before from others, but I believe that we need an increased emphasis on science in our schools. For too long we have emphasized marketing over engineering and production of real things and technologies. We’d rather be salesmen than inventors and producers and innovators.

The problem, I suppose, is there is not a lot of quick riches in science. That may change as the energy crisis worsens and we are forced to innovate or perish.

And do we have to give up our way of life? Maybe yes, maybe no. If we work fast enough and hard enough, our technology might catch up with our way of life.

I think we are going to see some major changes over the next few years, but I don’t see that they will all be negative. We should be able to adapt to new realities. Oil can’t last forever. Something is happening with our weather (not sure we can control that, but ignoring the phenomenon seems foolish), and the rest of the world will not settle for being under our thumb (we don’t want to be under anyone else’s, I must quickly add).

All the energy and resources we’ve put into “fighting them over there” could have been and could be put into fighting for something over here: Survival.

Note to readers:

After a hiatus, I’ve got my Tuleville Sundown novel going again (a step back in time to the 1950s). You can access that at http://360.yahoo.com/anthonywalther@att.net

If you click the little red list view near the top of the page to the right of my Anthony Walther name you can get the list of the posts, go to the bottom, Tuleville Sundown, my first page, and at the bottom of that click next post and then read it in sequence and catch up. Meanwhile, I’ll try to stay ahead of you.

Weather update; moving to the center…

June 22, 2008



By Tony Walther

That thunderstorm yesterday did amount to something after all. I concluded my column saying that it didn’t, but that was a moment in time. It did continue off and on throughout the day and the lightning sparked a plethora of fires, mostly in the surrounding mountains here in the upper Sacramento Valley of California. And one bolt blew a chimney apart in my city.

I also said the temperatures have been below normal for June. Well, here they have, but in much of the of the state, including the city of Sacramento, they were pretty high yesterday. I couldn’t find what our high temperature was, but I think the rain kept it down somewhat, although it was kind of muggy.

Writing about the weather and trying to clear up any confusion I may have caused, being as our weather here did not match the rest of the state, it brings to mind a thing I always notice about outside media reporting about happenings here. Nationally, they will report temperatures and weather conditions in the San Francisco area and call it Northern California, as if their climate had anything to do with ours. San Francisco, due to its geography, has its own mini climate that has little to nothing to do with ours.

A big gripe I have is that the Weather Channel and CNN and others seem to think the west coast does not exist. They will go on and on about weather back east and in the Midwest (and of course there has been a big story in the latter lately), but will skip over the west coast or give a quick summary and move on. Occasionally, if we do have a major weather occurrence out here they will go into a some further detail. But they never fail to miss any detail for the rest of the nation.

And as someone who spent more than a decade driving the length of the west coast up and down I-5, I can tell you the weather changes drastically every fifty to a hundred miles and sometimes less. Weather itself changes rapidly anywhere, and out here going north or south, you go through what I call mini weather zones.

Anyway, the outlook for my area this week is for the high 90s with sun and no clouds. And that is fairly normal for here.

And speaking of the weather, we have had some drastic weather occurrences around the nation — floods, tornadoes, hurricanes -– and around the world over the past many years. So, are we suffering from the global warming phenomenon? I don’t have a clue. I have to put my trust in the scientists and they don’t all agree. But I think the world society has come to a consensus that more attention needs to be paid to the environment. I’ve noticed that even the reactionary crowd who automatically scoffs at anything that hints at restrictions on their set ways of doing things seems to have come to some recognition that the environment has some relevance – gee, ya think?

The problem in all of this is extremism. It is extreme to suggest that we have to stop everything we are doing now and go back to the stone age and it is just as extreme to say there is no problem, keep on spewing out all those greenhouse gases.

Yes, I really can turn any piece of writing into politics. But I note that both presidential candidates seem to be running toward the center, away from extremism. That’s a good thing.

Another good thing is that my grandson is staying with us for a few days.

So, I think I’ll go spend some time with the little fella.

Summer rain…

June 21, 2008



By Tony Walther

When all else fails, write about the weather.

That’s what one of my newspaper editor bosses would have us do on an otherwise slow news day.

I couldn’t come up with anything to write about today (but I have to write, it’s a compulsion), so I am going to type something about the weather.

A thunderstorm is quite untypical, although not unheard of, for California, Sacramento Valley, late June weather. Having a little thunderstorm outside the window now.

We have not had a scorching hot day yet – well, that’s not right – last month we did have a week of upper 90s and 100s, as I recall. But June has been mild.

And back to this unusual thunderstorm. The summer rain and thunderstorm is not typical for California’s main interior valley – actually one large valley referred to as the Central Valley, but called the Sacramento Valley in the north and the San Joaquin Valley from the city of Sacramento south.

I can recall at least two times vividly when we had a summer thunderstorm in the valley (although we have had more):

One was in August, sometime in the early 1960s. Mom, one of my brothers, and, I think my sister, and I were picking prunes across the road from where we lived at the time, six miles south of Yuba City. Toward the end of the long hot day, it clouded up, the lightning flashed and the thunder clapped, and low and behold it rained. Now if you live east of us, especially in the Midwest, and I suppose up Montana way where my oldest brother lives, that is nothing unusual (witness the major flooding in the Midwest).

As a matter of fact, my oldest brother reported snow in Montana the other day.

But to we Californians, it is strange. You see, we think of summer as long, hot, and dry. We basically have a dry season and a wet season as a normal weather pattern. Now, again, I am describing the Central Valley.

I love the smell of rain, especially a summer rain. It’s so fresh and vital.

We also think of rain as being paired with cold. The idea that you could have hot weather and rain just doesn’t seem natural to a Central Valley Californian.

The second summer rain:

Later in the 60s, when I was in high school, I was walking down the road, and it was late summer, and it began to rain. About that time, a hot rod looking car stopped and a stranger, a teenager, offered to give me a ride. I accepted. The guy was talking almost crazy, it seemed. He was talking a mile a minute, and saying as how he loved this weather, it reminded him of the home on the coast his family had just recently left . “Man, I’m sneezing and my sinuses are stuffed up and this is just like back home in Monterey. I love it. Get in man. I’ll give you a ride.”

That was Tom Monson. He was a character. Kind of a displaced surfer dude. He served in the U.S. Navy, later was a locksmith, and I’m sorry to say, he died many, many years ago. He was not a close friend of mine, but I remember him and his enthusiasm for life and for fast cars.

I recall a third summer rain (and hail and snow), but this was in the High Sierra: 

Our family, that would be mom and dad, my next oldest brother, and my sister, and yours truly, took a hiking trip up into the High Sierra (I think I was between first and second grade). We hiked about six miles or so up a steep trail, an all-day affair. I think the plan was to go farther, but we ran into snow that covered the trail. So we stopped at this beautiful set of lakes. The weather was crisp, but I think it was fairly sunny. We stayed there for some time, and everyone fished. We would lay the trout out on a snow bank.

Later we hiked back down the mountain and tried to take another trail. We ran into rain, hail, some snow, I think, and thunder, loud thunder, and lightning. We took cover under or near some trees. Not a good idea, but we were in a forest. It’s kind of hard not to be under or near some trees.

And this is where it gets crazy. I vividly recall a round ball of fire whizzing past me. Over the years I have wondered if that was just my imagination or if I was getting it confused with one of those ground Fourth of July fireworks things, where a ball of fireworks slides across a line. Well, I’m too lazy to look this up now, but I think I have heard of the phenomenon I have described. I was scared. Large pellets of hail were pounding my head and then this fireball races past me. Mom was there for my protection.

I have to say, the folks took things calmly, as I recall. My mom and dad always seemed fearless at such times. I know, of course, they were concerned. We all made it back off the mountain, a little weather damaged, but otherwise okay.

And just like deja vu all over again, there was a similar incident in the early 70s. My wife and I, my dad, both brothers, and my next to older brother’s wife, hiked up into the Marble Mountains in Northern California. Our first clue should have been everyone hiking back out. The set of lakes we hiked up to were beautiful. It was a carbon copy almost of the High Sierra. And everyone, except me, caught fish. My wife, the most natural fisherperson I have ever known, caught the largest trout. I made a picture of her and the trout. It along with others made up a photo page I did for the newspaper I worked for. But it rained the whole time we were up there. Word to the wise. Middle of summer, high mountains, look for rain and even snow.

And one more summer rain recollection:

I was a soldier stationed in Germany (late 60s, early 70s). One night out in the field my tank was designated as the searchlight tank. Our job was to illuminate targets. But I was either a driver or a loader at the time, and I was not needed. The tank commander and gunner suggested that I walk back to the company line and crawl into tank and get some shuteye.

Bad idea. As I walked back, I got caught in a torrential downpour. I was soaked from head to toe and it was not warm this particular night. I would crawl up onto a tank and look down through the hatch and would get the same response each time. No room in here.

I finally did find accommodations somewhere at the end of the line. But I did not dry off until about noon the next day as I rode outside a tank with the sun’s rays shining on me.

Well, that summer thunderstorm outside my window didn’t amount to much, and I guess neither did this column today. But I felt compelled to write. As all writers would, I want someone to read this. But really, the satisfaction is in the writing. But, if you’re reading this, thanks for doing so. I promise to come up with something more enlightening or thought provoking next time, but don’t hold me to it.


Hey, I could write a song. Summer rain taps at my window…..

Too bad, it’s already been done. Johnny Rivers sang that way back many summer rains ago.

(Summer Rain, words and music by James Hendricks)





Smart enough to see reality…

June 20, 2008



By Tony Walther

Why do we have to motivate young people to learn or to just attend school?

Publicly financed education at least through the 12th grade is offered to all citizens, and in some cases non-citizens, in the United States. A long, long time ago folks recognized the obvious need for everyone to learn how to read and write and cipher and decided it would be a good idea to provide public education.

But it seems that a large part of the younger population is no longer enthused about getting an education. We are told that the dropout rates are high, although there seems to be some disagreement as to what the actual rate is. And while I worry about why the education establishment can’t figure out accurate statistics on the dropout rate, that is a different angle I don’t want to go into now.

No, what I am curious about is why so many in the younger set are not interested in learning, and more importantly why anyone would suggest those of us who are interested should foot the bill or wring our hands about those who are not.

I have to shake my head in wonder as to why anyone would not think it important to learn how to read and write and do their numbers. I think I can see that some might not be able to see why it is important to go beyond those basics, at least I could have seen that years ago. Today it should be obvious to anyone of high school age that the standards out there in the real world have gone up.

There really is no excuse for dropping out before the end of high school. I have to wonder what a young person would intend to do without a high school education.

Now there was a time when the under educated stayed down on the farm (we’re talking the 1930s and before) or they went into what were called the “manual trades.” Today, there is not as much manual labor demand on farms (unless you want to be a professional lettuce picker or something of that order) and many farmers have college educations. And while there still is a strong demand for the trades, and I expect there always will be, the norm is to at least have a high school education. Things are complex out there and one really needs to not only know how to read and write and calculate, but how to interpret instructions and read plans and so on.

An even more important reason to get an education is that if you don’t others who do will rule your life. They decide where and when you will work, how much you get paid, how much you will pay for your rent or house payment (a little knowledge among the masses could have prevented the home mortgage crisis), how much taxes you will pay, whether you or your kids will go to war, and so on.

And, if you are not going to be working directly with your hands, it’s obvious that you have to get all the education you can. There’s a lot of competition out there. If you aren’t interested, someone in India is.

But there are the hard cases who just can’t be bothered. They don’t need no book learnin.

We shouldn’t bother those folks, or more to the point, we shouldn’t as a society bother with those folks. Now I know that they are young and immature and may not yet understand the ways of the world, but maybe they need to start understanding. Many of their peers do. You know the ones who attend school and do their best and have to put up with the disruptions of those who don’t.

Those who don’t want to attend school should not have to, and in fact, they should not be allowed to.

I think that in time all but the truly mentally challenged will find that there is some value to education and will probably seek it. It becomes more difficult to go back to school as you get older. Over time, young people of succeeding generations will see that the easier way is to stick with it and get through it.

One of the major problems we have today is the welfare state. I have not done a statistical study, but through empirical analysis, I have concluded that dropouts and other low achievers drift into the welfare state in various ways. Supposedly, the system does not hand out welfare to able-bodied folks who can work. But the undereducated are smart enough to work the system.

As an example, a lot of them live off of the Aid to Families with Dependant Children (AFDC) program. The money is supposed to go to the children, but adults often use those funds for their own purposes, such as buying booze and dope, and computers to play games on. Up in Oregon they buy CB radios and chatter all day (I was a trucker and they used to taunt me, saying they were glad someone was out there working to pay for their welfare).

Women have been allowed to have as many babies as they want and get AFCD for them. Men have been allowed to help produce as many babies as they want and are not required to take responsibility for them. Now I know some will dispute this, saying there are laws, regulations and such, but I am describing the real world situation.

Thanks to the Democratic Clinton administration and the Republicans who supported its efforts, there has been some welfare reform. I attempted to do some research on the current state of AFDC, but our local office could not come up with quick answers (go figure). But AFDC was just one example. There are many social welfare programs that are abused. And again, I say this from just observing through life. Please don’t ask me to name names. (And in the interest of accuracy, when I do get further info I will relay it to my readers).

Compassion and the realization of there but for the grace of God go I is what protects the welfare system. Those of us who are not malingerers know that fate could easily put us in the public assistance ranks — economic downturn, layoff, sickness.

So, yes, it is prudent that we have a safety net. And, if you’ll pardon my bluntness, we have a responsibility as a society to look after the mental cases.

But, the flow of workers’ money to the non-workers needs to stop. The mollycoddling of those who can’t be bothered with education needs to stop also.

Those smart enough to work the system will be smart enough to pick up on the new reality.

Those truly in need can be taken care of by a compassionate and responsible society.