We’re hell bent on exploiting mother nature, tomorrow be damned

March 31, 2014

We seem to be hell bent on extracting everything we can from the earth and as fast as we can in the name of energy and jobs and tomorrow be damned.

Now climate change skeptics and anti-environmental movement people or those who are just disinterested will just find that first sentence alarmist or just the rant of a tree hugger.

Well I am an environmentalist of sorts, at least to the extent I prefer that we do the best we can to preserve our environment while maintaining our modern lifestyle the best we can.

But here’s the deal: You know that terrible landslide in Washington state which destroyed so much property and killed so many people and tore apart so many lives, well now I read that despite the fact that locals say no one could have known it would happen, there were earlier reports of an unstable mountainside highly susceptible to a landslide if there were development. But who wants to read such a report, especially if it means eroding property values?

And I read that the area was heavily logged by the clear cut method where you totally denude the once forested land.

Now you can’t just say don’t cut trees down. We need the lumber to build houses and other structures. We need the jobs that such an endeavor produces. But when we get carried away and wind up being not good stewards of the land, bad things happen.

One of the articles I read mentioned the Dust Bowl on the Great Plains in the 1930s that coincided with the Great Depression and noted that droughts were historical on the land — poor farming/cultivation practices led to the devastating dust storms.

And now “fracking” is all the rage in our effort to extract natural gas, never mind what it might do to the land. We need energy and we need jobs.

Canada, once so environmentalist, now has energy blinders on and is going whole hog exploiting the tar sands and lessening its own environmental regulations.

Even President Obama seems to be leaning toward approval of the Keystone Pipeline, which environmentalist have heavy concerns over.

You can get carried away with environmental regulations. I mean I live in timber country where once the main employment was in the timber industry, much of it at saw mills and lumber re-manufacturing. When I was in high school it was said that half the town was employed at one mill and half at the other. I even worked in the industry for a short term after I got out of the army (it’s hard work). And then I think two things happened, foreign competition and the spotted owl. Logging was heavily restricted and I think barred from some old growth timber where the spotted owl supposedly restricted is nesting to. And then some environmentalist detractors said the spotted owls were nesting nicely in new growth timber — I wouldn’t know, just like I never know for sure how dangerous various things are to the environment — but we all know that you have to take good care of the earth to sustain its bounty.

But caution and moderation run headlong into the economics of we must have as much money as we can now and let tomorrow and another generation take care of itself.

Another major problem is that our leaders are more concerned about elections and the big money that powers them, the same big money pushing for energy development at any cost, than what is good for sustaining our earth and what is best for human life. And furthermore the vast public is indifferent, each person only concerned about his or her immediate need for the day.

Here is a link to one of the articles that got me going on this: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/31/opinion/is-canada-tarring-itself.html?hpw&rref=opinion

 

Have a nice day.

 

 

 

 

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Political office should be a civic duty, not a profession…

March 30, 2014

I just skimmed through the FBI affidavit on Leland Yee, the latest California state senator to be arrested, and if it is accurate, well he certainly is a scum bag and deserves to be put in a cell and the key tossed away. With three senators facing criminal charges, one has to wonder if the whole legislature is not just one big den of corruption. It does not help the Democrats that all are their own. It’s like Tammany Hall all over again, but this time in California, instead of New York, and two centuries later. Politics has always been at least somewhat corrupt and probably always will be. Money and power do it every time.

But I say all the more reason to abandon the idea of holding elected office as a profession. Public office should be held by folks who simply want to serve as a civic duty and who are willing and able to accept only a small stipend. That may be problematic, but enough is enough with this corruption.

Yee had run unsuccessfully for mayor of San Francisco.  In one part of the FBI affidavit, he is quoted or described as saying that the office would give him control of billions of dollars (of public money).

I realize that the argument in favor of paying politicians is so they do not succumb to the temptations of bribery. But that is the reason we need to begin by making political office something attractive to honest people who simply want to perform a civic duty. And we might be better off with people who only serve their turn as a civic duty. Of course that potentially leaves permanent staff to fill the power void. Limit staff. Nothing is perfect. We also need better press watch dogs. But of course the public has been trained to dislike the messenger.

Nonetheless I still am wary of sting operations. My original post of March 28:

 

BLOGGER’S NOTE: The thesis of this post concerns the efficacy and the ethics and even the legality of sting operations. I wrote the original post hurriedly and now have only slightly reworded the parts concerning criminal charges because it is still not clear to me what they are. I have not read everything yet. But it’s in the news for anyone who has time — but the point is a prominent figure has been arrested in a sting operation and there is talk of great political corruption and gun running and bribes. I’ll try to write more when I have more details (time to read the stuff). In my original post,  for example, I mentioned drug running but I am not sure that authorities allege that the state senator was involved in that specifically. It’s just that in an initial news report I heard that mentioned. Anyway, to convict someone there has to be solid evidence. I wonder why the authorities don’t let it play out in court.

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I have trouble with sting operations. I’m talking about the kind where the cops induce someone to commit a criminal act and then arrest them.

The current big scandal in California state politics is the arrest of State Senator Leland Yee, a Democrat from San Francisco, by the FBI in connection with illegal gun running and political corruption.

And in the way it is reported in the initial stories one would be led to believe that he was directly involved in all of this, but you read far enough you find that most of it is implied and that he is charged with going along with undercover agents in these schemes and beyond that the authorities even report that at times he balked — but then again apparently he did not just say no. He also apparently did not report the activity. I mean if you are a senator and someone wants you to help them buy illicit arms maybe you should report it.

And I have to suppose where there is smoke there is fire. I would hope the authorities have more solid evidence against him. And I guess one reason they use sting operations is that these guys are so slippery that they can at once act as if they are turning someone down but at the same time do nothing to stop the process but somehow claim they knew nothing about it all.

Even so, it all seems like entrapment to me, something we are always led to believe is  a no-no in this country. I mean in other places without personal liberties police used trumped-up charges all the time.

I also find it strange that so many of his colleagues are jumping on the bandwagon denouncing him. He has only been charged. Now certainly there rightfully has to be some suspension of his duties when he is under such a cloud. And again, I imagine where there is smoke there is fire. But what ever happened to you are innocent until proven guilty?

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Add 1: Three state legislators in all are involved in corruption scandals and face charges, including Lee, and have now been suspended, albeit with pay, from their duties. Legislative leaders and Gov. Jerry Brown have called on all three to resign, but so far they have not.

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Oh, and I should mention that the great irony in all of this is that Yee has been a strong supporter of gun control and transparency in government. His foes are having a heyday with that.

And from what I have read so far at the least the man is highly cynical of the democratic (small d) process. He seems to have settled for the fact that money and quid pro quo is the way things get done.

I have not done a complete analysis of this whole thing, just working off the initial reports, but I wish that when these things came down the authorities could hold up true evidence and not the purported results of what often seem questionable sting tactics.

They better have more. History is replete with lost cases in these things.

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Add 2:

Yee was running for California Secretary of State but suspended his campaign for that, but as I understand it, his name will still appear on the ballot.

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Add 3:

I take a shortcut here for further clarification and to put all this into context with this link:

http://www.mercurynews.com/california/ci_25440366/state-senate-vote-suspend-yee-calderon-and-wright

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P.s.

I’ll probably write more later on this. Others are involved, to include a character named Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, an ex-con who had supposedly turned over a new leaf and had been lauded by respectable figures, including U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein.

And some of this takes place in San Francisco’s Chinatown and involves a social/criminal group called the Tongs (that’s the short name I think). It reads like a novel and/or a movie script.


If we’re so lonely why do we seek virtual reality?

March 26, 2014

And I thought I was the only one who was lonely, a widowed truck driver out on the open road, but it seems much of society is even with people all around them. I mean people are constantly texting each other, sometimes when the person is in the other room — my own daughter and her daughter have done this, but they are not alone (no play on words intended), and I’ve heard others do this too. And we all have seen people sitting with each other at a dinner table having their own private texting sessions with people elsewhere.

Now Facebook has bought out an outfit that makes some kind of head gear (it looks super clumsy and dorky in the photo I saw) that allows people to have some kind of virtual reality get-togethers with folks elsewhere. The story I read did not give details, and I was in no mood to know too much about it anyway. I think I got the creeps some time ago when I read that the technology already exists to where you wear a certain type of glasses that will instantly tell you who you are talking with and their background (and can we or will be shortly be able to read their mind, that will be the end of the human race or at least any kind of meaningful relationships. I mean as much as we’d like to know what someone is thinking, it may sometimes be better if we do not).

I have a true love, hate relationship with technology. On the one hand I lament that it at first promised great things for my former occupation as a newspaper reporter and then all but did away with traditional paper newspapers. On the other hand I love having the electronic or web version of the New York Times at my finger tips wherever I go and with the latest updated stories (and of course all the other sites). I appreciate my Kindle with its e-reader and even its feature that allows me to watch movies. And as a truck driver I can’t imagine what I did before the cell phone, not only is it handy, but one could not even do the job without one these days, and it is extremely difficult to figure out how we did without them. I began my truck driving just before cell phones took over. I still recall making calls from the telephones that were at the driver booths in the restaurants at the truck stops. I don’t know what we did when we broke down. Since cell phones quickly took over my breakdowns have meant I make a cell call for help. I did have to flag down another trucker once when my cell did not get coverage in a particular area. Fortunately the other driver’s phone did — before he stopped many trucks just whizzed by (who has time?).

So yeah, it’s great to have the latest news and to have books and movies at my fingertips and to have help on the way when I am stranded on the road (and to be able to do this blog), and I’m all for breakthroughs in medicine so we can all live a longer and healthier life, but at some point I wonder, don’t we have enough?

And why are we so much after being all by ourselves in virtual reality? Has technology dehumanized us?

I think the answer is: not yet, but it will.

 

P.s.

Oh, and back to the trucking culture. When I began this phase of my life, we all used to eat at the truck stop restaurants and hang out, phones on the tables, and make calls to our dispatchers. And of course truckers swapped stories. You should see some of those restaurants these days. Many of them are deserted. Many have closed down. They have been replaced by fast food outlets. What with cell phones and other technology speeding up the dispatching of trucks and creating tighter delivery schedules — and at the dame time new “safety” rules make truckers cut corners in their time to get things done in a narrower window — no one has time. In addition, many truckers have their own refrigerators and microwaves in their trucks.

It’s a faster world. It’s a lonelier world.


As searchers seem to close in on missing jet, my heart goes out to foreign workers and all families of those apparently perished…

March 24, 2014

I was waiting to get a CT scan and reading a National Geographic article about foreign workers, most notably the ones who come from the Philippines and work in the Middle East, and the hardships they face what with separations from their wives, husbands, children, family in general, and then when I got home I read the story that it is now believed with some certainty that the Malaysian jet liner (Flight 370) that has been missing for two weeks now, with its 227 passengers and three crew members, went down in a location in the southern Indian Ocean, way off course, and still no one seems to know why.

But since I had just read the article about foreign workers, it made me feel the anguish of those who have to live such lives. And I think many of the passengers on that jet were foreign workers going to or from home. In this case some or many were Chinese going back to China, I believe. Now some foreign workers are well paid, but I am not thinking about them (but of course the tragedy in this case is the same), but those poor people who work for low wages and are forced by world economics to be separated from their loved ones.

Of course for some it may well be a welcome opportunity, but overall I think there is something wrong with an economic system that forces so many to traverse the globe in search of relatively low-wage work doing things others don’t want to do. I can’t speak for what is best for other countries or I don’t care to mess in their business, but as for our own, I say make sure there is opportunity for our own citizens first before we draw in foreign workers. And that is not meant to be a slam against foreign workers, not even undocumented ones. I say if someone is willing to work, more power to them. Our problem may well be that we are too picky about what kinds of work we will do or maybe our economic system — the tax structure, minimum wage requirements, social services, cost of housing, and so on — is such that it creates a situation in which many low-paying jobs may well not make economic sense for potential workers, that is it would cost more to do the job and in the process lose benefits than it would pay.

I don’t have a quick answer for all of that. But my heart goes out to all of those who have apparently lost loved ones on that ill-fated flight, no matter whether the loved one was a high-paid executive or an extremely low-paid service worker, or just a tourist.

And what with all the consternation about our loss of privacy with modern technology and the fact that satellites and drones can seemingly spot our every move and identify an ant walking across the desert, it seems inconceivable that we can’t find a missing jumbo jet or even get an easy trace on its path in an instant.

P.s.

Meanwhile, right-wing talk radio hosts have contended that the jet was actually flown to a U.S. base on the Indian Ocean atoll of Diego Garcia or that it landed in Pakistan or Iran. Well no one really knows yet, I have to admit, but really????


We don’t have to go to war to prove our strength, but we need to be ready to pounce…

March 23, 2014

Too much talk about what we might do or not do about Russia’s aggression in Crimea and threat to the Ukraine as a whole. Just read an article that said U.S. President Obama said he has no intention of sending in troops. That’s as bad as our policy in the Middle East where we tell our enemies when we plan to quit fighting. Better to keep them guessing.

In a previous post I suggested that it would be best for the U.S. to not get excited about things until Russia set its sights on Alaska. Of course I was exaggerating what our reserve ought to be. To me it is kind of confusing. I grew up in the Cold War and in the days of the Soviet Union, which we often referred to as “Russia”, but of course it was much more and included the Eastern bloc or satellite nations of Eastern Europe. But now those satellites, once militarily connected with the old Soviet Union via what was called the Warsaw Pact, have joined the other side, our side, and are now part of the NATO alliance. But to me, the Ukraine was just part of Russia. So modern-day Russia moving into the Ukraine or to be exact, Crimea as of now (but threatening all of Ukraine), does not seem like much (of course I don’t live there).

Ukraine has ties to NATO, but is not a member, and thus does not have the automatic military protection of NATO.

Russian aggression in Crimea does give warning that it might also have its sights set on reclaiming more of the old Soviet Union.

But for those who wonder what Russian leader Vladimir Putin is up to in Crimea it seems fairly simple that he is after access to the Black Sea and natural gas deposits there as well, which at least one major energy company has its sights set on.

The strategy of Russia in its present aggression is to stir up the Russian ethnic populace and then claim they want Russia’s protection. And many commentators have pointed to Adolph Hitler’s claim that his Nazi Germany needed to absorb lands of other nations who had German populations.

But back to what to do:

Certainly the U.S. has to think about positioning its own NATO contingent so it can help protect Eastern Europe NATO members. As for helping Ukraine itself, that is problematic.

But the main thing is to simply be prepared and be willing and able to act. President Obama and Vice President Biden, especially Biden, talk too much and end up making threats, albeit sometimes implied threats, of military retaliation that come up empty — remember Syria.

But using military force anywhere requires major analysis (time permitting; I mean if a missile was coming at us). From what I have seen in my lifetime, there is no such thing as “limited war”. And there is no point in going to war unless you go for all-out victory — vanquishing the enemy.

During the Cold War Communist China always claimed the U.S. was a “paper tiger”. That was not the case. If you recall, we won the Cold War with the dismantling of the old Soviet Union and the crumbling of communism, with remaining communist countries resorting to capitalism for their economics.

But it seems that Mr. Putin has seen signs that the U.S. has lost its resolve and its nerve and has become soft and just might have become a paper tiger.

We don’t need to go to war to prove otherwise, but we need to say not too much and at the same time be prepared to pounce on an aggressor.


Let’s not worry about Russians invading the Ukraine — just protect Alaska

March 17, 2014

So Russia sends troops into a neighboring country (that was part of the old Soviet Union)  and then says let’s vote on whether you want to join Russia or not, and actually, as I understand it, there was no provision on the ballot for a direct no vote. And the news now is that the vote in Crimea was overwhelmingly to break away from the Ukraine and join Russia. Surprise, Surprise.

The Obama administration is not recognizing the vote.

The other day, before this election, I drafted a post for this blog but did not get a chance to post it. But my feelings on the matter have not changed. The post:

Let’s see, the Ukraine, part of Russia, the bread basket of Russia, somewhere to the south and maybe west of Russia proper (whatever that is), part of the old Soviet Union, not treated well by Stalin. Well that pretty well exhausts my knowledge of it.

Just another place in the world that most of we Americans know little and even care less about (my apologies to anyone from there). And yet it is so important that our president sends veiled threats to Russia that if it tries to take the place over, well we just might have to do something — sanctions for sure, but if that does not work, well we’ll consult with our allies and we’ll do something. Military action? Well that is the implied threat, but really? We would risk going to war with another power that has nuclear weapons over a place that has no connection with the United States?

It is a complex issue, with there being a separate area of the Ukraine called Crimea, to which Russia may or may not have some claim, and the populace of the whole Ukraine is said to be somewhat split on whether to align with the Western nations or with Russia. Ukraine is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), although there is some kind of move to make it one (and I don’t know how that works or the whole history of that).

If it were a NATO member then I suppose like it or not the United States might have an obligation, along with its fellow members, to take part in some kind of military operation to protect it. And that is a problem with these multi-nation alliances which in effect say if country x invades country y, then countries a, b and c and so on are obligated to fight country x. Isn’t that in a way how World War I began (except some of those agreements were said to be in  secret)?

Soviet troops or not clearly labeled troops backed by Russia have already occupied parts of Crimea and threaten the whole of the Ukraine. So far the U.S. has not had any luck getting the European allies to commit anything or to any action. The U.S. really has little direct economic ties or dependency with the Ukraine or Russia, I think it is fair to say.

Europe does I think. But Europe does not have the ability or stomach or care to get involved in an actual war I don’t think.

I would say let the people in the Ukraine sort things out. Yes Russia, led by Vladimir Putin, is acting aggressively, but let’s wait until it or he threatens Alaska. We’ll sick Sarah Palin on him. And she is no doubt watching. She can see Russia from her front porch.

And seriously now, with the pro-Russian vote in Crimea, sham or not, one wonders if Russian troops will now march into Ukraine.

As so many have pointed out, Putin is acting like Hitler by using the pretext of protecting ethnic Russians to take over another country.

It will be interesting to see what the reaction of Western Europe is. I say for now, let them take the lead in all of this.

So far, on the world stage, Mr. Obama seems to draw lines in the sand and the step back and draw another. I don’t fault him for being cautious, if anything, though, I fault him for saying anything when he might not be able or willing to back it up.

And, actions speak a whole lot louder than words.