Monday, May 25, 2015

Breakfast with a priest

This morning Linda and I ate breakfast at the Bowmanstown Diner.  We ate in the back room, and the tables are rather close together.  The guy behind me said to his table mates, “I can’t imagine that anyone voted for Obama.”  I turned around and said, “I did, and I’m glad I did.”  The guy replied, “I’ll pray for you.”

Linda said, “You realize that guy is a priest?”  I had no idea.  Later he and his table mates got into a discussion about the Affordable Care Act, complaining about the cost, ignoring the fact that 17 million more people now have medical insurance.  (WWJD?)  

I then heard the priest say, “I think everyone should have a choice.”  I wanted to turn around and say, “That’s what I’m talking about,” but Linda restrained me.

The food was good, but I could have used better ambiance.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

We Shall Overcome

Back in the early 60s I was a camp counselor for the 4-H at Camp Daddy Allen in Hickory Run State Park.  One year, and I’m not kidding, I taught archery.  

I also taught the kids to sing “We Shall Overcome,” the anthem of the Civil Rights movement.  It was actually rather strange--a group of white farm kids, mostly Pennsylvania Dutch, singing “We Shall Overcome” in the Hickory Run woods, although at the time it seemed completely reasonable.

Recently the man who popularized that song for the Civil Rights movement, Guy Carawan, died at age 87.  He didn’t write the song, but he taught it to the delegates at the inaugural meeting of SNCC in Raleigh, North Carolina, on April 15, 1960.  

Mr. Carawan’s obituary traces the song back to the 1790s, and, like many folk songs, it underwent many permutations.  The version we sing now is Mr. Carawan’s.

In 1965, when I was a grad student at Penn State, my friend Joe and I were watching Lyndon Johnson’s speech on the Voting Rights Bill.  Johnson ended his speech pointing out that American Negroes were trying to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life.  

He ended with this:  “Their cause must be our cause too.  Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.”  

And then he added, “And we shall overcome.” 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Pipeline Manifesto

I’ve always wanted to write a manifesto.  The very word “manifesto” sounds important and revolutionary.  So here is my first manifesto, entitled “The Pipeline Manifesto.”

We home owners and farmers are annoyances standing in the path of the PennEast pipeline.  PennEast wishes we were gone.  That’s why wherever possible the pipeline runs though state parks and state gamelands.  The trees, animals, and birds in those areas will not complain, so they can be disrupted, ignored, or eliminated.  Human impediments are more of a problem.

People, of course, can also be disrupted, but we must be dealt with.  We are fed a lunch at the Flagstaff.  We are sent slick brochures.  We are given maps impossible to read.  We are told it is our patriotic duty to allow the pipeline to bring fracking gas across our land.  We are told we are standing in the way of jobs, prosperity, and the economic well-being of our fellow citizens.

If we still object to the pipeline in spite of this barrage it won’t matter; we can be forced to cede the rights to our land even though the profits do not flow into the U.S. treasury.  The gas will not be available to citizens on a non-profit basis.

Of course not.  Profits from this gas pipeline will go into the coffers of multi-billion dollar companies whose executives help to fund the campaigns of politicians who write the policies that govern pipeline company rights.

The only way to stop this unholy alliance of federal authority and corporate greed is by a nationwide grass-roots movement that rises up and demands, “NO MORE.”  

It will take a long time and a hard effort.  Let’s get started.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The President's Twitter account

The editor of the Independent Gazette, a fairly new Carbon County tabloid, asked me why I didn’t permit anonymous postings on this blog.  His question was, “Don’t you want a dialog?”  I wouldn’t mind a dialog, as those of you who post comments well know.  What I will not accept is anonymous postings.

President Obama recently opened a Twitter account, and the problem with anonymous comments quickly became apparent, with racist tweets involving exhortations that the President should kill himself, pictures of the President with his head in a noose, profanity, and comparisons of the President to a monkey.

If you ever wondered if much of the opposition to the President is racially motivated, I think you have your answer.  If you ever wondered if racism runs deep in this country, I think you have your answer.  And if you want to know what is wrong with the anonymity so prevalent on the internet, there it is.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Too eclectic

In graduate school at Penn State in the 60s I was a teaching assistant to Professor Eldon Eisenach.  I thought he was brilliant, and I wanted to be just like him.  He knew so much about all sorts of subjects.

I mentioned this to another professor, and he said that Dr. Eisenach was “too eclectic” to become a star in the academic world..

I don’t know what happened to Dr. Eisenach (I suppose I could google him, but I have not), but if you are a reader of this blog and one night you read about honeybees and the next night you read about Burmese refugees and that is followed by a rant about Scott Walker and it seems like this blog wanders all over the map, you can blame Dr. Eisenach, my role model and my hero.  I am proud to be “eclectic.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Death Tax

Speaker John Boehner wants to eliminate the federal estate tax, which he and many other Republicans label the “Death Tax.”  Republicans in Congress often bemoan the family farms and small business wiped out by this tax. 

Here are the facts.  The federal tax currently applies to estates worth more than $5.43 million for an individual or $10.86 million for a couple.  Assets above those levels are taxed at rates up to 40%.  The tax applies to just 0.2% of the deaths anticipated in the U.S.  In 2013 approximately 20 (that’s right, 20) small business and small farms owed any estate taxes, and those were taxed at a rather low average of 5%.

The beneficiaries of an elimination of the estate tax would be the wealthiest 0.1% of Americans.  The tax will generate about a quarter of a trillion dollars from that small group.  And that is the group the Republican Congress members are proud to represent.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Bottled water

Tonight a representative of a bottled water company gave a powerpoint presentation to the Pohopoco-Aquashicola Watershed group.  The water company, a subsidiary of the international food giant Nestle, proposes to take tankers of water from springs that flow into the Buckwha Creek, that flows into the Aquashicola, that flows into the Lehigh, that flows into the Delaware, that flows into the Atlantic Ocean.

One time at a conference in California, I heard the poet Gary Snyder propose that we should draw our political boundaries according to the watersheds in which we live, and ever since that I’ve paid attention.

The water would be captured near Kunkletown, Pennsylvania  It would not be drawn from the springs, which might have surface contamination, but rather from wells dug near the springs.

I am opposed to this on a number of levels.  First of all, the bottled water industry is a completely superfluous industry.  Fifty years ago the idea of selling people water that they could get for free from the tap would have seemed ludicrous.  It still seems completely ridiculous to me.  In the U.S. the water is safe to drink.  It might not taste very good in some towns, but it won’t make you sick.

Secondly, the bottled water industry is an environmental disaster.  Plastic bottles fill our dumps and float in our rivers and oceans.  Electricity is used to cool the water, adding to environmental costs.

Finally, if water comes out of a spring and flows into the Buckwha Creek, why should an international food conglomerate be able to tap into that resource for private profit?  Screw that.  

Unfortunately, I was not able to stay until the end of the presentation, made by a hydrological engineer who has sold his soul to a multinational company.  I will try to learn more about the plans and what I can do to thwart this water grab.  You’ll hear more about this.