Pulling out of the Paris Agreement pisses me off. I’m furious with the titans of industry extorting our representatives into taking this outrageous action. We are the rogue nation with a blighted unhealable soul. Any semblance of our being that shining beacon on a hill just got tossed into the dustbin of history. A seventy year old manic-twitter-addicted Trump just picked a fight he’s going to lose. No matter how this decision turns out he’s going to lose. Most of the oil business is located in the South. Once before in our history we were forced to confront a region of our country intent upon profiting by means of a capitalism based upon the profits earned by use of slaves. All these many decades later we are again confronted by a belligerent malignant form of capitalism that this time insists must be allowed to profit from the oil they want to bring to market and sell. Like the slaves of past the oil they want to profit from is poisoning the only planet we have. It is against this insult to reason and without regard to capacity of our world to tolerate our carbon waste we will lash out and strike back. The fossil fuel industry is in decline. It is the past not the future. Our cause is right and what I stand up for is the future generations yet to come here. We must find the means to resist those pieces of our humanity that remain broken and beyond our ability to bring under control. Trump is a failure of our electoral system. He is a venial man of inconsequential imagination and intellect. He is our shame, brought our democracy to agony, his and those like him and all their venom need to be bound and sent packing into the history books of failed Presidency’s.
For 25 years, I have written about the social and natural evolution of Napa, a diverse county that includes rare and valuable biological “hotspots” and 140,000 people, most of whom are associated with what’s now referred to as the wine “industry.” During that time, I have learned something about developers.
Foremost is the fact that inside all of them is a 6-year-old kid dying to get out and dig a really deep hole. When they finally do get to do so, they fill the hole up with something that wasn’t there before and then repeat the experience with minor variations ad infinitum.
More disturbing, with far-reaching ramifications for all Americans, is the other fact: developers deeply, irrationally, and often vindictively resent anyone who objects to their plans, for whatever reason. This includes neighbors, citizens, scientists, clergy, and elected officials. But none receive more opprobrium than “environmentalists.”
James Conaway, Opinion Piece in Napa Register Guard May 26, 2017
Napa County’s 140,000 citizen’s can’t halt the torrential rain of developers arriving here with plans to build. If you are keeping score at home the developers remain unbeaten. Among the wealthiest among us a trophy property in this famed wine region is an essential element to any property portfolio. Government is controlled by Big Ag. You may want to be on the Board of Supervisor’s only if the wine industry deems your vote as sympathetic to the cause and your spine sufficiently pliant.
The velocity of the pillaging has only increased with land prices. Ordinary folk are squeezed out. The wealthiest among us grouse about not being able to land helicopters at “our” vineyards. They are crestfallen to learn their original 20,000 square foot chateau’s are going to be needlessly scaled back.
All this desecration is taking place before a numb and distracted public. Big money drowns the popular will. Getting in the way of the juggernaut risks personal ruin. Fish extinction events are in the history books now. Childhood cancer rates are the worst in the state and remain under study while astute players continue to spray pesticides and resist regulation. Water tables are fragile and any slowdown in pumping of groundwater is deemed unnecessary. With the valley built out what remains is now under threat.
That’s the score. This is the truth beneath the veneer. The barons of big business can’t help themselves and the ordinary citizens are so far unable to organize and stop them. The denial is soon to come to a bitter ecosystem induced end that nobody paid well enough to look the other way ever saw coming.
I arrived in Patagonia, Arizona for the very first time in 1993. The bitty place along the southern border met spring that year with a spectacular bloom. The tallest cottonwoods in North America make their home along Sonoita Creek. That they are that much larger, in a town that is just that much smaller, exaggerates the terms of being smitten with this treasured place.
By all accounts what work a hearty new arrival might find Patagonia is less than none. Santa Cruz County has been drying up for decades. Patagonia for all its rural majesty requires that you come prepared to bet on yourself. I’d met a biologist that had wagered his life. He was sent by the Smithsonian to study the rarest and tiniest of birds… the elf owl. He had found a grand total 37 individuals scattered over thousands of square miles both near and far along the southern Sonoran Desert. Elf owl hunting is convenient to nothing. It came up in our whittled conversation that once his research was completed he’d likely remain here instead of moving on. That’s how the town grows.
Former Residents Doing Eternity
No two people are alike. Patagonia tends to attract the oddest lot. The binding that glues souls together here is quirkiness. One thing everyone should understand is that big bugs become a part of your daily awareness. Then there are the venomous creatures you’ll share Patagonia with. Then, there are the many different types of hummingbirds that make their home here. You’ve got drug smugglers and Border Patrol Agents playing cat and mouse. All this in a town you can walk end to end in less than ten minutes if it’s not too hot and your not too addled by drink.
There is nothing really you can do in Patagonia. Not on your own. If you stick it out your life fills up with time spent sharing mutual circumstances with neighbors. You’ll borrow sugar, have a cup of coffee, barbecue steak on mesquite wood and knock tequila down then chase it with as ordinary a can of beer as the least amount of money will buy.
Last Century Fixer-Upper Just Came on the Market
Weather is a good topic to talk to death. Maybe a friend has four wheeled off the mountain, where they homestead, to come argue at the Wagon Wheel over the political Armageddon the legislature is the fault of in Phoenix. The dang urban refugees that have made home here have brought their permissive and decidedly progressive ideas with them. Patagonia’s problems do not require ideology. You can toss that there narrow mindedness into the septic tank.
A random cross section of humanity has been littered throughout the town. The spiritually awakened are cheek to jowl with the atheists. What remains of the ranchers holding on here bellies right up with the radical environmental activists. Everyone aims to improve Patagonia so long as it does not involve pavement. There is little use for improvement. Dirt and dust are preferred. If that seems a bit contrary that’s the whole point of the thing. You will find that a dirt road self selects a new arrival. If they can see the beauty in dirt that is a sure sign that they will be best suited to fitting in here.
Four wheel driving nowhere to spend time doing nothing
About now, in spring, is glory in Patagonia, Arizona. It’s the time to come. As soon as you are ready. Many of the migratory birds are moving through. The mesquite is blooming and Sonoita Creek is running. Get off the pavement, park that rig, take a hike. Think about things. Be available for nothing. If you are lucky enough you might just find the biggest prize of all, the chance to be in intimate rural contact with yourself.
San Rafael Valley Southeast of Patagonia with the Huachuca’s Yonder…
“Income distribution characteristics” is a term to describe how a free trade agreement alters how and where money flows in an economy.
It may be true that a new trade deal increases the total amount of money being exchanged between two trade partners, but it may also be true that more of that money ends up distributed to fewer people not more.
During negotiations there are rules and agreements written into the trade deals. What has happened is that regardless of what is promised the profits of free trade have not been distributed back down to the workers. Most of the profits have been diverted to the executives and shareholders.
So we are smeared with terms like protectionists, anti-free trade etc.… when that isn’t true. What is true is this. A trade deal should be good for workers too. They have to distribute the profits accordingly. Then, we have fair trade and a reason to support such agreements.
Our democracy thrives with a healthy middle class. It is in all of our interests to do what it takes to make that middle class as big and as robust and as prosperous as is possible. Enlightened fair trade agreements that have provably enlightened income distribution characteristics good for our country would go a long way toward that goal.
I grew up in a lunch bucket household. The men I knew carried union cards. They drank beer, smoked cigarettes and loved Kenny Stablers stylish Oakland Raider leadership. They voted straight D ticket right on down the line.
Oakland wasn’t much of a port unless you call the Army Depot a port, but that was for the boys in Viet Nam. The Warehousemen, Longshoremen, Teamsters, Stevedores… they were on the Embarcadero in the City moving cargo in and out of town by truck, train and ship.
Then, the world changed. We got lots of stuff. Boy did we get stuff. We also got NAFTA, we got China into the WTO, we got stuff happening around the world while we hollowed out the working stiffs world here.
Arugula eating Whole Foods shopping people working at the highest high tech companies within the confines of some of the sweetest zip codes in North America were thought the wave of the future, not just the future they were the ever present stakeholders in our go-go everybody’s an investor economy.
Then, the thud and dud of the financial sector, the end of retiring on selling houses to each other, and the reality that those lunch bucket friends of ours are pissed off. I thought it spot on that R’s discussing cuts to capital gains taxes and inheritance taxes had to be blowing it out of their …. Lunch bucket workers want jobs, wages, benefits, and paid vacation. Few if any of us need capital gains tax relief.
So, here is my bottom line. Fair trade right? Not free trade. We need to set policy so that the lunch bucket types get a living wage, some medical, dental, and a school that doesn’t cost them an arm and a leg and their first born donated to the bank they got their student loans from.
Not so difficult to grip hold of is it? Clean streets, decent infrastructure, good schools, get on with the renewable energy revolution, stay the hell out of foreign wars, and could we cut the crap out of beating up on women? Right? Simple enough…
Those of us with the lunch bucket history? We drink less whiskey than our ancestors and we don’t smoke anymore. We drink wine. We watch our cholesterol. We like football but are worried about the concussion thing. And if the people in Washington don’t snap out of it and start doing the lunch bucket crowds business we’ll go there and bang a few heads together until they remember who we truly are.
Our globalized interconnected world was sold as a cure all for every kind of inefficiency of free enterprise. Free markets were going to spread democracy to every corner of the earth.
Something went wrong. I know it, you know it; we all know that something is wrong. We are simply that much more talented at making a mess of the whole project called civilization.
Everything feels like propaganda. Facts go contested while opinion metastases. Every enterprise has a public relations spokesman. Turkey, China and Iran curtail access to the internet for obvious reasons. Internet providers in so called free countries search our search terms for nefarious advantage.
Still, we get that there are some very big players doing everything in their power to remain in power so they may continue to do everything that their balance sheet compels them to do. Individual conscience is irrelevant.
News outlets go rogue. Owned by huge conglomerates our present day journalist is constrained by ownership to exercise self-survival and restraint in criticizing the hand that feeds them. You want to work in Russia? You dance to that tune. How about China? You sing in concert with the power elite there as well. We are all under threat. All the bases have been covered. You step out of line and you are gone.
What we have is a juggernaut where the wealthy the world over have by every means available foisted the best political stalemate money can buy. Ideology and religion is a sideshow. That is so last century. Money is first, last, and always where power actually resides.
China’s pollution isn’t totalitarian. Climate change isn’t a theory. The latest round of free trade talks has not a word in it designed to save us from ourselves.
The most powerful military force in the world can’t win a war. We have not won in Viet Nam, Iraq, or Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Ukraine or Israel; each is an intractable problem left unresolved draining us our need to focus on earth’s most urgent problem-global climate change.
With the invention of the shipping container, the standardization of shipping every kind of product across seas was supposed to fix what ailed the world. Prosperity would be shared they promised.
There was plenty of money to be made that ended up in the pockets of the few. That is what is called a global head fake. At the top our elites play a good game of keep away. You think the Cayman Islands are for vacation? Food stamps are for suckers. Unemployment benefits are for slackers. Social security is socialism and national health care is an abomination.
Climate change is not a game. It is a problem that touches every single person in the world. It is about the survival of the human species. Every other issue is subordinated to what we can do to prevent the world going into an irreversible climatic crisis that could trigger the end human life.
We have been conned into transforming our financial system into a worldwide mechanism for amplifying our least moral impulses. We are left scratching our capitalistic heads. The best minds wonder how we can repair the economic and political system before it destroys us all.
I speak to not a soul in my daily life that isn’t aware of how off the rails our international system has gone. There are no more winnable wars. There is not a corporation that can be stopped. The climate crisis isn’t coming. It is here.
Can we respond? Can we save ourselves from ourselves? We will know soon enough…
The Scottish National Party swept this last week’s elections. They built majorities by convincing Labour Party voters to switch allegiances to the Scottish National Party.
I had followed last year’s vote in Scotland to decide whether they would secede from Great Britain. The initiative failed but the Scottish National Party continued to organize.
That vote plunged the Labour Party into their present crisis. Without the Scot’s Labour may never again be capable of building a majority coalition in Parliament. Never is a long time.
Scotland will press for another vote to secede. If there is any hope of keeping the whole of Great Britain together it will be because the Torres cease ramming through Parliament decidedly conservative policies and instead begin compromising with the progressives in Scotland.
The City of London is loath to let go of their dominion over all things economic. The Scot’s apparently are much too socialist. National Health Care, free universities, and public pensions are unaffordable. The City fears they may well be taxed more.
The tensions between the voracious financial sector and the spine stiffened progressives in Scotland are a wicked bit of business. It is but one of many skirmishes taking place across the globe.
When Will the Greed Stop
Here back in the United States a vote next week in Congress to give the President Trade Promotion Authority will be taken. Multinational corporations advocating for this bill are not complaining about the labor or environmental provisions and that tells you everything you need to know. A more progressive agreement would be met with a multinational megaphoned shriek of grief and moans. A broad coalition against this agreement is fighting back.
In fact the Trade Promotional Authority the President seeks may indeed increase the profits corporations earn from trade. But, think with me for a moment. “ — trade creates winners and losers. Econ 101 says that the winners outnumber the losers in dollar terms, but not necessarily in people terms — if the richest 1 percent of Americans gain $1 billion from a trade agreement and the other 99 percent lose $900 million, then Ricardo’s theory says the country benefited overall. That outcome is perfectly consistent with Econ 101.”
That is the neoliberal economic model’s Achilles heel. On the whole free trade has by design benefitted the wealthiest. We are bombarded with distortions and half-truths by the moneyed interests that have gained by these trade agreements. Too much corporate money is drowning out the national interests. The world cannot keep pumping further profits into the pockets of the few at the cost of shortchanging so many.
There is no such thing as a free market. Nature is not a free market. Markets are a construct of human design. Rules and regulations are put in place to manage them. The City of London and the Wizards of Wall Street would prefer that we allow their designs and formulas to take priority. They have not any greater wisdom or authority than any other individuals or interest groups. They’ve tilted the playing field in their favor for too long. We’ve the worst income inequality in the world, a worldwide financial crisis we continue to suffer from. There are a vast trove of problems neoliberalism has no answers for.
The most serious of these problems we describe as climate change. At its root is the possibility that we trigger an extinction event that ends in wiping us all off the face of this earth. The one elixir to all of this is hope. We must have hope. And if there is to be any hope of our having a better future it will come by our insisting that our political and economic systems offer reality based solutions to the problems we face. The neoliberal economic model of freer trade, lower taxes and less regulation needs to be modified so that we may get on with the great task of saving all of humanity from its own worst enemy. We have done much damage and saving ourselves from ourselves is the kind of complexity and paradox that is all too prone to being gamed.
This is the great work ahead. The courageous and brave people of Scotland may well be the spark ready to point the way. The fierce kilted bagpipers and army of determined brave souls marching on the problems of the world is indeed a hope to be reckoned with.