Memorial Day 2015

Wise County Civil War Group

Wise County Civil War Group

Memorial Day is mostly about the Civil War. These shirt tail relatives and at least one direct ancestor pictured here (Thomas Jefferson Addington) made it back, but many did not. Men from this Virginia county fought both for the Union and the Confederacy. The photo was taken Memorial Day, 1912. I favored the Confederacy when I was young, but once understanding came, switched sides.

It’s a mixed bag as to whether people understand the meaning of Memorial Day. It’s not Veterans Day. We have another holiday for that. Many politicians get it wrong and talk about taking care of veterans. Today is about remembering soldiers who gave their life in the line of duty.

This is also the first of four days mostly off work and I was at it early. Reading in bed at 3 a.m., up around 5 a.m. to work in the kitchen, and then outside to mow at 2 p.m.

When I finished the mowing, I took a rake to the turned soil, working it for tomorrow’s planting if the dry holds. The vegetation in our yard is growing out of control. Four days may not be enough to get the yard in shape.

During the peasant’s revolt of 1381, 14 year-old King Richard II capitulated completely to the rebel demands at Mile End. He ended up reversing his decisions, but for a brief moment the peasants rose up, believed they had ended their servitude and changed the course of history in ways we can’t even fathom today. The pessimist in me says it was inevitable Richard’s promises would not be kept. The optimist in me looks to the possibility of common people joining together in a cause to overturn, even if only for a while, the status quo and embark on a new and more just path in society.

Have to hope the latter is possible and that it has some local application.

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No Nukes? Not Now

Nuclear Spring in Sioux City

Nuclear Spring in Sioux City

It is no surprise the 2015 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference failed to reach consensus about next steps.

On Nov. 7, 2014 the U.S. State Department made a statement about the role of the NPT in a press release, “The United States is committed to seeking the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. As we have said previously, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is the focus of our efforts on disarmament, as well as on nonproliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.”

The Arms Control Association highlighted the fact that the parties “could not overcome deep differences over the slow pace of action on nuclear disarmament.”

The U.S. and Russia have each embarked on a nuclear complex modernization process—the opposite direction from disarmament. Disarmament was talked about and around, but was never really on the table at the conference.

“The 2015 NPT Review Conference does not signal the end of the NPT, which remains vital to international security, but it reveals a lack of political will and creativity that undermines the treaty’s effectiveness. Without fresh thinking and renewed action on the 70-year old problem of nuclear weapons, the future of the NPT will be at risk and the possibility of nuclear weapons use will grow,” Daryl Kimball, executive director, Arms Control Association warned.

Some found hope in the humanitarian campaign for abolition of nuclear weapons.

“Regardless of what has happened here today, the humanitarian pledge must be the basis for the negotiations of a new treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons”, said Beatrice Fihn, executive director, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons in an email. “It has been made clear that the nuclear weapon states are not interested in making any new commitments to disarmament, so now it is up to the rest of the world to start a process to prohibit nuclear weapons by the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

Fihn released a statement titled, “The Real Outcome,” that includes the following.

As the 2015 NPT Review Conference ended, over 100 states had endorsed the humanitarian pledge, committing to work for a new legally binding instrument for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.

The pledge reflects a fundamental shift in the international discourse on nuclear disarmament over the past five years. It is the latest indication that a majority of governments are preparing for diplomatic action after the Review Conference.

The wide and growing international support for this historic pledge sends a signal that governments are ready to move forward on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, even if the nuclear weapon states are not ready to join.

But for the nuclear-armed states, none of this seemed to matter.

The idea that world opinion could force nuclear states to abolish nuclear weapons is hopeful, but unlikely.

The U.S. made it clear in words and deeds it has no interest in moving forward under a new treaty. Unless the U.S. accelerates its progress toward compliance with Article VI of the NPT, progress in all of the nuclear states is stymied. At present the majority of countries has not been able to press their case for abolition in the U.S., where it is most needed.

While the NPT is legally binding, the lack of political will makes enforcement of its terms unlikely. That may be the most significant outcome of the conference.

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Why Reducing Air Pollution Matters

WHY-WHY-NOT-MELBOURNE2-4_0We hear plenty of political chatter including the words “climate change.” This discussion among politicians isn’t about science. It’s about the power of money in politics.

The tactics of the moneyed class have been to attack the messengers who would reduce air pollution, presenting so many falsehoods about climate change it’s hard to keep up. (Here’s a list of 175 global warming and climate change myths and brief responses to them). By the sheer volume and repetition of falsehoods, people are beginning to believe there is doubt about the science of climate change. There isn’t much, if any, cause for doubt.

A lot is at stake. In Iowa more than half of our electricity is generated by burning coal, which creates a sickly brew of substances breathed in by people who live near the plants, and those down wind. These substances have names: oxides of sulfur, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, mercury, nickel, dioxins, fine particulate matter, and others.

Air pollution is directly linked to the leading causes of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. A reduction in coal burning would yield an improvement in health outcomes, including a reduction in mortality from heart disease, malignant neoplasms, respiratory disease and stroke.

The latest target is, and has been for a while, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Clean Power Plan. First proposed on June 2, 2014, the plan represents a common sense approach to cut carbon emissions from power plants, setting rules for the first time. While the political class pursues an agenda that would weaken the plan, and at worst continue to allow coal burning operations to dump an unlimited amount of carbon pollution into the atmosphere, their actions are based on moneyed interests, not science or the benefits to people living in society.

While eyes focus on the Clean Power Plan, what is missed is it is only the first of multiple actions needed to reduce air pollution in a way to improve human health. In particular, EPA should develop strong standards that would reduce the leakage of methane from oil and gas operations.

Because the discussion is about the power of money in politics, and not about developing rational or logical approaches to solving problems that affect real people, the EPA’s efforts under the Clean Air Act are under constant attack from the supporters of the fossil fuel industry and their ilk. The plain truth is intransigent interests have a lot of money and are willing to spend it on protecting their assets.

“God’s still up there,” said U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) on Voice of Christian Youth America’s radio program Crosstalk with Vic Eliason, March 7, 2015. “The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”

Because corporate media is obsessed with conservative politics we hear more about the arrogance of environmentalists than about the influence of money in politics. This summer Pope Francis is expected to release his encyclical about the need for climate action to protect our home planet. We don’t need religious leaders to see the obfuscation of the truth that air pollution is having a deleterious effect on human health. We can and should do something about it, and it begins with developing the political will to take action.

Nov. 30 the United Nations will convene the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in Paris in hope of reaching an international agreement on climate. Each country is to create its own goals to mitigate the causes of climate change. Whether the U.S. will be able to develop meaningful goals and ratify an agreement made in Paris is an open question. If the current U.S. Senate has their way, little or no action would be approved coming from COP 21, just as the preceding Kyoto Protocol was never ratified.

Robert F. Kennedy famously said, “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” The scientific knowledge and technology to address the climate crisis has been emerging. Because cost-effective solutions to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels are rapidly becoming reality, it is time to use our power as an electorate to demand our elected officials take action.

It can start with a phone call or email to our U.S. Senators urging climate action. Importantly, we can challenge the myths we hear in our daily lives, and work toward reducing the influence of money in politics. There is plenty we could do, and Earth is hanging in the balance, waiting for us to act.

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Garden Fences

Spring Lettuce

Spring Lettuce

Here’s what is surprising. The vegetables outside the garden fences are mostly untouched by rabbits, deer and other critters. Some behind fences are getting nibbled.

Who knew I could leave lettuce, turnips, carrots, radishes, spinach and other plants unfenced and the animals would stay away. Maybe I’m just lucky… or maybe someone knows an answer.

Next garden workday I’ll harvest and see how it goes the rest of the season.

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Next Chapter

Honey Locust Grove

Honey Locust Grove

It seems like a month since I’ve taken a breath.

The Honey Locust trees are in bloom all around Big Grove. Apples and pears are forming in our small stand of fruit trees. Nature’s relentless cycle advances, ready or not.

There is pressure to keep up with a diverse life during spring. It increases these last days before Memorial Day. The main thing is not to freak out.

While we live there is always a next chapter to write. For the moment, it is enough to keep my mind and hands busy—and enjoy the Honey Locust trees while I may.

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Time to Find Franklin’s Hand

Tomato Blossoms

Tomato Blossoms

The sinusitis mentioned in recent posts has taken a toll. The yard work is set back, with seedlings standing tall, waiting transplant. I have a full basket of news stories to write and prospects of other work. There is a lot to do.

Yesterday I called off at the warehouse due to incessant coughing. I returned the coolers from Thursday’s CSA delivery and stopped at the pharmacy to find medicine used long ago to relieve sinusitis that proved incurable when we lived in Indiana.

I couldn’t recall how to spell it so I wrote what I knew on a piece of paper: chlor ________ maleate. The pharmacist recognized it, chlorpheniramine maleate, asked me a few questions about my health, and found a box of 24 tablets for $3.99. Within a few hours the medicine began relieving my symptoms, and in another day or so I’ll be as back to normal as it gets.

The morning after I’m sore and tired, but ready to mount the steed of a life built here in Big Grove and ride.

The meaning of songs like Stan Rogers’ “Northwest Passage” has changed with global warming and the ongoing re-discovery of the wreckage of Franklin’s vessels. Nonetheless, Stan Rogers didn’t live long enough to see these things, and occupies a unique place in music history. As I pick up my journey where I left it some three weeks ago, I recall these words from Rogers

For just one time I would take the Northwest passage
To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea.
Tracing one warm line through a land so wide and savage
And make a Northwest Passage to the sea.

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Planting Broccoli

Broccoli Harvest

Past Broccoli Harvest

Growing broccoli from seeds is tough without a germination shed and controlled environment. Miraculously, I made it from seeds to plants in the ground, with hope of a crop. I fenced them in before rain came yesterday.

This morning I inspected the plants and all survived. Each has the prospect of a head of broccoli, one of our favorite vegetables. We’ll see how they fare on the next step of the journey, but the hardest part is over.

I also planted several varieties of radishes, arugula and the first eight Amish Paste tomato plants before the rain. It felt as though I got some things done, but not nearly enough. Now the ground will have to dry out before I can get in the garden for the next round of planting.

Someone gave me a treatment to speed removal of mucus from my sinuses, which has been an ongoing problem for the last three weeks. I mixed up a quart of water with two teaspoons of salt and one teaspoon of baking soda and applied the liquid into my nostrils with a turkey baster. I mentioned the treatment to several people, and they all mentioned the neti pot, which was news to me.

I gained a better understanding of what’s going on in my noggin—I never understood it was open space in there. The treatments made me feel better for a while, but the mucus keeps coming. It’s a weird sickness where I feel much like normal, but cough to void the rheum of the mucus presumably gathering in response to an irritation or infection.

So today I am hunkered in with my neti pot substitute, saline solution and lemon water, hoping to get some writing done. Plus there’s the prospect of broccoli.

Life could be a lot worse.

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