The Great American Give Away

Coyote Natural Bridge, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. Photo Credit – Wikimedia Commons

The Trump administration is giving away access to our public lands for discovery and exploitation of minerals and fossil fuel reserves. Conservatives and mining interests are setting a place at the table to get their share.

“Trump signed a pair of proclamations late last year reducing the size of the 1.35-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and the 1.87-million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by roughly 50 percent,” according to Huffington Post. “It was the largest reduction of national monuments in history, with more than 2 million acres losing protections. Prohibitions on new hard-rock mining claims in those now-unprotected areas were lifted in early February.”

The administration’s assault on national monuments is upsetting on a number of levels. It is the culmination of an effort by conservatives to divest government control over national parks and monuments, something most of us thought was long settled.

It’s not settled at all.

A Canadian mining firm, Glacier Lake Resources, Inc., has staked a claim on land that was, until recently, part of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. The Vancouver-based company said in a press release it plans to mine copper, cobalt, zinc, and other minerals from the Colt Mesa deposit about 35 miles southeast of Boulder, Utah.

On Feb. 2, four members of the Lamoreaux family, which owns a small mineral company called Alpine Gems LLC, staked an 80-acre claim near Butler Valley, southeast of Cannonville. On May 9, Alpine Gems staked three 20-acre claims in that same area.

Last week, Utah Senator Mike Lee introduced the Protecting Utah’s Rural Economy Act in the Congress. He explained in an opinion piece he wrote for the Deseret News. Here are two excerpts that provide the gist of it:

The looming danger for Utah’s rural communities comes from the Antiquities Act of 1906, which was originally intended to protect objects of historic and cultural interest, such as artifacts and religious sites.

Unfortunately, what was once a narrowly targeted tool for preventing looting on federal lands has become a weapon of faraway elites to use against hardworking rural Americans.

That is why I am introducing the Protect Utah’s Rural Economy, or PURE, Act. This bill would protect Utah from future abuses under the Antiquities Act by prohibiting the president from establishing or expanding a national monument in Utah unless the proposed monument has been authorized by an act of Congress and the state Legislature.

Rural Americans want what all Americans want: a dignified, decent-paying job, a family to love and support and a healthy community whose future is determined by local residents — not their self-styled betters thousands of miles away.

Lee’s argument is a genome away from political theorist and the seventh vice president of the United States John C. Calhoun’s arguments in support of slavery and state’s rights. Calhoun is remembered for defending slavery and for advancing the concept of minority rights in politics, which he did in the context of defending white Southern interests from perceived Northern threats, according to Wikipedia.

The Wilderness Society is challenging Trump’s proclamations in court and monitoring the progress of the companies seeking to extract minerals. It may not be enough.

Read more about The Wilderness Society’s efforts to protect our wild areas and fight back against the anti-conservationist movement at wilderness.org. If you are in a position to help financially, here is a link to donate to the Wilderness Society.

~ First posted on Blog for Iowa

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Moving On to Fall

July 15 Harvest

My supervisor at the orchard called yesterday to ask me to work this weekend. I said yes.

We’ll be selling blueberries from Michigan for a few hours on Saturday and we’ll discuss plans for the upcoming season.

It is my earliest start in six seasons. It’s also a sign the year is on the back slope. Fall will soon arrive.

Being home more has helped make the garden our best ever. Just an hour a day after planting has been enough time. Some of the new techniques: using composted chicken manure for fertilizer, mulching pepper and cucumber plants immediately after planting, using a fence to grow cucumbers, and putting a deer fence around the tomatoes have facilitated Mother Nature’s growth. I still haven’t had to buy a single onion or head of garlic at the store this year. We are eating something fresh from the garden daily.

I’m used to having events to which to look forward. That means I’m not used to the five-day weekends semi-retirement and completion of spring farm work brought this July. I’ve been doing a lot of resting in between activities. I’ve made a conscious effort to reduce the number of activities. So resting outranks doing for the time being.

Based on more than 50 years in the workforce, I’m used to a scheduled shift being the focal point of each day. In retirement, that changes and will take accommodation.The idea is not to replace work shifts with other, different kinds of events. Rather focus on awareness of tasks being required and doing them as needs rise to the surface of our new lives together.

For example, I planted 48 celery plants. Yesterday I harvested five to see how they were growing. I trimmed the heads of bad stalks and used what was salvageable in a stir fry for lunch. The five cores, or what grocery stores call “hearts” I bagged and refrigerated for later. What I learned was celery is about ready for harvest and that means a big project of cleaning, trimming, slicing and freezing for winter use in soup and stir fry. That task is lingering and will rise up soon.

The point of retirement is to perform tasks like this in time, but when fancy deems best. It would be a waste not to get this done, but I’m reluctant to write it on my calendar. I’d rather wait for the right intersection of seasonable temperatures, personal energy and peak vegetable readiness. That time will reveal itself outside the unforgiving tyranny of a calendar.

Milkweed Pods Growing

Even the milkweed plants are doing well this year. I did little other than weed around them and cut away the vines wanting to grow up the stem. Several plants are forming seed pods. I’ll learn a little bit about them and harvest the seeds to grow more in a different spot. Someday I hope to see a butterfly caterpillar on one of them.

It looks like as I’m writing the presser in Helsinki, Finland with Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump is about to begin. A reporter claiming to be from The Nation has been forcibly removed. Neither leader is a fan of a free press, although both use it to their advantage when they can. We also know about the many journalists who “disappeared” under Putin. I’d rather look at butterflies than think about U.S. – Russian relations. It’s hard to avoid, just like it’s hard to stop thinking about my next work shift.

If we’re to change habits, we have to work at it. That may be why I continue to write these posts, work at the orchard, and at the home, farm and auto supply store… for now. My life would be worse without it.

Posted in Home Life, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Help For Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Photo Credit – Campaign Website

A lot of pixels have been spilled over the primary election win of Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on June 26.

Regardless of the methods of her election or her platform — or the buzz around beating 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th Congressional District — if she wins in November she will be one of 435 members of the House of Representatives.

To get anything done, she will need help from other legislators as she attempts to carry the momentum from her district to the Congress. What help can she expect?

Establishment Democrats

“Establishment Democrats” is shorthand that rose to common usage during the 2016 primary season to serve as the whipping boy for all that was perceived to be wrong with the Democratic Party. Think of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz or maybe John Podesta. To the extent members of congress have been categorized as part of the establishment, I believe Ocasio-Cortez will find more common ground with them than not. In any case, she could take a lesson from establishment pol in chief Hillary Clinton when it comes to legislating. Become less a personality in the Congress and more someone willing to work hard to find common ground on issues that matter as Hillary did when she was elected to the U.S. Senate from New York. If she does this, such establishment Democrats as there are will reciprocate.

Hispanic Caucus

The Hispanic caucus has been welcoming despite being more conservative than Ocasio-Cortez. One of her signature policies is abolishing ICE and she outlined a process within the caucus to legislate it.

“What we can do is — I’m unafraid to champion a really bold and strong stance in the sand, and what that does is give us an anchor, a negotiating point,” she said. “I think the abolishment of ICE makes a lot of sense, and I’m willing to have those conversations and figure out how we get that done as a caucus.”

Abolishing ICE is a lightning rod that could diminish Ocasio-Cortez’ influence. I predict regardless of the outcome of abolishing ICE, media (and not just FOX News) will paint her as either a hero or the goat soon after the 116th Congress convenes based on this sole issue. A competent legislator will find there are a lot of ways to shave ice. The Congress has been unwilling to address immigration and naturalization since the Reagan administration. If the time has come, I believe Ocasio-Cortez and the Hispanic caucus will be part of it, bringing new energy and ideas to the stale debate.

Democratic Leader

More than anyone in the U.S. House of Representatives, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi knows how to count votes. While Ocasio-Cortez indicated she may vote for someone else as speaker/leader if elected, unseating Pelosi seems unlikely in the 116th Congress. That means Ocasio-Cortez will have to develop a relationship with her to get anything done. She would be foolish not to.

For Iowa Democrats who worked on many campaigns, it was great to see someone use the skills and techniques in the progressive activists kit bag to win big against an entrenched incumbent. Winning in November looks like a cake walk in Ocasio-Cortez’ heavily Democratic district. Assuming she wins, her real work will begin in the 116th Congress. She will find plenty of Democratic help among liberals, centrists, conservatives and everyone in between.

Adrian Carrasquillo wrote about Ocasio-Cortez’ potential relationship with the Hispanic Caucus at The Intercept here.

~ First posted on Blog for Iowa

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Elect Fred Hubbell – Rita Hart

Rita Hart and Fred Hubbell Photo Credit Hubbell Campaign

Since Iowa Democrats picked Fred Hubbell as their nominee for governor he’s honed his message to a few major issues. In a recent letter Hubbell wrote,

I want to be clear about one thing: I’m not just running against Governor Reynolds and her failed record. I’m running for the people of Iowa. All of Iowa. I’m running on a vision to get Iowa growing the right way and a record of bringing people together to get things done. We’ve got to turn this state around and we don’t have time to waste.

We are all Iowans and we stand united by a simple vision — that if we invest in the future, the people of our great state will benefit.

Hubbell’s priorities are straight forward: make Iowa first in education again; get incomes rising across our state; restore funding to Planned Parenthood; improve our health care system, including mental health; invest in renewable energy; preserve our topsoil; address water and air quality concerns; and restore workers’ rights.

“Blue waves are not automatic; they must be created,” Hubbell said. “It’s on us to make sure every voter has the opportunity to engage with our campaign and hear our vision for Iowa.”

Consider this an invitation to get involved with the Hubbell-Hart campaign.

Check out the Hubbell-Hart website at fredhubbell.com.

Sign up for campaign updates here.

Sign up to volunteer here.

Make a monetary donation here.

“I know we can take back Terrace Hill, but we can’t take it for granted,” Hubbell said. “Can we count on you to join the team today? With your help we can win in November.”

~ First posted on Blog for Iowa

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New Potatoes and Cucumbers

Morning Harvest

The ambient outdoor temperature is 89 degrees and the heat index is 100. Another midday spent inside.

I feel caged.

Near sunup I harvested cucumbers and watered. I tasted a red tomato — they are not ready.

Won’t be long.

In the kitchen I emptied the crock of fermented dill pickles and started another batch. I washed and sorted cucumbers on the counter: first the dills, then sweet pickles, then some for eating, then a pile of too plump ones for juicing. There are so many cucumbers I could be selective. Soon I’ll run out of things to do with them… not yet.

I felt restless. I feel restless.

Cucumbers

I cleaned under the kitchen sink and returned the soaps, cleaning supplies and waste basket to their appointed places. I’m glad that work is done. I’ve been putting it off.

Using fruit thawed from the freezer, I made a smoothie for lunch with cow’s milk, kale, a banana and the fruit. It was satisfying…  and very blue.

There is only so much kitchen time a person can take before moving on.

Someone spotted water coming up through the ground near a main water line junction. I emailed our crew of well volunteers and we met near the leak. We saw water seeping up but couldn’t diagnose the problem. I told them I’d call our well service to come out and fix the leak. It was a productive exchange as I hadn’t seen some of them for a while. It was a chance to do something outside home. It will be an ongoing project for the weekend.

I came back. It got hot and here I am.

Our president had tea with Queen Elizabeth II today. I wonder if they had scones like she did with Ike. In Washington, D.C. Robert Mueller’s investigation produced 12 indictments of Russian intelligence officers who had been hacking U.S. computers in the run up to the 2016 general election. The hacking was with nefarious purpose and intent. The press event was at the same time the president was having tea. It will give him something to discuss with Vladimir Putin next week in Helsinki.

In the hottest part of the day I feel an urge to go somewhere else. I felt the same way when I lived near the main train station, the Hauptbahnhof, in Mainz, Germany, especially on weekends away from the kaserne. I would drive to the big box stores over in Wiesbaden… or maybe walk to the small grocery store down the hill and buy fresh fruit and a liter of Coca Cola. I had to time it right because they closed for a couple of hours in the early afternoon. About the same time it is now. I feel connected to those days 40 years ago.

I just got the call the well technician is on his way. Guess I can meet that urge… for now.

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Writing My Way Out

Compost Bin

The culprit is a long, engaging worklife. The crime? Diminished creative output.

Early on I realized, with a few exceptions, creative endeavor doesn’t pay. To support it I took work… for over 50 years. We raised a daughter, built a home, worked outside home, and lived an often exhausting life.

Older, I’m not sure I’m much wiser. I’m worn down and less productive than I hoped to be. Yet the creative impulse persists. I hope to write my way out of the current situation into new energy and creativity.

I haven’t given up.

The wellspring of creativity has been several things, most important among them is meeting and engaging with new people. If we are to be successful as artists we need an audience. I’ve been lucky to find one on this blog and in our community. Relationships with people are important.

Here’s my problem. For too many years reading and writing has been a way of processing society and the world around me. Such processing engaged me and produced two results: a good quantity of writing and distraction from more specific creative output. At age 66 there’s no time for distraction so I must renew focus on writing.

Like the compost bin in the garden I keep throwing life experiences in, hoping to get to something elemental and nourishing. It’s time to spread compost on the garden plots and see what grows. No doubt there will be some weeds… and hopefully a flower or two… and vegetables for nourishment.

Life, its beauty and ugliness, is all around us. An artist must be able to perceive it, process and make something useful of it. On a summer Tuesday that’s what I’m hoping to do.

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Garden is In

Friday Harvest

It may seem late yet I declared the garden planted on Friday.

We’ve already had a bumper crop of vegetables and we’re not even started with tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, green beans and more. There will always be garden work to do but for now it’s planted.

Time to turn to other things.

What I mean is between now and Aug 4, when orchard work begins, there is writing, household repairs and cleaning, and loads of work to improve our home life. At some point I switched from being a consumer to a doer and that makes the difference in my mid-sixties. I just stay home and do.

Water Bottles

Politics plays a role in current affairs and it’s much different than it was. My focus is to understand the complex world in which we live and work to make a positive impact. My themes haven’t changed (environment, social justice, economic survival, good governance) although my understanding of what needs doing has. During the re-election of George W. Bush I re-activated in politics. Each succeeding campaign was both learning and engagement. After seven campaigns, I enter my eighth with a deeper understanding of the role social networks play in determining winners and losers. I’m not referring to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter here, but broader social movements and the momentum they bring to an election.

The first Obama campaign, with its demographics analysis and targeted voter lists seems like ancient history. What Obama did can’t be replicated, even if we wanted. To better understand the electorate, we must knock on every door, hear every voter, and determine how to fix the broken politics endemic to our lives. Creativity and networking are important. We don’t know if what’s broken can be fixed in a generation. If we don’t start now, it may never be fixed.

Flower at the Farm

Politics is not everything. After only three hours at yesterday’s garlic harvest at the farm I felt a bit dizzy, presumably because of hard work in the sun. It was a temperate day, nonetheless, I played it safe and called it early. My point is I’m not getting any younger. Working a six or eight hour shift in the sun doesn’t work as well as it did a few years ago. Working smart is replacing working harder.

The rest of the year goes something like this. July is a month to work at home: advance my writing projects, get space at home to be more livable, and work to get the yard into better shape. August through October is work at the orchard. This year I may be taking on additional responsibilities, but for sure I’ll be there weekends and on Friday Family nights. November and December will be focused on writing. While this is going on, I’ll continue to work at the home, farm and auto supply store two days a week. Every dime of income has a place to be used at this point.

Declarations like mine about the garden are ephemeral. What matters more is a process of continual improvement in which life goes on as best we can make it until the final curtain falls. In the meanwhile, we expect there will be garden vegetables to eat.

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