Tag Archives | Thank You Please May I Have Another

Reign of Fire

[cross-posted at C4SS and BHL]

Are the wildfires that have been devastating California a gift from government? So argues William Finnegan in a recent article, “California Burning.”

According to Finnegan, the seeds of disaster were planted when the mission of the U.S. Forest Service was expanded in the early decades of the 20th century:

The Forest Service, no longer just a land steward, became the federal fire department for the nation’s wildlands. Its policy was total suppression of fires …. Some experienced foresters saw problems with this policy. It spoke soothingly to public fears, but periodic lightning-strike fires are an important feature of many ecosystems, particularly in the American West. Some “light burning,” they suggested, would at least be needed to prevent major fires. William Greeley, the chief of the Forest Service in the 1920s, dismissed this idea as “Paiute forestry.”

Finnegan explains the “Paiute” reference:

Native Americans had used seasonal burning for many purposes, including hunting, clearing trails, managing crops, stimulating new plant growth, and fireproofing areas around their settlements. The North American “wilderness” encountered by white explorers and early settlers was in many cases already a heavily managed, deliberately diversified landscape.

(These facts incidentally give the lie to the common notion that American indigenous peoples were not entitled to property claims to their lands because they had not engaged in sufficiently transformative labour upon them.)

William Greeley

William Greeley

Greeley’s sneering dismissal of “Paiute forestry” was ill-placed. As Finnegan reports:

The total suppression policy of the Forest Service and its allies (the National Park Service, for instance) was exceptionally successful, reducing burned acreage by 90 percent, and thus remaking the landscape again – creating what Paul Hessburg, a research ecologist at the Forest Service, calls an “epidemic of trees.”

Preserving trees was not, however, the goal of the Forest Service, which worked closely with timber companies to clear-cut enormous swaths of old-growth forest. (Greeley, when he left public service, joined the timber barons.) The idea was to harvest the old trees and replace them with more efficiently managed and profitable forests. This created a dramatically more flammable landscape.

In other words, an alliance between big business and big government is responsible for rendering America’s wilderness areas exceptionally vulnerable to massive wildfires.


Stations of the Cross

According to Amazon tracking, a book I ordered left Waukegan IL on August 17th, arrived in York PA on August 24th (over 700 miles away from Waukegan – and also slightly farther away from Auburn than Waukegan is), and then found its way to Glendale Heights IL on August 27th (about 50 miles from Waukegan, its original starting point). I look forward to seeing where it heads next.

And I take heart from Böhm-Bawerk’s assurance that roundabout methods of production are more efficent ….

[29 August Addendum: Now it says it’s in Montgomery, so I grow hopeful.]


Das Schloss

I just got off the phone with Dell. All I needed was to update my credit card info before my MS Office subscription auto-renews.

The process took nearly an hour, and I talked to nine different people.

And I still don’t know for sure whether it worked out. The confirmation email suggests I’ve purchased a new product rather than altering the billing info for renewing an old one.


Farewell to St. Paul’s

For a long time, one of my most idyllic memories has been of the summer of 1980, which I spent in the St. Paul’s School Advanced Studies Program in Concord NH.

St. Paul's School

Now it turns out that St. Paul’s has been a hotbed of sexual abuse against students for decades, with at least 23 faculty members (and possibly as many as 34 – at a school where the total number of faculty is only slightly over 100) being guilty of everything from “clear boundary crossings to repeated sexual relationships to rape” – and with the administration having been despicably (though, alas, not atypically) recalcitrant and blame-the-victim-ish in addressing the problem for many years. Some of the named perpetrators are faculty I’d remembered with fondness from my time there.

Well, there’s that memory tainted. Ugh.

I always thought that someday when I could afford to, I’d donate money to St. Paul’s. Well, I still can’t afford to, but if I could – sorry guys, nope.


Agent of Shields

In a recent defense of mandatory national service, establishment media apparatchik Mark Shields writes:

Contrary to Ayn Rand, we all do owe much to each other and to our country. And mandatory two-year national service – civilian or military – is imperative to help us understand the responsibility, as well as the rights, of citizenship and build our connections with our fellow citizens. Two years, with no deferments and no exemptions.

It’s an unintended compliment to Ayn Rand that Shields feels the need to bash her in order to defend slavery.


Sour Note

For the past 35 years, my mother and I have had two pianos in storage in Vermont. One was the piano I grew up with and learned to play (a bit) on as a child. The other – the more valuable one, with genuine ivory keys, inherited from her own mother – was the piano my mother grew up with and likewise learned to play on (with much greater ability) as a child.

In all these years, we’ve never had a place large enough to hold them, though we always hoped to eventually.

This week we were notified that the facility where they were stored burned down last month, and both pianos were destroyed.

Bummer.


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