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Real disasters vs. fake assurances

by Charlie Barber | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Last Word | December 13th, 2017

“…no clean power is without its drawbacks, and every kind of energy source has its pluses and minuses.”
– Henry Petroski, author of "To Engineer is Human"

“For highways (Robert) Moses, America’s greatest builder, dispossessed 250,000 persons—more people than lived in Albany, Chattanooga, Spokane, Tacoma, Duluth, Akron, Baton Rouge, Mobile, Nashville or Sacramento. For his other projects, he dispossessed tens of thousands more; More significant: a disproportionate share of them were black, Puerto Rican—and poor.”
– Robert Caro

“Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?”
- Ebenezer Scrooge

“I love the great despisers. Man is something that has to be surpassed.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

“Dostoevsky, like Kierkegaard, wanted a change of heart. The virtuous will have to grow humbler than they have been found to be; the sinners ought to find the fellowship they need. Human judgment must resign before God’s wisdom. The rulers of state and Church everywhere must at long last open their cathedrals, Nietzsche’s ‘sweet-smelling caves.’ and let Christ in, free to rule in Russia and everywhere. And the people, ‘these children,’ must learn to shoulder the heavy burden of freedom in order to experience how light the yoke can be. They must again want to become kings and not be satisfied with being couriers.”
– William Hubben

As Republican Party Leaders in Congress continued to whistle past the graveyard of their broken promises to average “movie-going” Americans, and the nonstop falsehoods coming from their very own President Trump, anointed by the “divine right of money bags” and his own illusions, I dared to wake up this morning.

Instead of despairing over today’s print and electronic media that deliver fake news and real news in unnervingly equal doses, I chose for a few moments to watch the miracle of snow fall outside my kitchen window in Mandan, while readying my shoes with cleats for the ice underneath that was guaranteed to set me on my ass if I were not vigilant.

Such a minor personal disaster, due to the indifference of Mother Nature, of course, is nothing compared to major disasters caused by the indifference of powerful human beings in charge of Governments, Industry, and, yes, pipeline companies; among them (Texas based) Energy Transfer Partners, developers of The Dakota Access Pipeline.

This engineering project and metaphorical serpent runs a few miles south of my “white bread” neighborhood in Morton County on the west bank of the Missouri River through “Indian Territory,” beneath the stretch of the river called Lake Oahe to the East bank of the Missouri, from whence it carries oil under and through (and sometimes, perhaps, onto) the northern Great Plains to designated points in Illinois and the nation. My morning paper carried assurances from a pro-pipeline coalition that the pipeline “is among the safest pipelines ever constructed.”

Sure…For the past six months anyway. A U.S. District Judge (Washington, D.C.), James Boasberg, is not so sure. Judge Boasberg’s order, in response to a request by the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes, states that “the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the developer of the Dakota Access pipeline must complete an oil spill response plan for the stretch of pipe beneath the Missouri River in North Dakota (Bismarck Tribune, 12/05/17).”

In other words: “build it and it will leak;” not a scientific principle, I suppose, but certainly in line with engineers who honor the laws of physical nature. Being a bit “leaky” myself on matters of major construction projects vs. human beings, and finding it hard to get answers from engineers NOT active in a governmental agency, oil corporation, construction agency or environmental group with a dog in this fight, I turned to my Siberian Husky acquaintances, Putin and Rasputin, romping in the new fallen snow of my backyard, for advice on these weighty matters.

High Plains Reader: Hello, old friends. Who lies more about man-made disasters in Russia? The government or the private sector?

Putin: President Putin’s government IS the private sector, and vice versa.

Rasputin: And there are no lies in Putin’s Russia, unless, of course, they are sanctioned as truths, like “our Russian athletes don’t cheat at the Olympics.”

HPR: Say what?

Putin: Fake News and Real News are the same thing in Putin’s Russia, just like on Rupert Murdoch’s FOX News.

HPR: And the Trump White House is as dysfunctional as the Russian economy.

Rasputin: There is no “Russian economy” as we understand it in the West, or in Asia. It is mostly just a “drill baby drill” oil and gas outlet, with specialties in espionage, money laundering, and, of course, hacking.

HPR: But Russia is a major nuclear power, with an extremely efficient military and space program.

Putin: True enough for the 20th Century, but their ordinary folks have suffered more than ten times as much as Americans for the sake of their modernization; and they have had few breathing spaces of freedom for expansion into the 21st Century, the way that the capitalist world, for better or worse, has expanded.

HPR: For the rich the better; for the rest of us, the worse.

Rasputin: Not all of your rich people in the U.S. or the West, or Asia, are as greedy and short-sighted as the tiny oligarchy surrounding President Putin and his fellow dictators around the planet. And many of them are taking sides with white and blue collar Americans in the current battle in Congress, and in support of Judges and Civil Servants with a sense of objective truth and the rule of law.

HPR: Thank God for that, I agree. But one of our major political parties, the Republicans, has completely discredited itself by an abject support of a President who lies on a routine basis, and has no sense of honoring objective facts or loyal followers.

Putin: And Democratic Presidents have never lied?

HPR: Unfortunately yes, but not so much recently. President Obama did a good and honorable job under impossible circumstances. I do feel the pain of my Republican friends, however, as I remember the lying done by President Johnson about the war in Vietnam in the 1960’s. I had voted for him in 1964, based on his impressive support of Civil Rights for African Americans. And I was terribly disappointed and disillusioned.

Rasputin: But your President Johnson was soon challenged within his own Democratic Party, wasn’t he?

HPR: Yes. The Democrats duly suffered politically for those lies, although many Americans suffered far worse. Whether the Republican Party suffers for the lies of their President remains to be seen. Americans surely are suffering though.

Putin and Rasputin: But unlike Putin’s Russia, Americans still can make a political party suffer a power outage, once it has shown a lack of moral energy.

HPR: Thank you my friends. Your dogged faith in our democratic process is inspiring, and a wonderful Christmas present for 2017!  

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