Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Simple Wooden Box

While flying back to Colorado from Michigan yesterday, I happened to sit beside an impeccably-dressed Air Force member named David, who, I soon learned from our small talk, was escorting the remains of a comrade killed in Afghanistan back home to his family in Colorado Springs. We talked a bit about that, and about the huge mortuary the military houses at Dover, Delaware, where David was based, before moving on to safer topics, like sports, but the reality of the situation struck home again after we landed, when David carefully reached beneath the seat in front of him and produced a plain wooden box with a shiny brass handle on it. This, I suddenly realized, was the airman David was bringing home.

There was also a small metal plate affixed to the box, which I presume carried the person's name, but I resisted the temptation to look closer and read it, fearing it might seem a ghoulish invasion of privacy.

I followed David out through the terminal and into a blazingly-beautiful summer day, and I noticed, as he made his way through the crowd, that no one took any notice of the plain wooden box with the brass handle he was carrying.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Canada Cashes-in While America Pets Owls

Canadian sawmills are working overtime to satisfy China's insatiable appetite for wood imports, while American sawmills sit shuttered and rusting, because we evidently care more about "saving" spotted owls than saving American jobs. We were once a timber exporter; now we're an importer. Then some people wonder why our "trade deficit" is so out of whack. And this at a time when tens of millions of acres of federal forest are dying or burning, due to a failure of the federal government to aggressively and responsibly manage these lands.

It's another example of how far the U.S. has fallen, in terms of competitiveness and a lost instinct for economic self-preservation, that Canada is cashing-in on the Chinese building boom while we sit complacently on the sidelines, handing out welfare checks and petting spotted owls.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Shotgun Conservation?

The Orwellian term of the day is "shotgun conservation," which describes a crazy federal plan to save endangered spotted owls by butchering barred owls, a competing species, which we now know are the real reason for the spotted owl's decline, not the loss of "old growth" forests.

Natural selection favors the barred owl. Yet natural selection apparently isn't permitted by the Endangered Species Act, which requires that every species be saved, even if the cold, hard laws of nature say otherwise.

Talk about playing God.

The timber industry in the Pacific Northwest was decimated, thousands of high-paying jobs were destroyed and dozens of timber towns were brought to their knees based on the claim that the loss of "old growth" forests was to blame for the spotted owl's decline. But it belatedly became apparent that a rival species, doing what it does naturally, is invading the spotted owl's habitat and wiping it out. And the only response the feds can muster is a bizarre scheme to protect one species by killing-off the other.

The spotted owl saga is certainly among the most sordid in the annals of the ESA. But does anyone sue the federal government for regulatory malpractice and fraud? Is anyone called to account for the clear-cutting of jobs and opportunity in the former timber towns of Oregon and Washington State? The sad answer is "no" and "no."

It's hard to afford a good lawyer when you're living on food stamps.