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The Environmental Spectator

The Environment Goes to Pot

By 6.30.15

Marijuana “grows” are the new environmental menace. Teams of sheriff’s deputies from three northern California counties found ample evidence of this in raids on several illegal grows last week. They were in a remote area called Island Mountain, where the three counties of the “Emerald Triangle” (Humboldt, Trinity, and Mendocino) converge.

The deputies served 20 search warrants, then seized and disposed of 86,578 “adult” marijuana plants, 4,394 pounds of processed marijuana, and 15 pounds of marijuana hashish in brick form. Along with these they seized 25 guns, 50,000 rounds of ammunition, and $8,877 in cash. They estimated the “street value” of the marijuana haul to be $26.5 million.

Officials of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife accompanied the teams to assess the effect of the grows on watersheds. They found 97 environmental violations. (Note: Combined, the seized plants required 50,000 gallons of water a day. One ounce of processed marijuana requires 34 gallons of water.)

Music Men

Tim Buckley Is Still Ahead of His Time

By 6.29.15

On June 29, 1975, forty years ago today, singer-songwriter Tim Buckley died at the age of 28. He died in a manner typical of a rock ’n’ roll troubadour — a drug overdose. However, the music he pursued over nine albums recorded in the span of eight years was anything but typical.

What set Buckley apart was his multi-octave ranged voice that often served as its own instrument. Depending on who you talk to, Buckley’s voice had a range of four or five octaves. Whatever his vocal range, he could sing both low like a baritone and high enough to shatter glass. It was this voice that grabbed the attention of Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman, who signed him to his label when Buckley was only 19. He was signed to Elektra at almost the same time as another noted ’60s band — The Doors.

The Right Prescription

Obamacare Is Here to Prey

By 6.29.15

Saturday morning, fresh from his latest victory over the rule of law, President Obama delivered his weekly address to the bored technicians and sycophantic aides who make up most of the audience for this anachronistic performance. His theme was as predictable as it was Orwellian: “The Affordable Care Act is working, and it is here to stay.” The first half of this assertion fails to pass the laugh test. And, for those who believe that the whims of the Supreme Court are somehow permanent, I recommend a little research into another SCOTUS ruling much celebrated by Democrats—Plessy v. Ferguson.

Another Perspective

Take Heart, Conservatives!

By 6.29.15

The world ended last week, in the eyes of a lot of American conservatives. But then again, life seems always to go on. When Adam Smith was told of General Burgoyne’s defeat at Saratoga, someone told him that Britain was ruined. “There’s a lot of ruin in a nation,” was Smith’s reply.

So let’s look for the silver lining. Andrew Sullivan, who combined the unlikely attributes of gayness, Tory principles and Catholicism, argued that a right to marriage would make gays more conservative. If that means no public displays of nipple rings on Gay Pride Day, I’m all for it. And perhaps gays can get back to being fabulous again. Chi-chi restos, antique stores, cutting-edge plays and cheese shops. Lately they’ve been none of that, instead triumphalist, intolerant. and above all boring.

Politics does that to one. Yeats thought it had done that to a woman he loved, Maud Gonne, and hated it.

The Nation's Pulse

Sugar and Salt Under Assault

By 6.29.15

In this spring’s series finale for the Emmy Award-winning cable drama on 1960s ad agency culture, Mad Men, creative executive Don Draper comes up with the concept for the “Real Thing” TV campaign for Coca-Cola after reluctantly spending some time with hippies at an ocean-side commune in California.

This scene evokes the actual spot from the tie-dye era in which hip young Americans and others, of all races, creeds, and colors, sing about the virtues of the soft drink from atop a mountain foothill. “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony,” the youngsters harmonize, in the famous footage, created by a real life adman at McCann-Erickson.

Flash forward to today’s California, circa summer of 2015. The one-time hippies — now graying city councilmen and women of San Francisco — are not so sweet on the sugary drink. In fact, they would like to teach the world a thing or two about regulation.

Another Perspective

The Issue Is Complicated

By 6.29.15

History is never good when kidnapped for political purposes. So is the current frenzied campaign to expunge the Confederate flag from public view.

It should come down from the South Carolina capitol. And other capitol buildings as well. But for the offense caused, not a mindset yanked out of historical context. As former Sen. Jim Webb, a Virginia Democrat who celebrates his Southern heritage, put it, the issue is “complicated.”

The horrid slaughter in Charleston demonstrated that racism remains present, sometimes in virulently violent form. The fact that a murderous racist identified with the flag is not new. But the latest incident supercharged a debate long overdue. The Confederate flag should not be used to publicly represent Americans in any state.

A Further Perspective

Supreme Court’s White Lie on Obamacare

By 6.28.15

The GOP-majority Supreme Court saved President Barack Obama’s bacon Thursday with a political ruling that papered over his signature Affordable Care Act. Writing for the majority in the 6-3 King v. Burwell decision, Chief Justice John Roberts noted that the 900-page law was written behind closed doors with little debate or amendment and thus was “inartfully” drafted. It was the court’s obligation, he wrote, to translate bill language limiting the government subsidies to enrollees in “an exchange established by the State” as meaning enrollees in federal exchanges also can get subsidies.

Roberts always has been a consummate politician in his role as guardian of the big bench. The President George W. Bush appointee had good reason to fear how the public might react if the Supreme Court overturned a law that benefits millions of Americans.

At Large

The Religion of Peace Spreads Its Good News

By 6.27.15

Islamic terrorists carried out deadly attacks on three continents yesterday. In all, over 60 people were killed following a call by ISIS for Muslims to go the extra mile in honor of the holy month of Ramadan. You might miss this story if you look for it in the Washington Post, as it is vastly overshadowed by an above-the-fold, screaming headline celebrating the Supreme Court’s gay rights decision.

In the past, Muslims got to heaven through fasting and prayer. Now it’s killing “infidels.”


Cardinal Sins

By 6.26.15

Have you heard about the awful Cardinal hack scandal? It brings shame and obloquy upon a respected organization which has spent many years building up its good name. How could moral myopia prevail at such a critical time? What manner of insensitivity and obtuseness would lead to such unconscionable behavior?

What’s that you say… the Saint Louis Cardinals hacking into the Houston Astros scouting reports…?

Oh, no, no, not about baseball at all. I was referring to the Cardinal of Cuba, Jaime Ortega, revealing himself to be a shameless political hack. Yes, it is true. The cleric, in Spain for a conference, was asked by reporters about the conditions of political prisoners in Cuba. His response: THERE ARE NO political prisoners in Cuba. Mercifully he stopped right there and did not treat us to a treatise about the exemplary democracy of the island nation, thriving merrily under the avuncular gaze of those benevolent Castro brothers.

So, I suppose, Yippee! Castro’s prisons are empty now, leaving extra space for other uses. Perhaps they can open more of those wonderful medical schools Michael Moore featured in his documentary. A Castro Convertible, as it were.

Special Report

Let Your Freak Flag Fly

By 6.26.15

The Confederate Flag’s very name confuses. The Confederacy never recognized it as its flag, and even Southerners occasionally call it the “Stars and Bars” despite that moniker belonging to the dissimilar banner that flew over the capitol in Richmond during the Civil War.

With so much confusion over the controversial cloth where it still flies, surely Dixieland denizens can forgive an ignorant Northerner for misunderstanding the Confederate Flag, too.

My childhood impression held that the Confederate Flag stood for Lynyrd Skynyrd just as Southerners stood in unison for “Freebird” as their “Star-Spangled Banner.” They raised cigarette lighters in reverence to their anthem; Northerners placed hands on heart. They say Palmetto bug. We say cockroach.