SocraticGadfly: 8/6/06 - 8/13/06

August 12, 2006

A small bone to pick with the National Parks Conservation Association

It’s a small bone, but a legitimate one, nonetheless.

As a member, I just got my 2007 NPCA calendar. (And we complain about Christmas in July? What about all these membership calendars?)

Anyway, on its monthly pages are pictures of several national parks, and one each of a national monument, national historic site, national preserve, and — a national recreation area, Amistad, here in Texas.

National recreation areas are the most controversial properties within the National Park Service, due to how most of them were created. That “how” was usually the construction of a large dam by the Bureau of Reclamation, impounding the waters of a western river. Ostensibly, the original reason in such cases was for either flood control or more commonly for irrigation. But Amistad’s International Amistad Reservoir offers no irrigation, at least on the U.S. side, and, while the Rio Grande can still occasionally flood downstream of the dam, and did so more frequently before it was built, these floods were nothing like those of the Missouri.

In essence, southwest Texas and northern Coahuila have a gigantic Chihuahuan Desert evaporation pond.

Given that this does NOT preserve nature “substantially unimpaired,” as the National Park Service’s Organic Act of 1916 mandates, I wish NRAs were placed elsewhere within Interior. Let Reclamation manage them.

Short of that, let’s not have the Park Service’s primary citizen support organization elevate them to the same level as other units.

Crater Lake — a possible environmental mini-disaster lurking?

When I was on vacation, at Crater Lake National Park, I noticed that Xanterra, the concessionaire in many parks, has a boat that rides around the lake every two hours, including visiting Wizard and Spirit islands.

I inquired of a National Park Service ranger, and he said it’s powered by an ordinary gasoline engine. I then asked if, compared to one that might have an electric motor, he weren’t worried about environmental problems, as Crater Lake has no inlets nor outlets and is refreshed solely by precipitation, with the clarity and purity of its water world-renowned among both tourists and the scientific and professional nature and environment community.

He admitted he, personally, at least did have some concern, but said, in not so many words, that the Park Service was in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” position as far as removing the boat entirely, and he didn’t have any information on what it would cost Xanterra to replace either motor or entire boat with an electric one, and whether or not it would do that.

More concerned about flying? Yes. Afraid to fly? No. Any more willing to give nutbars like Annie Jacobsen some sort of credence? No.

You may recall Jacobsen, the lady who claimed that in just a couple of airplane flights, with nothing but her two eyeballs, her sharp observational and analytic powers, and some “on background” conversation with airline pilots and officials, how she uncovered a major al-Qaeda test run to blow airplanes up in the sky.

Well, in the wake of the British arrests of a group of British Muslims alleged to have been plotting something similar, an Amazon surfer saw my review of Jacobsen’s book (a highly critical one, on the third-to-last page of my Amazon reviews, linked in the right-hand rail of this blog), e-mailed me, and asked if I still stood behind this review.

I said, by and large, yes, and why.

First, British intelligence developed this case over months, as opposed to Jacobsen flying a couple of planes and then allegedly having some uncorroborated on-background talks with pilots.

Second, any al-Qaeda connection in the British plot is still unsubstantiated.

Third, it was too early after 9/11 for al Qaeda to have launched a plot like the one Jacobson imagines she saw and heard unfolding. Their previous efforts, depending on the magnitude of work involved and distance from the Arab homeland, averaged a two-year gap.

Subpoint 3a on this issue: To the degree al Qaeda itself contributed any work on the Indonesian bombings, that would have been on its table at this time.

Subpoint 3b on this issue: Although bin Laden had dodged early capture in Afghanistan, his inner circle entourage was certainly still in a state of regrouping at the time he would have had to sign off on Jacobsen’s attacks starting.

Bottom line is, though, that many warmongers (no other word for it) will trot out Jacobsen, or Lauren Mylroie again, or bat Ye’or, or people of that nature, to claim that this is far broader and more conspiratorial of an aggression against Western civilization than the “effete left” will admit or even recognize.

If you can’t remember the details of “Terror in the Skies: Why 9/11 Could Happen Again,” I’ll refresh your memory, with selections from my Amazon review.
Annie Jacobsen's new book, a padding out of her original 2004 Women of Wall Street article, is a mix of half-truths or worse and self-promoting fluff.

For eaxmple, do you REALLY believe that federal agents would simply "casually" drop by her house one day and give her all sorts of off-the-record info that just happened to totally corroborate your story.

As one blogger put it, "I find it rather odd that an official of the Federal Air Marshal Services would release passenger flight and background information to a member of the general public just because she was curious."

Or, that, even as of the time of writing of her book, would-be Arab terrorists continue to do "dry runs" of U.S. airplanes, and have done so for some four years post 9/11 now, and DHS continues to let them?

Also, despite her claim that her own personal check on the musicians didn't pan out (conveniently omitting names and locations connected to her exhaustive search), here IS the "Syrian Wayne Newton":

Finally, as someone who may be of Jewish, not Caucasian ethnic background and at least nominally Christian religious background, she should know better than to peddle a book ultimately based on crude racial stereotypes.

How would she like it if every Jew writing for the Wall Street Journal were excoriated as a usurious moneygrubber? Or something really serious, like a poisoner of Gentile water supplies?

August 09, 2006

Democrats will be Democrats — seek to boot Greens in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party is crying foul and fraud on three Green Party candidates’ attempts to get on the ballot, including a challenger in the U.S. Senate race between Republlican Rick Santorum and Democrat Bob Casey.

Of course, here’s what the Democrats really fear:
Green Party Senate candidate Carl Romanelli’s support of abortion rights could help him draw votes from Democratic state Treasurer Bob Casey who also is seeking to unseat Santorum. Casey and Santorum oppose abortion rights.

Democrats also don’t like that Republican donors funded most of the Greens’ petition efforts, as happened with Ralph Nader’s 2004 presidential campaign.

Well, when you’re a marginalized third party, sometimes you do what you have to do.

Some vacation reflections in poetry

While on the beach at Olympic National Park's Pacific Coast section, watching the ocean by the light of the moon, I thought of Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach.” The poem below, with its parallels, is my understanding of how some of the same ideas apply, from my point of view, to America today.


The Olympic tides
Ebb as faithless as Dover Beach
But with this difference:

America, simple-minded, unreflective
Stands not on this its shore
To ponder the retreating, melancholy roar
And meditate on its portent.

A nation self-proclaimed of actors and doers
Could well pause to reflect and cogitate
The destinies are not manifest, and that
Even if they were
The manifestation is out of its hands, and,
According to the faith that once surged high,
The manifestor is beyond its ken. (scrutiny?)

Ignorant armies walk this beach, too,
In the service of isms and ideologies long deceased
Though still propped and propulsed
Like the undead of myth and horror
As Ba’alim for the feeble-minded
Uncognizant and in self-denial
That their gods are indeed their mammon as well.

Clashes by darkling night are back in style,
Or still?
Did they ever go out?
No, the sea of ignorance, alas
Is normal to be at neap
Flooding beaches, minds, thoughts.

The rulers, the priests, the denying masses,
Are all Canutes of democratic, leveling, mass-madness deception.

The Olympic tide
Ebbs not to return.
The waves of America the simple have crested
And will peak no more.

— August 8, 2006

August 08, 2006

Your National Park dollars not at work

At Redwood National Park, apparently some of the backcountry coastal roads will not be repaired with asphalt. Further problems will be filled with gravel, and the sections of the road marked as gravel rather than paved will simply be expanded on future maps.

Then, at some point, diminishing expectations will kick in and that will be that.

Religion in the National Parks ... two observations

I saw two conspicuous examples of religion in national parks while on vacation, both disconcerting, but for different reasons.

Both were in California’s redwoods country.

The first, in a coastal section of Redwoods National Park, was a cross about 6 feet high, made out of two pieces of steel I-beam. The cross appears to have no historical significance itself, nor does it commemorate a historically significant site; no marker, plaque or other object is at the site.

The second, at the adjacent Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, was a string of Tibetan prayer flags wrapped around a redwood fern. New Ageism (assuming an Ager and not a Tibetan lama left the string of flags) no more should be commemorated in national parks than orthodox Christianity. Plus, leaving prayer flags like that is, by legal definition, littering.

New Agers have been angering American Indians by doing this at places like Sedona for years. Stop it.

Besides, it’s metaphysically illogical. If you’re really into “detachment” as a metaphysical principal, it’s illogical to consider one place “sacred” over another; in so doing, you “attach” to that place.

August 07, 2006

NO COKE - what's up with the Pacific Northwest?

I mean, having to go to 4-5 convenience stores before I find one that sells Coke products at the soda fountain??? This bastion of liberalism, environmentalism and natural beauty lost some of its luster during my vacation.

I'm baackk

From a jam-packed 11-day trip to the Pacific Northwest. I'll post some comments in the next 48 hours or so, after I get caught up to speed on knocking out this week's issue of the old newspaper.

Got one poem completed during the trip, one in the hopper and ideas for two others. Look for them on my Philosophy of ... blog within a week.