Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tejon Ranch National Park

On several occasions, in the first incarnation of The New Common Sense, I advocated for the creation of Tejon Ranch National Park. Imagine my surprise, when I read in today's edition of The Los Angles Times, Erica Rosenberg's editorial advocating for the creation of Tejon Ranch National Park.
I'm not accusing Ms Rosenberg of plagiarizing my blog. Far from it. The fact is, I consider the reasons to purchase Tejon Ranch and preserve it as a park, so obvious, that not to come to the same conclusion can only be explained by America's insane attachment to private property rights.
In her editorial, Erica Rosenberg stresses preservation, recreation, and the economic advantages of national parks. These are all things that I have written about in the past. There are, however, a couple of points that I think she misses about the importance of a Tejon Ranch National Park.
In my post advocating for another Los Angeles area national park in the Santa Monica Mountains, (published on 8/7/09) I noted the importance of a broad based parks system. Gas prices may be going down as I write this, but the probability is, that as incomes continue to stagnate, or even drop, it is only a matter of time before fuel prices once again skyrocket. With so many of our parks located hundreds of miles from major metropolitan areas, with ever increasing costs for transportation and lodging, we run the risk of the parks becoming the destination of choice for an elite group of upper middle class Americans and above. National parks close to cities, connected from downtown by mass transit can open up the natural world for those people for whom it is becoming almost impossible to survive economically. I can drive to Tejon Pass in under two hours form my apartment in the Atwater Village section of Los Angeles. Tejon Pass is also close to Bakersfield. For many economically stressed Angelenos, to be able to make a round trip to a national park for half a tank of gas, or to be able to get up early in the morning and take mass transit to a national park, would open up the natural world to an economic class that is being shut out of the parks system.
Too, isn't it about time that we start thinking about parks, not as something separate from the urban landscape, but something that is a part of our urbanized world. While most people who have never been to Los Angeles, think of L.A. as a giant parking lot, a vast paved over area, bordered by the Pacific Ocean, Los Angeles is, in fact, a city almost surrounded by wilderness. It's not just the ocean. We are bordered by several national forests, the Santa Monica Mountains, and beyond that, the desert. A national park in the Santa Monicas, thrusting into Los Angeles, with trail corridors running the length of the chain, to downtown itself, green belts along the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers, city and county parks connected with hiking and biking trails.... How many people know that the Pacific Crest Trail runs through Los Angeles County? A bike and equestrian trail runs from Long Beach harbor, one of the busiest ports in the world to the Angeles National Forest. With the right planning, it would be possible to hike from the Pacific Ocean to the national forest, pick up the PCT and walk to Tejon Ranch. With routes radiating out to the deserts, the city itself becomes a route into some of the finest wilderness areas in the United States. It is only private holdings like Tejon Ranch that stand in the way. Yes, a Tejon Ranch National Park is an idea whose time has come. It's time for a city like Los Angeles to lead the way, and integrate itself into a more natural world.
Added Sept. 30, 2009: I went on line to get any info on Erica Rosenberg, the author of the L.A.Times editorial advocating for the creation of Tejon Ranch National Park. I can remember when I first wrote about Tejon Ranch, going on line and finding the usual corporate boilerplate about the ranch. Google Tejon Ranch National Park and the first thing that comes up is a website dedicated to park status for Tejon Ranch. Go to I love it when other people come to the same conclusions I come to.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Republican Pornographer

Ex eBay CEO, Meg Whitman wants to be California's next governor. It took awhile, but what has been a pretty open secret, that she would throw her hat in the ring for the Republican nomination, with today's announcement, is a secret no more. Anyway, just thought I'd remind the values based voters in the Republican party that while Whitman ran eBay, eBay was one of the largest distributors of pornography in the world. I know it's hard to believe that American institution, eBay was pushing spread leg photos of kissing lesbians, and throbbing cock videos, but it is true. Don't take my word for it. Go to , on the home page, click on Visit All Categories, scroll down to the little Everything Else box and click on Adult. Now for all you minors out there, don't lie when prompted to certify that you're over 18. Hey, I bought the picture I'm using for this post on eBay. There are lots and lots of reasons I'd never vote for her, but being a pornography distributor isn't one of them. But then I'm one of those evil socialist, atheist, democrats.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Broadwell Dry Lake, California

Well, this one has got to go back to the Bush administration. It's the only way to answer the question of just why an energy company felt that it could build a major industrial project in the middle of a designated national wilderness area.
BrightSource Energy has given up on the idea of building a major, industrial sized, solar power plant in the Broadwell dry lake region of the Kelso Dunes National Wilderness Area. This is part of a 600,000 acre donation of railroad owned property, given to the federal government, for preservation. It has been the intention of California senator Dianne Feinstein to designate this donated land as a national monument.
The problem with this now abandoned project is that it continues the old model of large, privately owned, energy solutions to global warming and what will probably be future energy shortages. There are enough roof tops, both on private homes, and commercial buildings that can be used for solar power generation at the point of use. Of course, providing for our renewable energy needs in such a manor would mean getting rid of the idea that electricity should be provided by for profit companies. We may never get to the point where it's possible to get rid of large power plants, but it is possible to make power generation part of a government provided infrastructure, removing the incentive to build for profit rather than need.
I've spent a lot of time hiking in the Mojave Desert of California. Senator Feinstein is right in pushing for a national monument to be created from this land, and I congratulate her in stopping a major industrial project from being built in the middle of an already designated wilderness area. And just for the hell of it, I'll ask the obvious question: Where the hell was BrightSource going to get the water?
See my posts from 8/20/09 and 7/1/09 for more thoughts on California's desert and power generation.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Questions No. 1 and 2

1. Is the Max Baucus health reform bill to HMO's what Medicare Part B was to big pharma?
2. If we do get a public option, and it's price is set at a neutral cost level, and if illegal aliens pay for it with their own money, what difference does it make?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Norman Borlaug

Norman Borlaug, one of the most significant and least known people of the twentieth century has died. In a nutshell, Malthusian predictions were coming true. The population of the planet had risen to an unsustainable level, and the math of food and population was about to kill millions, perhaps even billions, of people in mass famines. Borlaug's work with plant genetics allowed for the development of high yield grains that saved those lives.
Norman Borlaug, one of the most significant and least know people of the twentieth century has died. In a nutshell, Malthusian predictions were coming true. The population of the planet had risen to unsustainable levels, and the math of food and population was about to kill millions, perhaps even billions, of people in mass famines. With no thought of future consequences, Borlaug's work with plant genetics put of the inevitable. By developing high yield grains, more people survived, causing rapid draining of water tables, increased production of green house gases, and will probably lead to a mass die off of the human race, with only a core group of survivors.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

School Days Indoctrination

Is the charge that president Obama's speech to America's school children was nothing more than an attempt at left wing, liberal, political indoctrination valid? Let's look at the facts. Before the Howard Jarvis/Ronald Reagan tax revolt, the United Sates had what was considered one of the finest public education systems in the world. College was free in California, and I think Arizona, and most other states provided enough subsidies to keep tuition low in state institutions. After Reagan, we made cutting taxes our number one priority. At a time when every economist in the world would report that a well educated work force was essential to a modern economy, the United States defunded public education and made college prohibitively expensive. So, it's true. The idea that students should study hard, stay in school, and make something of themselves is a liberal value. Oh those sneaky liberals. Next thing you know, America's school students actually might demand a quality education, taxes be damned.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The True Meaning of Labor Day

Contrary to popular belief, labor day was not declared as a means to honor American workers. In the 1890's, the United States was racked by yet another Republican caused great depression. With foreign creditors, primarily the British, worried about recouping their investments, a deal was made to sign over to the British the American territories of Arizona and New Mexico. Hawaii would go to the French. Faced with the dismemberment of the United States, American patriot and vulcanized rubber king, Samuel Labor stepped forward and bailed out the United States, bankrupting himself in the process. Labor Day was declared to honor Uncle Sam Labor, the savior of the United States.
Don't believe me? Ask yourself this, since when has American leadership cared about the working classes? Actually, during the two Roosevelt administrations, the Johnson administration, and after listening to Barack Obama's Labor Day speech, he might make the list. Until then, I stand by my Sam labor theory.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hell Freezes Over

With no reliable way to check weather in the netherworld, I'll have to assume that Hell has indeed frozen over. Yes, it's true, conservative icon George Will has called for an American withdrawal from Afghanistan. Conventional wisdom has it that Lyndon Johnson knew that he had lost in Vietnam when he lost the support of Walter Cronkite. I've always felt that that was an oversimplification. The World War 2 generation had been saved by big government. Even Ronald Reagan's life was improved by the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt. Too, that generation saw it's destruction of the twin menaces of Nazism and Japanese militarism as the high point of it's many accomplishments. It wasn't the loss of Cronkite, it was the loss of a generation that trusted government to do the right thing and thought of military opposition of tyranny as a moral calling.
So now Barack Obama has lost George Will. The symbol of conservative intellectualism (An oxymoron if I've ever heard one.), no longer believes in the war launched by our George, Dick Cheney and the whole neo-con crowd. Most Americans, I think, view victory in war in terms of World War 2. The Missouri sails into Tokyo harbor, the Emperor in his silly tail coat and top hat, crosses the deck and signs articles of unconditional surrender. Sorry to say, but most wars end in a far more ambiguous way. In a nutshell, both sides decide that it just isn't worth the effort anymore. Will isn't the first to feel that way, and he won't be the last. Iraq has cost us billions, and may end up costing us trillions of dollars as well as thousands of lives lost, and even more destroyed, with no resolution in our clear favor. Afghanistan is beginning to look like it will have the same outcome.
I'm an admirer of Barack Obama, but that doesn't blind me to the fact that I think he's making the same mistakes in Afghanistan that we made during the cold war. For reasons without any basis in reality, we persisted in believing that things happening in the third world were all about us. What bin Laden did to New York was about us. A massive military attack on his headquarters was perfectly justified. We, after all, know far more about bringing death from the skies than bin Laden will ever imagine. But Taliban rule of Afghanistan was another thing. A few well placed missiles directed at Taliban leadership? Hell, why not. It would have been good for the Mullahs to understand that allowing their country to be used as a base for international terrorism was not a wise career choice. But years, maybe decades, fighting nationalists in the mountains of central Asia is pretty much a no win situation. Before we leave, we should make major contributions to Afghan infrastructure. We should leave schools, roads, dam, and hospitals standing as we march off. With any luck, the people of Afghanistan will want the Taliban gone, and in time it will happen. But an endless drain of American treasure and lives isn't worth it.