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April 30, 2010

The Government Created Dustbowl & Depression

As I was saying: choices.

The delta smelt, I'm sure, is a fine, upstanding fish, and I certainly have no racism against the delta smelt. Indeed, some of my best friends are delta smelt, and I mean "friends" in the traditional sense of "money-grubbing accountants."

Still, as wonderful as the delta smelt is -- I hear they are hard-working and have strong families -- I sort of think that human beings are more important.

It started with a 2008 federal court order that stopped water flowing from northern tributaries on a supposed need to protect a small fish — the delta smelt — that was getting ground up in the turbines of pump stations that divert the water south. The court knew it was bad law, but Congress refused to exempt the fish from the Endangered Species Act and the diversion didn't help the fish.

After that, the water cutoff was blamed on "drought," though northern reservoirs are currently full. Now the cry is "save the salmon," a reference to water needs of the state's northern fisheries.

Whatever the excuse, 75% of the fresh water that has historically irrigated California is now being washed to the open sea. For farmers in the southwest part of the valley, last year's cutoff amounted to 90%.

"It's pretty hard to keep crops alive at 10%," says Jim Jasper, who runs a 62-year-old almond farm in Newman that employs 170. "That's one irrigation, and trees take 10 to 12 over the growing season from March to October." Almond trees cost $8,000 per acre and take six years to start producing, so farmers reserved their 10% allocation for mature trees first.

The cutoff didn't kill just trees, however. It also devastated the area's economy. Unemployment in some valley towns has shot up to 45%. Mortgage defaults are on the rise, and food lines are lengthening.

If I could choose the Miracle Solution in which no delta smelt were harmed and farms weren't destroyed, and human lives weren't left in wreckage and ruin, sure, of course I'd choose that, and protect the delta smelt.

But that option is not on the table. We can choose between protecting a pretty minor fish, or allowing farmers to actually live, and not see their farms destroyed in a government-mandated dustbowl.

Of course we've chosen to destroy people's lives.

Am I allowed to say that it's a lot like Stalin's rule to decide that common people should be destroyed in order advance some abstract, speculative goal that has seized the imaginations of the political class?

They're just dirty, low-education farmers anyway. Who gives a crap about them. Eggs, omelette, break.

Sometimes I think the biggest cleave in politics is between the Abstract Party and the Concrete Party. The Abstraction Party is largely, but not entirely, the liberal Democrats, and the Concrete Party is largely, but not entirely, the conservative Republicans.

The Abstract Party thinks, of course, in abstractions, and elevates these abstractions -- often speculative or plain fantastical -- over real-life human lives, the concrete, the real, the demonstrable, the solid. And part of what sustains the Abstract Party is their faith, a religious faith, really, that what they "know" abstractly they know with 100% surety, so if they're told by their priests (their politicians and pundits) that it's better in a the long run that some dirty farmers are bankrupted and die penniless than we allow the delta smelt to die off, then they just believe that, on faith (as it's speculative, and who has anyway of knowing what's best in the long run; in the long run, as they say, we're all dead), and simply push forward with plans that result in catastrophic ruin for real-life people because they are so damn sure their belief in a speculative abstraction trumps any of that.

As a member of the Concrete Party, that gives me great pause. I don't really possess that level of intellectual arrogance. I can't believe in speculation and abstraction enough to think that, when the rubber meets the road, I can choose obliterative poverty for an entire region of the country with the confidence that I'm doing the right thing by basically ending human lives.

The Abstract Party has done an awful lot of evil in the world. I'm going full Godwin here to note that the Nazis were a party of abstraction, fueled by the unproven belief, which they nevertheless were willing to kill for, so sure of it were they, the Jews were somehow responsible for just about every ill in Germany and that some abstract and speculative Utopia would arise if only the lands could be purged of the Jews.

Elevating, again, a belief in some dreamy abstraction over the real and inarguable suffering created by it.

You've got to be borderline crazy to do this. Seriously. I'm sure Lee Harvey Oswald had some belief he was quite sure of -- Kill Kennedy and the World Becomes A Wonderful Place -- and you have to be pretty insane to be sure enough of that proposition to kill someone you've never met and have no actual quarrel with.

At some point you'd think that the testimony of their own eyes -- seeing people suffer and die in the real world -- would shake them out of their unshakable belief in the abstract "Good" they're pushing for, but you'd be wrong.

They have a religious conviction about it. They are religious zealots-- lunatics, cultists -- who believe in Paradise on Earth and if you have the chance at Paradise on Earth human lives are small potatoes in the scheme of things.

And they tend to call this lunatic religious passion "reason" and "science." And they're quite serious about that.

I don't mean to suggest that actual reason and actual science are bad. I just mean that when they follow their religious-maniac dogma, they call it reason and science.

As with Marxism. The doctrine that's killed... what, 100 million? That was, of course, a scientific analysis of history. It was scientific. It was a critique, as they say, of pure reason.

You can murder an awful lot of people when you're religiously-convinced you're doing God's work.


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posted by Ace at 03:01 PM

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