02 September 2010

Sparks and Parks

US as the Spark

“Person in the street” things never impressed me a whole lot when they were about politics, economics, public policy and so forth. One or two sentences seldom tell you much. Or so I thought.

Today’s Fairmont Times-West Virginian newspaper had its usual kinda fun “Word on the Street” column, with pictures of local folks responding to a question. The question of the day was “What could spark the U.S. economy?” Three of the five people who answered suggested that a federal program would help out, and two of them specifically mentioned the “Cash for Clunkers” plan where the Government paid people to trade in old cars. (Car dealers took a cut of that, of course.)

Mind you, I do not criticize these folks. They react to common wisdom which is drilled into us by three branches of government, by the press and (when they are being candid) by the Fifth Estate (the corporate community). When in need, go to the Government, they will provide. Blessed art they.

The fallacy here is that Government creates nothing. Government regulates. Government adminsters programs for private business to build infrastructure. Government provides protective services which we developed a habit for to go about our productive activities in peace. The Government mines no coal, digs no metal ore, builds no vehicles, grows no food, and harvests no timber. The Government sings no songs and writes no books which have the slightest intellectual or literary value. (Have you ever read the Tax Code?) Government is useful in many ways. Some modern self-styled conservatives are really semi-anarchists (unless one starts picking on programs that pay them), but Government is conceived by Humankind as a benevolent invention to make society better.

It still produces nothing. Government income comes from people through taxes. (Oh, yes, corporations pay taxes. The corporate charter gets up every morning . . . no, people do. And then people do the work and buy the products and services.) “Cash for Clunkers” bucks did not originate with “the Government.” They originated with the woman at a drafting table and the man on the tractor, both doing productive work for pay. The dollars just took an expensive detour through the Government.

This is not an Obama thing, a Democrat thing, a Republican thing, a Newt thing. This is an American thing, a Reality thing. The only thing that will spark the economy is us.

A Dull Fire

Last Sunday’s Dominion Post, the Morgantown (West Virginia) newspaper, had a decent story and a couple of fair photos about a structure fire which broke out very early Saturday morning. It was front page, below the fold, with only middling size headlines. The ho-hum-ness of it all really says some some remarkable things.

For my non-Mountaineer friends, a short word on the terrain in West Virginia: If you live on the plains, it is quite mountainous, and our plethora of two-lane roads make for quite challenging (to me, fun) driving. If you live in the Rockies, these mountains are more moderate and (from their shape) geologically much, much older than yours. In any event, all towns, roads and streets have to deal with steep terrain. I live on a street, for example, which follows a ridge line. In Morgantown, there is a long commercial road near the airport called “The Mileground,” which likewise follows the top of a long, broad ridge. On the Mileground, you find a number of car dealers, restaurants, retail outlets and the like.

Very early Saturday morning, a fire broke out in some apartments which were attached to a NAPA auto parts store. The fire spread very quickly. So, at 2:30 AM, the first fire departments were called and as they discovered a vigorous fire, they called for the second and third alarms. All in all, more than 100 volunteer firefighters from 14 fire companies in four different counties rolled out of bed, drove to their stations, and hurried to this fire. Since it was a blaze at an auto parts store, they had to deal with a lot of flammable liquids and a lot of flammable pressurized gases, including such simple things as cans of spray paint. (There is a reason that the label on a spray can tells you not to throw the cany into a fire. The thing will explode. The firefighters talked about little explosions cooking off for hours.) It took these guys about seven hours to put the fire out and do the overhaul necessary to make sure it stayed out.

What strikes me is that citizens take it for granted that there are people in their communities who are willing to do this work. That being said, not everybody can do the work. Firefighting requires strength, stamina (and as I tell my son, a maladaptive psychological state). I could no longer do field work in emergency services of any sort if all our lives depend on it, because I’m just not conditioned. What I would suggest is twofold: One, that we thank the people who do this sort of work. On a holiday, send a meal to the local firehouse or rescue company or police station. If you see people working a long call in August (their protective clothing is really hot), drop them off the case of bottled water. Just thank them for being there on the job. Volunteers get paid nothing. Career people are not getting paid enough.

Two, reflect on our own contribution to your community, to our fellow humans. Perhaps we cannot carry a 200 pound person out of a burning building. What can we do? What DO you do? Driving? Phone calling? Doing the books for a Fire Department? Selling at a bake sale? Talking to youth? Reading to old folks? There is something. If they can do what they do, we can do things, too.

Finally, it strikes me that no one was injured on The Mileground fire. This was a dangerous fire, it took guts to be there, and it took smart chief officers to fight it safely and effectively. Moreover, lots and lots of emergency service people always, always wear their St. Florian or Saint Michael medals, even after they retired. This isn’t because the medals have some sort of magic power, it’s an affirmation that they know in Whom to put their trust.


The Discovery Channel office in Silver Spring, Maryland (a DC suburb) was the scene of an armed hostage-taker yesterday. When the criminal pointed a gun at a hostage, a police sniper shot and killed him.

Out in Goofyville, the comments are rolling about the bloodthirsty police:

Let us just give police [the] simple right to kill whoever they feel deserves to killed.

They just let him bleed to death. It should be considered as murder and [a]premeditated one.

There are no winners here (except perhaps the cops, who love it when they get a chance to shoot people).

OK, that’s enough examples.

Shooting a criminal is a gut-wrenching thing for a police officer. This officer is worthy of praise and prayer this day. The criminal took up a firearm with the intent of harming others. While he was armed, he volunteered for a lethal reaction.

By the way, why does the press call him a “Suspect”? He’s a criminal. OK, a dead criminal.

More of My Home Among the Hills

Yesterday, I was in Family Court in Taylor County, the traditional seat of the family. (The common Curry ancestor of the thousand odd Curry/Curreys scattered over West Virginia settled in Taylor County on Lost Creek in 1799.) I had the 9:00 o’clock hearing, which did not take long, and then the 1:00 o’clock hearing. It would’ve been a waste of time to drive back to Fairmont.

The people around me sometimes laugh a bit at the size of my briefcase and all the stuff I carry. But I always have work in my briefcase and whatever it takes to do the work. And so, right after the nine o’clock hearing was concluded, I adjourned to the picnic area at Tygart Lake State Park. Here, a picnic table and a laptop with a full battery provided all I needed to enjoy the late summer day. The leaves are still full, it is cooling off a bit, and the birds and animals, large and small, could be heard moving in the woods.

One’s pay may be more than money.

Quote for the Heck of It:

“I will not be wronged, I will not be insulted, I will not be laid a hand on. I do not do these things to others and I require the same of them.” John Wayne, the J. W. Books character in The Shootist, his last film.

Pippa passes.

1 comment:

sheila222 said...

I still get carsick going to visit my aunt out back of Spencer. I don't care if you go 33 or if you cut back over Parkersburg (they have built a wondrous bypass around Parkersburg now) it's still wretched. Like being in the Southern Mountains down here. Drive all day and you could still see the smoke rising from your cabin.