Romney, Robots and the Emperor’s New Clothes

Mr. Romney claims he’ll be a better President than Obama because of Bain Capital experience.  Since this is an Emperor’s New Clothes ruse, it calls for closer scrutiny.

What is Bain Capital?  First, a near failure Bain almost shut down, a tiny, local venture firm reportedly with a host of Salvadoran investors that struck it rich with Staples to offset a lot of flops, then a second-tier hedge fund and hotbed of controversy with partners since Romney wanted to outdo Dad and didn’t focus, including his Olympics paid absence.  How these results make Romney a jobs wizard is more magic than logic.  In any event, deal analysis hardly qualifies someone to manage a recalcitrant Congress and powerful special interests, or run an administration.  Further, Bain’s big success was post-Romney, but its Romney-era bankruptcies and failures were high relative to deals done.  Yet it all does sound sophisticated and sexy, and remember that classy, Ivy-league picture of Bain people with money coming out their ears.

Even if Romney wasn’t exaggerating, it’s not just jobs expected of a Superpower but to lead by example on many fronts, not by dumbing down science, trashing the middle class or promoting vaginal probes.  So, strike one is how Romney tricks-up making deals into macroeconomic savvy, and strike two is how Romney sees the aforementioned dross as constituting leadership.

And to be clear.  Bain job creation is disingenuous and utter nonsense since a restructuring cum process consulting firm sheds or outsources jobs; only venture portfolio companies themselves create jobs – and Bain wasn’t a lead venture firm so didn’t do the start-up business plans, know how to hire the people, manage the operation or execute the mission, it simply provided money.

To be sure, Romney would love the jobs mantle as much as any Emperor loves his New Clothes, but it doesn’t withstand scrutiny, and we need substance, not mass hypnosis because history tells us leaders with vision made our prosperity: like Truman, rescuing Europe and Japan; Eisenhower with infrastructure expansion and restoration of a peacetime economy; Johnson by strengthening the social safety net and integrating American society; Reagan by restoring self-confidence and pride; and Clinton with prudent policy and fiscal discipline.

And Romney’s vision is what?  Paid for how?  Oh yeah, smoke, mirrors and childlike trust.

I can’t say Obama is a person of vision.  Obama is smart, likeable and iconic and may yet rise to the office but surely chose poorly with Geithner, Sommers and the half-ass stimulus program that Geithner and Sommers overpowered lesser known economists on his staff to force on him.  That wasn’t Obama’s best moment, but can you imagine “I don’t know much about the economy” McCain and “Dancing With The Stars” Palin doing better?  Romney fans, McCain/Palin was the choice of you savvy Republicans, and remember, McCain beat Romney.

So now thank whatever god you think should get credit that McCain wasn’t elected.  Except, of course, those of you who would prefer an empty vessel so it can be filled with whatever big donors mandate, aka trickle down economics, aka crumbs from the table.

Now to consequences.  The U.S. isn’t a managed economy and therein lies the problem.  Anyone who does more with spare time than pick their nose recognizes paradigm shifts through history, most recently the information revolution.  One benefit of this information revolution is that the roles of labor and capital are shifting, largely because of robots which are now on the cusp of fighting wars, manufacturing complicated products, and easing the tedium of our daily lives.

The challenge is profound – what do you do with the unskilled, or even the semi-skilled?  The ratio of labor input to manufacturing output will diminish such that unions and less-developed countries could/will be seriously disadvantaged.  Should there be sufficient capital, and there is, wealthier nations using sophisticated robots will be able to manufacture more efficiently than even the busy-fingers workplaces of the third world, China, and India.  It is for that reason, among others, that the Apple victory over Samsung was so profound.

It is also for that reason that attacking the middle class with threats of European socialism is so mendacious.  The attackers want something just as European – something akin to feudalism, you know, where those native-born who failed the meritocracy exam work menial, retail or service jobs, oh, and a “warrior” class to fight political and religious wars.  Think this isn’t a reasoned assessment, like the Republican threats of Death Panels and Sharia Law?  Let’s hear you explain Citizens United, corporations as people, hollowing out the middle class, cuts to education, etc.

So, are Independents smart and thoughtful enough to recognize that Romney is no more than Warren G. Harding Redux (in a fanciful but empty suit), trading on a reputation as Governor that was undistinguished but for ObamaCare, on a reputation as a Mormon leader that is hardly ecumenical, and on a reputation as a capitalist that was more miss than hit?  Or will Independents expect Obama, like Roosevelt and Lincoln, to get a second wind in a second term now that he’s learned not to be timid or rely on so-called pillars of the financial community whose vision was no more than the “need for greed” of the Wall Street environs from whence they came.

I believe Obama got more from his experiences in life, race and politics than Romney ever will.  Obama seems to have learned to govern, Romney only to pander.

Betcha my learned friends think otherwise.

 

Donald Marro

The Plains, Virginia

Letter to the Editor: Joe Paterno, Charlton Heston and the American Way of Life

We again have sorry events that captured the news cycle and are emblematic of what we seem to stand for.  And icons that shill for this, Joe Paterno for college football, and Charlton Heston (aka John Charles Carter) for a moron’s right to deliver unspeakable evil and harm from a gun barrel.

As to Paterno, I contend that looking the other way is shameful, particularly when the reasons for doing so were ignominious and venal.  Paterno is a creep for placing football above pederasty, which puts him squarely with the mealy-mouthed priests (or rabbis, ministers or imams) that violated innocent young people in the pursuit of their own perverse satisfactions.

Football is not salvation, nor is it a moral compass.  At bottom, it’s an advertising vehicle for snacks and beer and an entertainment for those requiring passive and vicarious pleasure.  And that’s all it should be.  There is nothing wrong with this but if you wish to acquire the life lessons to constitute a moral compass, as those paying to get an education at institutions that ostensibly prepare them for a rich, full, and productive life – exalting football uber alles ain’t the answer.

Neither is Charlton Heston.  Imagine for a moment Charlton Heston being required by a just God to deliver eulogies at funerals of Columbine, Tech, or Aurora victims. What do you suppose he’d say?  “Serves you right for not being armed?” Or would a just God have performed justly, giving CH a Sandy Weill moment by forcing him to say something like, “you know, I was wrong”.

There’ll be those reading this who can go no further since a brain spasm to invoke the argument that guns don’t kill people will have fully taken hold.  My friends, guns do kill people. Lots of them.  Everyday. Take guns away from Columbine, Tech and Aurora shooters, and they ain’t shooters anymore.  How would they then act out their desperate fantasies?  A bomb?  Poison?   Maybe.  But recognize that such incidents are rare because it takes much more planning and organization to perpetrate such acts, and because those modalities are very tightly controlled.

I’d guess the argument for gun rights is Constitutional or opposition to government intrusion.  But no Constitutional reasoning supports the massacres that a wrong-headed reliance on the 2nd Amendment has produced.  I challenge the many Constitutional scholars who read this paper and this letter to furnish a factual predicate and arguments to support a slaughter of innocents.  Even Scalia recognizes limits on guns, but don’t let that stop you.

As to government intrusion, I challenge those of you willing to set aside hypocrisy long enough to explain why it is a government intrusion to regulate strictly something that takes so many innocent lives when you’re perfectly willing to take away happiness from same sex couples or the freedom that permits women to decide on conception or childbearing.

Will I convince anyone with this effort?  Sure I will.  And I may persuade someone to speak out if they would have otherwise been silent.  Or perhaps persuade the otherwise closed-minded to read Tuchman’s The March of Folly or Diamond’s Collapse, books which articulate the social dangers better than I could ever hope to.  So I will have contributed, in some small way.

 

Donald Marro

The Plains, Virginia

Letter to Editor: Town Manager Owes County Apology

Dear Editor:

There have now been two occasions where I have read on the CDN that the Town of Berryville is alleging that $140,000 has been “withheld from the Town by the county”, a statement made repeatedly by the Town Manager very publicly both during the JGC committee meeting, and then during the Town Council regular meeting this last Tuesday – well publicized by the media.

As a consequence of the 1st article of a few days ago, I FOIAed the complete detailed accounts, which the county kindly provided, and took the time to review them. The accounting, done currently by the JAS, is accurate and detailed. The Town Manager’s assertion is totally inaccurate and misleading, while some of his comments were very disparaging.

In fact, it is quite the contrary – the Town has refused to honor its’ JGC agreement with the county concerning FY12 operating expenses from Jan-June, and withheld substantial amounts, while the county has had to act as the banker to fund those payments.

I cannot explain the Town Manager’s reasoning and actions, (which greatly resemble those used against the School Board in 2008/9, and which resulted in the SB paying several hundred thousand dollars in Town improvements, – of which almost $500,000 in cash, – money which should have been used for the students).  However, I am guessing that the major cost overruns with the waste water treatment plant and outfall line contracts, and the resulting current Town lawsuit, as well as the impending cost overruns with the HVAC of the JGC, have made a serious dent in the Town’s cash flow – which they hope that once again, county tax dollars will help to mitigate.

As a county taxpayer, I would like to request that:

1)    The Board of Supervisors not succumb to such tactics, and, in a spirit of “oh, let’s compromise and give them what they want”, and

2)    The Board of Supervisors fully support their own staff’s very accurate and well substantiated position.

In this tight economy, county money needs to be used for county needs – not to throw oil on the Town’s eternally squeaky financial wheel, when they fail to properly manage their own finances. The Town has breached your agreement, not the county.

The Town Manager owes you an apology – preferably public.

Robina Rich Bouffault

Taxpayer – White Post District

Letter to the Editor: Bike Virginia Not Wanted?

Bike Virginia

I read the comments about Bike Virginia coming to town.  There sure were many negative comments about us coming. I was a  participant in Bike Virginia.

Thanks for having us.

I am glad I did not know of the ill will before I arrived.  I would have been scared to cycle in your area.  I know we annoyed many of you. Some cyclists are just like some car drivers, they run red lights, they roll through stop signs. Most obey the laws, you just remember the ones that do not. I was impressed with the courteous behavior of the car drivers.

I wonder if Charles Town/Ranson really did not want us there either.

Cecilia Luther

Letter to the Editor: So Grateful!

I am so thankful to all those who made this year’s Kristin Jacobs Mulch Sale a tremendous success this past Saturday.  I would like to thank Dave Bodkin, Scott Hubbard, Ricky Tavenner, Wayne Warfield, Frank Jurney and Ricky Holliday of Stuart M. Perry for delivering our bulk mulch and Chris Stiles, Shannon Dulaney and Jim Stutzman for their expert loading skills.

Additionally, Toni and George Novakowski, Lisa Dale, Jennifer Jones, Carolyn Kruza, Tricia Dietz, Alana Dang, Meredith Place and the Ohm Family all provided valuable support to facilitate this annual fundraiser.

Lastly, I am ever so grateful to the Nelson family for donating the mulch that makes this event possible and for the many families who purchased the mulch allowing us to raise over $12,500 to benefit the Clarke County Public Schools.

Much appreciative,
Kim Stutzman Ex. Director,
Clarke Co Education Foundation

 

Letter to Editor: National Volunteer Week

Dear Clarke Daily News Editors,

This National Volunteer Week, April 15-21, the American Red Cross is celebrating our own dedicated volunteers, the people who make the Red Cross run. Red Cross volunteers are doers. Red Cross volunteers are people in action.

Our chapter has nearly 250 volunteers from all walks of life. They come together with one common purpose—to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies.

In the 2012 National Volunteer Week Proclamation, President Barack Obama states that “our lives are made richer, our communities are drawn closer, and our country is forged stronger by the dedication and generous spirit of volunteers. I encourage every American to stand up and play their part — to put their shoulder up against the wheel and help change history’s course.”

Red Cross volunteers are always ready to step in and help people down the street, across the nation and around the world. They teach lifesaving safety courses such as first aid, CPR, babysitting and care giving. Volunteers serve veterans, members of the military, and their families; work at blood drives; and respond to large and small disasters.

During National Volunteer Week, the Red Cross wants to thank each volunteer. We take this time to recognize the selfless gifts of time, money and blood the Red Cross has received from our community.

National Volunteer Week is also a time to invite you to join us. If you are not a volunteer, give the Red Cross a try. Red Crossers are people who are trained to perform extraordinary acts in the face of emergencies. To find out more, contact our Volunteer Services office at 540-2662-5412.

Chris Scott
Executive Director
Top of Virginia & Shenandoah County Chapters
American Red Cross

Letter to Editor: Biosolids Nutrient Pollution and the Chesapeake Bay

The article “Local Officials Say biosolids safe to use” published April 15 ends on the right note, offering one way to use the waste for its contained energy.

The article completely ignores one of the biggest problems using animal waste as fertilizer, namely the massive nutrient pollution it causes. Conventional chemical fertilization is rarely more than about 2/3 efficient, meaning that if 150 pounds of nitrogen are applied to an acre, only 100 pounds are removed with the harvested crop.

In the case of sludge, only 30% of the nitrogen is “crop available” so 500 pounds of nitrogen is applied (30% of 500 is 150) to grow the same crop. What do you suppose is the fate of the remaining 350 pounds of nitrogen? It certainly does not accumulate in the soil because farmers fertilize every crop.

Inefficient agricultural fertilization is the largest source of Chesapeake Bay nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, and sludge is the least efficient of all “fertilizers.” Obviously, Clarke County Officials are more concerned with “free fertilizer” for a very few farmers than they are for water quality improvements in Chesapeake Bay.

Dr. Lynton S. Land
www.VaBayBlues.org

Letter to the Editor: Clarke County Biosolids Use

April 10, 2012

To the Editor:

Caroline Snyder’s letter to the editor of March 26 was a gross misrepresentation of the facts about the land application of biosolids. While Snyder often presents herself as a scientist by listing her previous association with the Rochester Institute of Technology, it must be noted that she taught in the College of Liberal Arts and not in the colleges of Science, Technology, Engineering or Health Sciences. Her undergraduate and graduate degrees are in Germanic Languages and Literature. She has done no peer-reviewed research in any scientific field—certainly not in biosolids.

The residents of Clarke County can rest assured, however, that thousands of real scientists have been studying the land application of biosolids for many decades and have concluded that it is safe and beneficial to farms and forests. This research and years of practical experience have yet to document any link between biosolids and adverse effects on human health, the environment or to wildlife and domestic animals. New research is continually adding to our knowledge about biosolids and leading to improvements in technology and processes.

Before going further, perhaps a definition of biosolids, based on information provided by the Virginia Department of Health, would be helpful:

Biosolids are the nutrient-rich organic materials resulting from the additional treatment of sewage sludge in a municipal wastewater treatment plant. During treatment, beneficial bacteria and other tiny organisms break the sludge down into simpler, harmless organic matter. The organic matter, combined with bacterial cell masses, settle out to form biosolids, which can then be safely recycled as a fertilizer and soil conditioner.

In 2007, the Virginia Department of Health published a study by three respected epidemiologists that represented an exhaustive review of the current scientific literature about biosolids and human health.  The primary conclusions were as follows: “… there does not seem to be strong evidence of serious health risks when biosolids are managed and monitored appropriately. Human health allegations associated with biosolids usually lack evidence of biological absorption, medically determined human health effects, and/or do not meet the biological plausibility test.”

In 2008 an Expert Panel created by the Virginia General Assembly concluded after 18 months of study that it had “uncovered no evidence or literature verifying a causal link between biosolids and illness.”

Snyder completely misrepresented the findings of the National Academy of Science panel on biosolids, which in 2002 issued its recommendations on ways to improve the scientific research supporting the land application of biosolids.  Snyder made the false claim that the NAS had said that the EPA’s Part 503 rules, which are the basis for Virginia’s regulation of biosolids, were “flawed,” “outdated science,” and “no science at all.”

Virginia’s biosolids regulations are administered by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), which Snyder mistakenly called the DEP.

In the preface to its report, the National Academy of Science panel made it clear that its purpose was not to determine the adequacy of the Part 503 rule. Rather, its purpose was to focus “on identifying how current risk-assessment practices and knowledge regarding chemicals and pathogens in biosolids can be used to update and strengthen the scientific basis and credibility of EPA’s biosolids regulations.”

Dr. Thomas Burke, Chair of the NAS panel, issued a statement amplifying the panel’s findings. “First,” he said, “we found no evidence of an urgent public health risk from exposure to land-applied biosolids, based on our review of the scientific literature. Currently, there are no studies documenting adverse health effects from land application of biosolids, even though land application has been practiced for years.”

Finally, it seems highly presumptuous for Snyder, from a distance of more than 650 miles in New Hampshire, to criticize Virginia’s regulation of biosolids.  Virginia has recently completed an exhaustive four-year review and revision of the Commonwealth’s biosolids regulations.  These regulations, as administered by the DEQ, are among the most comprehensive in the nation and are based on the latest scientific research and practical experience. Virginia’s regulations are more stringent than the federal Part 503 rule on land application rates, slope restrictions, buffers, soil pH and nutrient management plan requirements.  These regulations have demonstrated that they are fully protective of public health and the environment.

The DEQ’s Biosolids Program includes 25 full-time personnel who monitor the land application of biosolids in Virginia. According to DEQ records, 93 percent of farms that received biosolids in 2010 were inspected by DEQ personnel.

In my 40 years in the water and wastewater treatment profession I have found that most people, when they have an opportunity to consider the facts, conclude that the beneficial use of biosolids is a win/win for everyone—for the farmers who apply biosolids to their land, for their neighbors who want to preserve the rural nature of their communities, for the environment, for public safety, and for the citizens of the municipalities that use this method of responsibly recycling a valuable resource.

I hope the facts presented here have been helpful to the citizens of Clarke County in understanding the safety of biosolids land application and its many benefits.

Barry Dunkley, P.E.

President, Virginia Biosolids Council

Barry Dunkley is Director of Water & Wastewater Treatment for the City of Danville, Virginia.  He is currently the president of The Virginia Biosolids Council, which includes municipal wastewater treatment facilities that produce biosolids, companies that produce compost, companies that apply biosolids to farms and forests and the landowners who benefit from this nutrient-rich soil conditioner. The organization’s website is www.virginiabiosolids.com.

Letter to the Editor: Truth, or Government by Checkbook

Lewis Black cynically calls “leaders” those politicians who tell voters without a proverbial pot to piss in that taxes on the rich should be reduced.  Now add to this the notions of meritocracy (poor people as per se failures), women can’t be trusted with reproductive decisions, and homogeneity in sexual preference, religion and natural history as pillars of a sound society, and presto, it’s the conservative Republican mindset, a blueprint for looking down your nose and reversing progress.

These are the same conservative Republicans who okayed the loss of a manufacturing base to developing countries since it’s unions that’ll suffer and, besides, we can do great things on Wall Street.   Like let formerly cautious banks use federally insured deposits to compete for business Wall Street firms once risked their own money on.  With banks able to use deposits, Wall Street turned to stiffing their own customers, and the risk frenzy grew.  Glass-Steagall was disappeared thanks to lobbyist control of government  (do finance lobbyists really outnumber consumer and union lobbyists 25 – 1), and Citizens United sets the scene for government of, by and for the 1%.   Financial catastrophe in 1929 wasn’t searing enough, I guess.  Doubt this?  If so, stop relying on Limbaugh or Hannity but consult Reed of CitiBank or Buffet of Berkshire Hathaway, instead.

And perhaps you believe you deserve truth in political campaigns (and not profits but ethical standards with serious and certain penalties when standards are breached as the basis for medical care, legal advice or food), then ponder how predictive of what you’ll get from conservative Republicans is the presidential campaign of the leading Republican contender.  That campaign is so transparently false that its key advisor uses “Etch-A-Sketch” as a metaphor to proudly boast of a strategy of taking false positions to win in primaries, knowing full well that the general election positions will be different.  So much for truth, respect for voters, and respect for fair dealing.

It’s the same locally.  Mrs. Vogel, running for office as Jobs Senator, instead forces transvaginal ultrasound on women in order to access a constitutionally protected health and reproductive choice – you’ve heard of date rape, this is state rape – from the same darkly dangerous folks that brought you poll taxes.  When confronted by the blatant hypocrisy of her position, Mrs. Vogel’s response, was “Who, me?  I just want women to be fully informed”, women needing transvaginal ultrasound in Mrs. Vogel’s world to know their choices when they face unwelcome pregnancies.

And where is truth?  And jobs, pollution relief (the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers are among the nation’s most polluted), state and local government responsiveness and productivity (ours are rated least transparent, and are spectacularly unproductive), and solutions to perennial problems (like transportation, and the regular power outages from aboveground power lines which doesn’t seem to trouble Gov. McDonnell’s boyhood chum, now the CEO at Virginia Power).

Can conservative Republicans ever be trusted to be truthful, or benevolent?  Or will they just focus on elites and distract the easily confused or disinterested with culture warfare, in the same way as Romans used circuses?   My guess is the latter, and more government by checkbook.

Unless Lewis Black doesn’t really know you so well, and you decline to have it this way.

Donald C. Marro

The Plains, Virginia

Letter to the Editor – Presidential Election Reaches Watershed on US Future

President Obama and his Republican challengers all believe we’ve reached a watershed on the kind of country the United States will be.  Such watersheds are by definition consequential but have been part of our history, so another one isn’t surprising.  What choices confront us now?

The first seems to be will rancor intensify.  Rancor has been typical but you might’ve thought we would outgrow our historical and hysterical prejudices given the twin miracles of knowledge and the melting pot, but fear of loss from the current brush with Depression called for a powerful palliative.  Obama hatred fits that need, so does immigrant hatred (notwithstanding our history) and women’s rights hatred.  And superimposed is the class warfare perpetrated by those (some, not all) that should’ve been grateful for the opportunity of financial success but are Scrooge-like instead, reluctant to tithe society for their opportunity or to extend such opportunity to others.

Racial, cultural and sexual insecurity would seem at odds with job creation, so why is there debate?  Because we are a two party democracy by and large, and both parties lost their way.

Democrats lost their way without big issues to tackle.  Roosevelt restrained bully capitalism and defeated fascism; Truman restrained communism and built prosperity buffer states in Western Europe and Japan; Kennedy confronted a Soviet Union that made more of its German scientist POWs than the U.S. did; and Johnson rid us finally of Great Depression and slavery hangovers.

Today’s Democrats (except Obama) seem unable or reluctant to find new dragons to slay.

Leaving the field to the small-minded (Robertson, Norquist, the Koch brothers, et al) with their dogwhistles in service of class and culture warfare waged on behalf of elites.  Restricting unions and the vote.   Going about fully armed.  Denying science.  Attacking gays, sex and women.

Republicans came to power, promptly abused it then panicked when Wall Street melted down.  But then they found the Tea Party, and that god, guns and government interference were fears a robber baron leadership could use to preserve, even increase, their influence, and whip up a base of Luddites and a mindless religious right that believes in a world less than 4000 years old.

Our postwar prosperity came not from god, guns or privilege but from Eisenhower infrastructure and Nixon regulatory and foreign policy initiatives (and IBM and AT&T busting), and then from giving smart people a chance to rise above their origins.  Silicon Valley, once home to defense contractors, is now a knowledge and culture amalgam and innovation engine.

Virginia could be, too, if its Republicans stopped looking at the past and the Bible for inspiration.

What’s next?  Left to conservative Republicans, we’ll be a culture of hypocrites and misogynists.  Not focused on the meaningful hows of being competitive globally and geopolitically, on space exploration and exploitation, the global rights and prosperity of peoples, on enjoying women as life partners and equals, or on the profound appreciation that salvation for country and planet comes from science not prayer or religion.

So.  Cue the dog-whistles and insultmongers?  Or find the Higgs Boson, unlock the secrets of stem cells and strengthen the middle class?  And maybe vote Obama?

 

Donald Marro

The Plains, Virginia