Saturday, December 21, 2013


There are several words that,when heard,  I  prepare my mental defenses: management consultant,  synergy, paradigm and workshop. I believe management consultants descend from the robber baron's coteries, those who used to servilely bring them coffee, cigars and provide handjobs. Now bereft of duties , they serve the masters by telling them and their workers what the boss wishes to hear in exchange for consultant pay and the right to hang out at hotels and write off meals as business expenses. With most consultants, I immediately reach for my pistol loaded with silver bullets and mallet and wooden stakes kept under my desk. Many workers of the last 20 years will recognize the word "synergy". The real translation is workers doing more with less so investors get more profit for doing nothing. "Paradigm", far from its natural habitat in epistemology, translates to "you can't do things like you used to with four workers and get paid; now you must do it with two and we are cutting your pay so I can get a third house on the Key's. By the way, coffee pots are banned to reduce overhead. You are now required to buy coffee from our machine."  Middle management loves workshops. They have a reason to still be employed as when asked what they do, they can reply "I am organizing the semi-annual workshop" and stay in hotels with their partner,shop and expense meals. They also get to use the words "paradigm" and "synergy", despite having missed them on a test in the lib ed critical thinking requirement class those years ago, in the age before online education when  students were forced to read and physics wasn't explained by an animated rabbit. The new paradigm is  talking monkeys watching screens and laughing at cats, spewing right wing slogans  and posting about gun rights while raging at the guy who just fired them and used the phrase "Under the new paradigm and to increase synergy, upper middle management has decided that to quiet worker dissatisfaction, we will decrease their pay and hire consultants to hold workshops and tell them how they can be happy by changing their paradigm".

Soon the new "paradigm" will be virtual weather, as climate warming will have made the world so inhospitable people will have to stay inside and "virtually encounter" the real world. Until the lightning hits their house and destroys their new paradigm, that is.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Yarnell Fire: A man made tragedy.

The overall incident map is here:

The Yarnell fire and the Fire crew's deaths were a truly man made problem. Viewing the Glen llah subdivision, surrounded by a dry, rocky landscape, the vegetation is immediately against the houses, the entire area easily seen as firetrap in any fast moving fire.  A better name would be community based manslaughter, as these pictures show:

The late Roger Kennedy, is his book "Wildfire and Americans"clearly explained the problem than I could ever hope to. 

The focus, most likely, will be on "safety errors" and "failures to follow protocol", rather than the underlying, fundamental question of " why is this community here?" and "what were its zoning requirements?", if any. Last, and never asked, of course, is "why were these people out fighting that fire in the first place?", other than to defend the undependable and get paid the relatively small amount they do.

The headlines already announce the tired shibboleth of "Community Mourns (add victim name here), but this case is an obvious absurdity. The place is in a firetrap, and the subdivision is a firetrap's firetrap. That is the real tragedy. These people were killed for no reason other than stupidity and development greed.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Mythology of Destruction

Northeastern Minnesota's history is based on exploitation; the small cities are and contain monuments to both the exploited land and people. The now empty downtown's, populated by bars and empty storefronts, are the best symbols. The miserable poor, the addicted and the hapless drink themselves away in the past's shadow.  Some extol the benefits, of course; the exploiters themselves, the cynical self serving and the co-opted. The first group are the same as now, the distant wealthy, treating the land and water as nothing more than objects of wealth.

Whether the lumbermen, the now honored Merritt family, given silhouette memorials in the local school, or the seated ruler Jay Cooke in Duluth, those who destroyed the landscape are honored.  The history lessons ignore the original theft, the giveaway called "severed mineral rights", the rapacious logging and the earth scorching fires that resulted.

The self serving now range from local politicians or favored good old boys. The IRRRB, supposedly a government agency, but now one of gifted loans to former hockey players, employment to local favorites, subsidized golf courses, and giveaways to favorites, doles out the public's pittance share of the removed wealth, borrowing from the future for a lake home, a large truck, a gun and fatty steak. Then there are the managers, the servants of the corporate office, the contractors, and the lobbyists. But we expect the mouthed platitudes from them, as they owe all to the system. They would gladly sell the entire area as long their side of the lake keeps its view.

The most painful, however, are the co-opted. Unlike the workers of a century ago, who, due to the near slave like conditions and pay, saw the system clearly, the workers now preach the corporate line in exchange for vehicles, large screen televisions and drugs. But, unlike the cynically self serving, they are Orwell's latter: "Circus dogs (who) jump when the trainer cracks his whip, but the really well-trained dog is the one that turns his somersault when there is no whip." The truth of the gifts of mining are as water is to the cannot describe the very thing that makes the world which one lives in. To say the truth, that we are all stealing, is to admit the end of the enterprise. We must pretend there is no world with air less we stop swimming.

A place destroyed and unliveable.