Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Blooming apricots

I hire my neighbor Richard Graver, the most knowledgeable orchardist I know, to prune my quince, apricot, mulberry, and apple trees each spring.  I have no idea how to prune fruit trees, and please don’t tell me I can get a tutorial on that on the internet.

Anyway, I asked Richard why we never get any apricots.  He said it was very hard to grow them in this part of Pennsylvania because they bloomed early, often before a killing frost.  Today I noticed how pretty the apricot tree looked with its blossoms.  It is now April 24.  

Any bets on whether or not we will have at least one more killing frost.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The main reason we didn't annex Mexico

I always thought the main reason the U.S. did not annex all of Mexico after the Mexican War was because of Northern opposition to creating more slave states.  That's why Henry David Thoreau went to jail–he thought the war was being fought to expand slavery.  He was right, of course, but that is not the whole story.

According to Peter Guardino (The Dead March, Harvard U. Press, 2017), Americans were fearful of incorporating Mexico into the U.S. because Mexicans were Catholic and of an inferior race.  California, Arizona, and New Mexico, which were annexed, contained relatively few Mexican nationals.  Mexico proper, on the other hand, contained millions of people then regarded in the U.S. as racially inferior.  This was also a period of intense anti-Catholic opinion.  The Mexican War occurred along with the rise of the Know Nothings, a political party based on opposing Catholic immigration.

Much of Trump's anti-Mexican rants and prejudices against Mexicans would have been right at home in 1846-48.  Bigotry doesn't change all that much.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Earth Day in Jim Thorpe

At the Earth Day celebration in downtown Jim Thorpe yesterday I worked a table for “Save Carbon County,” an environmental group that is opposing the PennEast pipeline.  We had people sign postcards to the Delaware River Basin Commission asking that agency to prevent early tree cutting before the pipeline was actually approved.  In the past the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a.k.a. lapdog of the pipeline companies, has approved tree cutting along a route that was never used for a pipeline.  We are hoping the DRBC, a much more environmentally sensitive agency, can make sure that doesn’t happen.

The day went well.  We collected over 200 postcards.

One thing that did bother me was that the event organizers did not have any recycle bins.  I pulled some aluminum cans and plastic water bottles out of the trash, but I’ll have to talk to the organizers to see this doesn’t happen again.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Take Action

I write this blog for all kinds of reasons: to educate, to amuse, to inform, or even out of vanity.  Tonight, however, I am asking you to take action.  I want you to write to your members of Congress, both House and Senate, and ask them to change a U.S. government policy.  Actual letters are better than emails, but emails are ok.  Even a phone call can help.  I'll reprint my letter to Senators Toomey and Casey and Representative Cartwright.  It may help you get started, but don't copy it.  Use your own words.  If you want to look up the original article referred to in the letter, it is in the April 21 issue of the New York Times, page 1.

Dear Sen. Casey:

A United States. government policy is deliberately separating parents from their children.  This is not only happening with raids by I.C.E., but we are also taking children away from their parents who have done nothing wrong, are not here illegally, but have come to our border requesting asylum.

In an article in today’s New York Times by Caitlin Dickerson (“Over 700 Children Taken From Parents at Border,” p. 1, 8), we learn this has happened over 700 times.  Over 100 of those children were under four years of age.  Ms. Dickerson’s data was verified by government officials.  

Note again that these families were not here illegally.  They were requesting asylum.  What kind of people are we?  When did we become so cruel, so heartless? 

I know that Pennsylvania voters supported Trump.  I know that Trump promised to crack down on immigration.  I also know that some officials see this separation policy as a deterrent to more asylum seekers.  None of that matters.  This policy needs to be stopped.  Our government has to be better than this.

Do something, please.

Roy Christman

Friday, April 20, 2018

Burdensome regulations

Southwest Airlines opposed inspections that could have discovered flaws in the engine that came apart.  Of course it did.  Federal regulations and safety checkups are burdensome, cost money, take time. 

The Trump administration is committed to decreasing these burdensome regs.  Business must be freed from controls.  Emission standards, truck driver safety regs, pesticide limitations, gun safety regs, building codes, OSHA requirements–dump them all.  Profits will soar.  The economy will boom.

People will die.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Partisan school boards?

Infighting among local school board members in Pennsylvania can be serious, as anyone who follows board activities is well aware.  Nonetheless, disagreements among board members, while heated and occasionally downright nasty, are seldom partisan.  Even if we know all of our school board members, and most of us don’t, we generally don’t know their party affiliations.

Now Justin Simmons, a dishonest representative from Lehigh County, has introduced a bill to make school boards even more dysfunctional.

Under present Pennsylvania law, school board members are allowed to cross-file.  That means they can run on the ballots of both parties, and many of them do.  When you cross-file, the votes from both parties are added to your total.  The hope is that school board issues don’t lend themselves to partisan politics.

Interestingly, Simmons’s bill doesn’t make provisions for Independents, Greens, or Libertarians to run in school board elections.

Simmons is the youngster who promised, if elected, to serve only two terms.  He lied; he’s running for his third.  I guess the salary and perks were just too good.  Or maybe he isn’t qualified for anything else.  You may have also know him for his absentee record, which is one of the worst in the legislature. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Supply your own comment; I'm not going there

The state House of Representatives yesterday debated a bill to force doctors to become inquisitors of pregnant women to determine whether they wish to terminate their pregnancy because the child might have Down syndrome.  The bill would say that those pregnancies would have to be carried to term.  The bill makes no mention of help for those families with increased medical bills and other difficulties often encountered.  

In Pennsylvania abortion is now permitted up to 24 weeks for any reason except to choose the gender of the child, although there is no way to enforce that prohibition either.

In the debate Republican Speaker Mike Turzai, a prime sponsor of the bill, said “I think sometimes, ‘Oh my goodness, what if my parents for some reason, didn’t think I was good enough as an unborn child?’”