Saturday, November 19, 2016

Walling -- In or Out?

It's less than a week to Thanksgiving. There's snow on the ground, and more in the forecast. In this season of gratitude, let me say THANK YOU! to the cast and many in the audience of Hamilton for last night's thrilling, and satisfying, performance.

how vulnerable is our grid?
how vulnerable is our grid?
Photo by J. Harrington

Meanwhile, closer to home, the beleaguered Better Half had an extra hour or two added to her commute last night. A downed power line closed down most of one of the main highways and backed up traffic to a fare-thee-well. Does that suggest that much of our aging infrastructure isn't designed to serve us well in a future forecast to be full of more violent and volatile weather? It seems so to me. Would repairing, replacing, redesigning and reconstructing said infrastructure create numerous jobs for out of work construction workers? Have Republicans been willing to pay for that work? It would seem not:

$478B Infrastructure Bill Blocked by Senate GOP

Trump’s big infrastructure plan? It’s a trap. 
I strongly suspect there's going to be lots and lots, and lots, of buyers' remorse over the next twenty-four to forty-eight months. Those who "won" seem best qualified to "Make America Hate Again."

It seems to me that a more positive and productive approach would be to try to negotiate fair trade agreements that didn't weaken environmental safeguards, or labor standards and that eliminated the Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions could offer some interesting possibilities for addressing the rural discontent that's understandable. Of course, improving our education system so that manufacturers weren't frustrated by the quality of job applicants might help too. All of these opportunities have existed for a long time. They have been discarded in favor of gridlock and malfeasance. (Is there a better term for a Senate that refuses to hold hearings on qualified nominees for critical and vacant judicial positions?)

One of my major objections to the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement was the fast track. Take it or leave it agreements are anathema to the heart of a democracy, especially when many of the stakeholders aren't party to the negotiations. Similar issues are reported to have been at the heart of problems with the Dakota Access PipeLine. Democracy is loud, messy, uncomfortable and aggravating. At least that seems to be the story told by Hamilton. Trying to have it any other way is neither more efficient, not effective. If President Reagan was correct to tell Mr. Gorbachev to "Tear down this wall!," what does that say about the president-elect's desire to build one as his legacy? Does Robert Frost tell us?

Mending Wall


By Robert Frost



Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbours."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbours? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbours."

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