Environmental Value Chain

A chain is only as good as its weakest link.  When making judgments, you have to look at the whole chain from start to finish.    This is true in any business and it is even more crucial in environmental affairs.  Some products may look very green in their current form, but are not when you consider where they are coming from or where they are going. 

Wood is the most environmentally friendly building or structural product when you look at the whole ecological value chain.  

Start on the ground.   As a forest grows, it removes pollution from the air, keeps water clean, provides wildlife habitat and makes the world more beautiful.   The production of wood is environmentally friendly.   This contrasts with other materials, such as plastic, concrete or metal, all of which must be pulled from the earth and are negative in their environmental impacts during production.

Harvesting of trees requires the use of fuels and may result in pollution released into the air.   Even well-managed forest harvests will impact local water quality.   These are serious issues, but can be minimized.  They also occur only once in many decades and are much more than compensated by the many years of beneficial growth.    If you look over a thirty-five year pine rotation, it is clear that the net environmental benefits are overwhelming.

Beyond that, nothing exists in isolation.    If you compare forestry to almost any other land use, forestry is the most sustainable and environmentally friendly activity.  Compared to other products, the comparison is so extreme that we might actually miss it.   Twenty years after a operations, a mine, quarry or oil well is still a hole in the ground unless costly reconstruction has been done.

Twenty years after a harvest a forest is … a forest with young trees growing robustly. 

I write the Tree Farmer of the Year article for “Virginia Forests.”   These guys have usually been in the business for years and they have pictures.  I am always amazed to see the old pictures and hearing about the changes.   I recall standing in a mature pine forest in Greenville County and talking to the owner about his land.   He showed me an old black and white photo of his grandfather standing in the “same” grove of trees in the same spot where we were.   But it was not the same.    This land had been harvested TWICE since the old man stood proudly among his pines.   His grandson could do the same and future generations would also have the chance to walk among the pines.   That is what renewable means.

Wood is completely renewable.   As I wrote earlier, renewable is even better than recyclable

But what happens after you are done with the wood.  We like to think our houses will last forever, but most won’t.  Wood is easily disposed of or cycled back into the natural world.   Wood can be burned as fuel.  It releases CO2 at that time, but this is the same CO2 recently absorbed.    Burning wood is recognized as a carbon neutral activity for that reason.    If thrown away, wood decays.  It doesn’t take long before yesterday’s tree is fertilizer for tomorrow’s.   This is in striking contrast to other materials.   Steel can be recycled at a high energy cost.   If thrown away, it will rust away after many years.   Concrete also can be recycled with much effort.  If thrown away it lasts pretty much forever.   While it creates no particular environmental hard, it is a form of garbage that never goes away.   Plastic is the most persistent product.  Some plastics will remain in the environment almost forever.   Recycling is a good thing when it can be done with plastic, but it really only postpones the problem.   The plastic water bottle may be turned into a carpet, but eventually it will end up in a landfill where it will stay … forever. 

We need to use all sorts of materials: metal, plastic, glass, stone, concrete, various composites and wood.   They are all appropriate for some uses.   When you look at the total ecological value chain, wood deserves a lot of consideration.

Renewable is Even Better than Recyclable

We have to be in on the takeoff.  Too often we are just there for the crash landing.  A lot of policies that affect forestry are made w/o significant input from anybody who works in forestry or even understands it.  I thought about this during the VFA convention and it was reinforced today when I saw this article from Scientific American.   I commented under “Broadnax” but in case you don’t want to follow the link, let me sum up.

The article starts with an ecological dilemma: paper or plastic.  I understand that, but then they talk about deforestation … in paper.  A person involved with forestry knows this is a complicated issue.  Most paper comes from pulp wood.   In the U.S. these are often small trees thinned from larger forests.  The thinning, as in your flower or vegetable garden, allows other plants to grow stronger and better.  In the case of a forest, it also lets light reach the ground so that herbaceous plants can grow, making it a better wildlife habitat.    If/when there is low demand for pulp, forest owners cannot afford to thin.  This means that the forests get too thick, where they are susceptible to fire and beetle damage and where the forest floor becomes a bit of a wildlife desert.   

The irony is that by NOT using paper, you may be contributing to deforestation by making forests less healthy and more prone to disease and general destruction.    Ecology is a funny thing with all its counterintuitive connections and implications.

Above – there is no garden w/o a gardener.

So a lot depends on WHERE the product comes from as well as what it is made of and how that product gets to market.   Wood is a carbon sink, so forestry removes carbon from the air, while (if done as it should be) providing wildlife habitat, clean water, recreation and better air quality.   IF your paper or wood product comes from an American forest, you are probably NOT contributing to deforestation and may well to encouraging the growth of healthy American forests.

The concept the SciAm article handed well was the ecological chain.  (They just missed some of the key links with regard to forestry. )  You have to look at the whole lifecycle of the product from the time it is mined, drilled or grown in the earth until the time it goes back.   Wood does very well in this respect.

Wood is not 100% recyclable in most products.  It is something better.   Wood is 100% renewable.   

Well, I am not exactly accurate re recyclable.  While may not be recycled into other human products, wood is the ultimate recyclable material, since when it stops being a product useful for humans, it returns to the soil and fertilizes the next generation of trees.  I will say more about the ecological value chain tomorrow and make some comparisons.

Battleship Wisconsin

I went down to Norfolk for Virginia Forestry Association meeting.   I have a lot to write from the meeting, but Norfolk itself was interesting.  Among the attractions is the Battleship Wisconsin.

I didn’t know that the battleship Wisconsin was docked there but I really enjoyed the visit.   You can find some of the details at this link.    

Battleships were the symbol of power for almost a century. They were made obsolete by the advent of sophisticated airpower & precise missiles, at least that is the usual explanation.  And it is true as far as it goes.  But there is more and it becomes clear as you walk around the ship.

A battleship is very much a product of the mechanical age.   It reminds you of an old factory and it is a giant machine in the early 20th Century sense.   It is filled with precision instruments and designed to be run by machinists and engineers, lots of them.   Loading the guns took big crews.  Keeping the rust off the boat took big crews.   Oiling the cogs and cranks took big crews.   A modern ship doesn’t have to be so big to carry the firepower and it doesn’t need the really big crews to make it work. 

As with factories on land, a lot of the tasks once done by vast crews of semi-skilled men are now done by machines.  The precision devices are replaced by electronics.  The calculations done by scores of engineers are now done instantly by computers.   We can no longer afford battleships because we no longer can afford the big crews needed to run them and we no longer need them anyway since a much smaller package can pack a much bigger payload.

Above – the battleship deck is made of teak wood.  It protected the steel deck below.  I wonder how much it would cost for such a well constructed teak deck now.  I don’t think I could afford even a small one at my house.

A battleship is beautiful and graceful.   Like a medieval castle, which was also a complicated engine of war, it now seems more a work of artful engineering than a very large lethal weapon.   But that is what it was.   It is worth seeing for all the reasons above.

Above – battleships were classy.  This is the silver set from the Wisconsin.  It was a gift from the people of Wisconsin to the USN.   My mother and father were taxpayers back then, so I guess my family helped buy it.

Ticked Off

I went down to the farms over last weekend.   I did a lot of bushwhacking to check the boundaries and water courses and although I had long sleeves and bug repellent on, I picked up at least three ticks.   I got them before they managed to bore in but something got me and made a bit of a rash.   I hate ticks.   I usually don’t get any, but they are very active now and I went more into the bushes than usual.

Below – spring is here. Leaves are coming out.

I am trying to stabilize one of my roads and I needed some branches etc.    So I went and cut out some of the trees damaged by the machines squirting out biosolids.  Some were bent so much they would not come back and others had so much bark stripped that they would be deformed.  I laid them in the ruts to slow the water flow.    It works well.  Where I did this before on the slopes I have some vegetation coming in, but it is a lot of work, especially given the primitive tools I use.   I am glad to have the truck now.  That allows me to move a lot more and a lot farther.    I am letting the road grow over for now.  

Below – I want to keep my streams clean, so I cannot have dirt running off the roads or anyplace else. 

The wildlife plots are doing well.   They used a couple of them as staging places for the biosolids and those are growing like made.   It is probably the most fertile half acres in the state.   We planted ladino clover and some orchard grass and chicory.  The clover is good because it fixes nitrogen.  I like how it looks too. 

Below is Blimbie.  Now that I have have the other forest, I sometimes go up 95 via Emporia, which is where this is.  I’ve always like Blimpie, but my favorite place used to be Togo’s.  I have not seen a Togo’s for a long time.  I don’t know if they are still in business. 

The truck is no good unless it has the orange mud decoration. 

Wise Land Use

Environmentalism and climate change fall near the bottom of most people’s priorities, according to a Pew Research study done a few months ago.  Fewer and fewer people are calling themselves environmentalist.  That information made me feel a little uneasy, but then I thought about it.  I would not characterize myself as an environmentalist either.    The term has changed, so that now people like me, who love nature and want to conserve it, but also want to use resources wisely, are not really part of the group anymore.

The most ardent and persistent friends of nature are hunters but they were among the first to be banished from the new understanding of the term. As a forest owner, I can stay in the group until someone asks me if I ever plan to harvest the trees and I say yes. I have thought about this topic before and written about it. Responsible stewardship is the responsible way to be. It is hard for me to understand anything else as a logical or moral position. 

I was talking to a friend yesterday who mentioned the debate about whether or not clear cuts should ever be used.   IMO, there is no debate. There is only trying to explain to uniformed but emotionally excited people why some types of forest ecology require clear cuts. But my friend made a good counterpoint.   He said that for some people environmentalism was not really about the environment.  It was a kind of aesthetic. They felt offended by signs of human management, so ironically humans had to manage very carefully to hide the signs.

That’s it.  Environmentalism has become an aesthetic proposition to many of its adherents.  That is why it is so popular among artists and celebrities.  It allows them to satisfy their need for self expressions while seeming simultaneously to stand on the high groups of extreme altruism.  And they can jet around the world attending concerts and events w/o guilt when they claim it is to help the environment. 

I read about a split in the environmental movement.  I don’t know if you can split something that was already in many separate parts. We should probably abandon the word. 

Environmentalist may end up doing significant harm to the environment.  As I read the polls, many people are just sick of the hyperbole.  My observation, and all the measurements back it up, is that the U.S. environment is much cleaner than it was when I was young.  Virtually every kind of pollutant we measure is less prevalent than it was. Yet we keep on getting the scary stories.   Some would argue that you have to frighten people or they won’t listen.  I don’t agree.   We have to be truthful and realistic. 

The environment requires constant protection AND management. I believe that I could grow timber sustainably on my land just about forever. It is not being used up or degraded.  On the contrary, the land and the forest is healthier than it has ever been.   Farmers using modern techniques can also harvest sustainably essentially forever. That doesn’t mean that we won’t use better and different techniques in the future.  Sustainability doesn’t mean you don’t change and adapt.   It means you can keep on going.

The thing that is most crippling for the environmental movement is a precautionary principle.   It sounds prudent. Always be more careful.  But if we had applied the precautionary principle we would never have electricity. It is always possible to ask questions.  It sounds very wise to earnestly intone that we don’t find anything now, but we could find something we don’t know about.   You can use that logic to block anything at all. I can use that as an argument not to take out the garbage. I just don’t know if there is a killer standing near the road.  

The general hysteria in some environmental circles makes it more difficult to address real problems. We have real problems with fisheries. The real problem is overfishing, which can be solved by management and giving people property rights over some of the fishing stocks, as Iceland did. We have trouble with nutrient management, which can be addressed by using biosolids properly, but this is often blocked by environmental regulation.  We face a problem with water availability, but places like Australia have shown the way to manage a scarce resource

The true stewards of nature are those that work with it and in it to sustain it now and forever.   Those that want to preserve it in some particular form just don’t understand its dynamism. The artists express themselves with paintings and sculpture. I suppose they can have gardens.

Belling the Cat & Other Great Ideas

An outside consultant is someone who borrows your watch and charges you a fee to tell you the time.

People have been trying to sell us information research, outreach or new media services for a long time.  They are good people, usually smart guys with impressive credentials and great sounding programs.  But they remind me of stray cats trying to become house cats. They are very friendly and offer a lot, but once they get a steady supply of cream I am not sure they won’t become a nuisance.  I understand the need to work with outside experts, but I have some simple concerns.

The first is a simple sourcing question.  Whenever someone comes with really impressive and precise information, I have to ask where he got it.  Conclusions are no better than the source materials/data they are based on and the soundness of the method with which they were collected, but a clever consultant or academic can build impressive castles on the shifting, soft sand of supposition.  No matter how impressive the tower, the foundation is what matters.

A second question has to do with our own motivations.  We should use outside experts to “rent” expertise we don’t want to buy/develop permanently.  We should not use them as CYA, trying  to outsource decision making or creating/buying systems that will run on auto-pilot. Of course, some things are routine and well enough understood that we can just have a procedure. The hard decisions are hard precisely because they do not fall into that category.  We cannot abdicate responsibility for these decisions. The systems should be decision support, not decision substitution.

A third factor comes as a result of both of the above considerations.  It is possible to create an impressive looking expert-system that leads you inexorably to a wrong decision. We have to guard against it and always consider the inputs and sources.  Maybe the sources are flawed or the analysis in error, but the system is so beautiful and elegant that it creates the impression of greater certainty than the information permits.   If not for the system, you might see that for yourself, but what would have been an obvious flaw is obscured by the impressive and beautiful system built around it.

An important reason for this is the effect of aggregation, which is a fourth factor.  I might make a reasonable guess.  You might too and so might ten others.   Each of us has made a reasonable estimate with a degree of risk.  When we aggregate our guesses, they seem much more certain, but may have introduced all sorts of biases.   The collective judgment may be worse than any of the individuals.   Let me hasten to say that reasonable aggregation of diverse information is a great way to arrive at good decisions.  But when someone creates a model and then runs it, there is a good chance of introducing bias, maybe unintentional, and a significant risk of faulty aggregation.  I have seen lots of examples of information cascades, where the first (wrong) guesses influence the others.  (I have even created a few as experiments.  It is not hard.)  If the model is opaque, as they often are, we can be easily fooled. The worst case is when the model sort of works but because of random events or factors not property accounted in the model.  Arbitrary coherence.

It is not what you don’t know that is most dangerous.  It is what you know that isn’t true. 

A fifth factor is a kind of Heisenberg uncertainty principle of human affairs.  The very fact that we are doing something, or even just observing, alters the underlying reality.   This is especially true of a big player like the USG.   We need to take account of the effects of our actions and recognize the developing situations.  The correct answer today may well be the worst solution six months from now, w/o either answer being wrong.  That is why I am a great believer in iterative research and programs.  You have to see how things develop and then take the next step.  Of  course you need an overall context, but system-building consultants often become too vested in their peculiar models. They want to continue to apply it even when it has become inappropriate.

Which brings us to my sixth concern: an important reason why we do programs is to create the knowledge and relationship base among our own people.  If we outsource activities, we also outsource or give away the relationships and intimate knowledge of what we are doing. It is sort of like a student hiring another kid to write his term paper.  We become dependent on the models and reports and may be misled when we let our own powers atrophy.  We get the big bucks because of our experience, judgment and knowledge.  If we outsource the tasks that require them, we are not only avoiding the important value we add, we are also giving away the things that build future human capital.

Finally, I always have to ask if the service or research is useful. This seems an obvious question, but it often goes unasked.  We get so bedazzled by the graphs, fascinated by the immensity of a problem and/or baffled by the bull shit, that we never ask, “So, what do I do with this?” 

For something to be useful, it must be capable of being used – AND used by us, not some theoretical all-powerful actor.  When I hear something could be done, I want to know by whom and who has already done it.   I am a little leery of someone trying to tell me that I will be the first one ever to achieve something.  There is often silence at this point.  Many consultants are so honestly in love with their own products that they are not ready for the disconfirming question. Remember the fable of the mice who thought it would be a good idea to put a bell on the cat?  The plan was great until they asked who could do it.

Excuse me if I slip into hyperbole, but if I know there is a vast civilization on a planet of the Alpha Centauri system, but I have no way to contact them or get there, it is very interesting, but not useful information.  It is momentous and I want to know, but it is not useful. Among the compelling but useless information people often try to sell is polling data about whether or not people in X country like the U.S.  This is interesting information, but even assuming it doesn’t fall into one or more of the traps mentioned above, it is useless unless there is something I, we, the USG can do about it. 

For that I need more granular information.  Anyway, I don’t have to pay for that kind of general information.  I can get it free from Pew Research, Brookings, Heritage or many of the others who study such things.  (I found 33 official or authoritative studies on the subject.  I am sure there are more.)   Useful means actionable.   Most of what people are peddling is not.

I learn a lot from listening to these presentations, and I am glad they invite me to hear them. I feel a little bad for them.  They seem honest and earnest, but the chances they will sell much are slim.  I can often think of very good uses for particular parts of the product line, but I doubt I will ever find an acceptable whole solution.  If I do, I will advocate that we buy that system, and I can retire.

Espen @ George Mason

Espen will go to George Mason next fall.  He is excited about a program they have in gaming and simulations.  All that time in the World of Warcraft may yet pay off.   Gaming is much more than games, as I have written before.    Games will be the future on online collaboration and learning.

George Mason has the advantage of location.   They are in easy contact with all the government and government support activities as well as the high tech in N. Virginia and the biotech along the 270 corridor in Maryland.   It really is a superb area to work and learn.  Housing prices are a little high, but once you have the house there are lots of opportunities.

I appreciate being in Washington with all the history and monuments, but I often forget about the dynamism of the suburbs.  N. Virginia’s tech and services produces more jobs for the area than the Federal government, but the presence of the Feds makes us recession resistant.  

Sorry my picture is blurred.  Think of it as impressionistic art.  This is the Patriot Center.

George Mason went a little over the top with the welcome.   They evidently have a successful basketball team and they were using the sport excitement methods.   The Patriot Center is also hosting the Ringling Brothers Circus, so they took the opportunity to put on a show with a band and ring master.  It was interesting the difference with the orientation at University of Virginia. Virginia emphasizes tradition.  They remind you that Thomas Jefferson founded the place and laid out the plans and that the university has been there a long time.   Mason talks about the opportunities of the future.   It is much more of a competitive feeling at Mason.   I suppose they are both playing to their strengths.    Virginia is established and everybody knows its value.   Mason is hungry.     I was glad that Mariza went to UVA and I think it will be good that Espen goes to Mason.  You can get a good education almost anywhere if you work at it.   The world is full of opportunities. It is up to you to take them.

Espen got a summer internship with Lockheed-Martin.  He will be working on computer engineering 40 hours a week and they are actually paying him to do it.  I think that will give him a jump start on his future.  Those are the kinds of opportunities available around here.  I talked to a guy from Lockheed on Friday about a different matter and mentioned the internship.   He told me that they probably liked it that Espen had A+ certification (whatever that means) and that he probably understood online collaboration – again with the gaming.  It goes to show that value can be added in unexpected ways.  

The GMU program in gaming sounds good, but one reason you go to college is to expand your options and ideas.   No eighteen year old really knows what he wants.  I always thought that any kid who graduates with the same plan he came in with lacks imagination.   I am glad Espen will be close.  We still want him to live on campus for the experience, but Fairfax City is not a long way off.

Gutenberg for the 21st Century

IIP Publications (Pubs) show an example of a respected traditional product line that adapted to the new media w/o losing its way.    People look to Pubs for useful content and their offerings have long been among the popular IIP products with our posts and audiences overseas.   Generations of students have relied on the outline series and PAOs handed out printed publications to their contacts.   Publications were among the first products to be put online and all of them are available in full text on America.gov.   But these remained essentially one way communications in the old, pre-web 2.0 model.

The Pubs staff knows that a dialogue is a more effective way of winning friends and influencing people.  Listening as well as talking is a sign of respect that new media audiences demand.    Changing the paradigm from producing products to producing conversations is never an easy transition, but Pubs has significant advantages in this endeavor. 

Most importantly, Pubs has content the audiences want to get and want to discuss.   This is further enhanced by the provenance of most of the articles and chapters in a Pubs product.   They are almost always written by outside experts.   These experts come already equipped with their own audiences, points of view and networks of colleagues.    There is a natural focus for dialogue in each of the articles.

Take the example of the most recent ePublication, Energy Efficiency: the First Fuel.  Several of the articles stimulated me to think and want to respond.  In many ways the response and the cross talk will be better than the articles themselves, since they will tap into the wider knowledge of the readers.   This is the new world of PD 2.0, and we can be part of it if we have the courage to engage.

Pubs is working on this through Facebook, Twitter and other means.   They well understand the need to be flexible and they do not have a “Facebook strategy” or a “Twitter Plan.”  Rather they are working out strategies that involve Facebook or Twitter while still taking advantage of the significant “old media” distribution network long in place, the one that works through posts, IRCs and printing distribution. 

It is still early in the game for Pubs and the new media, but the staff was able to share a couple of insights.   One is that micro-blogging, via Twitter, is easier and less time intensive than ordinary blogging, but it can produce significant results when linked back to an existing IIP publication.    Another observation is that Facebook can serve as a central hub for other online products and activities.    The advantages of Facebook are that it is easily available to customers all over the world and it is easy to update.   Pubs also realizes that much of its product distribution will be outside IIP or USG channels. Since Pubs provides free content,  the products are often copied and repurposed.    Most of the publications are or soon will be available on platforms such as Google Books, Amazon Kindles or I-Phone aps, among others.

George Clack, who directs IIP Pubs shared some experience in thinking about a marketing plan for the new media.   First is to indeed have a written plan.   While you have to recognize that the plan will not be carried out in the detail you envision, having a plan allows everybody to riff off something that is organized and thought out.   

This plan, as all plans should, begins with the end in mind.  Interestingly, many planners forget this step and that, paraphrasing the Cheshire Cat, “if you don’t know where you want to go, you will probably end up someplace else.”   But the direction must be light.   We work with creative people and we have to let them be creative in their own ways.  We must also recognize the MOST of the creativity available to us is outside our own organization.  The new media allows us to tap into that creativity – if we allow it.  That is the path Pubs is pursuing, and they are off to a good start.  

Wet Protestors

Reasonable people make poor protestors.   It is just not a game they can win.   It is a lot like the one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.  Why?

I passed by a tax protest today.   They called it a “tea party”  after the famous tax protest in Boston.   On this cold and rainy day, maybe a thousand people showed up.   This is certainly enough to make a successful protest, but it wasn’t. They didn’t have the usual protestor characteristics.

Let’s compare this to other protests.   I see a lot of them because of my business and living in Washington, so I consider myself a bit of an aficionado.  

Most protestors are well-behaved, but most protests have their share of semi-violent actors.    This means that the police have to show up in large numbers, shut down streets etc, which advertises the event, draws media attention and magnifies even a small protest.  I have seen protests of only a few dozen people magnified by the police and media attention into major events.    

Anti-globalist organizations are very good at this.   Small cores of activists break windows or vandalize property, drawing in the police.    They achieve their goal just by getting the police to show up.   Their best outcome, however, is for the police to hurt somebody, so radical protestors work hard to be provocative. That is how they get on the news and influence policy.  It is very hard to avoid becoming pawns in their game if your goal is to protect safety and property. Unreasonable people win this one.

The first protest I ever addressed was in Brazil when five guys showed up to protest our policy in Nicaragua.  I wouldn’t let them in the Consulate, so they went outside to shout and carry on.  They stood at the corner in front of a fruit stand and a bus stop.  When they started to shout, the crowd buying fruit & waiting for the bus looked in their general direction.  At that time the journalist snapped a picture and the story said, “Hundreds Protest U.S. Policy.”  I complained to the editor, but it didn’t do any good.

The tax protestors were reasonable and the police knew it.  They didn’t shut down any streets.  There were not massive numbers of cops and I didn’t see any media.   If a tree falls in the woods.

Another thing a protest obviously needs is protestors, the more the better.  Think about who is likely to protest regularly.  People with jobs and responsibilities cannot take the time off, so they are generally out of the mix. Protests anywhere near a college campus benefit from a large number of young people w/o much to do and protests can be fun.   

The habitual protest must also be a generalist.  If you are interested in a few things and really take the time to understand them, you will be an “expert” but not a protestor simply because opportunities to protest in your specialty will be uncommon.   That is why a more-or-less professional class of protestors has developed.   They are generally anti-whatever and they form the core of most protests.   They are the ones who know the chants and they are the ones with all the cool props and costumes.   They know how to draw attention and how to provoke the police.  They also know how to get out of the way so that more casual protestors can get hurt.  It makes a much better story if a local “non-professional” gets pushed by the cops. 

As you can probably tell, I am not greatly enthusiastic about protests.   The right of peaceful assembly is an important right in a democracy, but there is not virtue in using it too much.    It is a tool and as with all tools it can be used for good or bad purposes.   Unfortunately, those wanting to create disruptions are much better able to use this particular tool than reasonable people.

Protestors highjack normal civil discourse.   They can intimidate and can magnify small concerns out of context, as I discuss above.  It annoys me when journalists cover protests almost to the exclusion of whatever the protestors are complaining about.  Television is especially guilty of this, because of its need for compelling pictures.   When you see those pictures, it is good to remember that you are watching a type of theatre.  You are almost never seeing the spontaneous will of the people.  It is almost always a powerful interest groups carrying out politics by other means.

Anyway, I don’t know what will come of the tax protest.  I am convinced that I will be paying higher taxes in the future and there is not much that can stop it.   Almost half of Americans hardly pay any Federal income tax at all and the lower 20% actually gets significantly more back in direct payments than they pay in taxes.   Taxes are supposed to pay for our common expenses (the ones helping us establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity).  The rich should pay more, but everybody should pay something.