Preparing for lobbying

Spent the day preparing for our visits to congress tomorrow. Our job is to talk about forestry and conservation issue with Congressional staff. I have done this three times before.

I know it is unfashionable to say so, but most members of Congress want to do the right thing. We may disagree with their policies, but most of them are good people.
We did our preparation at Key Bridge Marriott and then had a reception at “Tony and Joe’s” in Georgetown. My first two pictures are from that area of Georgetown harbor. Next is Georgetown University from across the river. Last is just part of our presentation. I figured I should have something from that, even if it was not a very exciting photo.

The Senkaku paradox: Risking great power war over small stakes

The Senkaku paradox refers to something unimportant causing a major war, as all sides escalate until it all gets out of hand. That is the World War I scenario. Nobody got what they thought, much less what they wanted.

I rode down to see Michael O’Hanlon talk about this paradox. The Senakaku Islands are totally unimportant. Nobody lives there. Nobody goes there. Their total land area is only seven square kilometers. They don’t even qualify as islands under the law of the sea. But China has begun to talk about claiming them. They are currently “administered” by Japan, but not even claimed by the Japanese. How can these piles of rocks constitute a risk?
The Chinese are using this as a provocation. It is a matter of pride and principle. This is what happens when there is no practical value and it makes negotiations harder, since nobody can trade concessions.

The “islands” are covered by the USA-Japan defense treaty, so if the Chinese make a move on them, the USA is bound to help Japan. Failing that would harm the alliance. Doing it would risk a war over something nobody cares about. This is the paradox.
O’Hanlon also talked about Putin. China is a rising power, and rising powers are dangerous to the established order. Russia is a declining power, and declining powers are even worse. Consider that World War I was provoked to a large extent by a declining power, Austria-Hungary, trying to hold on to its fading glory.

Putin wants to weaken NATO. What if he made some “small” aggression into a Baltic country, something too small to fight about but big enough to endanger the alliance if left untended?

O’Hanlon suggests sanctions aimed very precisely against Russian gas and oil. This is better deployed as a threat than a response.

Putin can be put on notice if the Europeans build more ports for liquefied natural gas. Putin would know that we COULD be serious about cutting off his markets. W/o energy sales, Russia is just a 3rd world country.

Fracking has greatly weaken lots of bad guys, chiefly Putin and the Iranians.
Anyway, good talk and worth the time going down.

I have a personal story about Michael O’Hanlon. Back in 2007 I ran State Department Worldwide Speaker Program. I noticed that too many of our speakers were Bush supporters. I was myself a Bush supporter, but our mandate was to represent all the diversity of American opinion and I respect the principle, so I checked into it.
I learned that some programmers were avoiding “controversial” speakers, and by controversial they meant possible Bush opponents. The irony is that most of the programmers were liberal Democrats. They feared the reaction, even if there had never been one. They believed those intolerant myths.

I reiterated our long-standing policy of representing all of America and told everybody that if there were any complaints to send them my way. Among the people I asked our programmers to recruit was O’Hanlon. He had written lots of good articles. They were often critical of Bush but thoughtful. I don’t recall if he ever traveled for us, but he was contacted, as were many other thoughtful liberals.

We got only one complaint. A couple colleagues showed up in my office looking scared. They said there had been a complaint that one of our speakers was critical of Bush. I determined that the complaint was unjustified and then asked who complained. I assumed that no experienced diplomat would lodge such complaint. Still, I was relieved to find out it was nobody important, some pissant junior officer who had yet to learn not to antagonize his betters. We could safely do nothing and nothing is what we did. I told my guys not even to answer the guy. So ended a tempest in a teapot.

Let’s hope that other small things like that end w/o even whimper. It is too easy to make little things big when you think small.

The Senkaku paradox: Risking great power war over small stakes1

Working in college

My Story Worth Question – Did you work in college?

I cannot say I worked my way through college, but I did work all the way through college. I put it this way working was necessary but not sufficient to pay for college. My father (when I was undergrad) and student loans (in graduate school) topped off tuition, but beyond tuition, I had to work to support myself. I think it is nearly impossible to work enough during college to pay tuition, but it is important to work enough to pay everything else.

In summers I worked at Medusa Cement, as I have written elsewhere. Let me concentrate on the in-semester work. Much of it was in the fast-food industry. I worked at Burger Chef, Burger King, the university cafeteria, an Italian restaurant in Madison & McDonalds.

Working at McDonalds
McDonalds was my last fast-food experience. I got that job in fall of 1977, when I started grad school at UW and kept it for six months. McDonalds was good for me because I worked the lunch rush and got a free meal. I was low budget in those days and that was my big meal of the day. McDonalds is a very hectic environment. I worked the front counter. In those pre-computer days, you had to take the order, remember the order, do the math as you filled the order and then ring up the total when you got back to the front. I learned that hamburgers always go in before fries. If they order a shake, you grab the hamburgers, start the shake, pick up the fries, pick up the now full shake and deliver it to the customer. I enjoyed the motion. It is like the Tao of movement. Don’t waste the motion. We also had to put the bills into the register with all heads facing up. It was a little thing, but good discipline. They don’t do this at McDonalds anymore and probably didn’t do it most other places then. Our McDonalds on Lake Street in Madison was one of the busiest in the world and all the workers were college kids or college graduates. College kids may not be able to maintain cars, but we could figure out how to deliver food. It helped that we tended to work only 3-4 hours at a time. We were not there long enough to get very tired.

Why did I leave that wonderful environment? Of course, it was not so wonderful, but I had other reasons. I got a job at the History Department delivering mail and doing odd jobs. I worked at that job about three hours a day. When added to three hours at McDonalds, I there was not much time to study. That was my theory. More on that below.

What does it mean to make fun of French fries?
But the proximate cause of my leaving McDonalds was a wage dispute. We got a 5 cent raise every couple of months. I was very fast at the counter and always cheerful. We used to have races, i.e. how much revenue you would have in the two-hour lunch rush. I was first or second most of the time. Time came for my first raise, and I got my nickel. The manager praised my speed. Time came for my next raise and they said no. I complained that I was doing a good job and deserved the raise. I asked what I did wrong. The response was that I had a bad attitude. When I asked for specifics, the manager said that was not serious enough. He mentioned an incident when he heard me making fun of the fries. What the heck does that even mean? Evidently, I joked that the large fries were not that large. I also never tried “up sell” products. He was correct about that.

Quitting over a nickel

Anyway, he denied me my raise and told me I could quit if I didn’t like it. So, I quit. He was surprised. It was just before the lunch rush and he asked me to finish. I asked about that nickel. He said he would not be pushed. I said neither would I and I left right then. I felt very empowered.

Quitting was not as a precipitous or brave move as it might seem, however I had been thinking about leaving because I figured that I could study more if I had only one job. I was wrong about that. I found that with all that extra time on my hands, I just procrastinated more. My study productivity declined, and my study output stayed about the same despite having an additional fifteen hours a week. Sometimes you can do less with more.

I had better jobs after that. As a research assistant, my job was to read Greek texts of Polybius and mark every time he used the work history. It was kind of a sinecure. Some of the motivation was to create work for me where I could better learn Greek. It was not as much fun as it would seem, and I do not think I did a great job. These days, a computer would make short work of it, and do it right. I was a teaching assistant during my MBA. Neither of these jobs was as nasty as McDonalds. They paid better and had higher status. My longest college time work was at Pick-A-Book in Madison. That is a whole different story.

My first picture shows where my McDonalds was on Lake Street. Next is the Capitol from UW.

Susan & Ronald Moyers – Tree Farmers of the Year 2019

My note on Virginia’s Tree Farmer of the Year
Meeting Ronald and Susan Moyers and touring their Highland County Tree Farm, along with their daughter Missy was a true joy. Their enthusiasm for tree farming is palpable and infectious. The Moyers truly represent Tree Farm ideals, with a strong land ethic and deep love of complexity of their land’s ecology. The Virginia Tree Farm Foundation is proud to name Susan and Ronald Moyers Virginia Tree Farmers of the Year for 2019.

Moyers’ 570-acre tree farm is incredibly diverse, as you would expect in a mountainous region that supports many micro-ecologies. South and north facing slope support different natural communities. Ronald is sublimely aware of the variation and plans his works with natural principles. For example, he is restoring red spruce by planting groves in the most appropriate microclimates, where they thrive and propagate “naturally,” with a little help from Moyers.

Laurel Fork is a wild cold stream with headwaters on the Moyers farm. It supports a population of native trout and the area around is a great example of boreal ecosystems. Moyers are careful to protect springs and banks of the stream. Clean water is a forest product and you need protect more than the banks. The Moyers understand that their responsibly for water means maintaining healthy forests. They harvest timber in ways that profitably produce wood while sustaining and regenerating the biotic communities.
Besides wood, the Moyers are producing Allegheny herbs, elderberries, ginseng and maple syrup. Maple syrup is an important source of revenue. Ronald applies intelligence and natural principles to this endeavor, as he does all others. He thinned part of his sugar bush but left other trees “natural”. Then he measured the results.

The thinned stand produces better quality sap and more of it, despite there being fewer trees. You can get more with less if you add intelligence, but it goes beyond that. More light reaching the forest floor means that those herbs, elderberries and ginseng grow better, and wildlife habitat is enhanced.

Highland County is Virginia’s biggest producer of maple syrup, helped by highest average altitude of any county east of the Mississippi and the cool mountain climate that makes good sugar maple country. The Moyers share their experience with neighbors and hosting maple festivals, master naturalists and student groups. Forestry students from Dabney S. Lancaster Community College are working with harvest and post-harvest management under Moyers’ tutelage. Much of activity is centered around a meeting center, under construction but already functioning. Moyers are building this with heavy and solid timber harvested from the tree farm. The Moyers farm is a big asset to the community.

Tree farmers know that trees are more than wood and forests are more than trees. They understand their forests as communities that exist in both space and in time. This ideal the Moyers exemplify, with a strong appreciation of their land’s past, commitment to it future and their part in the greater ecology. It is with great pride that the Virginia Tree Farm Foundation congratulates the Moyers. We are grateful to Westrock Forester Keith Simmons who nominated them, and we know that Virginia will be the better for all their efforts.

Water & mud on Diamond Grove

I went to look over the Diamond Grove place. Flooding has knocked down bridges. My road was closed off, thankfully the block was just past the gate to our farms.

It rained a lot and moved a lot of mud. It looks like there is a foot of new mud and sand on my first creek. Not sure where it came from. I cannot find any big areas of erosion on my land, but I suppose each square foot contributes its little part and it ends up big. We have set up rocks and brush to slow the water and encourage it to drop the sediment and that seems to have worked. When we got the place in 2005, there was a lot of steep and eroded banks. That is mostly fixed now.

The storm snapped off the top of a very big tree in one of the other SMZs. It will be interesting to watch developments. We had a big tree uprooted by wind and rain in 2006. It made a big opening and changed the course of one of the streams. It was interesting to watch the fill in. Nature is resilient.

I am very fond of my big beech trees. I expect that sooner or later one or more of them will blow down. One of my favorites is mostly hollow and on a stream bank. There are plenty of little trees waiting to take the place, but I like the old ones.

My first picture shows the snapped tree. It is much bigger than the picture shows. The new green leaves this time of the year filters the light and makes everything seem green, even things that are not really green. Next is the “new” land near my bald cypress. I expect it will gradually move. It must have been one really big storm. I have never seen so much moved dirt, and the bridges have never been undermined like that.

Next is my beech wood. It is a kind of old world look. There are more leaves on the ground now than at other times of the year. Beech trees hold onto many of their leaves all winter. They are pushed off by the new leave in spring, i.e. now. The penultimate picture shows my closed road and last is the path through the 15-year old loblolly. I think we will thin after this growing season.

Prickly pear and the rattlesnake master

When you think cactus, you rarely think Virginia, but the prickly pear is native to southeastern piney forests and part of the longleaf ecology. Trees are more than wood and forests are more than trees is well illustrated by a longleaf forest, since much of its diversity rests on the plants on the ground.

I long wanted a prickly pear addition to my longleaf, but they are harder to find than you would guess. The ones you find usually are desert varieties, meant as house plants here, that do not do well in Virginia’s climate.

Chrissy found one for me, along with another interesting native plant, the rattlesnake master. It almost sound like a couple of comic book heroes, “Prickly Pear and the Rattlesnake Master.”

Anyway, I planted them today. This is more like gardening than forestry, but I hope they spread.

When Mike Raney, Scott Powell and others in the hunt club notice, don’t be surprised at the cactus in Virginia.

My first picture is prickly pear and the rattlesnake master. Next is one of the bald cypress I planted a couple months ago. I planted 200. The criteria was that if my feet were dry, I planted longleaf, but if my feet were wet, I went with bald cypress.

Speaking of wet, the next picture is a “vernal pond,” AKA a persistent mud puddle. Vernal ponds are very important for amphibian reproduction. The water must persist long enough for the amphibian life cycle but not long enough that it becomes permanent enough to have fish that eat the amphibian eggs or tadpoles.

Penultimate picture is part of the stream management zone. I took my folding chair down there and had a beer today, between hard work, of course.

Last is a downed longleaf. I have had a problem with them just falling down. Not all, or even a big number, but enough that I notice. The loblolly do not do that on the same piece of ground. Anybody have explanations?

Three great teachers & a bottle of Coca-Cola

Who had the most positive influence on you as a child? This week’s Story Worth.

Of course, I would name my parents as the most positive influence on my life, and the gang of friends I grew up with shaped my personality, but these were more ongoing and generalized influences and I have written about them elsewhere, so let me mention on event and three great people.

Things go better with Coca-Cola for more than fifty years

One early inflection point, not really positive, is when I started regularly to drink Coca-Cola. I choose this because it has a date certain. It happened on February 23, 1964. We were at some kind of family party at my Aunt Florence’s house (I am less sure about the location than the date). The kids were relegated to watching TV. I wanted to watch “Scarecrow” on the Wonderful World of Disney. My cousins Barbara and Mary insisted on the Ed Sullivan Show. Seems that an obscure pop group from Liverpool was making its American TV debut. Who knew? The Beatles, as I recall the name. I got some Coca-Cola as a consolation. I liked it. Since that time, I have been a big consumer of Coca Cola. As an adult, I kicked into big time.

I have been drinking 2+ liters of the stuff each day for 30+ years. Coke hydrates, despite what you might have heard. When I was in Iraq, the Marines made fun of me for taking a supply of Coke with me on our dry desert sojourns. People say you must drink water; they are mistaken.

Great teachers at Bay View High
As for living influencers, I would mention three teachers – my swim coach Richard Czarapata, my English teacher Miss Reilly and my advanced biology teacher Mr. Hosler.

Coach Czarapata – the gift of lifelong fitness
Coach Czarapata kept me on the straight and narrow for my three years in HS. I admired his commitment to the sport I identified as my calling in HS. He always approached us with dignity and respect. The only time I thought that he dropped the ball was just after my mother died. He consoled me, as he should have done, but then he elided to the swim team. I would have appreciated his telling me that the team was there for me, and I am sure that is what he meant to say, but what he did say was something like, “I hope this will not effect your commitment to the swim team.” Too soon. I edited this in my mind, and it was okay.
Glen & Ken likely recall the Coach with similar fondness.

Miss Reilly – the gift of artful language
Ms. Reilly was my senior English teacher. She was one of those very old (very old = probably about my age now) maiden teachers, the kind you see today only in old movies. I was a poor student in an advanced English class full of better ones. I had the excuse that I see now that it was a tough year with my mother dying, but she did not know that. She was tolerant of my obvious failings and thought I was smarter than my record and my insouciance would imply.

I was an outsider in the class. Besides my less than stellar study habits, many of my classmates knew each other over longer periods. They were what we might today call higher achievers. When I ended up getting decent grades, there was a little surprise among some classmates. I did not perceive it, but Miss Reilly did. Suddenly, classmates got more friendly and supportive. I heard from colleagues that she has spoken to some of them, explaining how I managed to do okay. She told them that I had talent for putting ideas together in writing and that I had potential.

Not sure what else she told them, but it worked. I am sure that the more than the temporary bump in esteem among my classmates was the fact that Miss Reilly did it and what she said. That I got it second hand made it more credible and in retrospect helped add color to the map of what I thought was my skill set.

Phillip Hosler – the gift of becoming a conservationist
Finally, was my advanced biology teacher Phillip Hosler. He made a serious effort to mentor his students. A second year of biology was optional at Bay View, so everybody in class was there voluntarily. It showed in the enthusiasm, and the level of commitment. I felt more comradery with these classmates than in any other class. Mr. Hosler helped create this atmosphere. Mr. Hosler introduced me to Aldo Leopold, which influences me still. He arranged for field trips to natural areas around Baraboo. We spent a week on Blackhawk Island. He took us camping up in the north woods around Eagle River and he sent me and some classmates to a “Trees for Tomorrow” camp. It is the first time I used a dibble bar to plant trees. I also helped him dig a bog in his back yard. We visited Cedarburg bog and he wanted to make a small version in his own yard. As I recall, he lived in New Berlin. I had to ride my bike out there.

Cast a giant shadow
I can still feel the influence of these three teachers. I don’t much swim anymore, but I have kept a regular exercise program ever since those days. The habit stuck. Not sure how much writing I learned in Miss Reilly’s English class, but it was in that class that I first identified myself as a writer. It was an embryonic thought, one I can recognize only in retrospect, as I wrote above, the little stone that changed the course of the river. The Hosler legacy is perhaps the most evident, but I should point out that it flowed underground decades and would not have been evident.

We can see farther because we stand on the shoulders of giants
None of us are self-made and I am grateful for all the help I got along the way. I did not keep in touch with any teachers from HS. Not sure if it would have changed anything. I graduated almost a half century ago and none of my great teachers were young back then. I don’t doubt that they have all long since shuffled off this mortal coil, but they are not forgotten. I wonder if any of them would have remembered me. I expect not but feel no regret about that. I am sure that each of them helped dozens, hundreds or maybe thousands of young people like me. That’s enough accomplishment for one lifetime.

My first two picture are Bay View HS. Next is BV football field followed by a couple pictures of rain in Humboldt Park, just for balance.

Heart of Europe

Americans do not know much about the history of Central Europe, this despite that fact that a majority of Americans have at least some ancestry in the Holy Roman Empire or the lands run by princes of the Empire.

Let me list them – Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Czech, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Netherlands and even Luxembourg. You can include Spain and Portugal and their empires, since Holy Roman Emperor Charles V was also king of Spain. Pretty much everybody.

I would not recommend most people read this whole book. There is a lot of the one-thing-after-another type of history. But there are some good insights.

For example, the author contrasts the German concept of freedom with that of British (and by extension Americans). The Germans were more corporatism in that they held more to people having rights with their association. Modern progressives with their emphasize on identity and group rights would be at home here. This contrasts with the classical liberalism, that talks about individuals and mobility. The corporatist were not fond of free markets, but they did think a lot about social justice.

Another thing to recall is the multinational, multilingual and multi-ethic character of the Empire. We look back from the nation-state perspective and forget that for much of history the kind of nationalism we know today did not exist. The nobles had loyalty to their prince. It was maybe more like a modern business firm. A person, could – and did – change jobs. The peasants and townspeople were loyal to their own local communities.

The languages they spoke were also local. Linguistic boundaries were soft. As people wandered farther from home, it got harder to understand. Educated people often communicated in Latin. Nationalism is largely a creation of the last few centuries.

In some ways, we may be going back to the future with transnational organizations. The author compares the Empire to the EU. They are very different, but they share some thing in common.


Nature Conservancy

Warm day today. We walked over to Open Road for supper and a couple beers. Alex came along.

But boozing is normal for us. The less usual part of our day was our breakfast at Virginia Nature Conservancy (TNC), shown in the last picture.

The Nature Conservancy is the best of the environmental organizations because they effectively work with partners, private, government and NGOs. TNC is not confrontational, nor do they need to take credit. For them the mission of making a better environment trumps all else.

We have been contributing to TNC for more than 30 years, which is likely why they invite Chrissy and me to these sort of events.

The Nature Conservancy
President of Virginia TNC, Locke Ogens, talked about the Conservancy’s efforts in Virginia form the mountains to the sea.

Climate smart forestry
In the mountains, TNC is stitching together lands important to migratory birds. Complementing this is “climate smart forestry”. TNC leadership understands that most conservation much be done on private lands and that it must return some profit. They are showing the conservation can produce profit. Logging and conservation are more than possible; they are both important goals.

On piedmont and tidewater, TNC is working to restore longleaf pine. This is where I have most contact with them because of my interest here. I have written a lot about this elsewhere, so I will not repeat.

Blue Carbon
Something newer to me was “blue carbon”. TNC is working to enhance living infrastructure of clam reefs and sea grass. These are working laboratories. Studies indicate that they slow down storms and help protect coastal ecology and cities. TNC is working with the City of Virginia Beach to improve green infrastructure to also include planting of trees to wick up flood waters and mitigate water damage through transpiration. My friend Tim Receveur might be interested in this.

Sea grass can sequester a lot of carbon. We currently do not know how much. TMC scientists are currently studying this.

Adapting to climate change
An overall theme of TNC is adaptation to climate change. Ecosystems are migrating north as the climate warms. We need to facilitate that movement. We can help by planting southern trees near the north of their range, as we are doing with longleaf. We also want to facilitate movement of animals. To that extent, we need to protect corridors.

Almost spring

We are pushing spring a little. We drank our beer outside, it was still a little chilly.
My other pictures are from Highland County. I went up to look at a tree farm there. Spring is even less far along 4000+ feet high in the Blue Ridge. The last picture is the stump of an American chestnut. We hope that some day soon the genetic advances will bring back these giants of the forest primeval.