Friday, February 24, 2012

Why Washington, D.C.?

In the latter years of the eighteenth century, when some of the British colonies in America decided that rule from the other side of the Atlantic was counter-productive to their own liberty and economic advancement, their revolution began but the Industrial Revolution had yet to commence. Travel was by sailing ship, horse-drawn carriage or on foot. Information was transmitted either verbally or by written word, both carried by a human. Lighting was done by candle, kerosene hadn't even come into use. Heat was supplied by wood or coal.

Obviously under these circumstances discussions between legislators and other government officials often had to be face-to-face, although much of their intercourse was by post, as we may see from publications of their correspondence. This meant that they had to meet in a central location. The Rome of the new country was the District of Columbia, created from the beginning as the focus of the fledgling federal government as a replacement for the previous temporary centers in New York and Philadelphia. Strangely,existing cities in the new states became capitals.

Initially, the congress met for only a portion of the year. Being a representative or a senator wasn't considered an occupation and most congressmen had to attend to the affairs that had gained them the prominence to be elected to office in the first place. As the federal government metastisized, more and more functions came to be performed in the capital, more offices were located there and the complex reached its present dimension, continuing to grow even now. The legislators, conducting their daily business in Washington, came to call the DC area home, visiting their nominal constituencies only on holidays, vacations, and during election campaigns.

But while the federal government was entrenching itself in the humid, once malarial Potomac River estuary, technology was changing transportation and communication in America. Eventually information could be sent by telephone, fax, television, computer, etc. It's now possible to carry on a conversation with a relative on the opposite side of the country, or even the world, instantaneously. Funds can be transferred with a key stroke from one account to another. A buyer can visually examine a product thousands of miles away, purchase and receive it without getting up from his couch.

In spite of these technological advances, the US Congress continues to operate in the same fashion that it did over 200 years ago. These elected "public servants" gather, at the tax payers' expense, in a location removed from the personal attention of those they represent, who then must use the new-fangled methods of the 21st century to make their opinions known to these servants. Gathered as they are in one not-so-central location, the senators and representatives form a stationary target for the lobbyists representing the various interests with a stake in impending legislation. Who needs this? A constitutional amendment is required that would change the operating procedure of the US Congress to reflect the advances of two centuries. They belong in the districts that they represent, they can communicate with one another, and vote, with modern techniques.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Brotherhood of the Wolf

Early footage from this 2001 French period piece that includes a little romance, some religious and political commentary and a whole lot of violence, especially that all too rarely glorified fighting with sticks.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

California isn't all that enthusiastic about private property rights.

And AP story by Don Thompson tells all about it:

Owner of Sierra Mine Surrenders to Face Charges

A man who state and local officials say is running a massive illegal gold-mining operation in California's Sierra Nevada surrendered Thursday to face 14 criminal charges of operating without permits and polluting a creek.

Joseph Hardesty also faces state fines of nearly $900,000. He was booked into El Dorado County Jail on the charges, which include four felonies, and was being held in lieu of $75,000 bond.

California gravel digger Joe Hardesty

His attorney, William Brewer, says Hardesty turned himself in after investigators from the district attorney's office searched for him at his mother's home and the home of his partner in the Big Cut Mine, near Placerville.

Hardesty surrendered a day after The Associated Press published a story about the mine, which is in the Sierra foothills between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, and his three-year battle with authorities.

"It's unfortunate that our government has decided in this case to take away our liberties and our rights without adequate process," said Brewer, of San Diego. "Joe really is a very honorable person and I just wish things were different."

He denies his client is mining gold, saying he is operating a sand and gravel business to complement another he owns in Sacramento County. State and local officials say they have evidence and statements indicating the site is being mined for gold at a time when the precious metal's price is hovering near $1,700 an ounce.

Hardesty, 54, had promised to surrender last week but failed to appear. Authorities said Hardesty turned himself in at the sheriff department's office in Placerville about 11:30 a.m. and was taken to jail without incident.Brewer said investigators had looked for his client everywhere except where he was — his home in Elk Grove, south of Sacramento.

Hardesty contends that he has a historic right to operate the Big Cut Mine on nearly 150 acres he bought seven years ago, based on a reclamation plan he had filed with El Dorado County in 2009 and $188,000 in bonds. Local authorities and the State Mining and Geology Board disagree.

On top of the mining board's fines, El Dorado County charged Hardesty with mining and grading without permits, working despite stop orders, releasing sediment into Weber Creek, violating zoning laws, and using hazardous materials without proper permits.

Hardesty, his wife, Yvette, and his partner, Rick Churches, brought in heavy equipment to cut into a steep ridge high above the creek, although Joseph Hardesty is the only one facing charges. The site is guarded by locked gates covered with "no trespassing" signs, but an AP reporter and photographer were able to view the mining operation from a heavily forested ridge a few hundred yards away.

Late last month, local and state inspectors with a warrant entered the property and documented at least 30 acres stripped bare, four drainage ponds and a football-field-sized gravel bed about 60 feet deep. Inspectors previously found gold on what is called a shaker table, which is used to separate the heavy metal from sand and gravel.

Bruce Person, an engineer with the county transportation department who helped inspect the property, said a previous owner found an ancient riverbed on the property could produce between 1 and 3 ounces of gold for every ton of material.

El Dorado County Deputy District Attorney Michael Pizzuti declined to comment Thursday on Hardesty's arrest. He previously told the AP that Hardesty's partner told a county inspector that they intended to remove gold and sell the rocks it was separated from as gravel.

Hardesty already was on probation after pleading no contest last year to a misdemeanor charge of storing unpermitted hazardous waste in Sacramento County. He now faces allegations that he violated his probation by continuing to operate at both the Sacramento and El Dorado locations.

The fines were levied in January by the State Mining and Geology Board, a division of the California Department of Conservation. The penalty climbs by $15,000 for each day he continued to operate

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Team Sky and Mark Cavendish

Super-sprinter, Tour de France green jersey winner, Milan-San Remo victor and current world road racing champion Mark Cavendish is now a member of British Team Sky. A critical factor in the Manx rider's past success at defunct HTC-Highroad was thought to be the contribution of Australian sprinter Mark Renshaw as Cavendish's lead-out man. Renshaw has moved to Dutch team Rabobank and cycling fans are anxious to learn if new team mates and surroundings will enable Cavendish to retain his spot as the favorite in any pro cycling sprint.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

No cupcakes for St. Paul

The final chapter in a sad tale that's been repeated time after time in a town that's made bureaucratic power the center of daily life. This story points out one of the reasons that St. Paul, despite being the capital of the state, becomes more and more irrelevant every day.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Very Bizarre Episode on Law Enforcement Planet

Sadly, this is what happens when all-too human authority figures are trusted with the power of the state.