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Friday, November 20, 2015

Water, Water Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink

Author's Note: The book cover images in the side margins of this blog are my own publications of eBooks available at both Amazon and B&N. Please take a moment and go to the sites and read about them. Then if you like it, buy one or two.
"Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink." The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
With 80% of the earth covered with water, sometimes even miles deep, we are running into a "shortage" of fresh water to drink, irrigate our crops and supply our livestock. In many places we are still depending on finding this resource in the ground just like we do for Coal, Gas and Oil. As the local populations continue to grow the luxury of pumping water our of ancient aquifers is proving to be folly.
As we pull more water out than goes in by nature's processes, we must gig deeper and deeper to get to the top of that essential watertable that sustains our presence on the earth. The other source of fresh water is the sun. Helios evaporates water from the land and seas and precipitates it back on the ground and in the seas. Land-based rain has a very limited lifecycle since we must use it or lose it over a very short time period. Our dam projects can slow it down and give us a little time to decide what else to do, but when the inflow is significantly diminished the storage volume plummets fast.
When the Southwestern States first endeavored to redistribute water among its jurisdictions, they opted for the cheap construction method. Open channels with gravity flow was the norm. Pumping stations raise the water where necessary. The Romans were expert Engineers at moving water great distances. The build hundreds of miles of open aqueducts and where necessary, enclosed conduits to move the water by gravity. They did not have a need for evaporation control.

In the above diagram, the used enclosed conduits to move water through a valley. We do much the same today but have left a lot of water exposed to evaporation.
When the rain stops falling and the snow doesn't pack in the mountains, the watershed cannot keep the river flow up to the needs of the human settlements. First the people are stressed, then the land becomes stressed. Extended drought leads to soil erosion and desertification.

Eight years of drought in the middle of the North American continent in the 1930s left the conditions we call the Dust Bowl. Without water, the land dried up and the winds blew it away. Today's California drought is only the precursor to possible dust bowl conditions in the coming years if the rain patterns do not return to what they were. This drought is half way to the length of the 1930s one.

Thomas A Bass wrote Camping With the Prince and Other Tales of Science in Africa in 1992. In his book we are introduced to the plight of desertification on the African continent and the depletion of river flow due to the retreat of glaciers. The glaciers have been melting at a sustainable rate for centuries, but now are melting too fast. When they are gone from the high elevations, the rivers will cease to flow and local habitation will be impossible without a technological solution and a massive construction effort. Desalinization is one such project. African populations are not wasting hugh amounts of water now so conservation is not a significant solution.
This last graphic presents the extent of the water vulnerability of the world. This is a massive crises that only huge amounts of capital can solve provided there is a political will to do so.

In the USA there is the opportunity to alter our water use patterns and not flush it down our toilets, and otherwise pollute it for generations to come. Actually, flushing and car washing do little to diminish the amount of fresh water available. That water goes back into the rivers and lakes after being reasonably cleaned. Watering lawns, pumping it into the ground to fracture shale deposits, does. Open irrigation farming also creates a net loss of water due to evaporation levels. The water that goes into the crop is not a waste since we need the crops. in other parts of the world they have a structural deficit of water available at all they need solutions.

Bonus picture: Spain's proposed solar desalinization amphitheater.

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Hey, Gunowners, do you realize...

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Hey gun owners, do you realize that statistically 6,750 of you reading this will be dead by self-inflicted gunshots by New Year's Eve? Furthermore, 27,000 of you will have bit the Big One by this date a year from now. Sadly, you actually know who you are. This is not the first time you have thought about it. Now it the time to ditch your guns. Don't make it so easy. Tell your friends and family that you are ditching them. Then do it.

Unlike the M*A*S*H movie theme, suicide is NOT painless. It leaves dozens of friends and family who will feel the pain that you think will not exist. Ditch the gun and proclaim your freedom.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Spiderweb in the Night

This spider made a magnificent web this evening. Her filaments glistened in the rays of the post-supermoon of September 2015. Her choice of location is unfortunate though. The web spanned the space between the aerial of my car and the windshield. The morning sun will being the new day when I must drive to the train station to commute into DC for the day. The wind will blow her away to some distant tree or crux of highway standard that leads motorists to their destinations.

Hers is a Vulnerable Geometry that no matter how good the intention is doomed to failure.

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Author's Note: The book cover images in the side margins of this blog are my own publications of eBooks available at both Amazon and B&N. Please take a moment and go to the sites and read about them. Then if you like it, buy one or two.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Little Quid Pro Quo

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There comes a time when a little quid pro quo is in order. Thousands of Twitter folks and Blogger readers have enjoyed the silliness, irreverence and sometimes prescient postings on my blogs that include Silly Bugger Shit, You Can't Argue With a Twit and A Vulnerable Geometry, all for free. While they will always be free to read, I have published to date three #eBooks that are available at and Barnes & Noble that are available for a small price. That Boy in the 8mm Film, Rachel and Nikki Step Out, Ruminations of a Bird Brain Vol 1 & 2 and BIRD BRAIN RISING are sure to make you smile, laugh and even think. Please consider buying one or two to help support the writing of more posts and observations like the ones you have become accustomed to finding at my sites. Thank you.

Tweeting this post and following me @ItsallTuna on twitter is sure to help too.


Author's Note: The book cover images in the side margins of this blog are my own publications of eBooks available at both Amazon and B&N. Please take a moment and go to the sites and read about them. Then if you like it, buy one or two.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Deporting 11 Million Undocumented Immigrants Would be Tantamount to a Crime Against Humanity

Deporting 11 Million Undocumented Immigrants Would be Tantamount to a Crime Against Humanity
Author's Note: The book cover images in the side margins of this blog are my own publications of eBooks available at both Amazon and B&N. Please take a moment and go to the sites and read about them. Then if you like it, buy one or two.

There are many people in the US with ill-conceived notions to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants from American soil. Assuming for discussion that they are all Mexicans and can be deported to Mexico, there would arise a string of refugee camps in every border town in Mexico that would become home to those 11 million people. This number is larger than any refugee event in recorded history. As a burgeoning "humanitarian crises" develops on our border, would we provide food, water, doctors and medicine, tents and blankets, latrines and other infrastructure to alleviate that crises? If we did not, would not WE be guilty of ethnic cleansing, genocide, and other crimes against humanity?

At least while these undocumented people are resident inside our border, they are geographically dispersed, able to work at some job to support themselves, and not be forcibly concentrated into camps in a hostile climate. Right now they do jobs that we want done. They work for far less money than an equivalent documented citizen would. The only beneficiary of that are businesses that want cheap labor.

In the concentration camps there would be nothing for the adults and teenagers to do. Without the ability to earn money from the outside they would have to rely on what each new arrival brings. These camps would be ripe pickings for drug suppliers, child predators and traffickers who promise a nocturnal border crossing back to the states, for a price.

Saying you'd deport the illegals is a high and mighty rhetoric, but is only half of the statement. The other half is that you would create the greatest humanitarian crises that this hemisphere, and possibly the world, has ever witnessed.

We as a species of animal that shares this planet with all the others and all the peoples of the world must come to terms with the potential for massive migrations that will disrupt every aspect of civilization we have to date created.

The Dynamics of Massive Migration

In the middle of the 20th century a demographer asserted that if you lined up the Chinese people, five abreast and marched them into the ocean, the line would never end. Before anyone becomes indignant about repeating that statement here, this author denies any malice against the Chinese people and mentions this scenario only to make the point that very large populations have a huge impact on the earth. Today that number exceeds 25 abreast and the column never ends. This mathematical example applies to the people of India too.

Now the purpose of bringing up this bizarre concept is: what if you exchange the ocean for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran in a mass migration intent on survival in new land rather than death by drowning? There would be two columns of migrating people, one Chinese and the other Indian. Two columns collectively 50 people wide pouring over the borders and into what certainly would be hostile territory would be an unstoppable tide. To obtain the maximum affect they could walk in a far wider path and not intend to make the line never-ending.

People walking at about 4 ft/sec moves 50 ppl/sec over any border line. In a day, 4,320,000 people would cross that border and in just over 115 days, they would have emigrated 500 million people. There would still be 1.6 billion relatives back home who could follow if sufficiently motivated.

Of course these three initial countries are only the beginning.  Iraq, Syria and Turkey are next on the itinerary to Europe. Bulgaria is only a small land bridge away with Greece nor much further along. East European countries lay beyond with land that would be squatted and homesteaded by these migrants as they overwhelm the locals. These are agrarian people, people who make their own furniture, tools and clothes. These are people who can weave a house out of sticks and hides. They are not dependent on the electric grid or natural gas pipes. They need no gasoline for the cars they do not have. They will be amply able to make due with whatever surface resources are available.

This is not to say that they would nor denude the forests for firewood and pollute rivers with their human wastes, but they will be able to survive in the far more moderate Euro-zone.

Now all of this conjectured migratory activity supposes that there is a need to do so. People do not pack up and leave their ancestral homes unless forced by some vector to do it. Drought and famine come to mind.

I'd like to point out that a walk along the southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea through Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco is not much of a greater distance into Europe than going the counter-clockwise route. Spain and Italy are only a ferry ride away.

Russian was so concerned about China flooding across their mutual border that they build their railroads at a different wheel gage so Chinese trains could not use their track to invade. Even today the Trans Siberian Express stops at the border each week to change the wheel trucks under all the cars. That process takes 4 hours. A slow invasion it would be.

Why People Would Undertake Massive Migration

Here again China and India stand as proxies for the growing crises of human migration from Asia and Northern Africa into Europe. In the case of Africa, the migration can also be characterized as a refugee event where hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing war, genocide, the extremist Muslim armies that execute large quantities of people on their march to their State goals.

Fleeing war and ideological mayhem is only part of the driving forces that motivate people to walk a thousand miles, float across 250 miles of open sea in crowded boats only to walk another thousand miles to try to get a job in France or England.

Northern Africa is enduring progressive desertification and drought even as they are experiencing the hottest temperatures since records were first made. War and religious genocide has made food into a weapon. Burn the fields and kill the animal herds and the people will die or move away. When the move away there only is Europe to see as sanctuary. Going south is only walking into deeper trouble.

Right now, in August 2015, there are only thousands of Middle Eastern refugees trying to cross into England from France via the channel tunnel on the last leg of their search for a better life.  They try to hop trains to get a ride through. This activity although risky, is nowhere near as dangerous as the trek they make from their homes in countries such as Syria, Lebanon, Somalia, and others.

As change occurs to the global climate there will be those people who see more rain (resulting in flooding and landslides) less rain (resulting in drought, famine, wildfires and long term desertification) sea levels rise even as the withdrawal of ground water makes the land sink and allows seawater intrusion. There will be people whose million dollar homes are lapped at by the high tides while others will see their entire terrestrial existence covered by the sea. Even as wildlife activists try to stop arctic oil drilling to save polar bears and seals, we need to understand that those species are the "canaries in the mine shaft" and whose fate foreshadows our own.

But back to migration of humans. We are capable of looking out to sea and seeing the water rising. We can connect the dots that show us that our accustomed home is no longer habitable. We can decide to move elsewhere while the polar bears and migratory birds will die before they can realize what is happening. It is supposed that humans are the only species that can anticipate dire consequences of their environment. It could be that others see the carnage to come, but lack the facilities to stop it (us.)

The levels of economic migration that we see today may pale in comparison to that which may arise as millions of sea-level populations are displaced. When the rivers cease to flow because their headwater sources are depleted there will be migration. When the soldiers come and decimate civilian settlements, the rest will flee to places where war is not proximal but they may be as unwelcome in that sanctuary. Then the noon hour temperature exceeds 100 °F for weeks on end, populations will get up and move. Many will die on the way, but there will be no going back nor any way to stay behind.

Whether it is social strife, religious sectarian violence, drought, flooding, famine, heat, disease or for economic opportunities there will be huge shifts in human populations in the coming decades. We have only seen the beginning of the trend, the part that is driven by sectarian violence and people taking refuge from war.

While the Middle Eastern refugees are from sectarian war, the refuges from Central America are fleeing the violence perpetrated by drug gang rivalries. Think about what it takes to motivate parents to send their children on a journey of 1000s of miles north to the American border unaccompanied in the belief that making that journey was far better than staying at home and coping with the violent culture there.

Internally in America families trekked west during the Dust Bowl conditions of the 1930s. Workers in large numbers left the South for northern industrial jobs. People always follow the work opportunities when they can. Today, people in Mexico and further south see the land of opportunity and arrive here to get a piece of it. They arrive with a work ethic that makes them willing to labor in the sun for starvation wages and sun up to sundown hours. They are willing to stand in building supply parking lots with the expectation that they will get the opportunity to hop on the back of a pickup truck or into a van to go to a day job and earn a few dollars for their efforts.

While some of the people who seek a better life in a new country are educated and can land a salaried job, they are not the ones who must cross deserts of foot and seas in open boats. Those people are the ones who have only the skills that are commensurate with the offering of minimum wage or less. Americans must not forget that this country is not the only one that is receiving large numbers of agrarian laborers who want to eat, sleep and be comfortable in their family units.

Now for the other side of migration. If there are 10 lifeboats floating at the scene of a sinking ship that each hold 25 people and there are 1,000 people in the water, there is a high probability that every boat will be capsized the 750 people trying to get in too. If someone doesn't arrive soon with an alternative all are likely to perish. Even when the people already in the boats risk their survival by taking on just a few more people from the water, they will not be rewarded for their generosity. There are just too many exhausted people treading water in the sea for there to be any decorum.

It is the same on land with overland migration and crowding at the borders. Countries that border war torn nations have either to accept or turn away the people who seek refuge. Even when those countries accept the refugees eventually the conditions will deteriorate into anarchy and chaos will prevail. Masses of refugees are not particularly adept at self-organizing into sustainable towns with a chart of rules for where to erect a shelter, where to defecate and urinate, how to make use of limited resources (especially when there are none to manage.)

Then there is the long-term scenario to address. The masses of displaced people cannot live in the makeshift camps forever. They must survive the winters, the summers, the lack of food and water, the communicable diseases that always erupts in such places. The hopes of the host countries is that they will eventually go home. While many would love to go home, for many there is no home to go back to.

Host Countries Must Come to Grips With Migration

As long as there is a place from which people need to flee and there is a better place to go, there will be migration. Trying to hold them back is like the story of the Dutch Boy with his finger in the dike. Eventually he will run out of fingers and arm length to save the town. The migrants come for many varied reasons and they are indeed a tide. As long as there is a shore on which to break, there will be a swell and a breaking wave that washes over the coast line. Each host country needs to devise a plan for how to accommodate that tide.

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Changing Judicial Attitudes Will Catch Up To Bad Cops

Author's Note: The book cover images in the side margins of this blog are my own publications of eBooks available at both Amazon and B&N. Please take a moment and go to the sites and read about them. Then if you like it, buy one or two.
Police violence seems to have spiked in recent months and there is no clear reason why. As usual, when there is an observation of a change in the frequency and severity of events, one must try to determine whether the frequency and severity is actually increasing or is it just that we are now hearing/seeing the reports more often and paying attention when we formerly did not. The media coverage of events may itself shape our perceptions of the events and what they mean.

To substantiate this statement, consider the following statistical representation from the Washington Post. By the end of July 2015, a total of 559 people were shot and killed by police. About two dozen of these have been addressed by the national news media. They were the sensational events. They were the ones of suspicious character. They were the ones that seemed to be the most unjust. Following the reports that rose above the clatter and din, one might think that police were on a rampage killing minority people for no justifiable reason. While some officers certainly are out of control as seen in the few video clips that accompany the reports, most are not being thugs and criminals themselves. The number of white people shot by police this year is 278 while 140 were black and 86 were Hispanic.

The number of males was 535 with 24 females. The highest number by age was 301 in the age bracket 25 to 44. Those who were older outnumber those who were younger than this middle age group. Apparent mental illness was suspected in only 26% of the incidents. Only 83.5% were armed but 3.5% more possessed toy weapons that looked like a threat.

Police shooting statistics do not tell the story that is playing out in this country right now. The bigger issue is the number of brutal treatments of otherwise docile citizens who for reasons only known to the offending officers got a beatdown that was not warranted. Even when there clearly will be video evidence to substantiate one claim or the other, police officers seem to not be concerned about that. With body cameras and dash cameras on record they engage and beat and/or kill citizens anyway. Tamir Rice, the 12-year old boy in Cuyahoga County, Ohio where an officer killed him 2 seconds after arriving in a show of shock and awe when he sped up on him in a public park.

Other videos show officers barking commands then immediately unleashing brutal punishment before the person has a chance to respond to the officer of for officer to ascertain that the command was heard, understood and that compliance was not forthcoming.

In a couple of video clips recorded by passersby have shown huge muscular officers mercilessly beating a citizen who is already on the ground, restrained with handcuffs and still being punched, kicked and beaten with batons. The problem with these officers is THEY CAN'T STOP themselves. They are like pitbull dogs that have chomped on a victim and will not let go all the while mauling and sometimes killing their victim. Just when additional officers arrive on the scene and a silly spectator thinks they will stop the savagery, they don't. They join in the fray and further injure the victim.

With the appearances of some of these officers one would have an easy time believing that they have been heavy users of steroids. The wrestling entertainers were well noted for their steroid use and the "roid rage" that can accompany their overuse. These officers also have easy access to confiscated cocaine and other drugs that influence behavior in a negative manner.

They are quick to act. They are quick to react. They are quick to escalate an event to violence by their actions.

"I watched a citizen produced phone video (in HD no less) of two St. Louis police officers arrive on the scene of a black man with a knife and within 4 seconds had fired 6 bullets killing him. This is not an acceptable behavior. The officers will probably not be indicted for any crimes even in the light of the Michael Brown killing only a week earlier in a town nearby. These two offices jumped from contact to completion in 4 seconds. There was no attempt to resolve the armed-suspect event without bullets."

Then they all stick together and pretend that nothing is wrong.

"The Brother-in-Blue will all stand in silence on whether these two officers were known to be racist, abusive, suffering PTSD, are trigger-happy, hotheaded, on steroids, coked up, or under the influence of alcohol; or other controlled substance.  There will be no post incident drug tests as would be in the event that a bus driver hit a pedestrian or damaged a parked car. There will be no psychological evaluation because the results all would be admissible in a criminal or civil court case where the men, the department and the jurisdiction might be held liable for a wrongful death. While we are not in a position to be definitive about cause and effect, we do see that the violence has gotten worse with no end in sight."

The impacts of PTSD on police officers is unmistakable. Even as the frequency of police officers being killed in the line of duty steadily going down since the 1970s, the frequency of officer suicides has climbed to the point where self-inflicted death is the second most common cause second to vehicle accidents.

Even though a suicide only kills one officer, it has a serious impact on all the Brothers who served with him. As with most suicides the survivors have to deal with grief, stress, anger and violent outbursts about an event that cannot be rationalized. Where do these officers vent their frustrations? On the victims they brutalize.

PTSD doesn't just come from being a soldier in a war zone. The physical stressed are soon healed even if there are residual conditions like missing limbs, paralysis and massive burns. The psychological trauma is the bigger factor in PTSD. This even includes psychological traumas that did not accompany physical injury. It can arise from doing the acts one did and seeing the results of those actions.
During the Occupy movement we witnessed and participated in police officers were ordered to line up and mistreat the protestors at a level that was orders of magnitude greater than the civil disobedience. They pepper sprayed, beat and ziptied men and women of all ages and dragged them away. The corralled the protestors and trapped them in a pinch point where they could be managed like cattle going to slaughter. It was in those days that I prognosticated that we were going to see a massive uptick in PTSD in police officers.

They were taking actions and performing tasks that could not be justified by the civil resistance that was mounted in protest of the policies and behaviors of Wall Street that would be impacting the police departments too. It appears that we have that kind of bad behavior in all sections of the country.

Just in this map of police shooting we can see that shooting are not isolated in any one part of the nation although low population states have far fewer shootings. And of course a shooting and a beating or a police station incident are completely different things. There typically are far more assaults in America by perpetrators at all socio-economic levels than there are killings. Police involved assaults and killing would not be expectedly different. They are men and women who come to work with unresolved personal issues and who take work issues back home and inflict of family and the "proverbial dog" who gets kicked.

Citizen mental illness and social stresses including drug use contribute to the resistance a person exhibits in the face of violent authority. This certainly has an association with the numbers of people who murder another or kill themselves with guns. Add to this mix the anger of being treated poorly, being reprimanded for doing what you believe is "your duty" or "just my job" and you get a lethal and violent combination.

Police officer mental illness and social stresses including drug use, and seeing criminals "get away with it" all to often leads to a feeling of entitlement to right those wrongs. There is no reason that anyone should end up dead in a jail cell (by suicide or any other inflicted means) for failure to use a turn signal. #SandraBland. The reason she was arrested at all was that the arresting office decided that he had had enough lip from a black woman. He was going to show her. He did not like her attitude.

All too often the citizen who takes the beating was just being defiant. He (typically) was not committing a crime worthy of a beating or death. In a recent surveillance video in a police station a skinny black man is hurled to the floor by a burley white officer then kicked, punched and struck with a baton so many times that I lost count. I lost count after two more officers joined in the fray and beat on his too. Then two more officers got into the game. A dozen or more officers emerged from a back room and stepped over and around the men on the floor as they pretended that it was none of their business.

Posted by Chil-p on Thursday, April 10, 2014

If they wanted to move him to a holding cell or interrogation room, they could have just pushed him there step by step. He was no match of even one officer. It appears that this episode was part of the ordinary daily routine for these men. How many other "suspects" have met this type of "welcome" and we never see it on a tape? Until and unless they do, we will be left speculating.

As Bill Cosby discovered, when there is an Undiscovered Lie and the evidence and incidents continue to mount, eventually the truth comes out. Judicial attitude will change and old police crimes will be prosecuted.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

DC Commuting

I should have known. Or at least suspected it. I hit the off-button of the alarm clock instead of the Snooze and woke up 20 minutes later than planned. I had to hurry up and get ready for the commute.

I dashed to the car and to the train station only to find that the train was going to be about 30 minutes late. It was. At least I got the extra sleep. The platform was already hot with the morning humidity and there were dozens of extra people there because the next train is usually only 20 minutes later than the one I take. So we had two trains worth of commuters to stand in the aisles and block up the path.

By the time we arrived at Union Station, I was half-way between two local bus arrivals and waited along with a dozen people who would be wanting to board the bus also. It arrived and we all piled in.

By the time we reached 9th Street, the Police had the block over to 10th cordoned off for some unspecified reason. The bus deviated with a left turn in what was supposed to be a "uni-block detour" that turned out to be much more. By the time we moved one block south we were met by another police vehicle making us turn left again. While two wrongs don't make a right, three lefts do.

We were headed back toward Union Station until we made the third left and were headed North. By then there were a series of No Left Turns including the useless left on at E Street from where we originally diverted. K Street provided the first opportunity for a left turn, the fourth one that put us back on a Westward path.

It was about then that I thought about the possibility of the driver's name being Moses. He did an admirable job of navigating the city streets during morning DC rush hour, but we did seem lost in the desert there for a time.

Employing 20-20 hindsight this day would have been a good one to telework. Then the realization hit me. When you get to work, your commute is only half over. The day was only cranking up to its maximum temperature at that early hour. AMTRAK and MARC still had to contend with warped rails, switch and signal malfunctions, and overheated locomotives. Sometime over the past 21 years of commuting into DC the commute has become an adventure. THAT was never supposed to be.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Red Line Today

During my MARC ride into Union Station, I received an email from a colleague that said the Red Line was in Major Delay Mode. It was several months ago that I gave up on the Red Line due the many elevator and escalator outages at Union Station and Metro Center. Not withstanding the actual train delays, the the ancillary vertical and diagonal "rail" services had become quite a problem.

For a person who relies on those vertical transports (aka elevators) the amount of extra time in the system exceeded the rail benefits over the surface bus service.
I arrived a minute too late at the bus stop and could see the extra multitude of "breakdown" riders already waiting to board that bus. I was nowhere near the stop to even try to get aboard using a wheelchair. While waiting for the next bus, I was able to compare rider notes with a few women who likewise are MARC commuters and who normally ride the Red Line trains. Their comments paralleled mine.

While riding along E Street, one could tell that there was something afoot with the Metro due to the abundance of middle aged white men wearing blue and white stripped shirts seeking to board the bus along the way and needing to ask what the fare would be. I was glad that I chose a shirt other than my blue and white stripped one.

The ride was a bit slower than normal but it did manage to be far faster than the rails. Another colleague passed me in the office and said that he decided to take my advice and try the bus this morning. He said it was a good alternative but... but he got on going the wrong direction. By the time he was well into NE rather than NW, he figured that he better ask. He was still here before me. Therefore even with starting out in the wrong direction and getting turned around, the bus was still better today.

We keep hearing that "they are working on it" and that services will be getting better. Apparently they had a long way to go just to get to "square one." I still suspect that services will get worse before it gets better at the rate maintenance and repairs are going.

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Friday, June 12, 2015

Reverse Passing

I'm going to just say from the beginning that I don't see any conflict about a Caucasian female working for the NAACP, at any level.

Did we not take extra ordinary steps to level the playing field among the races in employment, public transportation, public accommodations, housing, bank lending, and a host of other social and economic of our civilization?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of his dream when he said "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." This controversy of Rachel Dolezal "pretending to be black" enough to hold a high ranking position with the NAACP has set of the usual name-calling, outrage machine and echo chamber rhetoric.

Let us examine the context of "pretending" in terms of what one feels, believes about ones self, act accordingly to, and possibly actually is. There is no law that states that a Caucasian female cannot work for a traditionally African descent organization just like there is no legal prohibition for an African person working for IBM, Yale or Harvard. If one wants to employ DNA as the determinant of racial heritage one better be prepared to be surprised at who has been frequenting the family tree.

The National Geographic Society, IBM and the Waitt Foundation have been mapping the migration of humans around the planet and have determined that the most probably starting point was Sub-Saharan Africa.  Spencer Wells, Director of the Genographic Project started out with an austere endeavor and has since made an enormous contribution to the understanding of our collective heritage. At one point it time his work suggested that fully 75% of all humans alive on the planet today share the same genetic markers that show that they too are of African descent. Even the most "white white boy" may have those DNA markers and not ever know it.

So the important question to answer is how white makes you white and how black makes you black? Native American tribes have had to determine minimum parentage factors for inclusion in tribal wealth sharing as their populations grow and the per capita share goes down. This methodology is not legal in American employment.

For years, during the slave era of America and in the decades up to about the 1960s people whose families customarily labeled themselves as black and who looked "mostly white" did their part to pass as white for economic, social and legal reasons. The personal benefits were enormous. Artistic performers could actually stay in hotels and eat at restaurants in the cities they played in. Once their deception was discovered they were cast out and relegated to their "place as a black person" as then commonly practiced. So I suppose that Rachel Dolezal will today suffer the reverse of that stigma.

If she were male passing as female, female passing as male, gay passing as straight or vice versa, Catholic passing as Protestant, or old passing as young, there would be no legitimate criticism of her behavior. She would be judged by her performance not her DNA.

Soul Man (1986)

'To achieve his dream of attending Harvard, a pampered teen poses as a young black man to receive a full scholarship.' C.Thomas Howell did this movie to less than stellar reviews but it did present the notion that there were opportunities for African-Americans that were not available to white students. When the gig was up, the poser had the opportunity to stop being black and return to his privileged life.

Black Like Me (1961)

Journalist John Howard Griffin embarked on an odyssey of discovery when he darkened his skin and traveled about the country as a black man. His book of  this title was a shocking portrayal of racism in America that most people even today would rather not think about. One of his biggest problems was finding a restroom to use in a segregated nation. Although his experience was traumatic at times, he too was able to return to his white self and go on without his "blackness."

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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Drug Addiction is Great for the Economy

In Baltimore, MD, alone there are an estimated 60,000 heroin and cocaine addicts either using the white powdered type or the rock version called Crack. Minorities and urban dwellers are more likely to be addicted to the Crack version while the Caucasian and suburban dwellers are more likely to be addicted to the powder. Penalties for possessing or selling the Crack version holds prison terms that are two to ten times longer than for the powdered stuff.

A typical daily consumption costs $70- $150 per addict. That becomes $6,000,000 per day in total consumption if we use $100 per day. Let us assign half of that cost to the people who can still hold gainful employment and pay for their habits with legally obtained funds. The other $3,000,000 per day has to be raised through crime. At 10 cents on the dollar for fencing stolen goods and pawn shop loans, the amount of stolen property is $30,000,000 per day. Annualizing that number it becomes $10.95 Billion to support the habits of Baltimore's cocaine addicts. Now apply that number to the 50 largest cities in America and that's $547.5 Billion annually.

If I were a retailer selling electronic devices and other portable things like watches, rings and gold chains, I would love the trade that drug addicts create for my business. If I were a manufacturer of such things, I would likewise appreciate the market that the drugs create for me. In neither case would I have to have any connection to the production, transport, import, sale or buying of controlled substances in order to realize this benefit.

Everyone who has property stolen will replace it with and maybe without an insurance settlement. Not including any of the criminal justice cost-benefits to the economy, just the "stimulus" that drug addiction provides is highly beneficial to the economy while being wholly detrimental to the addicts.
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Friday, May 1, 2015

The Gun, The Religion and The Driver

I see the world as a set of vector arrows pointing at each other and at common places.  These are cause and effect couplets and isolated events that don't seem to have anything pointing at it to make it happen.  Some of the vectors we see and others we don't.

There are a lot of parallel arrows that point to different objects and by that parallel geometry creates a relationship between seemingly independent objects.  Such is the conditions among the firearms debate, radical religious factions and automobile accident fatalities.  Wow, what a wild and spurious connection?

Here is what I mean.  There are hundreds of millions of automobiles registered in this country, well almost two, at 196 million people.  Automobile fatalities is presently down from the 1972 high of 54, 589 deaths to the 2011 level of 32,367 deaths.  Between 1900 and 2012 there have been a recorded 3.5 million deaths from automobile accidents.  While many deaths occurred in the same collision perpetrated by the same driver that lowers the one to one ratio, for simplicity sake we will use the 1:1 ratio for further discussion.  And, yes, the 3.5 million deaths were over a period of 112 year.  Even so my point will be valid.  Somewhere less than 0.5% of drivers will cause the death of someone in their entire lifetime.  This means that 99.5% of drivers are innocent of anyone's death.  However, all states require training, testing and retesting, licensing and renewals.  And most states require sufficient automobile liability insurance on all drivers even though most will never be the cause of an accident or a claim.  Gun rights advocates just said, "I knew you were going there."

There are upwards of 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. They want to live a comfortable life, work, eat, stay warm and dry, raise a family and pray to their god.  There are some Muslims who are not satisfied with the way they are treated in this world and adopt radical ideas of how to make that change.  Some of the more radical ones adopt violence as their tool of choice.  Even if there were 1 million such violent persons who actually will ever do a massive violent act, this number is 0.0625% of the world population.  Muslims in general should not be held responsible for the actions of such a small part of their population. Someone just called me a "Muslin Apologist."  Most others are seeing my point.

In the USA the estimates of gun ownership widely vary from between 190m to 300m individual guns.  The better and more conservative estimate is that about 52 million households have about 260 million guns in them.  Even if you don't agree on those numbers the point that is being made here remains valid.

Gun deaths run around 40,000 per year.  Using a one perpetrator per dead person as the largest percentage of crimes or measures of self-defense we are talking about 40,000 perpetrators per year.  It is unlikely that perpetrators of gun deaths in the home, where most gun deaths occur, will be a repeat offender.  Yes, there will be a few but not many in the grand scheme of things.  Over ten years there will be 400,000 deaths and 400,000 perpetrators.  Running the ratios, that means that slightly more than ¾ of a percent of the gun owners will ever kill someone.

In all three of my examples it becomes acutely obvious that a very small number of people perpetrate all of the violent death and dismemberment in each example.  And that the vast majority of people on each category are innocent and guilty only by association, the associations that others assume.

Most people are not capable of distinguishing which driver of which vehicle is going to collide with them or anyone, now or ever.  But we force insurance and other regulations on them just in case.

Many Americans want to exclude Muslims from residency or entry in the US on the grounds that they cannot be trusted, even though the percentage of dangerous ones is the smallest of the three examples.  They want to hold all people in that group responsible.

The gun rights advocates want to segregate themselves into the law abiding and the lawless components in order to equate themselves with the virtuous and deny the dark side of their ideology.  To be fair, automobile drivers who do not drive intoxicated, distracted or fatigued, want to divorce themselves from the aggressive ones and those who are not fit to be behind the wheel for any reason.  And religious people of all faiths want to not be lumped together in to one group and labeled with the characteristics of the minority.

Gun rights advocates are indeed responsible for the actions of the lawless when they stand in the way of proposed solutions and do not champion solutions of their own to curtail the death and injury that their population inflicts on themselves and everyone else.


I do not know of too many people who decide for themselves what their annual income will be. There is the legendary scenario where a person is in such demand by the headhunting company executive that he gets to name his salary.  This may actually be a fact for a very few people but typically the wage or salary paid is determined by the company that is doing the hiring or is set via a collective bargaining agreement.  Whatever the method is it is not usually up to the employee to make the determination.

In order to earn a progressively better income over a period of years, the employed person must 1) have appreciating skills that permits promotions, 2) employment with a company that has a step-wise pay scale or a collective bargaining agreement, 3) be employed at a place where there are employment positions available to be promoted to, or 4) the ability to shop their availability and skills to other employers.

An example of a situation that is exemplar of #3 that is not a good situation is a public transit bus service.  The company may hire 1,000 drivers to operate buses but only maintain 10 to 15 supervisors.  Supervisor would be the second step in promotions but the opportunities are highly limited when there are potentially 1,000 in-house candidates with which to compete.  While not all drivers are or will ever be suitable to be a Supervisor, promotion prospect are very scarce.

Most public transportation providers do not undergo rapid growth of operations where in influx Fail new talent would suddenly be required.  Therefore, the ability of an individual employee to affect his/her income growth is minimal, even when they have excellent credentials and skills.  The only need to the company is the ability to safely drive the bus and prepare all the periodic reports.  Doing everything correctly is the only measure of excellence and one can only go down from there.

Giant retailers such as Walmart, in particular, employs upwards of 220,000 people.  People work there "at the pleasure of the owner," that is there are no guarantees or protections.  A person accepts whatever pay is offered, is subject to the work hours rules, and has zero control over promotions practices.  People who go to work in such places may never be promoted or receive a pay rate increase even after many years.  This is just the model that the employer created and strives to maintain.  A person seeking more income must go elsewhere to get it.

In communities where a very large employer sets up shop there are usually few alternatives to working at that location. A person seeking better pay and conditions, advancement opportunities will have to consider relocating to obtain it. At the lower end of the income level continuum, relocation is not compensated and the feasibility is low for the employee.  In households where two people hold jobs,sometimes even with the same employer, one person choosing to relocate for better opportunities is just not an option.

These obstacles to advancement do not occur to the upper middleclass workers because they are not subject to the limiting factors as being a two income household, working in a sea of personnel who all have the same job description,or live in places with only one significant employer.

While Conservatives cry for poor people to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps," first they must have boots and then they must be allowed to do the pulling.  Such self-help activities are stacked against the low income workers who really do want to do better than they are allowed to do. Lower income workers might make disproportionately longer trips-to-work and spend significantly more of their time getting from one place to another.

Consider this morning ritual.  Mom gets the three children ready in the morning before going to her 8-hour per day job.  The youngest must be dropped off at daycare.  The middle child must be dropped at Pre-school and the oldest at her Elementary school.  Then Mom goes to her job.  Now consider doing all this while riding the bus.  To top it off, the bus stops on the highway adjacent to her employer and she must walk ¼ mile to the employees'entrance.  If driving a car, she could park in the lot next to the building.

When she gets that $5,000 per year pay increase she will be able to afford to buy, insure, maintain and fuel a car.

Where Was The Warning?

Hebrews believe that god gave Israel and Palestine to them and Christians believe that god gave them the rest of the world and the entire universe. The truth is we are only renters here on this planet and act like if we foul the place we can just move elsewhere in the night. When the authors of the books of the Bible set out to write down their beliefs about the origins and destiny of their species, they knew nothing of global-wide pollution, depletion of fish in the Mediterranean Sea, or the impacts of over-population on their world. The author of Genesis only declared that god gave man dominion over all living things and the land. He did not know that there were other civilizations on the move in their direction and that one day they would collide and try to out compete each other for limited resources.

About the worst thing man could do to damage the land was to order it to be sown with salt to poison it and use the lack of food as a weapon against and enemy or conquered people. There were no massive petro-chemical corporations that would make a beneficial concoction while dumping toxic waste products into the rivers and onto the land. There were no plumes of heavy particulate smoke to blanket the landscape in the wee hours of dawn and choke the people to death or damage their future generations with mutations. I don't want to get into a discourse about how much god didn't appear to tell man when he was dictating his word to the scribes. A lot of that essential information would be useful just about now as Conservative Christian factions in the US and the world declare the Bible to be literal, absolute and unalterable while also declaring that god creates all bad environmental events as collective punishment for acts that men and women are squeamish about.

Some omniscient cautions would have been helpful to guide man in the "ways of righteousness" such that he could actually be an effective steward of Creation and not its ultimate destructor. Corporate mentality is only a microcosm of the mentality of a people steeped in the notion that everything belongs to them and that they have an inexhaustible amount of resources to exploit in an inexhaustible amount of time. The trouble is that even if the scriptures are only several men's notion of the divine, they did get it right that Time itself is a resource that is not infinite. Whether it is Time itself that runs out or there is a god who says that Time is up, either way man is never promised tomorrow.

There is a crack in our hourglass and sand is leaking out as we argue over who or what is responsible for the loss of sand. The biblical notion that man will not know the hour or the date of the end is actually quite prophetic even if you are an atheist, or believer in another dogma. Geologic, environmental, solar, galactic and cosmological events have a way of sneaking up on us even as we divert attentions to the trivial pastimes of professional sports, TV reality shows, political campaigns, culture clashes and war. Whole cities such as Pompeii can disappear from the surface of the earth for 17 centuries while emperors and kings play chess with the lives of other cities and towns in their domains. We neglect the doom that is spelled by fossil fuel burning even as the Russian Bear grabs a natural gas transit nation in a revanchist move to reunify its former territory.

Much of the nature of current events, faith conflicts, and socioeconomic discord masks the truly "end-times" scenarios that we have set in motion with carbon loading of the air and sea, poisoning of our food crops, and our relentless pursuits of personal longevity and family propagation. No deity has warned us against those things.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

2 Degrees Of Separation

Pete Postlethwaite speaks as the lone narrator at the end of Man in 2055. Man has loaded the atmosphere with the correct amount of CO2 to cause the temperature tipping point tat climatologists have been warning us about for decades. This semi-documentary film using news footage and Pete as the lone controller at the console of a great database of video footage.

"The Age of Stupid" asks the burning question Why did we not do anything about our imminent extinction? The film presents the factors surrounding oil use and the warmer atmosphere that contribute to intensified flooding, melting of glaciers, desertification, stronger storms, and wide-ranging poverty in the land of oil riches.

The NIMBY mind-set shows the conflicted attitudes that people ave about alternate energy systems such as wind turbines. While everyone claims that they care about climate change, they continue to resist the wind when it will be harnessed close to their homes.

The film was made in 2008 so we are already 7 years behind schedule to stop the 2 degree Celsius temperature rise that will tip the scales toward our demise. 2015 is the seminal year for reaching Carbon Neutrality. I guess we have failed.

This film is well worth the watching. It is available as a Netflix DVD. BTW, guess how a passing space explorer would know that planet earth was once inhabited.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Upside of Utility Deregulation

There is a positive outcome from the deregulation of utilities that as fostered during the Reagan Administration. That deregulation made it possible for competing gas suppliers and traditional electricity suppliers to compete and allegedly lower the cost to consumers. There was a secondary and some say an unintended consequence to that deregulation.

At the time of the changes to laws and regulations no one had ever heard of a commercial-grade solar or wind sourced supplier being able to generate electricity and move it to market.

What the deregulation process created was the ability for a legacy utility company to continue to deliver the commodities and charge a delivery fee separate from the actual commodity. The original idea was that small and competing providers could sell their commodity to the utility and they would blend it in with their own material. Then the idea of selling directly to the consumer took over.

Today, many Americans are able to choose the electricity supplier they want to buy from. Such providers may source some or all of their electricity from the wind or solar sources. Best of all the legacy utility company will deliver for the same fee as they do their own electricity.

A quick search of the Internet using ones zipcode can determine if there is the opportunity to buy electricity from an alternative source. Billing is transparent and seamless so there is no need to get two bills from two different companies. There is no investment to pay for. There are only yearly contracts to adhere to. While the price today may be a bit higher than coal, nuclear or hydro-electric power, the far smaller carbon footprint will make any ecologically sensitive consumer satisfied.

When I chose wind power I agreed to pay 0.5 cents more per kilowatt-hour.  That was a small price to pay for knowing that I was doing something good for the environment. Now I don't fret about leaving the light on.

Every time a consumer chooses to buy electricity from a wind or solar sourced utility provider they make it possible for that company to build more capacity. New alt sources are faster and easier to bring online. Similarly, as the technologies are improved, there is no need to stay stuck with the old tech.

Every time an investor with a conscious thinks about the choice between a legacy power source and a modern alternative source, he, she, they make it possible  to have energy AND a sustainable environment.
"That which brought us through the past century will not sustain us through the next one."

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Author's Note: The book cover images in the side margins of this blog are my own publications of eBooks available at both Amazon and B&N. Please take a moment and go to the sites and read about them. Then if you like it, buy one or two.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

WMATA 7000 Series Rail Cars

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) that operated the Metro Rail system in DC always has great intentions in the improvements they plan and implement. However, at the saying goes ""no good deed goes unpunished." Such is the case of the acquisition of the new 7000 series rail cars that will be put into full service on the Blue line on April 14 this year. While the quality of safety and serviceability are not part of the purview of this blog post, there are customer comfort issues that remain open for complaint and possible reconsideration of the basis of the decision to design the interiors in the manner they have.

 "Elements of the car that were influenced by customer feedback include: Interior layout, including placement of hand holds, privacy screens and seat positions." this statement (taken from the WMATA website) neglects the fact that such decision adversely impact certain passengers who are by no means unique on the train cars.

The decision to forego stanchions in the areas of the doors may improve pedestrian flow into and out of the cars, but it does create hazards by their absence. There are two Series of cars that are involved in this decision making. The new 7000 Series cars are lacking in sufficient hand holds and the remodeled 6000 Series cars have the same issues.

As a wheelchair using Metro Rail rider for the past 21 years, I have seen the issues I describe first-hand. The absence of a stanchion somewhere between 12 and 18 inches inside the doorway to pull against to enter the car is a serious hazard. The fact that in practice most MetroRail car floors do not match the platform elevation withing ADA required parameters makes the placement of auxiliary leverage points, i.e. stanchions necessary. Without them boarding is many time foiled and a second "running start" necessary to complete the boarding.

The other aspect of the lack of stanchions inside the doorways is that when the train cars reach Standing Room Only (SRO) and there is a crowd of people standing around my wheelchair they reflexively reach for my hardware to keep from falling either on me or on the floor. I may look like something to grab a hold of, but I am as loose a cannon as are they when the train lurches to a stop or pulls out fast.

A colleague of mine who is not as stable on her feet as she used to be was horrified when she entered a remodeled 6000 series car only to find herself in the midst of a wide open expanse with nothing to hold on to until she could wend her way through a few standees to request a seat as close to yet far from the door.

WMATA has a history of doing what it believes is a good thing for many riders while simultaneously impeding others. Case in point is the placement of these sign stanchions at the bottom of platform escalators. By placing those stanchions precisely as they did, they were about two inches too close to the sidewall for a wheelchair to pass to the right of the escalator and avoid the narrow platform on the left side where people like to congregate in order to board the front cars of the train. All of the focus groups and presentations cannot replace good design thinking in the first place.
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Author's Note: The book cover images in the side margins of this blog are my own publications of eBooks available at both Amazon and B&N. Please take a moment and go to the sites and read about them. Then if you like it, buy one or two.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

That Third Cup of Coffee

That Third Cup of Coffee

Coffee drinkers all know the drill. They finish their second cup of coffee and everything is going well. The good feeling prompts you to have another. That is the fatal error. All too soon you have to get up and head to the "facilities." There is an urgency to the mission that just cannot be resisted. For most of us the need to remedy the coffee conundrum doesn't involve flying a plane with a co-pilot that as it turns out is suicidal.

The pilot of the Germanwings Airbus stepped out of the cockpit probably to use the head and was summarily locked out by his co-pilot. No amount of pleading moved him to change his mind after he decided that his suicide needed 149 other deaths to make it worthwhile and memorable.

The anti-hijack protocols enacted internationally require that the cockpit door be closed and locked against intruders during the flight. Once the pilot stepped out and the door was locked, he, the crew and passenger were at the mercy of the only person who could stop the impending disaster. There a method for locked out pilots to regain the cockpit but that system can and must be able to be disabled from inside the cockpit.

On US Domestic flights there is a requirement for a third crew member to occupy the cockpit in the event that one of the pilots needs to step out. This guards against unfortunate disabling of the second pilot but does not guard against malicious intent. If there is foul play that replacement crew member just might be the first to go.

It is tragic that such an event as the Germanwings flight crash ever happens but that metaphorical "Third Cup of Coffee" would not have meant the end of 150 lives in this incident if the pilot did not have to leave the control to the man who had misplaced trust in him. I suspect that the foreign air carriers will now alter their cockpit protocols to avoid the conditions that allowed such a horrible crash to happen.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Water Shortage in the Cinema

The conflict over water is not a new one. The battle has raged on for decades. Now in our current times, that struggle only grows larger and more fractious. America has grown multi-billion industries around the plentiful flow of water for their processes. At the same time america has grown its population and therein it need for water for life itself.

Water is so essential that at one point in time oil tankers that millions of barrels of oil TO the United States were beginning to refill their holds with fresh water from the Hudson River and taking it back to the Middle East. This water was on a fast track to the open sea anyway but the Ports Authority of NY/NJ counted it as theft of US resources and wanted paid for the amount of river water thusly conveyed.

Other Middle East fresh water projects included the idea of harnessing massive icebergs in the Antarctic and towing them to a mooring location where they could be harvested for their fresh water.

Las Vegan has proposed spending over $3 billion to construct a 260 mile pipeline to bring water to their city. Even though the city is rapidly depleting its only water source, Lake Mead, the pipeline project has been held up for years in environmental reviews and permitting,

Film producers have not been quiet on the topic of water shortages and water rights issues for a long time. There are some films that are directly involved with water struggles and other merely peripherally. These films are not just examples of US strife but the entire globe.

The Milagro Beanfield War (1988) centered on one man's obsession to plant a beanfield and use water that flowed by it in an open channel. The trouble was there was a wealthy land speculator who wanted all the water for his residential and golf course project in the valley. Therein lay the conflict. The water was all allocated by powerful people who did not care about the indigenous peoples who had been on the land for generations.

Even the Rain (2010) was set in Bolivia where the water and all distribution rights were sold to a private corporation so that the capital city could continue to use water the way it wanted to do. The indigenous peoples were forcibly restrained from gathering and holding "even the rain."

Even the Hollywood movie, Chinatown (1974) was about the intrigues of the Mulholland era water management projects to make living the desert of Los Angeles possible.

As far back as the building of the hydro-electric dams by the Tennessee Valley Authority there has been contentious actions on both side of the issue. The only real argument over water rights can take place where there is water in the first place.

One might wonder what the cinema will say about the droughts that plague the people of the planet Earth 10, 20, 50 years from now. We saw the forced migration of farming families due to the 1930 Dust Bowl and its treatment in literature and film with John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940). There are other books and films that address the trials and tribulations of the shortage of water, but these four are a sampler. We may yet see our future in the recent past.