Saturday, February 24, 2007

Smoke On The Mountain

Smoke on the Mountain

A Review

By Richard E. Noble

[This is my first review of a play to be published in the Franklin Chronicle. So I just thought that I would document that great event here on the Internet.]

As I sat in the mezzanine, listening to my wife go into a giggling, spastic, semi-convulsion over the antics of Dixie Partington as she “signed” for the hearing impaired the words to one of the Sanders Family Gospel Singers Greatest hits, I couldn't help thinking what a serious minded fellow I have turned into over the years. Maybe I have been playing at this newspaper business too long. Believe it or not, ever since I got this job I’m always thinking about how to say things without slandering everybody. It does seem that no matter what you say in this writing business, you get somebody mad at you. And that is what I was thinking about as I watched this play.
The play, written by Connie Ray and produced at the Dixie Theater by Dixie Partington and Jerry Hall was a spoof on a poor backwoods or mountain hillbilly church. It was truly hilarious and the cast was far beyond any of my expectations.
I hate to pick out one individual without mentioning them all but I was especially attracted to Clinton Leo Zugel and Jesse Lawder. Clinton was dopey and “hickish” and Jesse appealed to my more serious “deep”, I’m-a-tough-sensitive-kind-of-a-guy, side. Clinton had the only serious moment in the whole play. But then, of course, I may have been the only one to see it that way. He might have just been spoofing tough-serious-guy types. What do I know?
Coco Sansoni had the whole place in hysterics with her rather bumptious, and provocative spirituality while Emily Mikesell’s testimony in her Mini Pearl disguise about a June bug with one of its legs tied to the directing spirit of Christianity while it circled in a sure and determined path over her head was a comedy classic.
Both Tom Weaver and David Hemsley Cadwell were more than believable in their presentation of pure “country” virtuosity. And on top of all of that the Gospel music was inspiring. I like Gospel music. It always puts me into a state of religious ardor whether it is being spoofed or performed in true spiritual reverence.
But since I have never before written a review of a play, I got out my Dorothy Parker Anthology and a couple of other play reviewers and perused a little.
It seems that a good review always has something negative to say - to kind of show how brilliant and sophisticated the author is - and certainly, such is I, or I am just as such - well whatever. In any case, I must say in that respect that there were far too many packing-pickle jokes. Having once picked and packed pickles myself, I know only too well the trials and tribulations that Peter Piper must have gone through as he made his often quoted attempts at packing pickles. As you all know Peter Piper did in fact pick a peck of pickles and whether or not anyone knows where the peck of pickles that Peter Piper picked is, it should go without saying that Peter Piper should be praised and not pilloried for though packing or picking pickles may be a pee poor profession, Peter was paid pitifully for that phenomenal pheet.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007



By Richard E. Noble

This is really something that I am almost ashamed to admit. Being an active participant and member of the “male” community, I have always been a vociferous and outspoken supporter of “cleavage”. I mean I was weaned into puberty by a Playboy Bunny - although I don’t remember her name ... or her face for that matter.
I mean please, before anyone gets the wrong idea, I drink beer and whiskey, watch all types of sporting events, and have never been one not to laugh at a demeaning, insensitive joke about any type of naked woman. But, all that aside, I’m all cleavaged out.
There was a lady doing the local weather report flashing me cleavage the other night and another on the early morning “Fishing with Bubba” show.
I have seen more cleavage in the last few years than I have ever been privileged to seeing in all of my previous life. And cleavage isn’t just cleavage anymore. I’ve seen young cleavage, old cleavage, golf ball size cleavage, softball size cleavage, upright cleavage, drooping cleavage, wrinkled cleavage, both king and queen sized cleavage and even semi-nippled cleavage. There is top cleavage, bottom cleavage, diamond cleavage, lower cleavage, side cleavage, and last but not least - butt cleavage. That’s right, butt-cleavage. Girls, who have no real cleavage in the traditional area of cleavage responsibility, have turned to exposing their better side. I can hardly believe it. There are seventy year old women not only showing the world - willing and unwilling - their cleavage but presenting themselves nude on grain and automotive calendars. And Diane Sawyer and Barbara Wa-wa are both screaming “you go girl!”- which is feminist for “I think you are a damn fool, but if it makes you happy to embarrass all of us females and womanhood in general, what the hell can I do about it - hee hee hee.”
At first I said, “Oh well, should cute young girls who are obviously proud of their burgeoning womanhood be deprived of their fleeting opportunity to exhibit their cleavage - front, rear or whatever? Gee wizz! What kind of old fuddy-duddy are you?”
Okay so we all get to enjoy “Bouncy’s” cleavage and Jennifer whats-her-name’s cleavage. I even enjoy the interviews where all these little girls with the budding cleavage express their embracement of their personal virginity. It is truly inspiring to see on the Tube a partially naked, pre-adult female, in a skintight, shear, flesh colored wrap, with extraordinary cleavage expressing a religious and spiritual desire to maintain her virginity. Is this meant to be a statement or a dare?
I have no doubt that in the opinion, minds and imaginations of a good many of their young, male, religious admirers, this fact of virginity must take a Kierkegaardian “great leap of faith” over the infinite cleavage of both time and space to find a true eternal resting place in the abstract phenomenological void between what really is and what definitely isn’t and what is “oh my God” possible.
You know, I realize that there was once a time when even belly buttons had a modest pubertic fascination. You know, is it an inny, an outy, an uppy or a downy. But really - enough is enough!
Young, beautiful, “virgin” females now dance regularly in public and without embarrassment in a manner that in previous years I could only be privy to - at a five dollar cover charge - at the Boom-Boom Room on Common Street or in Boston at Scully Square. Gypsy Rose Lee would be Gypsy Rose “Who” if she were starting out today.
I would say that this is all a matter of male chauvinism except the guy this young girl is dancing with is bouncing up and down wearing a pair of trousers that are so tight that the outline of what was once considered personal and private is purely visible to the plain and un-enhanced naked eye - one could almost hazard a guess as to whether or not this male dancer is Jewish or gentile!
If I were a pornographic film maker, I would make a movie where all the characters are fully clothed and all the scenes of encounter are shot in silhouette and shadows - I’ll bet it would sell a million copies - it would be soooo hot!
If this were a letter to the editor or Dear Abby, I would sign it - Overexposed!

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Seafood Worker Mythology

“An Eastpoint Legend”

By Richard E. Noble

I consider a mythology a belief or superstition that is passed down from generation to generation. Some mythologies have been around for centuries and centuries. I am not an expert on mythologies but they seem to be a mixture of fact, fantasy, mystery and mysticism.
When I arrived in the little fishing village on the Florida Panhandle that has now been my home for over a quarter of a century, I was immediately made aware of the “Seafood Worker’s Mythology”. The basic myth was that there were evil forces working toward the inevitable destruction of the seafood worker and his way of life. These forces were classical in their nature. They were not the forces of God or Mother Nature but the forces of the Devil and they took on numerous forms.
This little fishing village that I settled into was a simple community of hard working people. I met no one who had made their “fortune” in this village the “easy” way; they all came about their “fortunes” the old fashioned way - they earned it. Everyone had whatever it was that they had because they had worked for it. And nobody was ashamed of “working” for it. Working hard was a respected value. It was not a sign of an inferior calling or a deprived intellect. Physical labor was a normal part of everyday life.
Though everyone in this little village worked hard most nevertheless were very poor. They didn’t know that they were poor and they didn’t think of themselves as poor. They didn’t act the way that many accuse poor people of acting. They acted like working people and they all thought of themselves as “middle class”. If anyone accused them of being poor, they would flat deny it. They would point out the richness of their style of life; they would point to the bounty of the Bay that they were blessed to live on; they would point to the smiles on the faces of their children and the beauty of the sun both coming and going over the water. They would brag on their bounty and their ability to harvest that bounty. They would tell you that the chosen disciples of Jesus earned their living following the exact same traditions. And time after time it was said to me, “Just remember when them city folks have nothing to eat and are picking through some dumpster, we can go right out there into that bay and gather us up some fish, oysters or crabs. We might not have much but we won’t starve.”
My Dad had a similar story, but since we lived in that big city he didn’t say that we had fish, oysters and crabs - he said that we had each other. When I ponder those two philosophies, I hate to admit it but there were times when the fish, oysters and crabs would have been a much more satisfying and sustaining alternative. Hugs and kisses may be fine but a free bounty from the sea can be truly divine.
But the truth was that this village was one of the poorest counties in the state of Florida - not only in Florida but in the entire United States. This fact is documented. But neither my wife nor I found that to be a disadvantage. We had been born into their class and had spent much of our marriage together traveling around the U.S. working with all types and varieties of this class. Strangely enough we considered that it was this class of people that truly represented the moral values and integrity that had made America the Country that it has become. We may have been wrong, as many people have since told me and as I have read in many modern history books, but that is what we believed.
One of the demons of the Devil that came with the Seafood Worker Myth was like the myth of the never ending white man that plagued the darkness of the American Indian. The Seafood Workers had their “white man”. Their white man didn’t come with railroads and rifles; he came with money and condominiums. The word “condominium” ranks next to “communism” in this neighborhood. People spit it out when they say it. It is an expletive. It is not only a symbol of the other world; it is a symbol of the underworld. It represents lies and deception; corruption and greed. The people who live in, build and buy condominiums are soulless creatures whose ancestors were born in Hades and whose only purpose for being is the destruction of “good”. These people eat up the natural world and it supporters, then puke it all up into pollution, decadence, paved roads, freeways, parking meters, traffic signals, shopping malls, gourmet foods and gated communities. The fishermen and the poor are pushed into the swamps like the Seminoles and pretty soon they all just disappear.
And they are coming, I was told. You can see the signs of them everywhere. Look at St. George Island; look at Apalachicola; look at the restaurants, the new homes, the real estate offices on every corner. Look at the decaying oyster houses; look at the new neighbors; look at the traffic downtown; look at the crowds at the post office; look at the new traffic light in Apalachicola. The white man from the far off land of money and condominiums is here! And he is going to eat us up and spit us out. First he is going to kill our buffalo; our bay, estuary and river; then he is going to build his forts; condos, skinny minis, gated communities and new home developments. Then he is going to figure out ways to get rid of us - just like he did in Miami, Pensacola, Tampa, Orlando, Fort Walton Beach and all over America. They already have us surrounded. And what are we going to do about it?
We are going to do what all of us Indians have always done; we are going to go on a war path; we are going to hoot and holler; we’re going to get all red in the face and then we are going to disappear - just like the Indians.
We are going to be forced off our land by hook or by crook, by code and inspection, by rules and regulations, by taxes and canceled or escalated insurance rates; by inflation and deflation; by inclination and speculation and no amount of incantation or rejuvenation is going to make one iota of difference; and then we are going to just disappear. We’re going to sell out or be run off or if we have nothing we’re just going to pack up our bit of nothing and cart it behind our horses or wagons, or in our pickup trucks and head for...?
That’s the Seafood Worker’s Mythology for those of you out there who are asking yourselves - what the heck are these ignorant savages thinking about? Why don’t they wake up and join the 21st. century? When are they ever going to get a clue?
They don’t need a cue. They have the answers as they have been revealed to them in the divine mythology and the handed down truths of their ancestors. They know what the future has in store because it has been revealed - through the past; through their great-grandparents, grandparents and parents; and through the spiritualism and mythology of their ancestral heritage.
They are a primitive breed.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Optimism and Truth

By Richard E. Noble

“Listen you; go back inside that bedroom and when you come back out, I want to see a smile on your face.”
I have a friend who was told this by an adopting uncle of his when he was still a young boy. To my friend - who is no longer a young boy - this story is of major significance. For my friend this was a life changing moment. It seems that this little incident turned my buddy from a perpetual sad sack into Norman Vincent Peele. From that day forward, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, my friend has been a tower of “positive thinking” - sometimes a slightly leaning tower, but nevertheless a tower.
Then there was “John the Chicken Man”. John the Chicken Man worked at the meat packing house where I was employed for my first full time job in life. As you may have guessed John was the guy in charge of the chicken department. Whenever there was a problem that related to chickens all my co-workers would say; Go talk to John the Chicken Man.
John the Chicken Man was also a part time philosopher. He always had long, involved, often penetrating answers to any question. I liked John. And one day he told me, “Happy people are people who think about happy things or things that make them happy. Unhappy people are people who think about sad things or things that make them unhappy. If you are an unhappy person you have got to stop thinking about unhappy things and start remembering good things, not bad things.
I liked that idea. And whenever I find that I am unhappy I force myself to think about things that once made me happy. And then pretty soon, I am happy once again.
In opposition to my old friends there are others of equal wisdom, for example, Clarence Darrow. Clarence wrote an essay on the advantages of pessimism. He considered optimists to be delusional and unable to cope with reality. He said that optimists were like drug addicts. The only way that they can stay happy is to escape from the “truth” or reality and continually inject themselves with “happy-thought” drugs.
And then there was the poet Robert Service who wrote a poem entitled “Compensation Bill”. Compensation Bill was the kind of a guy who if he lost one foot, rejoiced because a pair of socks now lasted twice as long.
And then we have Voltaire and his “Candide”. Candide was Voltaire’s cynical answer to all those who promoted the idea that this is “the best of all possible worlds” - more specifically a guy by the name of Leibniz.
Then there is that notion about “truth” setting you free. If we accept “truth” as what is; or as what really is, then the truth isn’t always happy; it often isn’t even positive.
So then who is right on this issue - my old friend and John the Chicken Man with their Compensation Bill mentality or Clarence Darrow, Voltaire, Robert Service and the entire chorus of Greek Stoic Philosophers?
I know that Voltaire and that crowd are closer to the truth - but my old buddy and John the Chicken Man always seem to bring me out of the dumps much more often than facing the truth or reading Epictetus or even Marcus Aurelius - even though I know that I’m lying to myself. So I guess that the answer is to face the truth - but only when it is absolutely impossible to make up a better story.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Phoenix Harbor PUD

[Journalism 101: This is another article that appeared in the Franklin Chronicle by yours truly. I think it is significant to the world at large because of the environmental debate taking place in our “little sleepy fishing village” boarding on the beautiful Apalachicola Bay here in Franklin County, Florida.]
By Richard E. Noble

Dan Garlick
“My name is Dan Garlick. I am the agent for the developer; I am not the developer. This is a planned use change ... I have been working on this for about eight months now. The project consists of 28 acres more or less on St. George Island located in the Northwest corner of the causeway of Franklin Boulevard and North Bay Shore Drive. What we propose to do on that 28 acres is to create 58 units … We plan to place these units on lands that are currently zoned commercial and residential and out of that land we are going to “gift” 2.5 acres that are going to be given to the County for a boat ramp and whatever uses the County would like … a restroom and a parking area. Why are we doing this? Basically what we have right now is a tract of land that has several items on it that are sensitive to say the least. You have wet lands; you have an eagle’s nest that is active; and you have very important shellfish waters that are adjacent to the site. The land right now has density around it that is higher than we propose [some are 3 units per acre; some are 8 units per acre; some are 12.9 units per acre; and some are commercial and 1 unit per acre – the commercial zones at present zoning could be restaurants, hotels, motels or a marina]. The reason that we have chosen to go this route is that we realize that this is a sensitive area.” Mr. Garlick then went on to outline his developer’s plans to protect the environmental sensitivities mentioned above – the eagle’s nest, the runoff problems and type roads, the sensitive shellfish areas etc. “We are not doing this just because we want to do it; we have to do it to a certain degree. If we didn’t want to do it, we would just go back to the commercial aspects and go that route. We think that we can meet what the State requires for Advanced Waste Water Treatment – which is the sewage part …” Mr. Garlick then stated environmental safety procedures that the developer has incorporated into his plan. “The issues that have come up in regards to the units is still – is what I am going to say is - the fear and mistrust of what this project could do to shellfish waters. I can assure you that if you go with the principal uses your impacts are going to be substantially higher than what we are proposing ... How are you going to contend with people who make their living on the Bay (if something negative happens)?” Mr. Garlick then informed the Board that his developer would be willing to impose a 20 thousand dollar fee on each and every new home to be constructed within the development. This money would be given to the County and placed at its discretion.
At this point the public was asked to offer comments. There were more than twenty individuals who spoke in favor of the project and a half a dozen or so he spoke against the project. The arguments were traditional with regards to this matter. If you have lived here for any length of time you know most of them by heart yourself. I will deal with a few from each side who are representative of the opposing ideas.
Dave McLain – Riverkeeper
“The recommendations as the Taskforce reached them in consensus – The Task Force consensus was that the County Commission consider a density of one dwelling per acre due to the sensitivity of the Apalachicola resources at risk in this CHHA (Coastal High Hazard Area); further that if instead the Commission favorably considers approval the Planned Unit Development of 58 units proposed by the developer, that a one time up-front mitigation fee be assessed of twenty thousand dollars per dwelling unit and paid by the developer as a part of the public benefit to be accrued by a PUD prior to the issuance of any land clearing permit to be dedicated to activities to be approved by your Task Force to support sustainable commercial seafood in Franklin County. And that the two (2.5) acre plot offered to the County should be a constructed and dredged boat ramp with adjacent toilet facilities which will be a part of that public benefit bound with a perpetual covenant to be available to commercial seafood launch and recovery as a matter of priority.
Dan Garlick then stated that he and his developer could deal with and accept all of the above – dredging, boat ramp with facilities, twenty thousand per unit up front or a (previously mentioned) performance bond of one million dollars.
Jeannie McMillian – Islander and Business Owner
“I’m Jeannie McMillian and I live on the Island. One of my concerns is the traffic. You have 58 units assuming two cars per unit; you’ve got a Budweiser truck, a Miller Light truck and a Gas truck; blocking almost every morning to get out on Island drive.” She went on to describe boats and trailers and no access for cars on the main roads. “My other concern is that I really don’t know what advanced waste water is. I just know what I saw after Dennis. I saw sewage being pumped by the County into the Gulf; I saw aerobic systems popped up; I saw sewage everywhere. And the closer a sewage treatment plant is to the Bay – whether it is advanced or not; which is about three foot lower than the beach - is going to be a catastrophe. If the electricity is off it will not be doing what it is supposed to do. Fifty-eight units means about 180 toilets … we really need to look at that … you are only two blocks away from the bay.”
Ruth Schoelles
“I’m the realtor on this project … and let me tell you first that what I would lose on this project would not outweigh what I would gain. The Schoelles have been in the oyster business for a long, long time. My husband operated an oyster house here for years. This is a good project. I worked with this property for three or four years. I had several developers talk to me about it. I met Mr. Strickland. He is the first person in forty years that I have worked with that first wanted to talk to me about environmental. He talked to County people to see what the best use of that piece of land could be and he could still make a profit from. My first question is in lieu of what has currently been built there why does anybody think that this little piece of land is going to shut down that bay?” Ms. Schoelles then turned to the audience and requested a response. The audience began to rumble and then one man said that every little bit hurt; another person said that 58 units was too many; another grumbled about sewerage and the grumbling rippled about the room. “Now if this shuts down this bay two of my boys will lose their livelihood. We (now) have a marina that just oystermen put in – no sports boats or anything. They have been putting in at that little marina for years. I have a one hundred and fifty acre (oyster) lease that will shut down. If I didn’t think that this was a good project do you all think that I would risk losing that? We have other people in this County who need jobs – I have five boys. One boy had to leave because he could find no job here. After everything else has been developed over there, why all of a sudden does everybody think that this is going to close the bay?”
Helen Sphorer
“I’m Helen Sphorer and for the record, I am not the developer of this project. I am one of the current owners of the property. My partners and I completely support the plan that Mr. Strickling has put forward with Dan Garlick. We believe that the plan that he has put forward has many, many benefits for Franklin County. To me one of the great benefits of this is that the developer is giving the County waterfront property. I think that having a public boat ramp with (facilities) and a parking area is an incredible amenity for the tourist, for the residents and for the commercial fishermen. I think that another benefit of this land is that it is changing the use of the land from commercial to a lower density residential. I think this will give an economic boost to Franklin County right now … I think this will also increase the tax base … I am in the real estate industry and our industry has been very slow for the last eighteen months and there are many people who have had to leave this industry and take other jobs. I have had to lay people off and close offices. Approving a project like this would send such a strong message that there are still investors willing to invest in this area. But I believe that the biggest benefit to Franklin County and all the people is the fact that we would have an advanced waste water treatment plant – not on the bay but back off the bay. Advanced waste water treatment is the best protection. I know that any development decision is very difficult for any of you to make. I don’t envy any of your positions sitting up there tonight but I would like to ask for your consideration and ask that you vote to approve this project.”
Willard Vinson – Ex-County Commissioner
“Hey, I’m so excited! This sounds like Christmas and the Fourth of July all at the same time, don’t it? But it reminds me of the story about the apple and the garden. You know what Satan told Eve; Go ahead, you surely won’t die … right now.
“I might not be around fifteen or twenty years from now to say I told you so; but some of these young people will be. This is the only place in the world where you can buy and Apalachicola oyster. People come down here because the environment is decent, the water is clean – they can go swimming, fishing and they are not afraid. Prevailing winds go from east to west so any pollution that you have at this end of the bay will wind up in that other end of the bay - the west end of the bay. You have got to understand that. Some of you have been around thirty or forty years and you still don’t understand that. It’s not just what happens now; it is what happens later. You don’t have a current in that area that can keep that flushed out. It will get stagnated in there. You can only put on a sponge so much and pretty soon it won’t absorb any more. And that is what we are faced with on that Island. And this is a serious situation. I know everybody is in favor of this – it sounds good to me. Sounds like pie in the sky to me. But I can’t understand you commissioners being willing to gamble – if you are – the future of our bay because a few years ago the building was great and we had oystermen started building. But now building’s got bad; and guess where they are today? They are making good money out on Apalachicola bay because the water is clean. I want to remind you that what you do tonight and what you do with this project will have an effect on what you do on the north side of the bay in a few months. Because they (also) are going to give you a great thing and then you are between Porter’s Bar and Cat Point. Over on the Island you are between East Hole and Hotel Bar. Why in the world do you want to forfeit something that produces and is beneficial to the whole state – to the whole United States as well as Franklin County for something that might be – if so-and-so don’t happen? What is their guarantee going to be fifteen or thirty years from now? I’m going to ask you to turn this project down. What you got to do is look down deep inside and say; I don’t care what everybody says, I’m going to have the courage to do what’s right. I’m asking you to turn this down – and I love every one of you - be good to your neighbors and you will have better neighbors dog-gone you!”
Doctor David Hiel – Florida Dept of Agricultural and Consumer Services
“Thank-you for letting me speak. I do provide information – not a direct recommendation to your planning and zoning Board; to the Oyster and Seafood Task Force and I will be glad to provide information to you.
“Come on; bring it to us.” said Ms. Sanders.
“You bet yah. We don’t get directly involved in planning and zoning issues,” explained Dr. Heil but it makes sense for us to be advisors to you. We don’t want to make decisions. You have a tough decision to make here. We care about Apalachicola Bay water quality for the sustainability and oyster harvesting. You have the most productive bay in the northern hemisphere and you would not want to do things that jeopardize that resource. There are certain things that directly impact shellfish harvesting waters. Sewage treatment is extremely important. If there was to be a surface water discharge proposed by this project – which there is not – we would be closing a lot of shellfish waters. Marinas and docking facilities? – any time we have more than ten boats – we have to close a lot of shellfish waters. What I can tell you is that this project – as proposed – will not automatically close shellfish harvesting waters. Based on everything about this project … it would be okay in my opinion to approve this project. No guarantee that storm water won’t impact the bay; no guarantee that pet waste won’t impact the bay; no guarantee that the sponge is full and these (new) units will cause the bay to close – some day we will be faced with that (full sponge). I can’t tell you when that is going to be. Through all the issues that I’ve heard, I have made the recommendation to the Task Force to approve this project – even though I don’t really recommend approval or denial. But they did ask for my opinion as an advisor to the Task Force and I was glad to give it.”
“You are the one’s that open and close it (the bay)?” asked Mr. Lockley.
“I’m the one that opens and closes it. If for example sh-t shows; we close. And that is our job.”
Ms. Sanders then asked Dr. Heil for an estimation of the cost of reclaiming the area if it were to be devastated. He estimated the oyster beds at approximately 80 thousand dollars per acre and he had no estimate for the cost of any possible damage to the grass beds.
The discussion went on and on and then finally it was time for the Board to make a decision. There was a long, very noticeable silence. Mr. Crofton asked for a motion several times but no motion came forward. Islanders in the audience began to call for Commissioner Crofton to pass the gavel – the unspoken understanding being that Mr. Crofton being from the Island, a resident of the plantation, certainly he would make a motion in favor of this PUD. Mr. Crofton refused to pass the gavel on the grounds that he didn’t think that passing the gavel would be fair to his fellow commissioners.
As the silence grew and grew the audience began to rumble and grumble among themselves. Finally Mr. Putnal spoke up. “I’ll tell you what, I’ll make a motion. I make the motion that because this is a high hazard zone; because it is right on the water and because it has potential to hurt that bay; and I’m an oysterman and I make my livelihood out there. I make a motion that we deny it.” Then Mr. Putnal sputtered into his shirt collar – “and the motion will die because of lack of a second.”
“Are you denying this PUD that we have before us?” asked Mr. Parrish.
“I’m denying the PUD – the whole thing – the proposal we have before us.”
“I second it,” Mr. Parrish said without hesitation.
“Okay we have a second. Is there any discussion?”
“Yeah, I'm going to go along with that motion,” said Mr. Lockley. “When I took my office I told everybody that I wouldn’t do anything to hurt this bay and I just ain’t comfortable with this.”
The decision was then passed unanimously. Initially there was shock then a slow and sporadic applause sputtered over and equal volume of groans and moans to the contrary.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Majority Rule

Democracy and Majority Rule

By Richard E. Noble

Let’s say that there are only three people in the world - me, my one eyed perverted cousin - Screwy-Louie, and Bo Derrick. The three of us keep bumping into one another, and fighting over all sorts of things. So, we decide to establish a Democracy so as to facilitate a peaceful co-existence. The first rule of conduct that we discuss and agree upon, is that we will all agree to abide and conform our individual eccentricities to the legal vote of the majority of the participants in this our new government. I agree. My cousin, Screwy-Louis, agrees. And, Bo agrees. So everything goes fine.
But then after a couple of political gatherings, my cousin Screwy-Louie suggests that he feels that it is an imposition on the body politic that the members, of necessity, be required to wear clothing. He makes a motion that all governmental meetings be conducted in the nude. Bo votes - ‘nea’. Myself and Screwy-Louie vote ‘yea’. Of course, Bo is a Party Pooper and she argues for a bit. But then in the spirit of freedom and democracy, she agrees to attend all future meetings a la - naked as a Jaybird.
This goes great, and proceeds well for a number of meetings. But then, Screwy-Louie gets motion sickness again. He suggests that the condition or requirement of nakedness for official government meetings has caused, or has produced among some of the government members, an ‘anxiety’, or ‘discomfiture’, and he makes the motion that government representative Bo Derrick be assigned chairperson in charge of “lessening tension” and facilitating a relaxation of political anxieties among or between the other members of the ‘parliament’.
After considerable deliberation and much ‘consciousness’ rising, I second the motion. Bo, unfortunately, is the lone dissenting vote. She states her case, and gives her reasons and logic, but after a ‘re-count’ and a roll call, the vote remains the same. Bo then states that she don’t care what government don’t allow, she gonna put her clothes back on any old how.
As Bo attempts to ‘re-dress’ the grievances, the remaining members of parliament, or government discuss the situation, and come to the conclusion that the use of force - a pre-preemptive strike - in this instance of “clear and pressing danger and national security”, is of necessity. They (We) decide that the only way to get ‘action’ in this case of parliamentary impropriety on the part of the minority ‘wimp’ is to call for a red alert – aggressive action.
An attack plan is devised. The plan of action will be categorized under the secret file heading “Operation Bo-Banger Diddily-Bang Bang-Wang-er” or “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”. This will be an all out, no holes barred invasion. Any rights to privacy or any other written or unwritten previous agreed to, parliamentary crap will be temporarily suspended. And there will be no cameras allowed on the floor ... or the walls or the ceilings.
Well, as you can see, if the rule of majority is the sole and utmost principle of fair, honest,democratic government some ‘body’ in this government is going to get ‘miss-represented’; or under-represented, or over-represented ... maybe. However you choose to look at it, unless Bo is well skilled in the martial arts, or kung-fu, ginsu, and tofu, she is about to have her constitutional rights violated, assaulted, and circumspected.
The ability of a majority to “tyrannize” or dominate a minority has been a criticism of Democratic rule, interpreted as “rule by the majority” or government “of the people, by the people and for the people” since the time of Socrates and Plato. In criticism of Communism, it was termed as the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat (working men with children)”. In the U.S. this dominance is often referred to as popularism or demagogery.
In the formation of the American Constitution this concept was debated vigorously and as a consequence we have a Representative Democracy with two Houses - the Senate and the House of Representative. The selection of two Senators from each state, regardless of their population, is a compromise to the ‘minority’ of smaller states and the house with random and differing numbers of representatives accorded by population was designed to satisfy the majority. Also submitted by the 'minority' as an aditional after-thought was something called "The Bill of Rights".

The Right of Franchise

[The following was extracted from: “Political and Civil Rights in the United States” forth edition Volume I – Law School Edition Emerson, Harber and Dorsen.]

“For a society which is fond of regarding itself as the world’s leading practitioner of democracy, our constitution is guilty of and embarrassing lapse - it contains no broad provision designed to safeguard the right to participate in the democratic process. When the Constitution was adopted the concept of universal suffrage was unthinkable. To many of the founding fathers the franchise was a serious matter, to be exercised only by responsible Caucasian male citizens, preferably of property ... Accordingly, in the absence of a provision in the Bill of Rights guaranteeing that “Congress shall make no law abridging the right to vote and to run for office” should come as no surprise.
“As political theory in America evolved towards a greater acceptance of the notion of universal suffrage, the Fifteenth, Nineteenth, and Twenty-Sixth Amendments to the Constitution reflected the shift in values by guaranteeing the right to vote to racial minorities, woman, and 18 to 21 -year-olds, respectively. However despite the current general acceptance of the notion that the right to vote and to run for office is central to the fabric of our political and social system, no explicit constitutional protection of the right of franchise exists.
“Lacking an obvious general doctrinal base, judicial protection of the right to vote initially centered on attempting to enforce the mandate of the Fifteenth Amendment, which provides:
The rights of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude ... Traditionally, the equal access principle has been expressed by the Court in its most obvious doctrinal manifestation - The Equal Protection Clause.
“Prior to 1962, no right to adequate representation existed - Although one would have thought it was subsumed in general democratic political theory. Courts rationalized their refusal to assume responsibility for the proper operation of a representative democracy by labeling the problem a “political question” outside the competency of the judiciary. Thus, in the years immediately following World War II, the Supreme Court repeatedly declined to examine whether the theoretically representative nature of American democracy was a functioning reality or a pious fraud.
“As minorities have learned to their chagrin, the enunciation and implementation of the one person - one vote was not a panacea for failure to afford them adequate representation within the democratic process. Sophisticated techniques, which comply fully with rigorous mathematical equality, continue to plague attempts to insure that the representative nature of our democratic institutions accurately mirror the underlying fabric of American society.”

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Coeur d'Alene

Coeur d’Alene, 1892

By Richard E. Noble

A new machine drill was introduced to the mine workers in the town of Coeur d’Alene, in the Idaho panhandle in 1892. The drill was an advance in technology. One new machine drill could do the work of five individual drill operators. Consequently 80% of the skilled drill operators were reduced, overnight, to “shovelmen”, with the appropriate reduction in pay. To add insult to injury the mine owners Cyrus McCormick of reaper fame, William Crocker, and John Hays Hammond decided to cut overall wages, instead of raising them. After all a new machine that could do the work of five skilled men must have saved the mine owners a good deal of money in wages. In any case, all the workers had their wages cut from fifty cents to one dollar per day. The day’s pay for a skilled worker before the pay cut was $3.50 per day for a ten hour day.
The workers walked off the job.
The mine owners got together and formed the Mine Owners Protective Association. The Mine Owners Protective Association decided to close down every mine in the area until the workers came to their senses. In the mean time, the mine owners hired armed guards and brought in crews of strikebreakers. The original mine workers were not happy with this tactic even though it was supported by a federal court order.
To demonstrate their disapproval of such a tactic some of the once employed workers packed a hundred pounds of company dynamite in a water conduit. The bomb wrecked one of the mine’s abandoned buildings, but no one was hurt or injured. Nevertheless, the scuffles that erupted after the explosion resulted in the death of two men and six others wounded. Owner John Hammond, an avowed union buster, called his friend the governor and told him of the work of this, “gang of Irish, Austrian-Italian Anarchists”.
The governor immediately declared Coeur d’Alene to be under martial law and sent the entire state Militia to the area. The strikers still would not conform and resisted. The governor then called President Benjamin Harrison. The President called the War Dept. and sent General Carlin with about fifteen hundred federal troops.
The General forced the miners to surrender. He confiscated their arms. He erected “bullpens”, barbed wire encampments, and arrested everybody in sight. He arrested hundreds of miners. He arrested city officials who were sympathetic to the striking workers. He even arrested local businessmen and merchants whom he felt were supportive of the rebelling miners. He also brought back all of the strikebreakers and put the mine owners back in operation.
Union leaders and strike organizers were singled out from the bullpens and placed in the Ada county jail in Bosie. One of the men in the Ada county jail was a man by the name of Ed Boyce. He and others being contained in the Ada jail that day, swore to one another that one day they would form an organization large enough and powerful enough to fight back on an equal basis.
In 1893, in Butte Montana, Ed Boyce, Charles Moyer and one eyed “Big Bill” Haywood formed the Western Federation of Miners which would eventually evolve into the infamous I.W.W. (Wobblees) . . . the Industrial Workers of the World. The I.W.W. was the most radical and confrontational of any union organization in American history.

*Works used in this essay include: “Roughneck, The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood, by Peter Carlson; “The Rise of Industrial America” by Page Smith; A History of American Labor”, by Joseph G. Rayback.