Archive for April, 2013

# 142 “Underfoot”

Monday, April 8th, 2013

By Hetty Gray


April 8, 2013


I apologize for the long hiatus with the between column postings. It only took a millisecond to me to come to grips with the sobering statistic that heart disease is not solely a male problem. My problem is small in the wider scope of things and requires no immediate action. Monitoring will suffice until a decision is made to correct a faulty valve. Had it not been for a bout with pneumonia and the sharp intuition of a Michigan family physician, my problem would have gone undiagnosed. Thank goodness for his talent.

Scanning the web recently, I came across a map of the USA showing the counties from coast to coast that, over the past decade, have shown a marked increase in death rates over birth rates.

Speaking from personal experience, one section of the country encompassing two counties, young people continue to leave home to seek opportunities elsewhere — giving up everything and everyone they know in order to earn a living. As a result, communities and entire counties begin to mimic their mortality rates: they die.

We spend half the year in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, parts of which are identified as “Renaissance Zones”, so designated because of the demise of a number of industries. One large former employer is mining. You cannot imagine the excitement in the Western UP of Michigan as a result of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signing a bill to authorize mining in the northern part of bordering Wisconsin.

Michigan’s adjoining Ontonagon and Gogebic counties are far different now than they were twenty years ago when we first came to the area. Copper Mining was king and a local mine employed between 1500 and 2000 people in three shifts. When the mine closed several years ago, countless families were set adrift financially.

I remember standing in a restaurant parking lot one evening in White Pine, Michigan. Men and women stood about embracing and saying their “good-byes” as a high number of miners pulled up roots and moved to Colorado for a viable job. The mine that closed was the largest in the nation, and the area itself has been known for copper for centuries.

Just two years ago, the last paper facility on the Great Lakes closed in Ontonagon, Michigan — the county in which we have our cabin. A small town lost 300 jobs. Local stores closed. A large chain store pulled out, leaving the remaining residents with a 75-mile-plus drive one way to a comparable retailer. Thankfully, some local concerns survived. The bank is holding on, as are a few restaurants and shops. The one blessing is a large IGA grocery that anchors the community.

You need to understand that this plant did not process pulp into paper. It manufactured shipping boxes — those familiar brown cardboard boxes we see unloaded from trucks and planes or find in our mailboxes or on our porches.

Located along beautiful Lake Superior, Ontonagon is a lovely town, and to see it suffer so badly, grieves all who know it well. Why did it close? Word has it that environmentalists pushed to see that no paper plant survived. The fact that the plant made cardboard boxes and did not process paper at all, but simply turned it into a marketable product, didn’t matter to the “greenies” pushing for its closure. Bottom line? Those jobs are no more. There has been talk of reviving the facility in some form, but the bleak choice may be that the buildings will be scrapped. How sad.

Logging still comprises a sector of the economy in the Northwoods, but not to the extent that it did when millions of board feet shipped on the Great Lakes and fueled widespread construction in many states during the earl 19th and 20th centuries. That resource towered overhead. It still does.

Yet another source goes ignored by those who ally with so-called “progressive” politicians hell bent on seeing us relegated to small cars and smaller lives. We are walking on it.

Many of the younger men in this area commute for hundreds of miles west to North Dakota to drive trucks in the fracking fields. They bunk together in rented homes or maintain long-term arrangements with motels and rooming houses. They commute every few weeks, sacrificing greatly to support their families. They didn’t sit home drawing unemployment. They recognized opportunity and sought it out.

I heard a statistic the other day that shocked me. I knew domestic energy held a lot of advantage over imported sources, but I didn’t realize that it was so large. We accrue 10% benefit of every dollar on imported sources, but 80-90% on domestic ones. Why, then, do we allow our leaders to limit us to imported fossil fuels? We have enough natural gas to power our trucks and cars without enriching countries that love our money but would like nothing more than to see us die as a nation.

Today America not only hosts “The Big Five oil companies” (BP, Chevron, Conoco Philips, ExxonMobil, and Shell), but also contributes mightily to their success.

Once, scores of small and large American oil companies dotted our landscape. Many of the smaller ones are gone, swallowed up in mergers and buy-outs, yet some survive. Chevron remains an American company, headquartered in San Ramon, California. Sunoco hails from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Exxon-Mobil — a direct descendant of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil) began in 1999 as a merger of Exxon and Mobil Oil companies — claims Texas as its home. Conoco Phillips maintains a Houston headquarters,

Yet, foreign nations reap tremendous profits from us. Replacing the once-healthy American companies is BP (British Petroleum). Add Citgo (Venezuela) — now there is a friend, folks — and we simply add to foreign coffers every time we visit a gas station and fill up our vehicles. Considering the hostility in the Middle East, this is not a good idea! This is not to say that we should penalize American ownership of those franchises, but the specter of enriching foreign companies should merit some thought.

And what of our domestic resources? Well, drilling bans hamper oil fields from Alaska to both coasts and the Gulf of Mexico. A postage stamp size piece of Alaskan real estate (ANWR) holds great promise. According to ANWR’s website, geologists agree that the Coastal Plain has the nation’s best geologic prospects for major new onshore oil discoveries. And its geographical footprint? ANWR constitutes 0.0506% of Alaska’s land mass. That’s less than half of one percent. Yet, the naysayers scream “NO!”

Animals thrive beneath the above ground pipeline traversing Alaska, much to the embarrassment of the “animals rights” people who told us that entire species would disappear if the pipeline were built. So much for that idea!

The Department of Interior’s 1987 resource evaluation of ANWR’s Coastal Plain states there is a 95% chance that a ‘super field’ with 500 million barrels would be discovered. DOW also estimates that there exists a mean of 3.5 billion barrels, and a 5% chance that a large Prudhoe Bay type discovery would be made. This is nothing to sneeze at, yet the persistent “environmentalists” continue the bantering. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to go back to my bicycle.

In an article by Kevin Doran and Adam Reed, the United States has won the lottery on natural gas. The most recent estimates (2012) by the Energy Information Administration, the U.S. has some 2,214 trillion cubic feet cubic feet of technically recoverable natural gas — enough to satisfy all of our natural gas demands for the next century at current consumption levels. The extraction of shale gas, enabled by technological advances such as hydrofracturing (this is what we know as “fracking”) and horizontal drilling, has led the way in creating this largely unforeseen cornucopia. Domestic natural gas is now a cheaper fuel for electricity generation than coal — long our go-to fuel for power around the clock — and emits roughly half the greenhouse gas emissions.

Of course, stumbling blocks will occur, but isn’t it better to use what we have than buy from a volatile Middle East that turns its back on terrorists who threaten to destroy us?

When threatened with progress and huge amounts of fossil fuels available here at home, the opposition turns from common sense to the courts. It is probable, given the liberal slant of many judges, fracking opponents will make some headway — but at the expense of the public.

Had our judiciary held such views at our founding, the population would be relegated to land east of the Appalachians. No railroad would have breached those mountains and eventually connected the east and west coasts. No highways would curve through the nation. Some species would have been threatened. It is all so inane.

Every time you hear the environmental groups predicting horrific outcomes if the nation undertakes a step to improve the lives of the public at large, remember the motive underlying their incessant push.

I believe, as do many others, that these groups view people as the enemy. They hold that animals have more rights than people. People should exist as best they can without the aid of fossil fuels. Perhaps those who press such a cause should consider how they would survive. If animals come first, then what happens to the food chain? Frankly, I can’t see them hunting or fishing for protein or farming — but their assault on farming is an entirely separate issue. Our future lurks, not simply in the soil, but beneath. Think about it.

#141 “Reflections”

Monday, April 8th, 2013

By Hetty Gray

# 141


February 20, 2013

Winter has a rhythm all its own. Days seem to drag or fly, depending on your activity level; yet, even in degrees, mood seems to run our lives.

Many in the Midwest flee to the southern states to spend the winter, seeking solace on the beaches, across the golf courses, or rocking gently on inland lakes. Still more strive to hone sailing skills or to catch that really big fish.

Thankfully, not everyone ends up in the same location. If they were, congestion would be the least of their problems.

For us, and others of same mind, winter landscapes beckon. Snow covered trails host snowmobilers of all ages and cross-country ski venues tug at the heartstrings of those who grew up with Nordic heritage. Another popular vacation treat is a ride on a sleek dogsled.

Whether you dip your toes in the sand or slip them into sturdy, cold-resistant boots, a winter break from the daily grind may be just what the proverbial doctor ordered.

Recently, welcome snows fell on the northern Michigan landscape and not any too soon for beleaguered resort or restaurant owners. For the people who rely on about 10-12 weeks activity for the bulk of their annual receipts, a low snowfall can spend doom or bankruptcy.

For all the talk about climate change, one must look at the larger picture. Had there NOT been a warming period, the Great Lakes would not exist and the mountains of Michigan’s scenic Upper Peninsula would soar higher than the West’s Rockies! Since we have, in those great bodies of water, 20% of the world’s fresh water supply, a warming period can be a good thing.

Man has only at his command his intelligence and ingenuity. Mother Nature has far more in her war chest. Consider for a moment that one major volcanic eruption could change the world climate in a heartbeat and you may come to doubt the movement launched upon us by some in leadership.

Recall, please, that those pushing the global warming dangers are the same group pushing global cooling in the 1970s. Other than being a great moneymaker for a few at the top, the movement has produced more than a few dissenters. Sadly, for them, the media focus on the pro-warming crowd crushes the thousands of scientists that challenge the alleged danger.

I don’t know about you, but my teachers gave me a bit of wisdom that holds pretty steady in an uncertain world. It harkens back to Shakespeare and a well-known quote, “Me thinks she doth protest too much.” When you have a weak point, you do not welcome opposing views.

The jet stream affects North American weather in all seasons, and it is interesting that it has swung south this season bringing surprising snows to places such as El Paso, Texas. I doubt if the global warmers can blame man for that. Oh, for a moment I forgot. They blame man for everything. I wonder if that mindset bothers them when they use all the modern conveniences resulting from man’s innovation. I doubt it.

The very people criticizing the use of fossil fuels fly around in private jets with consumption that outstrips an entire contingent of private vehicles. Oh, another lapse… The rules only hold for us, not them.

As you bask in the climate of choice this winter, take a moment to reflect. Every change in climate is a form of weather. Weather changes from season to season and is cyclical. Winter fades into spring. For some of you, that wait can’t be short enough.

It would be nice to reflect back on times when common sense ruled. Perhaps — when the sputtering flame of global warming has extinguished its spark and the populace has wearied of funding inane enterprises in the name of saving the planet — someone will begin to see our world for what it is: an amazing landscapes and virtual miracles of creation that offer man opportunities only limited by his imagination. Until then, those of us who yearn for more cogent thought processes at the top of the leadership chain must suffer through the interim.

# 240 “Sad and Glad”

Monday, April 8th, 2013

By Hetty Gray

# 140

“Sad and Glad”

February 5, 2013

For all the hype issued forth before the event, the exorbitant cost of Super Bowl Commercials hawking all kinds of consumer goods was eclipsed by a tasteful memoir featuring Paul Harvey and the forgotten 2% of the populace: the American farmers. Congratulations to Chrysler for their excellent commentary on behalf of their product as a tribute to the men and women who feed us — not to mention a good part of the world.

The Budweiser Clydesdales always hit the target. The episode with the foal growing up and spotting his owner alongside a parade route and then running down the street to find him was one of the best! The other memorable beer ad featured everyone wearing black in a restaurant or bar serving adult beverages, but the cast of characters was behaving nicely. That’s more than I can say for some of the others in the obscenely priced ads.

Aside from that piece, two were also not over the top. Hyundai, Volkswagen, and “Got Milk” were not only funny, but also to the point. On the other side of the equation, it serves as justice if the sponsors of the following commercials lose more customers than they could hope to gain.

For those of us Butler fans, it was a thrill to spot a “24” on a Butler jersey among other photos highlighting the number 24.

Audi should be ashamed of itself. Focused was a teenage boy with no respect for authority (using the principal’s parking space and smiling about it), acting like a boor on the dance floor by grabbing a teenage girl, and then — sporting a black eye from her date — happily speeding away in his parents’ car. My, my, isn’t that special? (Shades of The Church Lady!) If that weren’t enough, enter a high profile woman race driver and the bottom f the barrel when it comes to an ad.

Perhaps doesn’t know how many small children watch the Super Bowl game and its attendant advertising. The whole scenario was erotic and unnecessary — filmed to shock more than to inform. If this is their business plan, it is a poorly devised one. Then we have Hardee’s, a firm with excellent food. What possessed them to follow in the footsteps of Carl’s Jr. of California? Oh, sorry about that, Sara Underwood did both commercials. These ads were not only disrespectful but illustrate how shallow public relations people have become.

The last time I saw someone like Sara Underwood on the beach, the fare was more like a cool tall one and a salad. Downing food like that does not lead to a figure like hers, folks. Take a look at the customers in a burger joint next time you go. See a lot of girls with figures like Sara Underwood? Hardly.

And then there’s Oreo. Egad! As if it weren’t enough to lose Twinkies to a union disagreement. Now, Oreos — a tradition in many homes over generations — stoops to a commercial in which adults turn over tables like spoiled brats and destroy a library. Oh, I forgot. These computer geeks who devise these commercials don’t need libraries. They just upload books to their devices.

Well, I hope they are left TO their devices.

Don’t these people realize that they influence small children? Maybe they do. Maybe they are cultivating future customers. How sad. Yet the game left me glad, too.

As to specifics, nobody will know if the outcome would have been different minus the 30-minute-plus power failure interruption. Yet, it is what it is. I had no dog in the hunt, as they say. The smile after the game was reserved for the Tuohy family and Michael Oher who hail from Old Miss and were the featured family in Sandra Bullock’s heartwarming film “The Blind Side.”

Who says that dreams don’t come true? Oh, I know that huge amounts of money go toward the Super Bowl every year, but competition also fuels the coffers of the host city and instills a sense of pride in fans. I spite of that, it remains an American tradition that commands a huge audience and equal enthusiasm for the sport of football. Not for the faint of heart, it meshes critical decision-making and athletic ability. Would that our politicians at least use the former. Think about it.