Cowpasture v. U. S. Forest Service

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy notes that the Supreme Court of the United States has decided to hear Cowpasture River Reservation Association, et al. v. United States Forest Service, which is an interesting case from the Fourth Circuit. It’s personally interesting to me because the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will pass near my parents’ house along a rather odd route that seems to avoid a number of obvious gaps and instead wants to go straight up and straight down the Allegheny highlands. And because even though I live in New York, I still think of Highland County, Virginia, as home.

But it’s also legally interesting because, as the Fourth Circuit observes, the statutes allow only Congress to grant a pipeline right-of-way on National Park lands.

The problem with the Forest Service’s argument is it misreads both the [Mineral Leasing Act (MLA)] and the National Trails System Act. The MLA specifically excludes lands in the National Park System from the authority of the Secretary of the Interior “or appropriate agency head” to grant pipeline rights of way. See 30 U.S.C. §§ 185(a), 185(b)(1). In other words, the MLA concerns the land, not the agency. The FEIS concluded, and the parties agree, that the ANST is a unit of the National Park System. Accordingly, even if the Forest Service were the “appropriate agency head” in this instance, it could not grant a pipeline right of way across the ANST pursuant to the MLA. Interpreting the MLA as the Forest Service argues would give the Forest Service more authority than NPS on National Park System land. This defies logic. [emphasis in original]

What sort of grounds will SCOTUS find to permit the pipeline to cross National Park lands? In addition to the Appalachian Trail, the proposed route also crosses the adjacent Blue Ridge Parkway.

partial route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

We trust the United States Forest Service to “speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.” Dr. Seuss, The Lorax (1971). A thorough review of the record leads to the necessary conclusion that the Forest Service abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources. This conclusion is particularly informed by the Forest Service’s serious environmental concerns that were suddenly, and mysteriously, assuaged in time to meet a private pipeline company’s deadlines.

Present Opportunities

There’s a sense of responsibility to the warm lump of soft cat in my lap which supersedes all other urges to rise from bed or chair. No contest between this comfort and the obligations of the day, whether work or food or a shrieking kettle. How long will I remain here, trapped by devotion, under covers when there are matters ostensibly more pressing?

Moments only.

The minutes, hours, days are full of moments. She knows this, and in her own way remonstrates when I attempt more than pay her heed. This is why she sits on my book, or rests her paw on my writing hand. Because moments are each their own, and I must choose.

A New Kind of Credit Card?

A while back Apple announced plans to launch the Apple Card. It launched.

A new kind of credit card. Created by Apple, not a bank.

Issued by Goldman Sachs Bank USA, Salt Lake City Branch.

Apple Card completely rethinks everything about the credit card.

It represents all the things Apple stands for. Like simplicity, transparency, and privacy.

And it’s the first card that actually encourages you to pay less interest.

https://www.apple.com/apple-card/

What’s that again? Less interest? Tell me more!

Variable APRs range from 12.99% to 23.99% based on creditworthiness. Rates as of August 2, 2019.

https://www.apple.com/apple-card/#footnote-4

Weird. That sounds exactly like every other credit card I’ve ever had.

The Apple Card app in the Wallet does have some nifty features, such as math and pretty pictures, to help you estimate and plan payments on the card. This is novel. And the card itself is physically satisfying.

But the Apple Card feels like a missed opportunity to make a significantly different credit card. Like many decisions of the Tim Cook era this one is safely pretending to be radical. A truly new kind of credit card would have the following features

  • Low interest, such as one percentage point over the prime rate, for everybody.
  • Provide a ladder out of debt, not just a shovel to make the hole bigger.

I’m sure this card will be profitable.

On Attempting to Determine the Outcome through the Selection of Candidates

Just in from the Well-at-Least-It’s-Not-New-Jersey Dept., New York is redesigning its license plates again. If you are a New York State resident, you have until noon on Monday, September 2nd, to pretend to express your opinion. Or you could send a letter to Governor Cuomo.

https://now.ny.gov/page/s/vote-for-the-next-nys-license-plate-design

You may notice something unusual about the selections above, aside from that they are mostly ugly and look like the work of someone who thinks that just because one can, one should. Or, as a friend-of-a-friend put it, “looks like Cuomo is dividing the Statue of Liberty vote so the bridge he named after his daddy will win.”

Wrong Problem. Wrong Solution.

I intermittently listen to the news while driving, and heard several stories on NPR’s All Things Considered, regarding a raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on poultry processing plants in Mississippi. This caught my ear:

“The industry is totally dependent on finding workers who will not raise issues and who, to a degree, live in fear of the company and they’ll just keep their head down and do the work,” [Debbie] Berkowitz says. “For the last 30 years that’s been immigrant labor.”

Chicken Plants See Little Fallout From Immigration Raids

Next, in A Look At The E-Verify Program And Its Blind Spots, economist Madeline Zavodny suggested the addition of biometric data to E-Verify as a means of increasing its effectiveness.

Adding biometrics to our identification papers won’t fix the working conditions in slaughterhouses–decriminalizing immigration might help–though it might possibly improve the accuracy of E-Verify, if we ignore the significant problems with biometric identification. It seems foolish to trust that the industry would prefer the plausible deniability that E-Verify gives them, and some people in power really like the illusion of control, so I expect we’ll soon leave our spit on the I-9 form.

Yet for some reason the problem under discussion seems to be that jobs are being filled by immigrants rather than that this work is hard, dangerous, and poorly compensated. So instead of asking why immigrants do this work, or being willing to pay more for our food, or buying whole chicken instead of individually wrapped thinly sliced chicken breast tenders, we focus on trying to control who can be hired, then punish the employee instead of the, ostensibly ignorant, employer.

America has had a labor problem since Europeans first looked on this continent as a resource to be exploited. Without people to do the work, how can we exploit it? If no one wants to do the work, for the wages paid, then make them. Seems straightforward, right?

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

Sad morning here today. The youngest wondered if the Bigger Sister’s bunny was hungry and went to feed her, then came back to ask if she was dead.

Yes, Bunny is.

Now the house is full of tears.

Whatever the cause, I can’t help but think it was general neglect and diffuse responsibility, in which I also played a part. Bunny stayed in her hutch in the Bigger Sister’s room, alone, and didn’t come out to play often. She was easily ignored: that’s an excuse.

Confronted after the murder of his brother, Cain asked a rhetorical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?

The answer is yes.


No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

John Donne, “Meditation XVII,” Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1623)

We, all of us, are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of this, our only world, and all creatures on it, particularly those in our immediate care; each supports the other.

No Phones on the Field

I have been using my iPhone as a stopwatch, and sometimes for background music, during soccer practice for a while now. Not anymore. Last Thursday one of my players brought his phone on to the field as well and it rapidly became a distraction. I’ll be switching to the more analog way of keeping time.

Soccer requires intense concentration for at least two 45-minute periods. These kids already have trouble concentrating for more than 10 seconds on anything. Let’s not make it worse.

Skipping the Skip-nows

My children and I have been indulging in Screen-Free Week. We have read books, played games, and talked together. A week earlier they were binge-watching something or other in separate rooms on separate devices.

Screen-Free Week

Some days I regret being in this field–my life is defined by screens–but it has given me what one friend calls an Advanced Lifestyle. It helps to remember that there were reasons I chose a field where I could work from anywhere. Being a parent was one of them.

More important than being screen-free is spending time connecting with other people and in being, in some small way, the master of your fate. Taste life rather than submit to gavage. You are more than a consumer.

Translation

My daughter told me I should get some face lotion for my dry skin. I thought she would ask why I was crying, but the dry salt of my tears hid among the rough flakes of skin. I can feel them yet there, crusted on my swollen face.

This is how a sixteen year-old says I love you: Use lotion, Dad.

Impulses

ACTION REQUIRED, the e-mail demands, NOW. Give money. Sale! One day only! You might like this video. Sign our petition now or terrible things will happen! How was your test? Sign our petition now to stop terrible things from happening! What kind of furry animal are you? Fill out this spreadsheet with data from another database, then copy data from spreadsheet column A to spreadsheet column ZZ. What’s for dinner? ACTION REQUIRED.

But can you act when all of these demands force themselves upon your attention and you’re twitching this way and that attempting to satisfy every competing request?

We’ve been trained to act on our impulses immediately, and to expect instant gratification: Send an instant message to your daughter at school asking about whatever springs to mind or sharing something interesting; pop off an unread e-mail to your Congressperson objecting to the latest idiocy; watch a movie now in the comfort of your car; order pizza delivered.

Whereas earlier we couldn’t, and had to learn patience; now we can, and the discipline of patience is but a fleeting memory. As is our memory: Can you hold a thought in your head longer than it takes to tweet at someone?

Can you respect your time and another’s?

Can you think before you act?

I shop therefore I am

Exit Numbers

I recall being supremely irritated when Pennsylvania changed the exit numbers on I-81 from sequential to numbers based on the mileage. My complaint was that I no longer knew how far I had yet to go before getting out of Pennsylvania: the consecutive numbers were a countdown to my destination: 10, 9, 8, 7 ….

For some reason this was more important to me than the actual mileage.

Serve the Computer

The work some of us have seems to me to exist mainly to serve the computer. That is, we’re not using the computers as tools in our work, but the computers are using us. I know I’m personifying the computer, and it’s really Stu’s — or perhaps Duane’s or IBM’s — fault for writing a program that needs constant human intervention, but my point stands. We are the drones who operate the great looms in the mills of Nottingham. At one time we were the craftsmen who built the looms, but that day has passed. Then we were the mechanics who maintained the looms, but that day too has gone.

The idiocy of this position is more apparent if one talks of the computer as another tool, such as a hammer. Is the carpenter using the hammer, or does the hammer use the carpenter?

This is wrong.

What can be done to return the computer to its place as our tool, and us to its master?