This is a series about the parallels of misinformation both locally and nationally that led me to write Systems out of Balance.
There are three sections to Systems out Balance, one each for economics, politics and culture. I finished writing the first draft of economic essays by the summer of 2006. The book is coming out soon, but the delay from first draft of the economic essays until now provided more confirmation that I was qualified to write it. “Essay 3 – The Supply of Capital” warned that continuing to generate capital without productivity would lead to inflation and destabilization. “Essay 7 – An Economic Report Card” gave failing grades for our economic system’s diversity, adaptability and stability. I may not be the best guy to ask about Ricardian Equivalences, but obviously my systems approach was onto something.
In 2006 I started writing the political essays. Since I’m a logical, sequential kind of guy I started with what would become “Essay 9 – Authoritarianism or Greed.” Included in that essay was a case study on the political process for approving the Yale Farm Golf Course in Norfolk. Unlike some of the opponents of the Yale Farm Golf Course I came away impressed with the commissions that served my town as volunteers.
First of all, they have a brutal job. I’m researching and writing about politicians that make lucrative careers out of being a politician and these public servants get rewarded mainly with headaches. I’m researching and writing about politicians being wined and dined by lobbyists and these public servants are moderating contentious three hour public hearings. I’m researching and writing about paternal authorities attempting to limit the diversity of opinion and these commissions did their best to let every voice be heard.
I don’t doubt that every voice had an impact, unlike our national “democracy.” Opponents of the Yale Farm Golf Course do not like the fact that they approved the application, but it was clear that they approved it with deserved suspicions. You do not attach over 100 conditions to an application you trust. The doubts must have occurred because through a democratic process where every voice was heard the Inland/Wetlands commission suspected they were being misinformed to some degree. I’m a little more dissatisfied with our P&Z commission publicly claiming the applicants to be honest, but they struck an even greater blow to the application by the one condition that the parcels be consolidated to insure a future special permitting process for houses. Indeed, the applicants first moved to appeal this one condition. Once again, this condition does not happen if only “one voice” is heard.
If Democrats had put up more opposition to the Iraq invasion, perhaps some much needed conditions would have been imposed there. One truly nauseating episode in the whole Iraq mess was when Democrats raised the post hoc alarm that the administration had not provided accurate information. Listen folks, there was no information that came out after the war that a little due diligence could not uncover before the war. That is what an opposition party is supposed to do, use due diligence to dig up this kind of stuff, especially for issues that sacrifice middle class sons and daughters. Otherwise, of what improvement is a two-party system over a one-party system?
There is a second line of homeostatic defense when the opposition party in a two-party system becomes ineffective. The ruling party starts to grow in size until they start to fragment from within. But the Bush II administration was having none of that. Whether your conservative Republican pedigree was along the lines of Scott Ritter, Paul O’Neill or Richard Clarke, if you had contrary things to say about the administration’s policies you were marginalized and made the villain, with corporate media serving as accomplice. When the first two lines of homeostatic defense break down in a two-party system the last resort is the abhorrence of citizens for corruption. Grant too much power, too much unaccountability, and a party will surely reek with corruption. In 2006 a complete reversal of 2004 occurred, bringing the hammer down on “The Hammer” and ushering Republicans out of Congress. I did not bother to tune in Rush Limbaugh this time to hear what he had to whine about.
My fear is that even this last line of homeostatic defense for political balance, a reaction against corruption, could fail if a misinformation network becomes too well established. This was the concern that prompted my writing of the political essays into the summer of 2007, and the cultural essays from then on. Against this depressing backdrop what was going on locally actually was encouraging.
The hydrologists were the main voices being heard, with a significant guest appearance from the bog turtle. The potential presence of bog turtle habitat was an ironic twist. The only spatial adjustments the applicants originally made to their golf course layout was to accommodate vernal pools. In other words, they showed significant more concern for ecological habitat than for the public health and safety concerns of adequate water flow and quality. Yet accommodating vernal pools required tweaking the layout just a small amount. There were no vernal pools over by the original holes 11 and 12. Even if there were vernal pools in the southwest corner the applicants might still have failed to identify them, with eyes focused only on the scenic panorama of Canaan Valley. The bog turtle would have a much greater impact on the layout than the vernal pools and federal agencies were now of the mind of demanding due diligence from the applicants.
I assisted one of the hydrologists, Paul Barton, with some modeling and mapping. My only other contribution during this period was to come up with one more prudent and feasible alternative layout for the course. The applicants had presented a new design for their course in which the holes were shifted from the southwest corner to the northwest corner. Do you remember the northwest corner from the last entry? That is the area where the applicants stated to the North Canaan Inland/Wetlands commission that a golf course would have “severe environmental impacts.” Why would such “environmentally sensitive” folks relocate holes to where they claimed there would be “severe environmental impacts?”
Recall my testimony to North Canaan that the best alternatives would have to include Norfolk. But including Norfolk in alterations means that the applicants would have to go back to those commissions again, and those commissions were never provided some of the most damaging information on the first go around. If North Canaan Inland/Wetland had grew hostile during the second time around, how would Norfolk Inland/Wetland react? Of course there may be the possibility, just may be, that the applicants were misinforming the commission previously with their environmental assessment of the northwest corner.
My new prudent and feasible alternative layout differed from my first one by including the northwest corner, but it still provided alterations in Norfolk because there really was no way around providing a more “environmentally sensitive” layout without making adjustments in that town as well. My layout once again bested their layout with every environmental category the applicants cited, and a few they did not. I now was looking forward to a public hearing being reopened again in North Canaan. I practically salivated over the chance to casually point out that the applicants had now placed holes where they said to the Inland/Wetlands commission there would be “severe environmental impacts.” Alas, that chance never came.