Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pennsylvania Beautiful

Yesterday I was angry about a brouhaha ongoing in the state where I live. A part of that anger had to do with the local impact and the rest the national implications of it. Anyhow I was mad. I need to correct a few things in yesterday's post.

The first is the date; it was actually posted in the early morning of Sept. 16 not Sept 12.

Second, I need to be clear that I do not impute the integrity of Jan Jarrett and Penn Future.

I wrote a letter to the Governor of the state, but was sensible enough to put that aside for a while before sending it, knowing that in my anger the email would sound stupid. I also sent an email to Jan Jarrett president & CEO of Penn Future. The truth of the matter is I don't know an awful lot about the organization. Here's their thumbnail description of themselves:
An organization of citizens committed to a vision of the future that places the conservation of our natural resources at the center of a vibrant economy.
In the USA there are many organizations something like Penn Future. They are not affiliated with political parties and don't endorse candidates but do the hard work of trying to figure out sound public policy and then work to get policy enacted.

Different groups have particular perspectives and often those perspectives don't always match my own. The Sierra Club is a well-known national environmental group with local chapters all over the USA. I agree with the mission of the Sierra Club, but I linked to the Wikipedia article because there's always going to be talk about one stance or another. Organizations can do good without everyone agreeing about everything, and sometime the disagreements are important.

Penn Future works on environmental issues. There are other groups who work on different issues for example improving education. There is a difference between citizen groups and professional groups with citizen groups often taking into account a more diverse views. Sometimes civil society groups can be downright annoying to me, but they play an essential part in public policy here.

The long and short of all this: my email to Jarrett was offensive because I implied impropriety on her part. I re-read what I wrote at this blog yesterday and I don't read what I said here as impugning her integrity. Still, I want to be clear that I never intended to do that, and nobody should take anything I say about her or Penn Future as an attack on them. The work they do is vitally important and I appreciate it.

I won't go into the contents of Jarrett's email replies except to note that she was outraged by the State contract with ITRR, as I was.

The third issue has to do with ITRR (Institute of Terrorism Research and Response). I referred to it online as an Israeli Company. After I posted I went to the newspaper I read at home, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette online and read this story. I suspect there will be further information coming out, but the PG reporters did a good job figuring out about ITRR and my take "Israeli Company" is wrong. First of all ITRR is a not-for-profit corporation. The co-director of ITRR is Michael Perelman who is also principle of Perelman Security Group, which seems to be a for-profit company. The paper writes:
Mr. Perelman was a member of the York police department for 20 years. His business partner is Aaron Richman, a former Israeli police officer.
The business and the non-profit aspects of ITRR raise red flags, but I have no evidence that there is anything illegal involved. While ITRR claims offices in Israel and the US, ITRR is not a "company" but a not-for-profit corporation here in the USA and registered in Pennsylavnia. I have no idea how it is registered in Israel, nor whether the Perelman Group is licensed as a corporation in Israel as well as the USA.

I went to FlickrCC a site to search for pictures at Flickr with Creative Commons Licenses. I was looking for a photo that showed something of what it looks like here in Pennsylvania. Photo Credit: Nicholas T found at Flickr here published with a CC 2.0 License. Nicholas T has hundreds of wonderful photos taken in the state posted.

I love Pennsylvania. There are many very beautiful places on Earth, but I live here and am often bowled over by the beauty of the landscape. There are also many deep scars on the environment visible. Many of the scars are from the legacy of coal mining. In the late 1960's and 1970's efforts began in earnest to reclaim some scarred lands and polluted waterways from coal mining damage.

There are too many interconnected policies to describe important to this effort and there still is much to do. Nonetheless part of the reclamation is tied to present day mining. I may not have it exactly right, but one of the conditions for present coal mining is companies must post a bond for the reclamation of the land before mining can proceed. I've lived mostly in Pennsylvania since 1970 and the reclamation efforts have made a big difference.

The issue of Marcellus Formation gas exploitation involves mitigating permanent destruction of the local environment. In a way what I hope is Pennsylvania can avoid some of the mistakes of the past extraction industries. There a long history of gas wells in Pennsylvania. The deep well drilling presently being done is something new. The regulations for this kind of drilling are not yet on the books. So right now regulation is loose and already the visible costs to the commons are adding up quickly.

It's very hard to get people to agree in politics. Regardless of politics most of us here in Pennsylvania love the land and want clean water.

Passion is a rather unruly emotion. It seems so potent that surely shared passion can bring people together. Alas, it doesn't really seem to work that way. Our feelings are so peculiar and we have to map them onto the various ways we see the world. Sometimes passionate anger overwhelms our capacity for empathy. I think it is empathy more than passion upon which mutually beneficial politics can happen.

But, hey, I'm not the only hot head in the world. I still am angry about the subversion of the political process by state actors in the name of "national security" and the whole can of worms.

There's a paradox: anger can motivate, but empathy is what works. That's something I'll have to keep trying to puzzle out.

For those who can watch videos there's a cool RSA Animate video of Jeremy Rifkin speaking about empathy. RSA Animate's YouTube channel is here. RSA is of course the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. I'm thinking the mere mention may make the 27th Comrade slightly ill, but shouting out to him as I think picking anyone of the animated lectures and waiting for it to download may be worthwhile. The David Harvey Crisis of Capitalism RSA Animate got attention and efforts to answer Harvey's Marxist critique. The animation of these talks is very clever.


John Powers said...

ITRR seems really strange to me, I don't know what to make of it. Here's further probing by journalists.

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