You Lie, Governor!

ARKANSAS

BY
Richard Mason

You Lie, Governor!
That’s right Governor, when you say that you are committed to protect the Buffalo, the Nation’s first National River and an Arkansas treasure, you are lying! You say, you are depending on scientific studies to protect the river, when the scientific community has already spoken, and the vast majority are confident that the River will be polluted if the hog farm continues to operate. How much more scientific evidence do you need? So quit posturing! Show me one lying geologist who thinks the hog farm is no threat to the Buffalo, and I’ll show you a hundred who say it’s an almost certainty the hog farm will sooner or later pollute our National River. Governor, you are being “Politically Correct.” I know you are thinking what does politics have to do with the Buffalo? Okay, let’s look at the facts, and see if our National River is in danger of being harmed by our being “politically correct.”
But, first, are we just crying wolf about the Buffalo being endangered? Crying wolf means there is no wolf, and on the Buffalo that means the river is pristine and not being impacted or endangered by present or endangered by future actions. The answer is obvious. We are not crying wolf. The river may be already impacted by the Factory Hog farm as they dump hog manure in 11 fields in the Buffalo River’s watershed. This year the river has miles of out-of-control algae so thick that it covers a large part of the river. That is a nitrogen algae bloom that can be directly tied runoff coming from the river’s watershed. There are many possible sources, but I’m convinced the Factory Hog farm, which is producing an amount of waste each year equal to a town of 20,000, probably the main culprit. With that amount of untreated waste being dumped on land in the watershed to let Mother Nature dispose of it, where is it going to go? Rains will certainly wash a lot of it into streams nearby, and what body of water do these streams flow into? You guessed it: the Buffalo National River! But that’s not the biggest threat to the Buffalo. The Commission of the A. D. E. Q. allowed the factory hog farm to be sited on the worst possible geologic formation in the state, the Boone Limestone. The water that doesn’t run off percolates into the Swiss Cheese Limestone, and that water ultimately ends up in the Buffalo. As a geologist with an advanced degree, who has worked on the ground in the watershed area, and has written a Master’s thesis on the geology of the area, I believe it is a virtual certainty that with this huge amount of hog mature that over the years will be dumped on the Buffalo watershed, the river will be lost forever if the permit isn’t revoked. That Governor, is scientific evidence that any competent geologist will confirm. Check with Dr. Walter Manger, Chairman Emeritus of the Geoscience Department of the University if you don’t believe me.
For just a moment, try to think about the amount of hog manure that will be dumped on the 11 fields—-over the next 10 years—it’s equal to the waste of a city of 200,000 people! Governor, if you are honest in your analysis, you will know the Buffalo we now know today will be gone forever in less than 10 years. How are you going to feel when the National Park Service prohibits swimming in the River and then fishing, and finally closes the River for all recreational use?
Yes, Governor, you have appointed a new commission, and supposedly this commission is supposed to protect the Buffalo River. However, there is nothing in the commission’s charge of action that will give it the power to suspend the current factory farm permit that allows the operator to have as many as 6500 pigs on site. The commission is not a regulatory body, and it cannot regulate what goes in the river.
If the current factory farm isn’t shut down, it is an almost certainty that the River will be polluted to the extent that it will become toxic. But what really bothers me is that being politically correct is going to be the reason the River will one day be closed to swimming and fishing. Governor, you are a Republican, but the River’s health should be non-partisan, and I would think an order to suspend the permit because of the great threat of pollution would be praised by Republicans and Democrats alike.
Governor, this is not the time to be politically correct, and when the pollutions seep into the Swiss Cheese Boone Limestone, and begin to enter the river it will be too late. The seepage will probably continue for years to come even if the hog farm is shut down, and you, by being politically correct, will be blamed. Yes, Governor, if the Buffalo is polluted, it will be your fault, because you could have protected the River.
If we’re to save the river the factory hog farm must be closed and sited on a more suitable terrain. Only then will the river be saved.

A Token Woman

ARKANSAS
BY
RICHARD MASON

A Token Woman

Well, huh; what is a token woman? Of course, we all know, but we conveniently just ignore the situation when we see boards and commissions as either male only or with a ‘token’ woman. Yes, almost all of our boards, commissions, etc are made up of old, white men who either reappoint each other or wait until the old, white governor or old, white mayor appoints another old, white man to fill a vacancy. Yes, and when, low and behold, a token woman is appointed to a board of 15 old, white men, where they can brag, “We have the woman on our boards.” Yes, I know you might say a token woman is better than not having a woman at all, but that doesn’t make it right. “That’s just the way our political system works” you might say, and you’d be as dead wrong as ‘colored rest rooms’. Or you might say, “We can’t find any qualified women to serve.” Really? If I were a woman, and some old, white man told me “We couldn’t find any qualified women.” I’d slap his face halfway to Louisiana. With at least a million women to pick from why can’t our old, white governor find one to put on the all old, white man Highway Commission or Game or Fish Commission or…etc…or etc.
I’ve served on a number of commissions and boards, and from first-hand experience I can assure you an equal number of women on those boards would have improved their function immensely. Actually, there have been several nationwide studies that confirm a commission with a equal representation of women is more effective than a male only board, and while we’re at it please explain why a woman can’t be paid a salary equal to a man’s for doing the same job? Yes, it is discrimination just as much as ‘colored rest rooms’, but obviously we don’t have the guts to stand up and yell “discrimination!” it to our elected representatives.
Of course, we believe the good old USA leads the world in virtually everything, but we’re sorely lacking in gender equality. Western European Nations are head and shoulder ahead of us, and several countries have passed laws mandating equal pay and representation for women. I know you think it would choke a mule to see our government pass a law mandating equal representation on all public corporations, boards, and commissions. Well, we have laws against discrimination in housing, hiring, and a list of other areas of discrimination as long as your arm, so why not make it a law, and have equal representation? Maybe, if our state legislature could quit trying to pick a state book, duck, or dinosaur, they would have time to address discrimination that affects over 50% of the state’s population.
Okay, so the USA is behind Western Europe in gender equality, but how does our state rank nationwide? How about 43rd? A behind the times country, and we live in a state that is bringing up the rear. Yes, it is a shame when you look at local commissions and boards with just a token woman, and then it’s even more shocking when our old, white Governor continues to foster all male boards. Yes, that’s the problem, it’s the old, white men who control virtually all the boards, commissions, and an old, white-haired governor. (Yes, I know I’ve overused ‘old, white men’ but those rascals are the root cause of gender discrimination.)
If we want a well-run representative democracy, it’s up to us. We must post the membership of every local and statewide board and commission, and when vacancies come up, nominate and insist women be appointed. It was a hundred years ago when women received the right to vote and their right to vote was bitterly fought by the same type of old, white men who are opposing gender equality. Only today, it’s more backroom work of old, white men, and only when a list of new appointees are announced or printed in the paper do we realize women have been screwed again, when we see the next Highway Commissioner is a man.
If women were given equal representation and equal pay, our country would have a more representative government. It would increase productivity and efficiency creating thousands of new jobs and improve our quality of life immensely.

The Uglist Street in Town

Every town has an uglist street, but that street can be imporved.

Richard, the Paperboy

ARKANSAS
BY
RICHARD MASON
The Ugliest Street in Town
Well, just go to your local McDonalds, and you’ll usually be there. No, it’s not McDonalds that makes the street ugly, it’s what’s there along the street and what is not there. Yeah, I know that doesn’t make much sense, but stay with me, and I’ll tell you why it’s ugly and why it makes big difference to a town.
Since I mentioned McDonalds; let’s start there. We were in a distant state, and decided to stop at McDonalds for our morning cup of coffee. We were downtown, but the main gateway street into town was just a few blocks away, and in a few minutes we were there and sure enough there was good old McDonalds, the familiar sign, and the Golden Arches. However, instead of a giant sign on a massive pole, there was—believe it or not—a three-foot-tall sign!…

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Let’s Stop the Tree Choppers!

ARKANSAS
BY
Richard Mason
Let’s Stop the Tree Choppers
No, I’m not talking about the misguided folks who chop off their crepe myrtle trees; I’m after the big boys who ravage our street trees. These are the big time tree choppers. They’re the folks we pay (via our electric bill) to come into our towns and cities and mutilate our trees. Yes, I know Entergy will tell you, “We only cut the limbs that could break and fall on power lines during an ice storm.” Oh, my gosh, that sounds as if Entergy is out there working to be sure we don’t lose power. But, we keep losing power almost every time it even rains. What’s up? Are we domed to have power outages every time it clouds up? Yes, we are, if we don’t change the way we distribute power. Since we are the ones who end up paying for all the tree mutilation that Entergy lavishes on us, maybe it’s up to us to tell them to quit doing a never ending job of trimming, and try something that actually works, and by doing it, preserve our urban tree canopy. It’s called “underground utilities.”
Yes, we all know our state doesn’t lead the nation in something like requiring underground electrical service in new subdivisions, or do we have a plan to systemically require a certain amount of our power grid to be placed underground each year. I don’t know our ranking, but I’ll be willing to bet we come out near the bottom.
Entergy says it would be too expensive. Of course, they frequently forget or minimize the tremendous cost incurred each year by having to go back over roadway after roadway to cut what they cut only a few years ago. Yes, and they don’t give any value to our misery when we put up with those cold nights where we shiver because the power is out. Tree trimming always makes the next trimming job more expensive because the trimmed tree branches grow back more dense, and of course, as we see two lane roads around the state widened, just think of the dollars wasted in having to move the power lines.
If we look back over the past 50 years and consider the hundreds of power outages that resulted from trees or tree limbs falling on power lines, and then total up all the lost economic work time plus giving the huge inconvenience of miserable customers some value, we would see the value in putting utilities underground. If we had just put a portion of the money spent to trim trees into underground utilities, then today, we could see big areas of our state where tree trimming wasn’t needed, and over the years those areas would save us millions of dollars in tree trimming expense.
El Dorado, in the core of its Downtown, has underground utilities. The entire city can lose power and most of the time, unless there is an outlying power line outage that serves a station linking up Downtown, our Downtown has power. Yes, it did cost when we put in underground utilities, but considering the saving over the almost 40 years since they were placed underground, it is a certainty not only did we save hundreds of thousands of dollars in tree-trimming, but millions of dollars in retail and banking wasn’t lost. It has been a money saving solution that should be used across Arkansas.
But it’s more than saving money. Almost every Arkansas town has an entryway street where multiple retail stores and restaurants are located, and virtually all of these towns have overhead utilities lining the street. It’s usually the ugliest street in town. Underground utilities and street trees would turn an eyesore into a pleasant gateway into your community.
So when you see your legislator or power company official urge them to at the very least come up with a plan to eventually put all electrical lines underground. It’s happening in all the first world countries and in the most progressive states in our Nation there are mandates to put electrical lines underground. Instead of being content to bring up the rear again, we should look to the future and have a systemic plan to gradually add underground utilities. Must we always be last?

It’s Time to Make a Little Easy Money

ARKANSAS
By

Richard Mason

It’s Time to Make a Little Easy Money

What if you could add thousands of dollars in value to your property, reduce your summer cooling cost by 20% and, if you own a retail store, increase your sales by 25%, all by just spending a few dollars?

Of course, there’s not a one of us that wouldn’t jump at the chance to do that. After all, there’s something built in us as Americans that makes us want to make money, save money, and make our property more valuable.

Well, the answer is so simple you won’t believe it; plant trees. Yep, that’s it, and there are dozens of studies to prove that the simple act of planting a tree will do exactly that. Consider the following studies:

(1) First and most obvious, a big shade tree next to your house will cut your electrical bills during the summer by at least 20%. Satellite infrared shots of blank downtowns are noticeably hotter than an area with abundant trees, and the difference in cooling shade trees in a downtown brings in more customers to a tree lined street than to a street with a hot sidewalk.

(2) A beautiful residential lot with shade trees surrounding a house will add thousands of dollars to the appraisal. In some Dallas subdivisions it is common-place to see home owners bring in large trees costing $15,000 to $20,000 after they finish building their house. They know that not only are these trees visually pleasing to the eye, but they are adding value to their property.

(3) A recent government survey concluded that potential customers were more likely to shop in stores that had trees or other landscaping around them than stores that didn’t. In fact, the study also concluded that customers believed the goods offered in these stores were of better quality and they were willing to pay more for them. Sales in the stores with trees and landscaping were sometimes more that 25% higher that stores with no landscaping around them. Just think of the blank parking lots around our state, and consider that if the property owner would just spend a few dollars on planting trees, the surrounding stores would see a strong increase in retail sales.

(4) A yard of beautiful shade trees will not only cut your utility bills, but will add thousands of dollars to the appraised value of your property. The IRS agrees with trees having a real property value, and if lighting or a high wind destroys a significant tree in your yard you can take a casualty loss on your income tax.

(5) If you are going to plant a street tree or a tree in your yard, I have two recommendations: the autumn red maple and the crepe myrtle tree. This variety of maple has been developed for the south, and of course the crepe myrtle is a great all round tree, but please don’t chop off the top of your crepe myrtle each spring. A crepe myrtle is a tree not a bush.

It seems we find it hard to lose the “slash and burn” attitude of our grandfathers who cleared hundreds of millions of acres of virgin forest in our country, and the idea that trees add value is sometimes hard to understand. However, citywide tree planting is becoming an important part of many downtowns. I was just in Houston, and in preparation for the Super Bowl, Houston planted thousands of trees. Several years back the City of Chicago started a tree planting program to plant a million trees within the city limits. They have exceeded the initial million goal, and today, if you want a tree in your front yard, call the city and they will come plant a tree for you at no charge.

It’s easy to sum up the numerous advantages trees offer home owners or business owners. For the dollars spent, trees will add more value to your property than anything you can do. So this year while the planting season is still with us, head to your local nursery and buy a tree. It will pay dividends for years to come. Of course, here in Arkansas, most of us can easily find small trees that landowners will gladly give away; so plant a tree and make a little money!!

The Coming Apocalypsel Climate Change

ARKANSAS
BY
Richard Mason

The Coming Apocalypse—Climate Change
Hurricanes with 200 MPH winds so large they cover half the Gulf of Mexico, 10 to 15 foot rise in sea level makes hundreds of coastal cities un-inhabitable, millions of acres of farm lands lost to cultivation, several billion of the earth’s people starving, heat waves that render millions of acres of crop land a desert, and sectional wars to secure food supplies.
Yes, that’s what is facing the world today, and scientists tell us that another three degrees of warming will set off an irreversible tipping point where there will be no recovery. Is this really our future? Has Climate Change, caused by human activity, become a fact instead of a theory, and we are domed if we don’t reverse the problem?
Over the past five years the numbers of scientists who have said “Climate Change is real,” has skyrocketed to where the actual numbers of documented scientists who have signed on as believers are almost 100%. As numbers reach these heights “theory” becomes fact, and if we look at the past, we can see “Flat Earth, Evolution, and now Climate Change,” have all become fact instead of theory. Of course, it’s easy to see why Climate Change is real. The Earth’s temperature is setting records each year, and this last year’s average temperature is the hottest year on record. And as the ice melts in the Arctic and Antarctic and five hundred years floods become common, many scientists believe we will soon reach the desperation stage of a crisis.
Just looks at last year’s weather; the Texas coastal area around Houston received unbelievable amounts of rain this past year, and in north Louisiana a 23 inches of rain was dumped on the area during one storm. That was a five hundred year rain—one that may become commonplace in the years ahead. The tornado season now extends into areas of the country were they have never been recorded. For the past several years world record average temperatures have been set each year. This has caused many scientists to call the situation a Climate Emergency.
We are already seeing the results of a 1.6 degree temperature rise on earth as melting polar ice has caused a rise in sea level that has already put 5 Solomon Islands underwater. As we look at our recent ultra-severe weather we can expect an increase in wildfires, an ever increasing intensity of hurricanes, the continued extinction of wildlife, and an increase melt of polar ice, which of course, will give a rise in sea levels.
India recorded its highest ever temperature ever on May 19th, 2016 when the heat in the town of Phalodi, in the western state of Rajasthan, shot up to a burning 51 degrees Celsius (123.8 degrees Fahrenheit).
But let’s look a little closer to home. As we look back at our August 2016 rainfall here in Arkansas, we marvel at the all-time record that was set, but look farther south to Louisiana. The increased warming of the Gulf and the change in wind patterns that has occurred makes South Louisiana tropical. That right and that August rainfall we had was a taste of being in the tropics. Tornadoes up north, floods down south, wild fires in the west are all the result of Climate Change. In five year it will reach the crisis level and the night of a 100 tornadoes or a 25 inch rain will occur every year. We must react to this impending disaster!
In the United States, the most powerful nation in the world, the apathy about Climate Change must be encountered with facts until even the rigid of the doubters’ cave in. We must hurry the demise of coal fired plants that produce electricity no matter what the cost, and new automobile and truck standards of emissions must be strengthened. And our country must take the lead, and not be dragged into the situation kicking and screaming. We must use our economic clout to demand countries like China and India, which heavily trade with the United States, will have enhanced controls on emitting carbon dioxide, or there won’t be any trade.
We can’t allow the nay-sayers to prevail in this fight. Our grandchildren and their children will never forgive us if we hand off to them a world that has been damaged so severely the life on the planet is tenuous for millions.
I guess you might wonder why I seem so concerned about the effects of Climate Change? Well, twenty-years from now when my great grandchildren are feeling the effects of ignoring Climate Change, and they ask me, “Jocko (that’s what my grandchildren call me), why didn’t you do something before it was too late?” At least I can say, “I tried.”

Marching for Equality

ARKANSAS
BY

RICHARD MASON

MARCHING FOR EQUALITY
After watching several million women march for equal rights, I decided to write this column. Yes, it’s for women, but maybe, if you’re a guy, you should also read it. After all men are the ones who are discriminating against over half our population; the women. Sure, women have equal rights, but that doesn’t keep men from openly discriminating against them. You can say, “There’s no discrimination.” until you are blue in the face, but it doesn’t change things. Here are a few relevant facts: Women don’t get equal pay for doing the same job as men, and there are thousands of corporation boards and public commissions that are 100% men, or with just a token woman.
There is worldwide discrimination directed against women. For example, in Saudi Arabia women can’t even drive a car unless accompanied by a man. Yes, it clearly is a worldwide problem, but it can best be tackled locally. The discrimination is not caused by Republicans or Democrats. That’s right. Take a look at the local and state appointed boards and commissions. In Arkansas, former Democratic governors discriminated against women just as much as the current Republican governor is. When a governor or a mayor continues to stack commissions and boards with men, they are actively participating in discrimination against women.
Across our country there are thousands of all male boards and commissions. Can anyone say the only qualified candidates for these positions are men? Of course not! So why do our male elected officials continue to appoint a much higher percentage of men, and only appoint men to certain boards? Of course, it’s discrimination! There is no other word for it. It is discrimination as sure as the South’s Jim Crow laws were.
Now let’s focus on our state. There are hundreds of boards and commissions, but I can’t name a one with a majority of women. However, I sure can name some of the most prominent that women aren’t even represented. How about Game and Fish, or the Highway Department, or the Oil and Gas Commissions? Governor after governor keeps them all male. It is blatant discrimination, but we put up with it. Oh, yes, we have a token woman here and there, but is less discrimination okay? Of course not!
Well, all of the above is just the way things are today, and of course it needs to change, but it is not going to change unless we force change? Let’s take a look at how change happens. To do that we need look back at history. How did women achieve the right to vote? Of course we know, they marched in the street, as well as numerous other ways, but it took years to push through the constitutional amendment that finally allowed women to vote. The battle for equal representation on commissions, boards, and equal pay for equal work will not happen overnight. However, since the cause is right and just, it will happen, so our job is to make it happen sooner than later. What can we do? Actually, marching in the street is a great way to call attention to the problem, but that’s only a start. We need to confront those in charge of making the appointments, from mayors to congressmen, all the way to the White House and to the corporate boardrooms. One massive march certainly helps, but the daily push to confront those who make appointment decisions will ultimately win the day.
We see our politicians frequently, and every time we do the question: “Why don’t you promote equal opportunities for women?” should be part of your conversation. Of course, they will tell you they support equal rights, but pin them down with specifics. “Do you support equal pay for women?” Or, if you are talking to a company president, “Will you commit to equal representation on your company board?”
Yes, most of them will point to having a woman on their board. When they do, accuse them of just putting a token woman on the board where they can say, women have representation. Push for equal representation. But we can go a step further, our corporations are very sensitive to public opinion and the price of their stock. Letters to company boards stating “I will cease to buy your products unless women have equal representation, and I will sell the stock I own in your company.” That letter will make a difference, but when a thousand similar letters come in, it makes a huge difference. And then, when the Governor, Mayor, or any other elected official comes campaigning, tell them you won’t give them any money or vote for them unless they make more women appointments. The Governor should be hit constantly while he campaigns for reelection in 2018 to appoint a woman to the all-male commissions—Highway, Game and Fish, Oil and Gas.
We can’t just sit passively by and expect things to change. Every letter, every pointed conversation, and yes, every embarrassing encounter will move gender equality closer to a reality. Remember this; elected officials and corporations that sell to the public are especially sensitive to the charge of discrimination. If we want change, we should demand it, or it won’t happen. Yeah, that means, “Get in their face.”