The Department Of Pointing Out The Obvious (DOPOTO), as part of our ongoing mission to (what else?) point out the obvious, has stumbled across various small news tidbits that bear closer examination. One would be the closing down of an ambitious solar energy project in the State of California for its potential negative environmental impact. The location of this supposedly harmful installation? Downtown Los Angeles or on the outskirts of San Diego, two populous regions? No, the location was in the middle of The Mojave Desert, as sun drenched a locale as one could hope for when engaged in collecting the sun’s energy. The human population of the site is zero, thus exposing no human beings to whatever risks are inherent in collecting sunlight, even though those risks are so low as to allow solar panels to be installed on the roofs or in the gardens of human homes, to say nothing of the fact that people walk in sunlight pretty frequently.
So, why the cancellation of a project designed to alleviate California’s dependence on foreign oil, the state most dependent upon internal combustion? It seems that the site is to be declared a national monument. To exactly what is anyone’s guess. Perhaps a monument to vast wastelands sitting idle? A scorpion refuge? And if the national monument were declared to be the piece of broiling desert right next door to the solar energy collection apparatus, would anyone have noticed? The 5,130 acres that the solar collection farm occupies closely resembles the remaining 22,000 square miles of the Mojave. Could it just be possible that the environmental groups that succeeded in killing this important project were funded in large part by corporations whose interest in maintaining the energy status quo were threatened by solar power? To reject this possibility outright would be to ignore the obvious, a cardinal sin in The Department’s view.
Another series of political criticisms aimed at trade unions has caught DOPOTO’s attention. Conservative commentators cannot attribute enough evil to these organizations designed to protect workers. Unions are blamed for the de-industrialization of America and the prohibitively high prices of American goods and services, as well as the lowering of standards for certain jobs like teachers, police officers and other civil servants. Never in these observations is it reported exactly why unions were formed in the first place. It was certainly not because workers desired to pay union dues on top of all their other monthly expenses.
It was a natural reaction to the callous treatment they received at the hands of greedy employers who would have gladly worked them to death at poor wages and discarded them to poverty and suffering when their backs were too bent or broken to work anymore. Sweat shops, unsafe conditions and poor wages in exchange for skilled labor were not the workers’ ideas, but those of ownership and management. Collective bargaining was the only tool available to workers, and the union movement is responsible for today’s 40-hour work week, overtime pay, safety rules, pensions, medical coverage and countless other benefits enjoyed by every working American, whether or not they are union members.
These benefits were hard won by suffering and an actual war that was fought on American soil when ownership hired private armies of goons to beat and kill striking union workers. In other cases the industrialists prevailed on various state governments to attack American workers with National Guardsmen and State Militias. Blood was shed on both sides and the war was fought to an uneasy standstill. These things actually happened and are hard history, too often ignored or made light of by glib revisionists. Like all history, however, these facts are written down and can be easily accessed by anyone more interested in truth than in general impressions.
General impressions are soft and malleable, but facts are hard and immovable, which is why few demagogues have extensive backgrounds in fact checking and honest assessment. When truth is at odds with theory, an honest man will alter his theory. That is how science works, and no theory gets to be declared a fact until proven beyond any doubt, reasonable or otherwise. Politics and business are not branches of science, however, and as such rely heavily on false assumptions. The spotty results of political and business history bear this out, with no shortage of calamities on both fronts resulting from wishful thinking and false assumptions being championed as hard truth. This is as obvious and the name of this Department. The recommendation here is research and study, or as a sign in an obscure but beloved Brooklyn candy store once sagely advised: “Be sure brain is engaged before putting mouth in gear.”
This has been a report from The Department Of Pointing Out The Obvious.