Let me strive every moment of my life to make myself better and better, to the best of my ability, that all may profit by it. Let me think of the right and lend all my assistance to those who need it, with no regard for anything but justice. Let me take what comes with a smile, without loss of courage. Let me be considerate of my country, of my fellow citizens and my associates in everything I say and do. Let me do right to all, and wrong no man.

Who said that?

Surrounded by the Frac Sand Industry

My town, the Town of Prairie Lake, is surrounded by the emergent frac sand mining industry of Wisconsin. Today a new mine was proposed in the Town of Sioux Creek. It will be located on about 1,000 acres of land about 6 miles (as the crow flies) from my home. There are plenty of other mines and mining-related operations nearby. We know they are coming but not when.

This new mine will ship 1 million tons of sand every year to feed the shale of North Dakota. They have asked Sioux Creek to operate 24 hours a day.

No one thought that the rural dairy and turkey farming areas of Barron County would ever be involved in the Sand Rush era. But here we are. To the north, CN railroad has rebuilt miles of track from Ladysmith to Cameron and reinstated train service to move millions of tons of sand out of Wisconsin.

Most of the towns in Barron County have nonmetallic mining ordinances now to safeguard air and water quality. What is not known though is the noise that will be generated by trucks and machinery operating day and night. It is also not known how much of the dark will be sacrificed to the lights of a 24×7 operation.

What we care about is:
1. Can we enjoy the peace and quiet of our area if there is a mining operation nearby? Can we sit on our front porch and watch the wildlife wander our property? Can we simply listen to the wind in the trees? Or will we have to listen to the industrial noises coming from a mining operation that was never invited to our area? Can we have our windows open all summer or do we have to close them to keep the noise of heavy vehicles out of our house? Do we have to hear the incessant beeping of every heavy equipment vehicle backing-up all day and all night long? I read in the paper that the mine owner’s representative says they will use flashing/strobing lights instead of alarms but he neglected to say anything about the 130 truckloads of sand that will be hauled out. Do they have beeping alarms when they back up? It is unlikely that the mining operators have any control over the trucks. We are told that the blasting operations are nothing like what we see on TV. That it merely goes Phfft and it’s done. We’ll see.
2. What about the traffic? On my six-mile drive to work, I encounter maybe three or four vehicles. Mostly cars, but a few pieces of farm equipment also. More frequently it is the Amish horse and buggies going to and from church or school and an occasional trip to the City of Chetek. What do we do with 14-year old Amish teenagers sharing their horse and buggies on a road with three and four-axle sand hauling trucks? And recently, our town approved portions of our roads for ATV operations. My wife and I bicycle a few hundred miles every year and the idea of sharing a town or county road with a sand behemoth is not our idea of a relaxing ride in the country. The mine operators say they don’t know what train will haul their sand nor what routes the County will permit them to travel on but we all know where the train tracks are and of the need to get the sand to the trains. The mine operators are intelligent (and determined) and they know that the trucks have to access county roads out of their mine else the towns will want them to pay to maintain the roads. How do we protect the town’s rural character from this county road encroachment?
3. Water table quality is essential in this community. Everybody has a well. There’s no city water in rural Wisconsin. Pollute the water table and your quality of life is effed forever. The mining companies will not willingly bring you water everyday forever and you don’t want your family dependent on that anyway. And if there are two nearby mines using flocculants or other water quality adulterating substances, your town is going to have to prove that one of them is the problem before you stand a chance to receive compensation or even fresh water. There is no ‘sorry’ big enough to make up for effed water. But pollution of the water is not the sole issue. There’s the turbidity from drawing more than 100,000 gallons of water per day from the table that sucks up debris and stirs it into the water table, too. Who wants dirty water coming from their well?
4. Air quality is a concern but not for reasons of silicosis. It’s the darn sand everywhere. One hundred thirty five trucks per day hauling sand down a corridor is going to leave a residue. If you live along that corridor, you will have grit all the time. ‘Cept maybe winter. Diesel smoke, truck noise, and grit. 24×7. Who wants that? It’s called fugitive dust. At the town meeting, the mine representative was a bit  disingenuous. He said that “You’re not allowed to let fugitive dust leave your property.” True enough but not a complete enough answer. Those 135 truckloads a day don’t belong to the mine so how will the town ensure that the truck drivers will cover their sand loads while traveling 50-60 miles an hour down county roads? Note: Towns don’t have police forces. Nobody will be actively ensuring that trucks are covered. The County has bigger fish to fry.
5. The nuisance of dealing with an industrial invasion is another problem that none of us really want. Complaints from residents, noises, night-long lighting,  visual signs that Wisconsin’s earth is removed, dirt is extracted, sand is shipped, and flocculants are used will be in our face every day. We will be defending against an ever present threat to nature and our quality of life.

These are things we fear when mining operations come to our town. Are the 20 jobs for other people just compensation to the people whose property can no longer be enjoyed due to the mining? Is the commerce from 135 truckloads a day and trains rumbling through small town crossings enough to enrich the life of those who hobby farm, dairy farm, turkey farm, and live on the land? Is the risk of traffic accidents between horse and buggy and sand trucks worth the changes? Probably not.

Prairie Lake is surrounded. There is no cavalry. We are adjusting to the facts in front of our faces. And we don’t roll over.



Gun Control in the 21st Century?

My blogger friend Deke  regularly writes about gun control and I often disagree with him. But in this instance, we share some common ground although we talk about it differently.

I have come to call it violence control instead of gun control. Every time I hear the words ‘gun control’ my hackles are raised because the Second Amendment is clear enough (within reason) that people can possess arms. And when I use the word ‘arms’, I mean knives, sabers, bayonets, daggers, handguns, rifles, bow and arrows, crossbows, and anything else that is used for protection and can be carried on your person. It does not include explosives like grenades. It does include mace and pepper sprays, brass knuckles, slings and slingshots. I know the Constitution did not define ‘arms’ and that our language has corrupted the meaning over the years ( i.e., nuclear arms race) . I think that whether any weapon is considered a personal armament (0r not) will be construed by the courts, if it ever ends up there. The word ‘bear’ will be interpreted to mean that the founding fathers meant offensive and defensive weapons that one carries on one’s person.

There is no question that personal weapons (arms) have evolved to a level that a single person can massacre groups of people. It is unreasonable to say that no restrictions can ever be placed upon the ‘right to bear arms’. It is very reasonable to assess any and all technologies that may be used as a personal weapon and to restrict the distribution, use, and possession of that technology to prevent massacres. Do we really need to wait for the courts to decide which weapons (and accessories) are covered under the Second Amendment or can we simply legislate the introduction of personal arms to the marketplace like we legislate the distribution of medical equipment and medicines into America’s healthcare market?

To do this may mean we end up with government control over an industry and the attendant bureaucracy that would go along with it. Is it possible to create an ‘FDA’ of personal armament that lives within the meaning of the Second Amendment while denying the distribution of armor piercing bullets and high capacity magazines?

What other choice do we have?

Of concern to me would be the rejection of new personal protection devices (PPD) because of political leanings. Would ray guns be permitted as PPDs by Democrats? Would the low lethality of a PPD become a criteria for distribution?

This is such a slippery slope but we should not be afraid to control an industry because it may lead to a weakening of our right to bear arms. I think that we should cautiously consider how to limit the violence that a single individual can inflict without gutting the Second Amendment.

I want to give it more thought but violence control might allow a parent to turn a disturbed child over to the state for a psychological evaluation and/or treatment or lifelong care. Violence control might allow for weapons restrictions like qualifications and training before ownership and use. Violence control may allow the state to detain violent persons for a fixed period of time who have a history of violent behavior that has not yet resulted in an arrest. And finally, violence control may prohibit family members from keeping PPDs in their homes if an overly aggressive or mentally ill person lives there.

I have advocated elsewhere that the Second Amendment is clear that the right to keep and bear arms should not be infringed. I see now that there is a component of reasonableness that may infringe upon the Second Amendment else we loose monsters in our midst. We need smaller monsters now and bigger chains. Let’s proceed like reasonable adults and develop a set of violence controls in our society. And if at all possible, can we please keep it out of the federal government? And can we please not let the legislators muck this up with politically motivated crap?

Freedom, Responsibility, Choice

I am running for Congress as a candidate for independently voting Wisconsin citizens. The US House of Representatives has been controlled by the Republican Party and the Democratic Party for decades and they have made a mess of it, haven’t they?

The two parties that got us into this mess will not be the ones to get us out.
My platform is simple:
FREEDOM from government interference in your daily life. Both Republicans and Democrats have voted for legislation that expands federal power over citizens. Take the Patriot Act  enacted in 2001,  for example, that allows  government to monitor private citizens without cause or warrant. Or the Consumer Product Safety Commission by a ruling,  in 2010, that even goes as far as to control what you buy and sell at your garage sale .
This is not freedom. This is oppression. Our founding fathers recognized that we have the freedom to decide what is best for ourselves. Under the Republican and Democratic Parties this freedom is under attack every day. We used to have the freedom to be anonymous in public places but this is vanishing with every camera on every street corner. We used to have the freedom to go about our private lives, but the federal government is working with private businesses to know everything we buy and everything we view on TV and on the internet.
I will work to reverse those laws that violate the Bill of Rights. As the Fourth Amendment says  “The Right of the People to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
I will work to reduce the Federal foot on our throats by limiting the powers of government agencies  to enact regulation without congressional assent. The EPA recently argued before the Supreme Court that citizens do not have the right to challenge their rulings.  The Supreme Court slapped them down. The arrogance of government agencies should not stand and I will work to ensure that Federal agency arrogance does not stand.
The RESPONSIBILITY to manage our own lives is undermined at the federal level by both political parties.   Today, the two political parties decide what is best and then use the force of law to make us comply with their ideology. One party wants to erect barriers to obtain contraception and the other party wants to prevent you from having a gun. Both political parties are willing to take away the rights of responsible people in order to prevent what they think are irresponsible outcomes. They don’t trust you to do what is right for you. Government should not take away your right to live your life the way you see fit.
As your representative, I will work to ensure the federal government recognizes us as responsible people. Among many things, I respect your right to bear arms and obtain contraception. I will oppose excessive gun control legislation and controls on reproduction that assumes you are irresponsible. I will work to make sure the government stops punishing you, the responsible person, with pat downs and searches and instead focus on the real threats that actually give cause for suspicion. I will support your right to hold your government responsible and protest, and I will work to reverse the decisions that force you to be herded into “free speech” zones.
CHOICE for us to decide what is best for ourselves and our circumstances. When companies manipulate the market to restrict a consumer’s choice, it is a crime. When government intervenes to restrict a citizen’s choice, it is oppression. A healthcare plan that does not permit you to choose is oppressive. Legislation that prevents the sale of products or only allows certain products in the market limits your ability to choose. The federal government should not be choosing winners and losers. (Remember the incandescent light bulb? A product that was outlawed not because it was unsafe but because it was energy inefficient. )   Instead, government should be ensuring that companies and organizations are not manipulating the markets to restrict our choices. We should be protected from controls that limit our options and not be subjected to these self-same controls through the force of governmental law.
Help me return our government to reasonableness instead of partisan extremism.
Think differently and vote independently in 2012.