North of 60 Mining News - The mining newspaper for Alaska and Canada's North

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By J. P. Tangen
Special to Mining News 

May we always live in interesting times

As Chicken Little might say, "When the sky is falling, be sure your health insurance is current and look out for the big pieces"


Last updated 1/28/2018 at 7:23am

I must be getting old because I remember when, in 1966, Robert Kennedy first uttered the so-called Chinese curse about living in interesting times. It is probably one of his more memorable lines; but somehow, it has been prescient to me in the sense that the succeeding fifty years have actually been interesting. Some might say that they have become more and more interesting each succeeding year.

Surely the social changes have been dramatic, and the evolution of science and technology has been astounding to witness. Possibly the only thing that has not changed is the political bickering between our respective political parties. It is common to point to the divide as if it hasn't always been that way; however, in the sixties there was no shortage of people marching in support of whatever cause they then held dear, whether it was the war in Viet Nam, civil rights, feminism or the environment.

During the ensuing half century, presidents have come and gone, each with his own flaws and insights, and each drawing his own flak from the commentators and comics as if the ship of state was about to founder at any moment.

In the meantime, the communist menace has literally disappeared. The biggest domestic threat most Americans face is dying of old age. You can hardly see the air that you are breathing anymore; and Lake Erie is swimmable. Our nation is the last superpower standing, and our people are still marching in the streets over one perceived inequity or another.

A quick survey of the various contemporary issues is revealing: Immigration is difficult to get excited about - we are a land of immigrants, and most people in the country, after two or three generations, have virtually no palpable affinity to their ancestral homeland.

With regard to undocumented aliens, Mexico, at one point, was the largest source of such hombres; however, since American capital has determined to domesticate manufacturing facilities in Mexico, the stream of migration across the southern border has weakened to a trickle, and our agricultural industry is at significant risk of suffering because of it.

Gender discrimination is a giant "Ho Hum" for most people.

Gun control can be pretty much boiled down to whether you somehow see a nexus between the murder rate in Chicago and the odd psychopath who shoots up public places.

Abortion is ultimately a question of who pays for it. The "pro" contingent wants the rest of us to pick up the tab; whereas, the "anti" forces want providers to do it in another state.

Since no one can ever get all the health care they want, the debate distills to whether the United States should provide international police services to the entire western world, or should we redirect our defense budget into the pockets of insurance and pharmaceutical company executives.

When it comes to resource development the rule is that disturbance of Mother Earth cannot be tolerated in any location where the operations might possibly do anything upstream, downstream, above or below my back yard; however, it is fine to harvest the resources of Arabia, Botswana or Chile - the only criterion being that it must be far away and invisible.

What about the Alaska budget? It is interesting to watch our legislature as it tries to figure out how to pay the state's bills.

It is almost as if we are poor, on the one hand, and have never been poor on the other.

Alaska has virtually unlimited mineral wealth, including oil, gas and coal; we have vast forests of timber; we have abundant fisheries; we have tourist attractions in profusion; and we have a legislature that cannot put away the credit card.

Understandably, if seventy percent of our operating budget is dedicated to health care and education (including the university system), we simply cannot just erase the other thirty percent to meet the shortfall.

Of course, we also cannot take away anyone's entitlements, and we cannot tax anyone.

Accordingly, the only realistic answer to the problem is to wring our hands.

That brings us full circle. The problems that we have are, at some level, all artificial. They will never go away; they will just become less interesting. Sooner or later, they will be displaced by someone's idea for a new and different topic of conversation.

Recent articles by EPA refugees, for instance, suggest that women and children will die if the Obama-era environmental regulations are vitiated, as if to imply that with just one more push, we can ensure that everyone will live a long and healthy forever.

The last time I checked, the laws and regulations that the Trump Administration are doing away with weren't in existence until a few years ago; so we aren't actually losing ground, we are cleaving to the not-so-bad status quo. A lot of us can live with that.

In the meantime, the six major mines in Alaska are chugging along, paying their freight and providing thousands of steady jobs from one end of the state to the other. Oil is still flowing, fisher-folk are still fishing and the Alaska Railroad is still chasing moose off the tracks while ferrying gawkers from Seward to Fairbanks.

It is fair to say that we do live in interesting times; however, it takes only a moment to realize that every moment or our existence is "interesting." Breathe deep, while you sleep.


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