Friday, November 27, 2009

Jigsaw Ownership of Jim Bridger Power Plant

If you live anywhere in Sweetwater County, you are familiar with the 4 unit, coal-fired power plant located 35 miles east of Rock Springs, Wyoming. It is named after Jim Bridger, an earler years mountain man who trapped and lived a pretty solitary life. It is aptly named as it stands like a monument to coal energy out in the middle of nowhere. When I was still working construction, I drove that 35 mile stretch twice daily to work more times than I can remember. Almost every person you meet around here has some ties to the Jim Bridger Power Plant. If they haven't worked there, someone in their family has, and we are all customers of Rocky Mountain Power which operates the plant. In turn, Rocky Mountain Power is a subsidiary of Pacificorp, which is a subsidiary of Midamerican Energy Holdings Company which is owned by billionaire, 79 year old Warren Buffett. Did you get all that?
The day before Thanksgiving, a letter to the editor of the Rocket-Miner written by one of the union employees at the power plant let us all know that on November 20, 2009, Pacificorp notified UWUA Local 127 that it intended to terminate the current existing contract effective January 19, 2010. They are currently engaged in contract negotiations in which Pacificorp wants to do away with pension benefits and raise costs of medical care over 100%. Naturally, the union and its members do not agree with that stance. Nor do I. When the power company raised basic rates and changed the monthly bills so that you need to be a CPA to figure them out a few months ago, it increased my monthly bills by over $20 a month. They also included a statement that in the long run, we would find our electricity bills cheaper. I didn't believe them in that case and I don't believe them now either. When notifying Local 127 of their intent to terminate their contract, they started training replacement workers who, with only 60 days of training, they expect to man and run the plant. Having worked there, I know this would be a disaster for the customer and the community. It would be like having brain surgery performed by someone with only 60 days of training! I already contacted Pacificorp and told them at some length, what a stupid thing they are doing. Throwing away experienced journeymen and replacing them with 60 day wonders is not what I want from a company that supplies the power my money pays for.
I was reading a biography of Warren Buffett, which said he is planning to give 85% of his billions of dollars of wealth to charity before he dies. He is currently 79 years old. I think it would behoove him to pay out some of that money instead to keep the hard working people who staff his various energy companies the pensions and medical care costs they have earned. Without their strong loyalty and work ethics, he wouldn't be sitting on such a huge pile of wealth. When did it become okay to treat workers as disposable, to be discarded like a used tissue? As a customer, I expect the employees of a company to be treated fairly in the workplace and compensated well for their work. Profit hungry corporations should never take priority over the well being of their workers and customers. What kind of country have we become if we let this happen? Certainly not one where I'd want to live!
I sincerely hope that Rocky Mountain Power, Pacificorp, Midamerican Energy Holdings Company, also known as Warren Buffett, reconsider this ghastly decision and instead ratify a new fair contract. If not, I will be investing in a home power generator for when the lights go out!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

America's War Chickens Come Home To Roost

This morning while driving home, I heard the beginning of the memorial President Obama was giving for the military personnel gunned down in cold blood by one of their own at Ft. Hood in Texas. As soon as I realized what NPR was broadcasting, I changed the station, because I just couldn't stomache any more hypocrisy .
Our government has been using and abusing the military for many years now. Historically, military personnel have been used for cannon fodder from the very beginning of our country. In recent years, the United States' War on Terror has taken men and women from every corner of our country and turned them into lethal killers, an all volunteer corps, mostly made up of poorer individuals who joined the military or National Guard for the educational benefits attached. They were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan war theaters multiple times, for longer and more intense deployments as the years passed. The National Guard units, which are designed to provide security in our own country, were regularly deployed to war zones and, more often than not, left a gap in their communities and their families that is an unforgiveable act of the government. Schooled in brutality, war crimes were committed on people of invaded nations, at the direction of their military commanders and the Commander in Chief. When these "good soldiers" returned home, broken in mind and spirit, the government essentially turned its back on them. If a local grocery store treated their employees the way that our government treats its personnel, they would soon have to close their doors, because no one would work for them.
Our military troops have been subjected to horrors that defy reason. Both their military commanders and the President who is Commander in Chief, owe them much more than they will ever receive in compensation. What price do we put on broken minds and lives?
Now, they can't figure out why a military psychiatrist turned into an assassin when faced with deployment to a country where he might have to kill members of his own religious faith! Our government, the media and every frigging politician in sight is horrified that such a thing could happen. Human beings were not designed to be killing machines. When you turn a human being into a vehicle of murder, how can you express outrage when he does what he was taught to do? I'm surprised that they are surprised. Sadly, this will not be the last time this will happen. You can't keep pushing people beyond their endurance and expect them to happily adjust to it. People break, even military people, maybe especially military people. I cannot fathom the suffering and destruction they live through on a daily basis. There have been too many lives destroyed by war, not just the lives of those we are at war with, but also the lives of those we hire to wage our wars.
I firmly hope that President Obama realizes this, because the absolute worst thing he could do is send more young men and women to their deaths by expanding the Afghanistan War. It would be much better to end both wars and turn all those resources being wasted into furnishing decent jobs for the rebuilding of our own country. Surely there has to be a more constructive use of our resources. I would rather see our young military personnal working in our country, and I'm sure they would too. If not, we are going to see a lot more of these mass shootings that desperation is the cause of. Not all heros have to be dead heroes, you know!
I dream of a world where all people live and interact with each other with respect and not fear.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Kudos to Thomas Friedman and NYTimes

Sunday, November 1st, in the New York Times, opinion writer Thomas Friedman had a column titled, More Poetry Please. It pretty much mirrored my feelings about what our President Barack Obama needs to do to get our country back on track. The bickering going on in the national political scene has become more than a sane person can take. I believe if Mr. Obama would take Mr. Friedman's advice we could take a huge step toward accomplishing what we elected him to do. The only thing I would add is, you won the election so act like it! Those of us who voted for you owe Thomas Friedman a big bouquet of flowers for laying out the plan you need to follow. Don't let the big, bad Republicans scare you, we've got your back. Don't let them do to you what they did to Bill Clinton, they are the ones who are irrelevant in this scenario. We don't pay them any heed, neither should you. Go get 'em