DAM IS NOT A FOUR-LETTER WORD

The Septuagenarian Speaks – published May 22, 2019, Siskiyou Daily News

There is a funny thing currently making the rounds on the internet called, “When Insults Had Class.”  It is a list of glorious insults from a bygone time before four-letter words were required to insult someone.  Some historical figures were masters at this.  Some examples:

“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.”  –  Winston Churchill

“I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.”  –  Mark Twain

Now, as usual, I’m going to morph this story into something totally unrelated to the previous three paragraphs.  The dam thing.  Notice that “dam” is not a four-letter word.

Those of you that read my column know that I mostly write fluffy satirical humor and stay away from political issues of consequence.  Judges are ethically precluded from taking public positions on political issues or candidates, but I’ve been retired now for several years, so that doesn’t hold me back.  Free at last!  But our current political climate is so volatile, with people viciously calling other people vile names, that it’s now become offensive noise, and I don’t want to add more.

The one thing that I have written about, a political issue of local consequence, is the proposal to remove Klamath River dams.  I always read with interest the many editorials and letters to the editor expressing the pros and cons.  I didn’t agree with the dam removal idea when it was first floated (can you float a dam?), and still don’t, despite some well-written and persuasive arguments on both sides of the issue.

One who has written in support of dam removal is Andy Marx, a local lawyer, who I have known and worked with for a long time.  He is an excellent lawyer, and a good guy.  One reason he lives in our community is that he is an avid and knowledgeable fisherman, and the views he expresses regarding dam removal stem from that perspective.  His articles are well-written and persuasive.

But I’m still not persuaded.  Vast amounts of well-researched and detailed historical and statistical data have been presented both in favor of and in opposition to the dam removal plan, but most of that stuff just rolls off me like water off a duck’s back.  That’s probably an indication that it is in the interest of justice that I’m retired and no longer an active judge.

Regarding dam removal, there are a few core ideas that I just can’t ignore.  A few years ago, it was up to the United States Congress to decide whether to take out the dams.  Congress didn’t do it.  So mysteriously the decision now is apparently in the hands of FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) an unelected administrative agency under the auspices of the US Department of Energy.  I still haven’t figured out how that happened.

But wait!  There’s more!  The actual owner of the dams is PacifiCorp, one of the West’s leading utilities, serving approximately 1.9 million customers in six states.  PacifiCorp appears to be quite happy to have the dams be decommissioned, but doesn’t want to be responsible for the consequences, the extent of which is pretty much unknown.  The solution?  Create a shell corporation to jump in, assume the ownership and liability, do the deed, and then disappear.  That would be the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC).  KRRC’s recent statement of financial position shows net assets of about $42 million, most of which is restricted.  Is that even close to the actual damage that might result?  And what does “restricted” mean?

Well, as usual I digressed again, and lost my train of thought, so I’ll try to pull it back together.  The original subject of this piece was how to insult someone without using a four-letter word.  How would Mark Twain insult KRRC?  (Isn’t KRRC already a four-letter word?)

Mae West was pretty good at insults.  One of her famous quotes was, “His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.”  What might Mark Twain say?  Use your imagination.

Bob Kaster
Yreka, CA

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