Meet Commodore Barney--You Won't Forget Him--And Shouldn't

“History is a fickle muse and fame her unfair offspring.”

                                                                                       ---Bernard Cornwell in The Fort


Return with me now to a blazingly hot and scary day 200 years ago. The date: 24 August   1814.

The Battle of Bladensburg occurred that day.

Much has been written about that battle on Bladensburg Road. And justly. It’s good for a nation to reflect on its blunders. And the battle was a blunder. “The greatest disgrace ever dealt to American arms,” one historian calls it.

 That’s because frightened American troops and militia ran from the British who had invaded our country and were marching toward Washington D.C. Our mostly terrified defenders allowed the enemy to burn the United States capitol. And in the captured White House, British officers ate at the dining room table of President James Madison.

The media regurgitated all that in recent bicentennial coverage of the War of 1812 between the United States and Briton. Yet the coverage almost entirely omitted one important fact:

American heroism didn’t die that August day. One unsung 55-year-old warrior and his men gave the shocked British a costly display of American courage.

  Strangely, historians of early America have typically slighted the remarkable story of one of our nation’s most loyal, fearlessness, and skillful patriots, a veteran of the American Revolution and the War of 1812. Thus he has been cheated. You have been too, if, as is likely, you haven’t heard his story.

 So listen.

His name is Barney--Commodore Joshua Barney.

 He was a Baltimore boy who learned seamanship on the Chesapeake Bay, and went to sea at the age of 12.  When he was 15 years old—yes 15—he took command of a foundering merchant ship and saved ship, crew, and cargo.

 By 18 Barney was battling the British in the American Revolution. He served as a commissioned naval officer and as a feared privateer sponsored by the colonies. He fought numerous sea battles, winning most of them. He was captured six times, tortured, and staged a couple of spectacular escapes.

 After the Revolutionary War, he commanded a French fleet and continued fighting the British. Then at the start of the War of 1812, when it was clear the paltry U. S. naval force couldn’t cope with the invading British fleet, he designed, built, and commanded a flotilla of small, oar-driven gunboats to badger and distract the raiders.

Then too, as the naval scholar Louis Arthur Norton writes:

Barney” made and lost several fortunes; won, lost, then regained the admiration of his countrymen; and through it all was true to his principles. Barney was not a typical naval officer of the era by any means; indeed, his career was far more interesting.”

Before the Bladensburg battle Barney based his flotilla of gunboats on the Patuxent River. The enemy knew it. And as a first step in assaulting Washington, British Admiral Sir George Cockburn sent a squadron of 23 ships and an infantry unit to attack Barney’s force from land and river.

 Realizing he was about to be attacked and surrounded, Barney marched 400 of his flotillamen to a defensive position at Upper Marlboro. He left 120 sailors behind to booby trap the flotilla boats. Which they did.

When the British rushed to confiscate the boats, they exploded with a blast that also destroyed 15 of 16 attacking enemy gun-boats. And in the confusion of smoke and falling debris, all of Barney’s men escaped, lugging five salvaged cannon with them. 

By now Barney knew British Major General Robert Ross was leading some 4,000 to 5,000 infantry toward Washington via Bladensburg village on Bladensburg Road. So he marched his sailors and cannon toward the inevitable fight.

Barney dutifully reported to commanding general, Brigadier William Winder, the politically appointed brother of Maryland’s governor. Gen. Winder ordered Barney and his small force away from the impending action, sending them off to guard a bridge.

 This is not at all what the frustrated Barney had in mind.

Luckily President James Madison was checking the troops and happened by in his carriage. Barney approached the President. He politely explained that it made sense to blow up the bridge and free his men to fight rather than have them idling on guard duty. Madison agreed, and countermanded Gen. Winder.

Barney then had his sailors and 78 Marines take up a position on a hill overlooking a valley and bridge the Redcoats were bound to cross.

Almost immediately the Redcoats charged. Barney’s men let loose a barrage of cannon and musket fire that swept the attackers from the road. The enemy rallied quickly and struck again. Barney’s men mowed them down. Again the British attacked only to fall like bowling pins.

Finally a large, remarkably brave British infantry column charged through the suffocating smoke and blazing fire. The attackers threatened to overrun the floatillamen. Seeing this, Barney ordered his 78 Marines to counter attack.

Historian Morton writes:

The “marine unit charged screaming down the hill, crossed an open field, and leapt over a stone wall topped by a wooden fence where the British had taken cover to catch a temporary breath in the intense summer heat. The Americans drove the weary regulars back into a ravine wounding many officers and men with musket fire and bayonet stabs.”

Barney’s outnumbered sailors and marines had repulsed some 600 of the king’s finest.

Now Barney looked for other American units to charge the stalled British invaders and force their likely retreat. He was astonished to see that he and his men were the only American fighters left on the battlefield. All others had run away, excepting two small Maryland militia detachments off to the right. Yet in front of him loomed an army of thousands that was readying to resume the attack.

As the British launched another assault, Barney rallied his men. He soon realized however that his force would be surrounded and overwhelmed. Ammunition was low. Victory was impossible.

 Still, Barney thought he might lead an escape, save his cannons, and renew the fight elsewhere. He mounted his horse to better lead his men, but a sharpshooter shot the animal. Barney scrambled to his feet, but the shooter took him down with a musket ball to the thigh.

Unable to move, bleeding heavily, and weak, Barney ordered all his men to leave the guns and retreat, including officers who were trying to rig a litter and carry him off the field. One officer, Lieutenant Jesse Huffington, refused that order and stayed by his suffering leader.

A witness to the battle that historian Norton refers to as “a British observer” wrote:

“With the exception of a party of sailors, from the gun boats [barges] under the command of Commodore Barney, no troops could have behaved worse…. Of the sailors, however, it would be injustice not to speak in the terms which their conduct merits. They were employed as gunners, and not only did they serve their guns with quickness and precision which astonished their assailants, but they stood till some of them were actually bayonetted, with fusees in their hands; nor was it till their leader was wounded, and they saw themselves deserted on all sides by the soldiers, that they quitted the field.” 

British soldiers quickly captured Barney and Huffington. But the captain of one of the enemy’s warships knew of Barney, ordered that he be treated gently, and had his ship’s surgeon dress the warrior’s wounds. When General Ross, the British commander, heard his new prisoner was the legendary Commodore Barney, he went to see him.

 The general told Barney that with just a handful of men he had given his troops a severe shock. He added, “I am very glad to see you Commodore.”

Replied Barney, “I am sorry I cannot return the compliment, General.”

The Battle of Bladensburg was Barney’s final battle. On December 1, 1818 the musket ball that could not be removed caused a thrombosis that took the old sailor’s life.

Barney had been courageous in hand to hand combat, a relentless leader in battle, and above all a true American patriot. Even his enemies considered him a hero.

 So give this old warrior his due. Remember him.

                                                                                      ------Gus Gribbin

Prof. Louis Norton’s scholarly and entertaining book Joshua Barney: Hero of the Revolution and 1812 vividly recounts Barney’s swashbuckling life. It is available from the Naval Institute Press, 291 Wood Road, Annapolis, MD 21402.
The pictures presented above are generic War of 1812 images and do not show Bladensburg action..

Thanksgiving Shopping May Be No Bargain

     Thanksgiving has changed.         

The fourth Thursday of November once was a singular holiday.  Typically tranquil.  Non-commercial.

 A peaceful atmosphere prevailed-- calmness infused with gratitude for all the good things in our lives tinged with regret for the less fortunate.  We celebrated what we had--not what we could get.

Almost all stores closed. The exceptions were pharmacies and maybe a service station or two. That meant retail workers could spend the holiday at home with their families. The resulting downtown quiet emphasized the day’s specialness.

Most except the family cook—or cooks—spent the day watching parades and football on TV. The cousins brought each other up to date. Family and friends shared turkey dinner and basked in the tradition of being cooped up with the family.

That was then.

Now the Thanksgiving siren call is, “Put down the pie, pass the car keys, we’re off to the mall,” as a New York Times subhead put it. The headline summarized, “Holiday Sales Move Up, Even Before the Turkey Gets Cold.”

In the article accompanying that business-section headline, staffer Elizabeth A. Harris quotes 20-year-old Teagan Marshall, a New Yorker. The young lady said she liked the idea of shopping on Thanksgiving and added, “That seems like a good way to celebrate to me.”

For a 20-year old, that’s an understandable sentiment. The trend toward making Thanksgiving a super shopping day began roughly two decades ago. The old Thanksgiving well might seem alien to her. She grew up with Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping.

This year as Ms. Marshall reports, Macy’s and J.C. Penny will open on Thanksgiving evening for the first time. Some stores like Target are opening earlier than previously. Toys “R” Us will open at 5 p.m.  Old Navy will open many of its stores from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving. And many of its outlets will enter the first 500 shoppers in a sweepstakes to be held at 7 p.m. when the stores reopen.

Each year more stores have opened on Thanksgiving. As more open, more will open because retailers can’t let their competitors get an edge on them.

Then too, merchants know that if there’s one thing the 21st century American can’t resist it’s the lure of the bargain—even one day a year.

Ultimately Thanksgiving will become a holiday something like Halloween. Or maybe April First--All Fools Day.

                                                                        ----Gus Gribbin




You Guess---Is the Speaker of the House Unethical?

Integrity demands courage. And sometimes sacrifice.

            That thought comes to mind while considering the actions of The Honorable John A. Boehner, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

            Here’s why:

            It has been reported that Mr. Boehner stated privately that he opposed the most extreme positions and demands of the rascally House Tea Party gang. Yet he has fronted for the group for fear he would lose the speakership if he didn’t.

 Worse, he is reported to have told friends he opposed the recent and damaging government shutdown. Nonetheless he went along with the scheme—probably for the same reason.

            It’s vitally important to note we can’t know if those supposedly reliable reports of the Speaker’s private utterings and state of mind are correct.  We can’t know peoples’ motives unless they confess them.

And if the reports about the Speaker are wrong, the man has been maligned.

If the reports are accurate, Mr. Boehner appears week, as many contend. You can also argue he is unethical.

Why unethical?

            Because ethical persons are true to themselves. They choose to do what they believe is right because it is right. They are steadfast and willing to suffer the consequences of their decisions.

The ethical person might well discover there’s truth in the saying, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

            Had the Honorable John A. Boehner publically declared he would not go along with the Tea Partiers’ troublesome demands, he would have shaken the GOP. He might have been forced to resign the speakership. He might have risked being voted out of office in the coming election.

Or—he might have restored the public’s faith in his party and in government. He might have found himself lionized as a political hero and model of integrity.  

We can only guess at the consequences. But at the least, Mr. Boehner would have been true to himself. And that knowledge is priceless.

If national leaders like Speaker Boehner and members of the U.S. House and Senate are to serve the public honorably, they should honestly determine their primary allegiance. Is it to the nation, or to their constituents, or their party?

            Philip Patterson and Lee Wilkins, authors of the text, Media Ethics: Issues and Cases point out:

            “Contemporary professional ethics revolves around these questions:

            “What duties do I have, and to whom do I owe them? And what values are reflected by the duties I’ve assumed?”           

            To many the answer to the first question is crystal clear. National leaders must act for the good of the nation first. All else is secondary.

            To many it appears Mr. Boehner acted for his party and constituents first and, despite his public oratory, he disregarded the welfare of the nation.

            In the Declaration of Independence, the founders of our nation called on “…the Supreme Judge of the world…” to witness “the rectitude of our intentions.”

            It would be blasphemous if many in today’s Congress did that.

                                                                                    ----Gus Gribbin

Let's Pause to Remember a Valiant National Hero

Forgotten wars beget forgotten heroes.

                One such conflict is the War of 1812. A forgotten hero of that war is Captain Thomas Macdonough.

                It might seem odd to declare Macdonough forgotten.  He had fame. At the urging of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 1937 two-cent, first-class postage stamp commemorated him. The Naval Academy named a hall after him. So did a couple of other colleges, although today’s students may wonder why.  Streets, counties, and a couple of elementary schools bear his name. There was even a Macdonough Island off Washington’s coast—however the name was later changed to Camano Island.

                Also it might seem odd to say the 1812 War is forgotten. For a couple of years there have been commemorations of the 200th anniversary of that three-year conflict with Great Britain. But the ceremonies have drawn relatively little notice.

 It’s safe to say—as historians do—that most Americans know little about the 1812 war—or about its heroes. That’s not good. The valiant earn the right to our attention from time to time.

As to the war: It was mismanaged. Bungled. And although Americans won some notable battles, the messy affair ended in a draw. Over the years, the public seems to have resolved to forget past blunders.

Still, the War of l812 was significant. It showed again that Americas would stand up to the greatest power on earth. It helped unify the nation then struggling out of infancy. And as historian Donald Hickey writes in The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, the war, “Promoted national self-confidence and encouraged the heady expansionism that lay at the heart of American foreign policy… the war was fraught with consequence for the future.”

Like the war, Macdonough’s exploits were important and clearly worth remembering in this bicentennial period.

Macdonough was commissioned a Midshipman in 1799. He was 16. Five years later, he was serving with swashbuckling Captain Stephen Decatur and engaged in slashing sword fights with pirates of the Mediterranean Sea.

Macdonough fought at Decatur’s side when the captain boarded and retook a frigate lost earlier to the Barbary Pirates. Later, although knowing the odds against him were five-to-one, he volunteered and helped capture a pirate ship manned by cutthroats who had murdered Decatur’s brother.

Early in his career, Macdonough proved to be not only brave, but smart, and a savvy skipper.

When the War of 1812 began, Macdonough waited in Washington DC for a ship to be outfitted. But he craved action, sought a transfer, and wound up in Burlington Vermont on Lake Champlain. There, while commanding a squadron of ships, he stopped an invasion.

Lake Champlain stretches for121-miles between New York and Vermont mountains. Centuries ago it served as a prime military shipping lane between Canada and the United States. During most of the 1812 war, British ships controlled it.

In August 1814, 10,000 British troops from Canada invaded the United States. They attacked and easily occupied Plattsburgh, New York, an important lakeside town. The force then waited for supplies from Canada via Lake Champlain before continuing south. The troops were still waiting on September 11, 1814 when a squadron of British warships bearing vital supplies neared them.

Macdonough knew he must stop those vessels. He commanded four ships and ten small gunboats and was confronting four, better-built British ships and 17 gunboats.

Although roughly even in ships and number of guns—the Brits had 92; Macdonough 86—the enemy owned the 37-gun Confiance, biggest ship on the lake. Moreover the enemy ships’ mounted bigger guns. Its ships could attack from a distance while out of reach of U.S. cannon.

Noting this, Macdonough sheltered his squadron in a little bay. That kept the enemy’s long-range guns from hitting the U.S. ships from long distance. Consequently, the British were forced to attack close range. Besides, the British could fire broadsides from just one side of their ships before laboriously turning and firing from the other side.

Faced with the same limitation, Macdonough anchored his ships in a way that allowed his men to haul on the anchor lines and, in effect, spin the ships in place. Thus they could fire from one side, rotate, and fire from the other.

The Confiance bore down on Macdonough’s 26-gun flag ship, Saratoga, and raked her with red hot shot. The barrage severely damaged her and set her on fire. Forty of her crew died, and Macdonough fell unconscious when the bloody head of a decapitated sailor hit him. Flying debris smashed into him later, and he went down a second time. But he and the Saratoga revived and kept fighting.

As the contest continued, each side lost a ship.

Seeing how Macdonough had anchored his ships, Confiance’s commander tried to do something similar. In the process, Confiance’s lines tangled. As she struggled to keep battling, Saratoga riddled her.

Confiance took 105 shots to the hull and her terrified crew finally refused to fight on. The British flagship surrendered. So did her sister ships Linnet and Finch.  Her accompanying gunboats rapidly retreated.

Hearing of Macdonough’s devastating victory, the commander of the British invading force at Plattsburg knew he had no source of resupply. He ordered his troops back to Canada. Those who didn’t desert ran home.

And that’s how Captain Macdonough scuttled an invasion, won complete and lasting control of Lake Champlain, and earned the right for his fellow Americans to remember him.

                                                                                                                ----Gus Gribbin

City's Economy Revives So It Ousts Its Homeless

          They’re calling Columbia, South Carolina, “the new Southern hot spot.” It’s buzzing with new business. The coveted economic revival has arrived.

 So naturally it’s time to get rid of the homeless. They blemish the pretty cityscape.

            New York Times staffer Alan Blinder reported the eviction story and noted that homelessness in the county rose 43 percent in the last two years. He stated that some of the county’s roughly 1,500 unfortunates idle on Columbia’s streets and frighten some citizens.

Mr. Blinder quoted luggage store owner Richard Balser, who said:

            “People are afraid to get out of their cars when they see a homeless person. They haven’t been a problem. They just scare people.”   

            As the city’s conservative city fathers and business leaders see it, the best remedy for the situation is to shoo the derelicts out of town--and maybe set up a shelter some 15 miles away.

            The city council voted unanimously for the eviction. They apparently dismissed entirely the protest of Jaja Akair, one of the rootless ones. Mr. Akair told the council:

            “You’ve got to get to the root of the problem—why we’re homeless. You can’t just knock us to the side like we’re a piece of meat or a piece of paper.”

            Now, you might regard Columbia’s action as cruel disregard for vulnerable and needy fellow citizens. You might conclude Columbians failed to consider the moral implications of their decision.

            And you’d be right.

The Columbians have done this when lack of morality among our leaders at all government levels has become an issue among academic and religious leaders. They note the disregard for the “common good”—or “people’s good”—that’s so glaring especially in the Halls of the U.S. Congress and many state legislatures.

            In recent months articles on the common good have appeared widely. The 57-year old Evangelical Christian publication Christianity Today has run an article and similar articles appeared in Time Magazine’s on-line edition, in the Seattle Times, in Jim Wallis’ evangelical Sojourner Magazine, and even in the publication of the Organic Consumers Association.

            The “common good” concept has been around for thousands of years. Put most simply, the phrase refers to policies, actions, or items the citizens of a city, state, or nation, say, would recognize as desirable and beneficial for everyone.

Aristotle is more precise. A common good, he stated, is “a good proper to and attainable only by a community, yet individually shared by its individuals.”

The once ancient and widely accepted concept was seldom discussed prior to the GOP takeover in 2001. In 1999 Political Scientist Thomas W. Smith of Villanova University wrote in the American Political Science Review:

“Talk about the common good has been all but abandoned. In the twentieth Century only Catholic social and political theory still clings to the concept.”

Professor Smith noted that the common good was “a central problem in political theory” because it provided a way to distinguish between a politician’s personal interests and the interests of the community.

It also provides a way for a group of politicians like Columbia’s city council or GOP Tea Partiers to distinguish between their collective interests and the public’s interest.

 As if they cared.

True, people disagree on what is “good” or what is good for a community and shared by each individual.

The practical way to overcome that hitch is follow the urgings of philosophers John Mill and Jeremy Bentham. In essence they said it is right to do the maximum good for the most people.

It’s even easier to adopt a rule we all know: Do to others what you would want done to you—the “Golden Rule.”

If state governors followed that rule they wouldn’t bar their state’s poor from the health care mandated by Obamacare. Were national and state legislators to follow that rule they would raise the minimum wage, preserve food stamps, and absolutely resist shutting down the government.

But back to Columbia, SC.
You might ask what its citizens could do about their homeless brethren.

That’s simple. Help them.

                                                             ----Gus Gribbin

Note: Mr. Alan Blinder’s New York Times article appeared on Monday, August 26, 2013.


"Sustainability's" Great ! But What's Sustainable?

            A new word has sashayed into popular use. It’ soft slinky syllables are inviting— increasingly irresistible to advertisers, manufacturers, grocers, scientists, and especially environmentalists. They rush to embrace its six vowels and eight consonants.

            Let’s face it, the word is hip—which is an old fashioned slang for “in style,”  “voguish,”  “with it,” and, ah, “so cooool.” In other words, utterly seductive.

      The word is sustainablejust as its popularity seems to be.

            Now the ideas underlying the term “sustainability” are not only good they’re really important.      

            Trouble is it’s hard to figure out what the word means in its different usages.

            Sure, you can look up the meaning and it seems remarkably clear. The Miriam Webster Dictionary states:

            Sustainability: 1. Capable of being sustained. 2. a: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged…b:  of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods.”

   explains sustainability as “1. The ability to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed. 2. Environmental Science, the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.”

            Both those explanations seem straightforward enough.

 But what do you make of the announcement over the food store loud speaker urging, “Shoppers, check out our sustainable products?”

Are potatoes sustainable? Beets? Eggs? Would you say tomatoes can be used without being depleted or permanently damaged? Not around our house.

The Center for a Sustainable Economy offers a lengthy online “Ecological Footprint Quiz.” The curious can answer the questions to get an idea of how big a chunk of earth’s resources the quiz-taker is using. It can be shocking. Even if you drive a fuel efficient hybrid, turn out the lights when not in use, and use the dishwasher only when it’s chock full, you can end up feeling like a parasite—especially if you’re notified, “If everyone on the planet lived [your] lifestyle, we would need 4.34 earths.”

The quiz asks about income level, size of home and grounds, type of car owned, and such. The questions become frustrating when they ask about sustainability though. How do you answer when asked if your home employs sustainable materials and if your house is built of sustainable materials?

Is concrete sustainable? How about brick, cedar siding, roofing shingles, flagstone, glass, steel, aluminum? Which are or aren’t “sustainable.”?

Certainly building a mud hut with thatched roof is likely to do little damage to the environment. But surely many environmentally conscious folks would opt not to exercise that option.

Some smart vendors are helping us to determine what’s sustainable and what might not be. At a tile store, for instance, some of the lovely ceramic, quartz, granite, marble and glass tiles have little green stickers on them to indicate they’re “sustainable.” But why? Why do they have, “the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance”?

Without knowing the answer, should we take it on faith that we’ll be more environmentally virtuous if we buy the stickered tiles? I guess so. It would be unheard of for any marketer to deceive us.

Another thing:

The various levels of government—national, state, county, city—have or are creating “Sustainability Offices” or departments. They have big ambitions.

Consider Baltimore’s Office of Sustainability. The way the office describes itself is similar to the way the other Sustainability Offices do. For instance, it has a “Baltimore Sustainability Plan,” and the Office “integrates sustainability into City government operations….”

Wow. That’s certainly commendable. But some wiseacres might think the explanation’s vague.

What we need truly need is a sustainable way to incorporate some specificity and caution in the way marketers and others use this newly ubiquitous buzz word. Otherwise we’re likely to see the word has the quality of being harmful and confusing in our attempts to understand environmental protection.

                                                                                          ----Gus Gribbin


The Land Fries;Trees Blaze! Does Congress Care? Take a Guess

Let’s sympathize with optimists who hope Republican wackos in the U.S. House of Representatives will finally act for the common good.
 Because there is new hope-draining evidence they won’t.
The latest Far Right craziness comes in press reports that Congressional Republicans have drafted legislation that would cut the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency by 34 percent. GOPers want to eliminate the newly announced rules for lowering greenhouse emissions and they would slice Fish and Wildlife Service funding in half.
Incredibly, the Republicans want to gut the Protection Agency’s clean water grant program, reducing funding by 83 percent.
This news comes as drought devastates crops in the west, as scientists warn clean water supplies are threatened, and as media reports explain New England fishermen are going broke and jobless because fishing has been severely restricted. Fishing has been limited because water heated by global warming has driven cod fish and other species from traditional fishing grounds. The government is trying to salvage what’s left of the fisheries.  
Think of the western drought--suspend your possible distaste for statistics, and check out the figures below.
 The authoritative U.S. Drought Monitor report, dated July 23, 2013, states:
“…The drought is far from over in the Southwest, with 80 percent of the topsoil short or very short of moisture in Colorado and New Mexico, 74 percent so rated in Oregon, and over 60 percent that dry in Utah. As of July 21, the United States Department of Agriculture reported pasture and range land [is] in poor to very poor condition for 95 percent of California, 79 percent in Arizona and New Mexico, 70 percent in Nevada and 64 percent of Colorado.
“Drier and warmer than normal weather further dried out soils in the northern states of the West…. This week began with only four large wildfires burning in the Northwest, but it ended with firefighters battling over a dozen.”
In a New York Times Op Ed piece, Gary Paul Nabhan, research scientist at the University of Arizona’s Southwest Center, explained why such numbers are important. He pointed out that the Western states are a cornerstone of the American food supply and continued:

            “People living outside the region seldom recognize [the West’s] immense contribution to American agriculture: roughly 40 percent of the net farm income for the country normally comes from the 17 Western states; cattle and sheep production make up a significant part of that, as do salad greens, dry beans, onions, melons hops, barley, wheat and citrus fruits.”
Mr. Nabhan wrote that the recent heat wave has imperiled every crop from apricots and barley to wheat and zucchini. He reported that Idaho potato yields have been “knocked back.” Such setbacks mean the quality and quantity of various foods will be affected and prices are likely to rise again as they did in 2012, the hottest year in American history. Moreover, wrote Mr. Nabhan, “The Western drought, which has persisted for the last few years, has already diminished both surface water and ground water supplies and increased energy costs, because of all the water that has to be pumped in from elsewhere.”
Mr. Nabhan is hardly the only scientist and informed citizen warning of problems global warming-spawned heat and drought cause.  The reality is that the nation faces serious, fundamental problems—the kind we expect our legislators to study and attempt to solve.
What we don’t expect is for a group of uncaring, single-issue, selfish congressmen to try and slash the funds of government agencies and programs combatting threats to our food and water supplies.
Americans have a lot on their minds simply trying to make a living and eke a little fun from life.  Nonetheless, it’s time for them to carve out time to check the true state of the nation and its threats. When—and if—they ever do, they’ll toss the far right saboteurs out of Congress.

                                                                           ---Gus Gribbin
Note: Mr. Nabhan’s article appeared on July 22, 2013.