Thursday, August 27, 2015

Heard On The Street

I once, really more than once, heard hedge fund managers can care less if the stock market goes down, even a lot, since they make their money on market volatility not on stability. Up or down is their preference and rapid is their choice. Funny, what these money managers seek is opposite of what the common person on the street desires, which is market stability, upward and slowly.

The question arises : was this latest stock market fiasco orchestrated or did it react only to international money problems with China the focal point ? Investigative reporting will have to have time to do their work and may never come to an adequate decision. Again from Gran'Pa Downie's admonitions, "Money talks but bull s... walks !"

Big Money has a well oiled lobby in Washington, DC. that can spin a story anyway it pleases and until the public, you and me, get angry enough to elect representatives strong enough to squash these bugs nothing will get done. It is up to us at the ballot box, folks.

Ronald C. Downie

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Citizen's Responsibility

What is a citizen's responsibility ? Responsibility is: to sound an alarm when, as in colonial days, the community faces eminent danger. I've spent the greater part of my adult life engaged in some aspect of public service, something I'll never regret. History will be the final arbiter as to whether I made a difference in the lives of citizens living in this borough, named Pottstown.

As a citizen, I wish to sound an alarm !

The borough must oversee the dredging and complete elimination of the silt islands now anchored in place with four foot tall vegetation that clogs up the west channel of Manatawny Creek, a creek that must flow under the King Street bridge, to drain waters from its upstream drainage basin.

Yes 1972 was caused mainly by the flooding of the Schuylkill River which has been alleviated by holding upstream flood waters in the Blue Marsh Impounding Lake. More likely today, the silt island upstream, under, and downstream of the King Street Bridge will cause flooding of Memorial Park ball fields, the island, and the new wading park. Along with them, many homes and businesses in close proximity to the Manatawny Creek have an all likelihood of flooding.

The creek bed is the only course creek water has to flow in that drains the entire upstream drainage area. Engineers designed the bridge to accommodate this estimated total flow. The King Street Bridge was designed to have two channels flowing under it, a finite gross amount of space to accommodate ordinary flows with enough space left over to take care of extreme rain events.

We live in changing times when normal rain events are exceeding experts' estimates by a long shot. Couple this phenomenon with a reduction in space that water has to free flow under the bridge, because of the silt islands full of vegetation, and a flood is its to be expected.

The tragedy is that a major flood could be avoided if town fathers demanded county officials take proper action. Years ago the county and the River Keeper we're instrumental in taking out the dam below High Street claiming no ill effects would come of its loss. Well, when in the dam was in, it caused slack water to occur far up stream from the bridge where silt deposited, not at it, as it does today.

I implore town officials take immediate action to study the existing condition of the Manatawny Creek and to develop an action plan, not only eliminate these islands but, if possible, eliminate the reason that islands build up in the first place. This is my "Citizen's Alarm" ! Please take action !

Ronald C. Downie

Friday, August 7, 2015

Living In Fear

My life started in 1935 : as a youngster, if my parents' conversations weren't about the aftermath of the Great Depression, they lamented about the dark clouds over Europe indicating an escalation of German incursions into surrounding countries. America entered the Second World War as I entered grade school where my schoolmates and I practiced drills to crouch under our desks so we could ward off targeted fascist bombs.

For the rest of my life killing fields of war have occupied TV and the news papers with little respite from illustrated horrors sent out over the media. All my adult life I've been known as a tough guy and in sports, life, and business I've propelled this image. Although, my life has lived fully up to this image, down deeply, I've lived with a fear of the unknown especially through the years of global nuclear proliferation.

I'm no longer concerned with my life, it's coming to an end and I know it. But, as with all living organisms, life is a continuum. New generations sprout from the present one and, as this is repeated again and again, the species lives on. My concern is for my offspring that they will be able to live until they reach a normal lifespan.

It's the crazies of this World which trouble me. No longer are we in an era of the Great Khan, Genghis, who once ruled a quarter of the World.
His hordes defeated a tribe, killed the males, bred the females, stole their treasure, and burnt to the ground their buildings. It's simpler today, young looking servicemen and women in a hardened silo deep in the ground have a key, a screen, and a phone connection. Their orders are drummed into their heads. I'm sure there must be fail safe directives in their orders but, "if things can go wrong - over time they will go wrong" is a truism found often in the business world's dialog.
I may be too impressionable having lived my life fearful of the unknown consequences that the thought of war brings. One mistake can trigger "mutual assured destruction" that may trigger a life ending Nuclear Winter. The weight of conflict seems to be an ever growing burden on humanity and it seems to me that only through human dialog can the unthinkable be avoided.

Ronald C. Downie

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Watching and Waiting

Watching California burn is a study in Man's ultimate insignificance; he can watch and react to flare ups but is helpless in completely extinguishing flames if the weather won't cooperate. 

Watching the Middle East erupt in the use of armament is a study in Man's inhumanity to his fellow man; killing to cleanse a culture of some other culture is truly an act of genocide. 

Watching the World cringe from the thought of drones becoming so commonplace in most facets of life is a study in Man's timidity to embrace and control progress 
before drones fly violently out of control.

Lastly, watching yourself sway left and right as the World, you feel, folds in around you in ways that you're existence seems unnecessary. Man's insignificance, his inhumanity, and his timidity has manifested finally in yourself when hopelessly you feel unnecessary and opt out of life's equation. 

Reaching rock bottom, now you have a chance to rise, since there's no other avenue of escape. Hopefully, the heinous acts of war bypass you so you can be part of the future in a society filled with vision and freedom.

Ronald C. Downie 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Bees, Now and Then

Not yet, it wasn't quite time for WW2 in 1940 when we moved to The Shoemaker Estate, Glasgow St. at the north end of the runway of the Pottstown Airport. The winds of war were stirring as Dad listened to the radio in the morning before he went to work. "Rambling With Gambling"on WOR, New York, was a staple in the early morning but I loved listening to Jan Peerce singing, "Bluebird Of Happiness" when I could wake up by 6AM.

Seventy five years ago before I entered grade school Dad had an episode with honey bees which had a nest in the eve of this house my parents rented. The exterior of the two story house was tan stucco but way up at the peek of the roof line the stucco seemed much darker for an unknown reason. We lived here only a short time when Dad decided to put in a back yard garden. He was slight of build, lily white, and not naturally an outdoors man but having a garden was his passion. So he and Andy, my older brother, grabbed shovels and began digging up the rear yard while I cheered them from my perch on the backyard fence. Gnats, flies, and misquotes swarmed around their sweating bodies so Dad decided to take a break on the screened back porch. Mom suggested Andy and Dad put on some bug repellant so they liberally applied some citronella oil, I think, which was all she had.

Bad news : bees went wild after whatever they spread on themselves. With swarms of bees zeroing in on them Andy and Dad made a literal bee line to the enclosed back porch. Swatting at them, trying to escape their stings they, after flapping and swinging, finally became clear of the bees. Honey bees in the eves of this old house on a aging estate of a once wealthy family seeking to retain its sense of grandeur was an indication of the clash of "old world" against the new. Always on the move, our next, shortly after this adventure was to Houck Lane near Harmonyville, Chester County.

Bees are endangered now, seventy five years later, most likely many killed off by people who disturbed their nests, got stung, and thought they'd get even by killing them. In the World of food production bees play an enormous roll in pollination of flowers necessary to produce a fruit or seed head that humans and animals consume. Like people, bees have an aggressive side, but it's their work-a-holic nature in pollination that makes them so valuable to life as we know it. Support bee health, please !

Ronald C. Downie





Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Channel Divides

Alive in person - "never been there, nor done that" - even though I am a consummate spectator, mostly by TV, I've never been in person at the scene of such sports events as The British Open or The Tour de France. Still, I revel in the actions of spectators, those who have the means and time to experience great sporting events in person. Last week, on either side of The English Channel, there were two completely different assemblages of spectators.

At the Open tens of thousands of tweedy, hardy fans positioned themselves in bleachers that were placed at strategic points on the course giving these spectator the best view of golfer's actions as they passed before them. Additional stiff upper lipped viewers on foot seemingly trying to follow particular players as they played their way around the course. These mobile viewers seemed at times to be like an accordion; stretching out, moving quickly until they bunch up at a choke point where they slow to a stop. Some filter through the log jam and replicate the previous hole until they run out of roped paths. Feeling their 80#s well spent they'll, no matter the weather, be back tomorrow, rain or shine.

While across the channel a modern menagerie of circus oriented spectators line hundreds and hundreds of miles of the Tour de France road course. If they don't have a camera or smart phone they're draped in some flag like material foot racing the bikers up the climbs seeking their own picture be taken by the army of TV cameras. By the enormous number of vehicle campers which are parked along the route many spectators must camp out a night or two and, by their antics caught on TV, French wines must be in great demand to rock them to sleep.

On the 20th day of Tour competition I observed a rabid multitude of lilly white, European spectators being whipped into the heightened anxiety of competition. Masses long displayed in history are pictured being driven into a frenzy by words of a powerful speaker, but this time, it's the constant rhythm of bike racers pumping their pedals at a rate but few humans could ever accomplish. 

Back across the channel at St. Andrews, Scotland stiff upper lipped, dower spectators keep behind the ropes as they obey every order of respectability. Their worshiped hush as a player addresses his putt becomes the act of ultimate civility. Whereas back in France free of spectator fees, a daily hoard of people line the route seeking individual recognition by the bikers, by their spectator grouping, and, especially, the media camera crews.

Spectators from both sides of the channel show the World through TV their opposites; one, like performing actors of a circus, the other are as an audience attending a coronation. Each adds validity to the nature of the game they are attending : golf is individual with a body of rules hundreds of years old ; cycling compared to golf is new and a team effort with relativity few rules I'm aware of. Many watch the players but I choose to watch the spectators as much as the contestants because in them we can get the feel of two societies, one on either side of the English Channel.

Ronald C. Downie

Monday, July 27, 2015

Stupid Is, As Stupid Does

Continuing to believe in a theory, only because it's what people have always done, is considered foolishness by an educated society who understands the dynamics of change. One of the few constants found throughout our lives is change. Another is death, something none can escape. Often it's taxes and death mentioned together that a person can not outlive. But it's change that drives life in almost every period of time we live through. What can't you do without today that was not around, say, ten years ago ? Change is accelerating at an ever increasing rate almost to a point of disbelief.

Why then, should we be complacent with energy generating plants fueled by a nuclear reaction, dirty coal, and deep well gas which required tracking ? Yes, we need energy (electricity) but at what cost to our World's environment ? Especially today, when solar and wind energy are providing so much of the rest of the World's energy requirement ? No longer are these clean means for energy generation a theory but they're a proven fact of life while becoming cheaper.

"Stupid is, as stupid does", defines our passive American society which will believe highly funded, slick adds made and placed before them by the extraction industry ( oil, gas, uranium ) rather than the World's statistics which shows renewables are the future both in cost and reliability. The future's in our hands and, only by actions of those we elect into office, will our vote demonstrate a future we will be satisfied with.

Ronald C. DownieI