, Newburyport, MA


April 10, 2013

Gone with the wave

To the editor:

Anyone wondering how Newbury officials “are saying that homeowners can rebuild on oceanfront lots” (“Tax relief planned for owners of destroyed homes on Plum Island,” March 28) needs to consider a long-running historical precedent in the art of denial and defiance.

In light of our recent tendency to treat comparisons as equations, I must preface this with a reminder that 12 can be compared to 24 by noting the common denominators (2, 3, 4, and 6), by expressing them as dozens (one and two) or in relation to each other (half and double).

It would take a very low common denominator of another kind to claim that any of these three comparisons equates 12 with 24, as low as one saying that Plum Islanders believe in slavery or that Scarlett O’Hara’s Tara was built on a sand dune.


To this day many Southerners insist that the Civil War had less to do with slavery — which their textbooks still call a “benevolent institution” — than with states rights.

Today on Plum Island erosion has less to do with science — whose advocates are dismissed as “eco-nuts” — than with property rights.

They own the property, they have the rights.

This same attitude — that economic interests and ownership dictate rights — drives the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline.

No matter that just this month Americans have suffered two major spills in Arkansas and Texas, and that another, by rail, occurred in Canada where Keystone will originate.

No matter that increasing numbers of deformed fish are being taken out Athabasca Lake and River near the Keystone tar sands.

All that matters are the frequent television ads with colorfully dressed and smiling diverse casts telling us in lush drawls how “green” and “conscientious” companies such as General Electric and BP are, and how much BP “has learned” from its “experience” in the Gulf of Mexico.

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