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Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Dense Version of Why Robert LaPenta Will Not Base a Business Empire Upon Grove Lumber 

In Southern California, thoughts occur as you drive.

In this case, the freeway was California State Route 57, the song was "My Weakness" by Moby (which I recently purchased), and as I followed a truck, I thought, "If the lumber is already cut up and placed on the truck, wouldn't the grove be gone?"

It shouldn't be gone, but perhaps it is, as I noted on the secret blog (no link - the blog is secret). But here's part of what I sourced:

AMR Research is out with a thought-provoking article, “Who Really Owns Your Software Vendor?” Behind some of the consolidation in the software vendors market, AMR warns, lurk private equity investors with a financial, rather than technology or customer-driven, agenda. Although nobody should be surprised that technology investors want to make money, AMR does an interesting riff on the “buy and flip” rap on private equity investors, explaining the economics of aggregating customer bases to milk the maintenance revenue streams.

Watt? (Sorry for the jumps in logic - this is dense, in more ways than one.)

Opposing abortion and stem-cell research is consistent with the religious right's belief that life begins at the moment of conception. Opposing gay marriage is consistent with its claim that homosexual activity is proscribed by the Bible....But a scripture-based justification for anti-environmentalism -- when was the last time you heard a conservative politician talk about that?

Odds are it was in 1981, when President Reagan's first secretary of the interior, James Watt, told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. "God gave us these things to use. After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back," Watt said in public testimony that helped get him fired.

But lumber is not a growth industry (pardon the pun). Maybe it was, once upon a time:

With trees growing down to the shores of navigable waters, the land around Puget Sound was described by early observers as a "lumberman’s paradise." In the 1850s, investors from California built the first lumber mills on the Kitsap Peninsula to supply the booming gold rush economy in California. Mills were soon established elsewhere in the Puget Sound. Between 1849 and 1859, lumber production had increased from four million board feet to 77 million board feet. The lumber industry in Washington did not grow substantially until 1883, when the North Pacific Railroad built a transcontinental line across the Cascade Mountains to Tacoma. The rail line opened up new markets to the east, not only for lumber, but also for agricultural products, and dramatically affected the course of events in Washington....

Like the national economy, the broad-based lumber industry suffered its hardest blow during the Great Depression. Lumber production fell precipitously in response to the steep decline in house construction and by 1932 mills in Washington were operating at one-fifth of total capacity. Although the Washington lumber industry rebounded in the late 1930s, it has never approached the record production levels achieved during the previous decade. Over the past sixty years, the lumber industry has exhibited ups and downs, but no long-term growth in production....

The availability of timber has played a crucial role throughout the history of the Washington lumber and wood products industry. For nearly a hundred years, timber supply in Washington did not constrain industrial development. The situation began to change around the turn of the century when the Federal government established national forest preserves. The era of cheap timber in Washington ended in the 1940s; relative prices for lumber and wood products more than doubled between 1930 and 1950. Although some have argued "[that there is] no chance the Evergreen State will ever run out of trees," state and federal policy changes enacted during the 1990s greatly restricted timber harvests on state and federal forests lands. Washington’s 1998 timber harvest of 4.0 billion board feet was one-third less than the 1970-98 average.

Back to Moby:

One thing I really like about Moby is that he doesn’t restrict his music taste to any one style or genre. He just goes with what feels and sounds good, and that’s why I think the whole Play album is extraordinary. Not one song is alike, it spans a number of genres, and can never get boring. One of my favorite songs on the album is My Weakness, a chillout ambient tune that’s both pretty and haunting.

But one man's haunting is another man's glory. (What is truth?) Moby and Watt would have different reactions to this story.

Gloria's face was thoughtful. Treeless Street haunted her.

"Do you know a street that hasn't a single tree on it, Uncle Em? The awfulest street! Just children and children and children and tenement houses. I suppose I've been by it hundreds of times, but I never saw it till to-day. It must have a name to it."

"What do you want to know its name for, my dear? It isn't the kind of a street to run about on!" Uncle Em laughed. To Gloria the note of uneasiness in his voice was not noticeable.

She nodded a gay little good-by and was gone.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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