Archive for September 12th, 2010

Australia Moving To China

BusinessWeek is reporting that Australia is moving to China. At the rate of a million tons a day, Australia is excavated, poured into trucks, loaded aboard barges, and floated off to the Middle Kingdom. There it is employed in the service of high-winding the national economy so that the Chinese may live like Americans. Which is their right: if Americans can live like Americans, everyone else should be able to, too. Problem is, it would require the resources of 5.3 earths for everyone to live like an American. And we only have one.

It is the iron-rich region of Pilbara that is migrating to China. “Pilbara” is the Aboriginal word for “mullet,” the fish that used to run in the mountain creeks there. That was before the native peoples were displaced by stockmen and ruffians. Now the earth itself is leaving.

The red earth here contains an estimated 24 billion tons of iron ore. In the 1970s it left in smaller quantities and returned to Australia in Toyotas and Mazdas; now the dirt is going offshore forever, to house and transport workers in the cities of China.

While it’s a complex industry, at the basic level mining is dead-simple: Dirt is dug from the ground, loaded onto trucks, taken to trains, then put on boats. It is the scale that stuns, particularly in this operation. The trucks are two stories tall. The trains are two miles long, and they pour like rivers down the mountains to the coast, where the carrier ships await. The million tons of ore the ships carry away each day is up by 70 percent in the past five years, and most of it is bound for China.

[The ore] is loaded onto 325-yard-long bulk carriers waiting by purpose-built wharves 500 yards long. About eight of these massive ships leave every day.

Selling itself to China has allowed Australia to evade the global recession—its unemployment rate, at 5.1%, is the same as it was before the transnational money-munchers went into a swoon.

Some Australians, however, wonder whether, in the words of one Tony Wiltshire, the mining people are “just here to make a buck and go, or build something sustainable? The question is whether we’re going to have mines with towns, or towns with mines.”

That’s a question easily answered. I lived in a mining town for 15 years. Except it’s not a town anymore. It died, slowly, long before I moved there, after the mines played out. It has always been thus, for mining towns. My “town,” when I lived in it, was no longer a town—it was, rather, a “ghost town.” Once the earth is all used up, the Pilbara will go ghostly, too.

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Oops

(Nobody’s perfect. But when it comes time for the trial, or even the evidentiary hearings, the police ofttimes tend to pretend they are. That’s why I’m filing this one away for future use. The house-search where the police managed to overlook a body.)

Our story begins on August 28, when police dispatched to a home at 1066 Crepe Myrtle Drive in Hercules, California found there the remains of Ricardo Sales, 73, who they determined had been bludgeoned to death the day before.

The police quickly focused their suspicion on one Efren Valdemoro, 38, who had been “seen fighting the elderly man and his son the weekend before, according to Hercules police, who were called to break up the fight.”

Hercules Police Chief Fred Del Torchio said Val-demoro’s violent spree was touched off by an argument.

“He was upset,” Del Torchio said. “At this point, I can’t tell you why he was upset. Suffice it to say there were one woman and three men living in a house and he got into an altercation with a couple of them and he didn’t live there.”

According to one report, the owner and landlady of the 1066 Crepe Myrtle Drive property was Cindy Tran, 46, Valdemoro’s girlfriend.

Valdemoro himself had resided, off and on, and for the past 10 years, at a home in Vallejo occupied by Macaria Smart, 60; Segundina Allen, 63; and Allen’s husband, Charles Rittenhouse, 72.

Those folks didn’t want him there anymore, however.

Allen had grown scared of Valdemoro after initially allowing him to stay with her. She and Rittenhouse had asked Smart to change their locks twice in recent weeks to keep out their unwanted house guest.

“This guy would sneak into the house, almost like a ghost,” [Smart’s husband Joe] said.

Allen also called Smart for help a couple weeks ago when Valdemoro showed up at the house. He said he drove over, grabbed the man and forced him to leave.

A neighbor, Antonio Nicolas, said that at one point, Allen and Rittenhouse had posted a sign on their front door saying, “Efren, don’t come back or we’ll call the police.”

He said he sometimes saw Valdemoro outside late at night, often saying he’s looking for his cat. Nicolas described those conversations as “nonsense.”

“Some days it would look like that he was out of his mind,” Nicolas said.

That he was. By the time this story is over, Ricardo Sales, his son Frederick, Tran, Allen, Macaria Smart, and Valdemoro himself, will all be dead.

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Ornery

“Now, son, you wanted to know what made me? What made me. When I was in school in the first grade, the teacher told me, she said one and one was two. I said, now wait a minute, how do you know? And right then we had a big problem. She said it was. I said now I don’t believe that shit. How do you know it ain’t three? Now, you know what I was tryin’ to say. She got upset and called my mother up there, and it’s been that way ever since. Now, she was right, one-hundred percent right. But at six years old I didn’t feel that anybody could teach me anything. Don’t tell me that one and one is two. And don’t tell me that Jerry Lee Lewis isn’t the right kind of person. Because Jerry Lee Lewis is the right kind of person. If he wadn’t the right kind of person he’d be dead. Or in jail. Now, that’s Jerry Lee Lewis’ success. The way it is. I am what I am.”

—Jerry Lee Lewis

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When I Worked

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