down the drain

The ethical man keeps his hands to himself and does not destroy what he admires and loves. The ethical man does not subscribe to the excuse that “you always hurt the one you love. The ethical hurts no-one at all.

Most of the electorate is probably too young to remember the perverse responses Jimmy Carter’s admission of having lusted in his heart occasioned among Republicans. In retrospect, it seems rather obvious that people, who live and die by the euphemism, were ready to believe that Carter had uttered a prevarication, as they, surely would have done themselves. Moreover, because it came out of the mouth of a Democrat, it had to be amplified and speculated about until ridicule drowned out common sense. I, and perhaps others, still resent that.

Lust is a funny word. In German it means “pleasure or “joy and there is nothing prurient about it. Certainly not in the sense that, in English, makes it one of the seven deadly sins. Of course, even in English, a “lusty fellow is not necessarily offensive. A lust for life is something we all should strive for. Still, perhaps because to “lust in one’s heart, is to exhibit self-restraint, it is a trait which, apparently, our instinct-driven friends in the other party seriously resent. It follows, perhaps inevitably, that those who take what they want, even as they visit wanton devastation and destruction on what’s left, also resist being restrained.

It turns out there’s a visual record of what unrestrained lust looks like and it’s associated with one of the members of the Board of Directors of Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources, Phyllis Thompson Johnson.

According to her biographical entry on the DNR web site,

Ms. Johnson and her husband own and manage a Forest Stewardship Tree Farm and Quail Hunting Preserve, known as Rocky Branch in Jeff Davis County. She also has over 30 years of experience as a Hospital Pharmacist. Johnson is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy. She and her husband, Stephen, have two daughters. They are active members of First Baptist Church in Hazlehurst, and the Georgia Forestry Association.

Presumably, the “Stewardship Tree Farm is not the property Mr. James Holland, Altamaha Riverkeeper, Emeritus remembers as a logging disaster from a decade ago. As he recollects it:

Mrs. Johnson is an heir to the infamous Thompson Hardwood Company in Hazlehurst, Georgia. The property the harvesting was done on was owned by Thompson Hardwood and they sold it (about 500 acres) to five people mostly in the Laurens County area with an agreement that the trees still on site at the time of sale belonged to Thompson Hardwood and because these folks could not afford to pay for the timber they let Thompson Hardwood harvest the timber and they would pay for the property without the timber.

The five new owners saw how horrible Thompson Hardwood was treating the land so they invited the Altamaha Riverkeeper® (at the time, me) onto the property to document this awful hardwood harvesting.

Calling that “harvesting is generous. When a tornado touches down, the landscape looks about the same. From the knees and stumps left behind, the trees look to have been mostly cypress.

Cypress trees are slow growing, but can reach prodigious size. The ones on Thompson land are obviously never going to attain the stature of the trees in Miller Lake.

As Mr. Holland remembers:

It was right at Christmas time and the tree harvesters had a terrible oil spill on site and walked off and left it. I had to literally demand that the Emergency Response EPD team in Atlanta make the timber company return to the site and get the oil out of that slough. It took them 21 days to remove the oil from the water. The Emergency Response people kept telling me that I should report this to the land owner and let him make the timber company return and clean up the site. I refused to do that and told the gentleman on the phone several times that this spill was in waters of the state and it was their job to get it cleaned up. In the end I prevailed but why should I have to argue with the emergency response team to do their job?

0000128-OIL-SPILL 0000133-OIL-SAMPLE
Please note the letter of response from the DNR Commissioner (at the time) telling me everything on this site, in so far as violations of the law, including the 15 federally mandated Best Management Practices (BMP(S) requirements, was all right. What the Commissioner wrote back to me was pure trash and outright lies. Deep rutting, stream bank destruction, stream crossings are clearly in the 15 federal BMP requirements and they are not voluntary as are the Best Management Practices for harvesting timber in Georgia.


Of course, once the devastation has occurred, Best Management is out the window, especially for an arm-chair enforcer who can’t tell the difference between a floodplain and a swamp. Then too, “significant, in the jargon of the natural resource bureaucrat, is like the “discretion of the cop, a euphemism to excuse not getting involved.

But how to account for the discontinuity between stewardship and the wanton destruction of the woodlands? Here too, I’d suggest, the euphemism can be blamed. In the land of the euphemism, nothing is as it seems. It’s people exist in a state of delusion. They legislate and de-legate to escape responsibility and achieve nothing. The Board of Directors of the Department of Natural Resources of the State of Georgia is an example of a horde of middlemen designed to create the illusion of governance. The reality is that on the ground exploitation is the order of the day. “Get it while the getting is good. “When it’s gone, we’ll all be dead anyway.

That’s the mentality of the human predator and the parasite. They can think ahead, but only as far as their personal end. Ancient cypress stands mean nothing to them. In West Virginia, the same mentality perceives a mountain top as something to blow up and men, who take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints and consign the lust for life to their hearts, as objects of deception and scorn.

The selection of Jason Carter as Governor of Georgia will do just a little to begin righting a great wrong; one that started the whole country down the slippery slope of deception with the result that everyone, including the status-conscious one percent, are now worse off.

Morning in America. If that isn’t the euphemism to beat all, I don’t know what is. But, when you come right down to it, “euphemism is itself a euphemism, a word to make the bad sound good. The accurate, unvarnished word is “lie. And the bottom line is that the ethical man, or woman, doesn’t lie.

Are Georgians ready for such blunt talk? Probably not.

Editor's Note: The story first appeared at the author's blog, Hannah's Blog. Images: All of the images in the post were provided by the author and were likely taken by James Holland.

Monica Smith

Monica Smith writes Hannah's Blog. Born in Germany, she came to the United States as a child, living first in California, then after an interval in Chile, in New York. Married to a retired professor at the University of Florida, where she lived for 17 years, she moved to St. Simons Island, Georgia, in 1993 and now divides her time between Georgia and New Hampshire. (New Hampshire, she says, is always interesting during a presidential election.) She and her husband have three children and five grandchildren. Ms. Smith says she "learned long ago that I am not a good team player when I got hired at the Library of Congress, fresh out of college with a degree in political science and proficiency in four foreign languages, to 'edit' library cards and informed my supervisor that if she was going to insist I punch the clock exactly on time, my productivity was going to fall from being the highest to being the same as everyone else's. The supervisor opted to assign me to another building where there was no time-clock. After I had the first of our three children, I decided a paycheck wasn't worth the hassle."