Mel Gibson has left the building. (heading directly to the chicken coop)

6 weeks ago, give or take couple of days, I picked up a small flock of day old chicks. You couldn’t even call them a flock at that point. They were more of a flick of a flock.

(Possibly) Mel Gibson as a day old chick with consort.

I decided to house them in my studio/basement until they were ready to move to their permanent home in the chicken coop. We had several reasons for using this strategic location:
a) it was out of the way
b) I could control the type and amount of traffic i.e. we have 6 cats and 2.75 dogs (don’t ask)
c) I wouldn’t have to travel too far to get to them if need arose

For the most part, their individual temperaments had shown through from day one. And those traits only grew stronger as the days passed. The skittish ones didn’t get braver, the bossy ones refined their technique and the curious, inquisitive ones kept drawing to mind the Monty Python quote: “…that most dangerous of animals, a clever sheep.”

Their feathers and beak coloring began to come in at about 2 weeks. It was at that point that I began to notice one of the cockerels. Mostly because he was incredibly reckless and stupidly brave. And the pullets, like swooning adolescent fans, seemed to adore him.

I started calling him Mel Gibson right after he did a Brave Heart run across the small pen at me and my American Dingo dog, Sunny Boy Red. He had perceived some threat to his flock. And no matter that we were dozens of times his size and that one of us has a set of rather pointed canines, he charged us like he was going to kick our collective butts.

All of this bluster earned a fair bit of admiration from yours truly. I’m all about the Berserker method as a form of self-defense. Even so, it drew into focus a series of rather pointed political questions on the wisdom of having a charismatic, reckless rooster in charge of the hens you are counting on for eggs.

Yes, he could protect them; from snakes and probably from the cats, if need be. But if he somehow discovered or devised an escape from his confines, would he lead the girls into an overwhelmingly dangerous situation?

Most likely yes. And so, it looked like Mel Gibson was slated for the chopping block.

We had planned for this eventuality; getting a few more chicks than we actually needed. One has to face the harsh fact that, sometimes, some of them just don’t make it to adulthood. Some of them are deformed, or picked on to the point of needing to be removed, or sometimes you get a rooster that goes “cockeyed”. In other words, he becomes dangerously unmanageable.

I had figured, all along, that one of the 2 cockerels would be more suited to keeping the kind of flock I felt would bring us mutual benefit. And I was pretty sure Mel wasn’t that guy. He didn’t seem unmanageable, just a little…edgy.

But, luckily for Mel, one of my kin decided a couple of chickens would be just the thing. So, happy ending, Mel and 3 of his ardent admirers will be moving house in the next few weeks.

I had planned to put everybody in our chicken run last week. They were 5 weeks old and all feathered in. The weather was quite warm, in the 80’s on a couple of days. But with temperatures dipping to 32 degrees and a late snow coming in, I hesitated in making that drastic a change to their environs.

But the natives were getting restless. Mel had gotten in the habit of perching on top of the watering tray, and pooping in it. It was the highest point in the pen and evidently that’s the cockerel version of “Look, I’m driving an expensive sports car”.

I responded by rigging a cap made of takeout trays that was taller and wider than he could negotiate. No more poo in the water. Issue resolved.

The problem with reckless and clever creatures who are also bored is they soon figure out a way to hack your hack. Soon, I was coming in to find the water tray overturned and a bunch of thirsty, slightly freaked-out chickens.

Mel Gibson in the Chicken Run on the Watering Tray in Question

But I only had to buck up til this weekend and they would be more than old enough to deal with any weather swings. Being in the midst of a pollen-induced sinus attack had me bed-ridden and in no mood for moving house and clearing the basement.

Mel Gibson wasn’t waiting that long.

Here is how I imagine it went down:
Mel got bored. He decided to show off for the girls by perching on the water tray. The tray tipped over, as usual, and somebody completely freaked out. This freaked everybody else out and although this wasn’t  The Station, somebody bum rushed the “door”, tipping the fencing, increasing the panic and setting the fully feathered flock into flight.

So, this morning, I rouse myself, drag my 50 lb head out of the bed and stumble down to the studio. I open the door and find that the pen has been “deconstructed” and there are chickens all over the basement. Subsequently there is poo all over the basement.

I stand stock still doing a head count. I hear hidden peeps from beneath furniture, from behind buckets, but the majority of the flock are in plain sight.

I open the dog crate I’ve been using to house them while I clean the pen. I start calling softly: “Chicker, chicker, chicker…” Then, I pick up Mel Gibson and put him in the crate.

I’ve found the easiest way to get the flock to co-operate is to press the cockerels into service. If the boys are in one place, the girls will shortly follow.

As soon as all were crated, counted and calm, I walked them over to the chicken run. I took Mel Gibson out, set him on the ground and as he walked off there was a rush out the crate door. Silly girls.

I’m acceding to their decision. They are only 2 days away from being 6 weeks old. More than old enough to stand a little evening cold. The coop is snug with lots of hay and leaves to snuggle down in. They should have no problems.

Besides, I can always run a lamp out there if I get too worried.

 

Mel Gibson assessing the threat level.

Advertisements

Guy Logic in Tool World

So I’m assembling a new drill press today and run into a perfect example of Guy Logic.

I’ll skip over the part where they assume I’ve assembled a drill press before and leave out helpful explanations and steps. Because, in my experience, the people who write tech. manuals couldn’t have possibly assembled the items they are writing about themselves. So there’s no point in bitching about the universal constant of half-assed assembly instructions.

I’ve gotten about half way through the assembly and everything is coated in machine oil, including my hands. Each of the plastic bags wrapped around each individual of the parts is coated, the machine is coated; I could give the Terminator a full-body massage and still have greasy hands.

I secretly believe machine oil is like some sort of pheromone for men. Either that or they believe it works that way on the women who smell it.

“Oooooo, he must be handy. He smells like greasy nickle soup. Hey, baby, I’m sexually available.”

So, I’m reading the directions and trying to keep the machine oil off the instruction manual – because I’m prissy that way- and come to the part where I am supposed to prepare the head assembly before putting it onto the base. The directions read:

Place the head assembly upside down on a level, flat surface.

In other words, take it out of the box, remove the greasy plastic wrapping and put it upside down on the table. But then I see a note at the bottom of the instruction series:

NOTE: This tool is heavy. Get help when needed.

So, what your sayin’ there bud is I should pick up a bulky, unwieldy, machine part featuring a slick, plastic hood with my grease-coated hands and hey, take care, it’s really heavy and flip it over to put it on the table.

And truly it is a heavy bastid. But the only tools they claimed one would need are a mallet, an adjustable wrench and a Phillips head screwdriver. There was nothing about an extra set of hands, attached or not, to a beefy grease-monkey.

If there were, I would have picked one up at the hardware store on the way home.

On walking the fine line between revisionist history and cultural sensitivity.

Two stories have come to light this week that examine America’s relationship with art, it’s depiction of slavery and our sociological  and cultural response to those depictions of history.

The first story, out of Georgia, centers on a series of murals painted by George Beattie depicting an idealized version of Georgia’s agricultural development.

The series starts with corn grown by prehistoric Native Americans, and proceeds to a 20th-century veterinary lab. The history in between the ancient and the modern eras includes slavery.

The incoming Republican agriculture commissioner, Gary Black, doesn’t like the work and feels it is no longer appropriate for the modern agricultural systems in Georgia. (Perhaps a golden idol to Monsanto would be more to his liking.)

Mr. Beattie is no longer alive to defend the work, but had obviously dealt with the issues raised prior to this incident.

Beattie’s 1995 defense of his work:

“As a human being, I am vehemently opposed to slavery, as anyone should be, but it was a significant epoch in our history; it would have been inaccurate not to include this period.”

In the second incident Publisher’s Weekly examines a Twain scholar’s efforts to “update”  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for a modern audience.

Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a classic by most any measure—T.S. Eliot called it a masterpiece, and Ernest Hemingway pronounced it the source of “all modern American literature.” Yet, for decades, it has been disappearing from grade school curricula across the country, relegated to optional reading lists, or banned outright, appearing again and again on lists of the nation’s most challenged books, and all for its repeated use of a single, singularly offensive word: “nigger.”

Believe it or not, I find the first incident slightly more defensible than the second for this reason:

Twain was portraying the mores of his time. As a former newspaper man, he understood the importance of capturing the particular realities of a story, even if they were dressed in fiction.

In creating his painting series, Beattie was not portraying the essence of his era. He  chose to create a view of history that removed the suffering of the kidnapped victims of slavery. Neither did he depict the genocide visited upon the Native Americans who were driven off their tribal lands. He chose to create work that pleased his patron; work depicting idyllic moments; free of want or hardship. He edited out the uncomfortable moments in a foreshadowing of what Gary Black is currently attempting to do by removing the work wholesale.

Black claims he is not comfortable with the depictions because they whitewash the realities of Georgia using slaves to build it’s wealth and power. But by the same token, it seems he is attempting to push that uncomfortable skeleton into a literal and metaphoric closet.

In denying our history, we belittle the suffering of those already made small, nameless and faceless. How can we pretend the abuse did not happen? How can we bear to make the abhorrent more palatable by a self-imposed blindness, by euphemism or by proxy? What do these incidents say about our willingness to confront our past so that we remain aware of our potential, as humans, to dehumanize others?

As an artist, this chills me; this marginalization of painful truths for the sake of ease. It does not bode well for our maturity as citizens or as a society.

Show Me The Note, Motherfuckers!

Zero Hedge posts a followup to Gonzalo Lira’s The Coming Middle-Class Anarchy. Wherein Brian and Ilsa, a retired middle class couple, find themselves with an underwater mortgage. They also find themselves in a very typical bureaucratic run around.

In response, they sensibly did what more and more people will be forced
to do, if banks don’t pull their heads out of their obviously comfy
asses.  

They demanded to see the note.

I’ve spent a good portion of my free time over the last several weeks trying to find alternative branches to the narrative line that is quickly approaching.

Perhaps I’m not clever enough, or knowledgeable enough to faithfully follow Ariadne’s thread. Because I keep circling around the same conclusion: the mortgage (and by default the banks, no pun intended) system is going to grind to a halt because of this issue. And when it does, everything impacted by banking is going to grind to a halt.

The alternatives:

The banks screwed up. But they won’t risk losing market share by admitting it then taking the necessary steps to fix it.

The government can’t step in. Mortgage laws vary by state. There are a host of Constitutional issues preventing a mortgage “bailout” a la JP Morgan or Chrysler. For one thing the auto makers didn’t falsify documents. Their sin was poor business models based on the fact that the US of A can’t compete with countries with universal health care.

The middle class only needs a tiny spark to ignite all that bone dry rage they’ve got lying around. These folks, who have generally only known privilege, won’t have as much patience with the types of bullshit that the lower classes have long ago been broken to. Let those retired boomers…you know the original “Me” generation …decide to harken back to the good old protest days. Silverback Activists and the “Great Bank Sit-in (sponsored by Metamucil)”

Rage on disenfranchised white middle class hellions! Rage on!

How to Conserve Water (Without Really Trying)

On a Wednesday morning garden walk-about, I discovered that one of the swales behind the house was filled with water. Now had it rained, this would not be surprising. That’s what the swales are for; to keep the downside of our hill from becoming a rutted mess. With the co-benefit of watering our garden beds.

But there had been no rain.

The culprit was the water line from the well to the house. It had ruptured. Probably from the combination of basement building, power-line trenching and earthmoving equipment when we installed our solar panel array.

I’d like to blame the earth movers; they put a few dozen bees in my bonnet while they were here. But I strive to be both fair and skeptical (a classical skeptic, not the modern fundamentalist sort). So I’m forced to admit that I can’t definitively know what caused the problem.

A ruptured line next to the house would also explain the persistently damp wall in the basement. We were planning to regrade the front yard to try and shunt more water away from the house. Because the folks who built it – let’s sum up their siting skills in a word: sub-par. The house is oriented so that any water falling off the front side of the roof immediately rolls back toward the footing.

Luckily, it seems we will be able to fix a couple of problems with one solution. Even though it means we will have to get a trencher out here. And locater services.

As it happens, our next door neighbor is a trencher/well and water guy. And he is often in need of carpentry work. So there may be some opportunity for barter there. But, if you know anything about dealing with bureaucracies, especially of the power company sort, then you know we may be waiting a few days to get the water back up and running.

So what do we do until then?

Let me begin by explaining the artist’s creed.  We aren’t taught this creed in a  formal fashion; instead we acquire it through experience. It goes something like this:

We have done so much, with so little, for so long; we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.

As a rule artists, and other “creative” types, are the red-headed step-children of funding and budgetary concerns. We are given the leftovers, the scraps with the understanding that “because we are creative”, we will be able to make-do. And after eons of this archetypal narrative playing out like a recurring nightmare, we have become so entrenched in this expectation that making-do comes as easily as a child’s first breath.

The problem was a fairly simple one. We had plenty of water. The question was how to get it to the house.

The Mister Getting a Spot of Water 02/09

Initially I was taking water from our rainwater storage tanks. Two 325 gallon tanks that sit on the back corners of the house. You see, I’m a catastrophic thinker. And lately, as you might imagine, that tendency has served me in good stead.

In North Carolina, we’ve suffered a series of droughts over the past decade or so. According to this report from the Center for Health and Global Environment (pdf) it seems that drown or drought will be the “norm” for the foreseeable future. So I decided to implement some measures to deal with potential water issues . Burms and swales for the gardens and water tanks for rainwater storage.

The water from the tanks is fine for the garden, for watering the dogs, flushing the toilets and in a pinch you can boil it to wash dishes. But, without filtration and some sterilization, I wouldn’t want to use it for drinking or cooking.

Given that, we decided to “run a line” from the well to the house.

This is a much simpler solution than humping water up the hill from the back of the house.  The well water is potable and with a noticeable lack of bugs, leaves and other mystery items floating around in it.

This morning I hooked a hose up to the well, switched it on and ran it over to the front door. 

While this has all the convenience of City Living whilst keeping the native Country Charm, it could be more convenient still.

Running it through an opening in the storm door seemed like it would move the line into an optimum position near the laundry, the kitchen and the first floor bathroom.

Once inside, it was simple to get all the laundry out of the way. The only issue was being aware of the rinse cycle starting so I could add more water.

While the clothes were washing, I started heating pots of water for the dishes, filling water jugs for later use and as a side benefit I was able to get enough water on the hall way and kitchen floors that they both got a rather thorough cleaning.

I can see why women used to be relegated to the kitchen before the advent of boilers and hot water storage. Heating the water on our propane stove took up a good amount of time. I can imagine the extra time spent lighting and stoking wood fires to get the water up to temperature.

Taking advantage of the hot water available, I managed a quick “whore’s bath” as we say in the South. (Apologies to all you whores who bathe thoroughly on a regular basis) Of course, if I was worried about “freshness”  Summer’s Eve could do all that and seemingly get me a raise to boot.

Even before this incident, we had already acclimated ourselves to recycling as much of our “greywater” as we feasibly can. We can’t legally use the water from the washing machine or from the dishes for much of anything. Not yet anyway.  Luckily those laws are changing as lawmakers come to the realization that if oil scarcity has caused the problems we face today, they are nothing compared to the coming nightmare of water scarcity.

So we don’t flush the toilets every time if there is only urine. However, without chlorination, you can’t let the bacteria breed in the toilet bowl for too long before the odor begins to “waft”.  And after I’ve taken a bath, we use that water for the next several flushes; keeping a small bucket handy in the bathroom for just that purpose.

This incident is precisely why I have been pushing the Mister to look into a solar well pump. Either that or a high end hand pump. We were lucky this time. It was only a broken water line. The next incident could be more problematic.

As for heating the water; if the need arises, I can easily construct a solar water heater. That’s a weekend project made from handy scrap material (well, handy for artists, anyway). But if the electricity goes down for an extended period and we use up the stores in the rainwater tanks, that means walking down to the creek or down to the lake.

Down the hill doesn’t bother me. It’s the idea of hauling enough water up the hill that makes me shudder.

Three days of dishes were finally done. And since the Mister is the usual washer of dishes, they weren’t stacked with quite the same neatness he seems to be able to achieve. In my view, if it doesn’t move, that’s good enough. This inevitably leads to a pile of of random shapes sporting the appearance of  bad post-modern sculpture.

As for fretting over the potential lack of a functioning well. Well, here’s the thing: for the past few years a number of government agencies, including the National Research Council in 2009 have warned of the potential for a catastrophic failure of the electrical grid. The general consensus is this could occur either through cyber-attacks or from solar storms.

This past July a “Space Weather Conference” was held in Washington DC. It was attended by NASA scientists, policy-makers, researchers and government officials. One of the speakers, Dr Richard Fisher, the director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division explained that every 22 years the Sun’s magnetic energy cycle peaks while the number of sun spots (and solar flares)  hits it’s peak every 11 years.

He said these two events are due to overlap in 2013 and will produce huge levels of radiation. He also suggested that, although it was unlikely, much of the world could spend several months without any electrical power.

I guess he struck a nerve somewhere, because NASA immediately began to soft pedal Dr. Fisher’s statements suggesting that it could occur within 10 years or 100.

And that’s fine. Except for Katrina. Except for the fact that our National Guard is no longer available to do the job it was created for, to guard the Nation in emergencies and crisis. And except for the fact that, as a nation, we’re broke. Not only fiscally, but in terms of vital infrastructure.

I can’t know the future. But I can make guesses based on history. I can look to the consensus of nominal experts as an inroad to seeing the potential for a given event to occur.

But mostly what I can do is live by the Realist’s Motto: Always Hope for the Best (But Be Prepared for the Worst).

In this case, the worst would be no electricity for months. And other than the convenience of  a water pump, I’d have to say we’re better prepared than many. And that’s probably because we’re artists.

Our blessing and our curse.

This morning – if I could speak dog

Yes, I realize we are a pack.
I honor that.

And I know this dim,
mist-grey morning is perfect
for chasing deer
who have lost
the lateness of the hour.

Or raccoons,
entranced
by yummy earthworms,
forced out
in soaking rains.

I realize smell
hangs heavier;
lingering on days like this.
And the world as you know it
is perfumed with promise.

Thank you,
for never once considering
leaving me behind;
for your patience
as I putter.

Because we both know that
if I could,
I would shake off
this binding human skin
and run with you.

The Pea Pickers Dilemma or (handy clickable Gen Y title) The Epic Fail of American Politicians

This morning, I spent the coolest part of the day harvesting green peas off the vine. As an activity, pea picking is incredibly repetitious.

Black-eyed Susans and Green Peas

It is neither physically nor mentally taxing enough to fully engage my interest.  And so, as often happens in these instances where my body is engaged but my mind is free to play, I began to ponder.

What I began to ponder was a charming turn of phrase used when someone expresses utter disbelief at another’s foolhardy actions. “Are you out of your pea picking mind?” I suspect this might have it’s origins as a Southern phrase, much like it’s cousin: “Are you out of your cotton picking mind?” The implication, in both instances, is that pea pickers and cotton pickers are less than, shall we say, astute.

I understand that. By way of contrast, harvesting something wild, like blackberries, requires a broad and overarching attention in order to gather small fruit on unsteady terrain, while avoiding thorns, spiders and snakes (not necessarily in that order). Compared to blackberries, picking peas is simple. You stand in a level row, you see a green pod hanging in front of you, you pick, you drop it in the bucket, you see another pod. You pick. Simple. Unthinking. Repetitive.

Pea Pickers, then, would be the domesticated cousins of the Wild Berry Pickers. Over the years, we’ve bred all the uncertainty, pain and danger from the enterprise of picking peas. As a result, picking peas requires much less mental and physical stamina, much less engagement in the process, than gathering from the wild. Therefore, simpletons are able to do it. And so, the logic suggests, that makes your average pea picker a simpleton.

There is an obvious presumptive flaw in this line of thinking. But as a metaphor for a foolish person doing mindless task, calling someone a pea picker has the potential to be a fair assessment. So hold that thought, we will revisit our pea picker in a few moments.

Let me briefly turn your attention to George F. Will, political columnist for the Washington Post. George Will falls, rather definitively, to the conservative side of the political spectrum. And while I admire him for his occasional ability to admit his most grievous mistakes, George Will and I have only agreed on 2 things in the past 30 years.

The 2nd thing we agreed on was a comment he made during the Inaugural Parade commemorating George W. Bush’s 2nd term in office.

The limousine carrying the President and First Lady was traveling along the parade route with secret service and a uniformed guard detail, on foot, beside the vehicle.

As you may recall, the security for this event was unprecedented. For the first time ever, spectators had 10 foot fencing between them and the parade route. There were “free speech” areas, cordoned off to keep protestors from impinging on the happy occasion.

Mr. Will was a guest commentator on one of the broadcast television networks along with the usual broadcast news anchors. As the events unfolded, the television people nattered on, filling air time as we watched the car progress along the route. At one point, the President’s limousine inexplicably sped up to the point that the security detail had to jog along side the car to keep formation. One of the news anchors made some comment about why they might be moving more quickly when George Will said, apropos of nothing: “It looks like a Banana Republic.”

There was dead silence in the studio, then a quick cut to commercial.

The first thing George Will and I agreed on was in the early 90’s. He had written commenting on a friend of his in northern Virginia, who worked with his hands making custom pajamas for a discerning clientele.

Using his friend as an example, Mr. Will explained that he was of the opinion that those living inside the beltway were entirely disconnected from the daily realities of American life. They didn’t have real jobs. Many of them hadn’t had real jobs in decades. They didn’t make things. Therefore, they didn’t understand the complex and intricate process of seeing an idea through from beginning to end; from thread to cloth to product. Or the ramifications of failing to understand and acknowledge each part as it relates to the whole.

He suggested instead, that a life of signing and pushing around individual pieces of paper, disconnected from a knowable outcome during the day, coupled with a life of political socializing and leisure during the night had created a culture that could not comprehend the realities a majority of Americans face. Obviously, I’m paraphrasing here, but in George Will’s opinion: Making piles of paper, only to send those piles to other people to makes other piles of paper, was no way to understand the needs of your constituents.

Politicians, bureaucrats and their faithful, well-meaning wonks are doing work that is well-defined; bounded by bureaucratic process and laid out in neat rows. There is very little uneven footing. They do not stumble upon tearing thorns. And what snakes and spiders creep there are easily spotted and, unlike their wilder cousins, just as easily negotiated with.

Something happens to those fledgling politicians after they leave the nested security of the small towns that elected them. There is some fundamental shift as they are domesticated by money and power. They forget, or most likely they never knew, what life is like in the midst of briars and mud and need and want.

They also forget who picks their peas; who puts the food on their tables. In their re-negotiated world-view pea pickers, mindless drones of an agrarian age, become part of an indistinguishable mass of humanity that exists out there. They are unknown, and so become unknowable.

To those unknowns outside the security of the beltway, one vote by an ethical politician can keep a multi-national corporation from killing an ecosystem. One vote can save the source of a multi-generational local business or it can allow ruination on an unprecedented scale.

Politicians from the Gulf States who failed to vote against those corporations with no vested interest in the local communities, voted against their own constituents by default. And any politician who chooses without thinking, who mindlessly grasps the low hanging fruits in front of him rather than considering the consequences, has failed those who put him in office.

Deciding the fate of people’s lives was never intended to be easy. It was never intended as a pea picker’s job. But it has become just that; too easy and much too safe. Politicians have become too insulated from the consequences of self-interested choices. They have been allowed the self-indulgent mindlessness of simpletons. Meanwhile, the vast majority of Americans in the wilds outside the beltway, are forced to scrounge in the briars; competing with coyotes and snakes for what we can gather before the hard rains come.

(This commentary was published in the Grant City Times Tribune during the week of July 7th)

Of Greater and Lesser Sins.

The Moral Absolutists and Moral Relativists have both managed to get it wrong. On the one hand, there is no one unyielding truth. No unequivocal right or wrong based, ultimately, on some political, social or authoritarian structure.

On the other hand, the fact that some acts are labeled as wrong across cultures, across societies, across time, tells us that at some primal level, there is recognition of something that could be labeled as “sin”. It can, without judgment, be best described as: When you no longer understand that the person standing in front of you is human. And in being human like you, they suffer the same fears, the same hurt, the same hunger as you.

In forgetting this simple idea, the sinner loses some part of what makes him human too.

The one point of agreement between the two camps is that not all sins merit the same levels of condemnation. There can be great evils and then there are the evils of a lesser degree.

In this series of recent stories, the grim irony of the holy man telling his flock to sin, but to sin carefully, ranks in the measure of humanity, as the least sinful of all.

City of Miami to Julia Tuttle Squatters: If You Are Not a Molester, You Gotsta Go!

Police in Miami, Florida have been forcing those convicted of sex crimes to live as squatters under the Julia Tuttle Freeway after their release from prison. The growing number of laws across the country restricting where sex offenders live make it difficult, if not impossible, to house them.

The presence of a “city sanctioned” tent city created a draw for other, non-offending homeless. No surprises there. The homeless will tell you there is a degree of safety in numbers.

Yet somehow, beyond all comprehension, the morally bankrupt idea of forcing people to live as no better than cattle was compounded when police began ordering the non-sex offending homeless out of the squat. So, now the innocent poverty stricken are being treated worse than the people already being treated as less than cattle?

How to comprehend the mind-bending thought processes in play here?  From the police, to social services, to city administrators, to the justice system, each person in those systems turned their backs on the most basic of moral imperatives: treat human beings as if they possess humanity.

Phoenix Church Ordered to Stop Feeding the Homeless

The premise stripped down and laid bare: The application of zoning laws is more important than the fact that men, women and children are starving.

Yes, little old ladies might find it disconcerting to see bedraggled strangers wandering down the street in order to get at least one meal today. And the uptick in minor crimes is something to be concerned about. But these are manageable problems.

It comes back to the idea that if they keep sweeping this human dirt under the rug, the problem disappears. They have failed to realize this mere trickle is the leading edge of a landslide. Sometimes, there isn’t a rug big enough.

The wise and humane thing, the human thing to do is to find a way to accommodate the concerns of the homeowners and the mission of the church.

Fund boss made 7 billion in the panic

I’m not averse to money. Nor am I averse to people making money. But throughout history, there has always been an inverse proportion between wealth concentration and human suffering.

The tipping point measuring human benefit to human damage in our economic system has long passed. And in its waning, it echoes the arc of the twin cults of Self-Actualization and Individualism. These structures have served their purpose for this cycle in history. They have stopped functioning to benefit anyone. It is past time to move beyond them.

Like it or not: We will be forced to move back toward ideas of shared responsibility. Look at the news from across the globe, look at these stories. We are already moving, out of sheer necessity, back to a collective interdependence. We literally can’t afford to continue supporting people or systems that take food out the mouths of our children under the guise of free market ideals.

70% Of The Q3 GDP Growth Was Cash For Clunkers

Summary: The little White Lies of Statistics aren’t helping anyone.

This will most likely mean further stimuli will be considered necessary. A severe contraction of the GDP in future quarters could spook those meager few who now hold a majority of the wealth. And, right now, them that have the money are the only ones with the ability to move it through the economy.

The problem is, the wealthy are merely human. And, in that frailty, they share the same irrational fears as the rest of us, regardless of means. In the end, this does not bode well for those of us without access to those same means.

Priest advises congregation to shoplift

I am not a religious woman. But if it were in my power to deem him a Saint, I would gladly do so.

Drug/Money Death/Taxes Class/War

When I first read about the practice of large pharmaceutical companies paying smaller producers of cheaper generic drugs to keep their product off the market, I can’t say I was surprised. I can’t even say it registered as a blip on my “Disgusting Lack of Morals” scale.

I mean, after all, big Pharma sees an increase in profit because they can continue to sell the higher priced name-brand drug.  And the producers of generics don’t lose any money even though they’ve stopped manufacturing a lucrative, yet lower cost to the public, product. So it’s all good. Right?

TPMMuckraker: Drug-Makers Paying Off Competitors To Keep Cheap Generics Off Market

I was, however, amused by the accuracy of the tag: sleaze.

And my lack of surprise continued when, a few days later I came across a story in the Seattle Times Newspaper by Danny Westneat about a woman living in Seattle with her 2 children. She makes about 18, 000.00 a year. And for that, the IRS decided to audit her.

Because after looking over her tax information, it seems the IRS decided it is impossible to raise 2 kids on 10.00 an hour. Well, no kidding. No pun intended.

Even though they aren’t talking, the IRS seemed to come to the following sage conclusion: She is either lying about having 2 children or she is hiding extra income in order to take the Earned Income Tax Credit.

And when her dad hire someone to look over her tax returns and speak with the IRS on her behalf, the IRS decides that the parents need an audit too. A very thorough audit.  Can’t you just hear the menacing sound of rubber gloves snapping into place?

As far as I could tell, they were just two more stories of money and abuse of power from different ends of the economic spectrum. They seemingly have little else in common.

So, imagine my surprise when each of them kept nudging me. At first gently; like the puppy when he first figured out that the table plus people equaled food. And since he was a puppy and he was cute, he felt his chances of scoring a nibble were quite high.

Unlike the pup, who has long since learned that there are no table treats, the stories did not stop their gentle nudging. In fact, I began to find myself pondering them in tandem.

So what was I missing? What connected these two stories together beyond money and an abuse of power? Late yesterday, the phrase Mafia Model sprang unbidden into my mind.

The Mafia Model, as I explained in an earlier post, is just about all that’s keeping the world economy from following the 2nd half of the plumber’s gospel: Hot always goes on the left and shit flows down hill. The monied people, the financiers, the bankers, the billionaires, the rulers of nations; they are all tied together. Their lives are staked, quite literally to the mountain of money known as the economy. If support breaks and one of them goes down, they all go down.

But let’s expand that universe beyond the power players of finance. Let us develop an internal logic in order to create a consistent reality. In that scenario the Mafia Model plays out like this; Big Pharma pays off Little Generic to throw the fight. Everybody wins. Big Pharma bets heavily on their name-brand guy and rakes in the cash because odds were heavily in Little Generic’s favor. The name-brand winner takes the pot. The loser, little Generic from South Jersey, gets a pay off that keeps him happy and out of traction.

So what of our little Italian family in Seattle? Well, it’s no stretch to see that when you want to set an example, the easiest targets are women, children and small business owners. Don’t like how some people aren’t paying their due because they are protected by Earned Income Tax Credits? Send your goons in to lean on them a little. And when old Pop steps in to protect his daughter and grandkids? Smack him down a peg or two. You don’t need to break any bones, just run them into the ground with fines and fees and legal bills. Folks in the community will get the message. Capice?

Where is Elliot Ness when you need him?

« Older entries