Ye who love the haunts of Nature,
Love the sunshine of the meadow,
Love the shadow of the forest....
Listen to the wild traditions,
To this Song of Hiawatha.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The circle was getting too big for the room. The room was a large conference room in the Nokomis Community Center, in Minneapolis. The meeting was a gathering of people who want to turn the City Parks Hiawatha Golf Course into a food forest.
The circle was overflowing, which was unexpected, more than RSVP'd, despite it was nearly 60 degrees and sunny, 30 degrees above normal this time in February, but also a Saturday.
Most astonishing, the intelligence and talent in the room: teachers, professors, directors of non-profits, CSA farmers, half a dozen trained and professional landscape architects. Fifty people with varying expertise in organizing, teaching, design, plant management. An impressive group.
All the more impressive, as the likelihood that the Minneapolis Park Board would turn a revenue producing golf course into a revenue neutral food forest, is near zero.
What is a food forest? You tell me. Food grows throughout? The whole forest is food for something. A forest with an abundance of food for people? Gardens too. Aquaculture. Fungi.
It's also true the fate of the Hiawatha golf course is uncertain. After flooding in 2014 killed 47 acres of sod, knocking down 23 mature trees, causing an estimated $1.49 million of damage, people have begun to question the wisdom of rebuilding a golf course that suffers perpetual flooding.
It's also true, usage at the municipal golf courses has been cut in half since 2000, when revenue peaked at $1.85 million. The system lost half a million dollars in 2013. A report in 2013 suggested the course needed a minimum $8.1 million in upgrades. A kind of 'if you build it they will come,' failing to take into account, after the dot com crash in 2000, and the housing bubble, credit expansion and stagnant wages for 30 years, there just aren't that many golfers anymore.
FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) ponied up $1 million. But at least some of that has been spent just studying the water predicament, as it was revealed in 2015 that the Parks Board had been pumping 1 gal/sec from the course into Hiawatha lake, 1/4 billion gallons per year equivalent, or 7 times what the MN DNR said they could. It seems clear, much of the course would flood every year, at least seasonally.
It's clear as an idea, the food forest's time has come.
Every human heart is human
That even in savage bosoms
There are longings, yearnings, strivings
For the good they comprehend not
Like bad, patronizing poetry full of made up "Indian" words, the Minnehaha Creek meanders it's way through Hiawatha golf course, dumping the toxic residue and trash collected on it's path from Lake Minnetonka, through the suburbs, into Lake Hiawatha, before continuing to the Mississippi.
It was a wetland before it was a lake and a golf course. Purchased by Theodore Wirth, the father of the Minneapolis park system, the "lake" was dredged, and the fill became the golf course. Still the course is on average about 2 ft below the surface of the lake, so the course is soggy much of the year and floods in the wettest.
In a kind of epic timing, like a curse, the golf course was built in 1929, when the market crashed, and didn't open until 1934.
Doubling down on absurdity, in 1993 and 1999, in the heady days of Greenspan/Clinton market deregulation, the city spent millions, adding several water hazzards/storm water holding ponds and expensive pumps.
Just in time for the market to revert to a rich man's game. Rich men don't play muni's.
But then there aren't a more brash bunch than your typical muni golfers, so the demand to keep the golf course is loud if not particularly broad.
There he sang of Hiawatha,
Sang the song of Hiawatha,
That the tribes of men might prosper,
That he might advance his people.
"For Christ's sake wouldn't it be better to have these guys doing some meaningful work, instead of riding around on lawn mowers?"
A 50 acre food forest is no joke. That would require a lot of maintenance. Especially if there are cultivated gardens, greenhouses, aquaponics.
The educational return would be immeasurable. Seriously, who cares about a golf course if you have the opportunity to show tens of thousands of kids what the city's parks could look like? Where does your food come from? Right here!
How do you cultivate an appreciation for nature, in the city? The world is being ravaged ecologically by ignorance.
After 2008, it should have been clear. Food sovereignty should be on everybody's lips.
When they asked in the circle, what is the word to describe what today is about, the first word out of anyone's mouth was "renewal."
What that circle revealed, is the circle is expanding. There is a lot more support for this than anyone thought.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
My hearing about my failure to apply for a permit to build my greenhouse was today, Nov 17, at 10am, at City Hall. I walked into that cold, immense, elaborate granite, marble and stained glass lobby, to the father of waters Mississippi sculpture, at 9:30, as a friend called me to ask, "what should we do about ISIS."
For fifteen minutes I wandered upstairs to the third floor in that cavernous hall, talking about what to do about ISIS. I told my friend, we could start by asking ourselves what have we been doing in Syria, Libya, Yemen? What part have we had in the rise of ISIS, starting with the House of Saud and the war in Iraq, eternal war of terror? At the individual level, I said, if you mean to heal from trauma, you have to look within, to see how that trauma is debilitating you, learn to tell a different story. It works similarly on the societal level, not a looking in with vengeance, or throwing people in jail, blaming of the leading actors/archetypes, but something more like reconciliation of social and global intent, a true hearing not just about the creation of ISIS, but going back to 9/11, and all that has happened since, what has become of America, and where are we going?
Lots of people taking sides. Paris feels like a watershed.
The greenhouse hearing was on the third floor. I was waiting for fifteen minutes, going over the few notes I had. I went to the drinking fountains, to discover that neither worked, while the guy seated on a bench down the hall says to me, "It's just City Hall. Why should they work?" When I laughed, he said, "You can buy bottled water in the vending machine down the hall." I laughed again and said it was probably tap water bottled.
A friend showed up to sit behind me in silent support. Otherwise it was two people from inspections, a man and a woman, the woman my local inspector, a court reporter and the hearing officer. With permit violations, people used to have to go to court, to wait for long periods of time, court also being intimidating. Proceedings were turned over to this civil process, basically a semi-informal, scaled down court room, a hearing just for me.
I was instructed in how the hearing would proceed, also my rights, then the hearing officer entered the room and everybody rose as if involuntarily, before the hearing officer told us to be seated. After asking my name, he asked about paperwork the inspector brought, to clarify the case before the hearing. Did I acknowledge receipt of the packet? Yes (seventeen pages, someone wrote in black marker pages 1-16 but skipped the number thirteen (there's still a thirteenth page silly), there was even a copy of my letter.) Inspections was asked to proceed.
The inspector read the report, outlining the pertinent dates and letters, emails etc. I learned that someone did indeed call inspections, to report illegal construction. It's not like I was hiding it. The rest was just recitation of the evidence. I didn't apply for a permit, after repeated warnings and opportunities to apply. When she was finished, I was asked if I had any questions and I said no.
The hearing officer then asked if I had any evidence I wanted to enter for the record. I said no. Then he laughed, and said, "Is there...I assume there is something you would like to say?" He read my letter, I thought. I said yes, there are some things I would like to say.
I was trying to follow my letter, and my notes. I started by saying that I am a builder, I have been a licensed general contractor in the State. That I have collected the material for the greenhouse over time, most of it repurposed old growth douglas fir and sliding glass doors. I said I didn't pull a permit because I wasn't attaching it to the house, that I didn't put a foundation under it - but I also admitted I didn't do my due diligence and ask for a permit, either, and that it did seem to me as far as I know, that I am out of compliance in that regard.
I said I did not pull a permit also, for economic reasons. First of all, I don't make much money, so I don't want to pay for the permit. Second, if I pulled a permit, I was afraid inspections would require outside assessments that could grossly inflate the cost of my greenhouse from $1000 into the many thousands.
Then I talked about how I'm trying to take this 1918 house off the grid/on the grid, that I can't afford the permit regime, I'm still under water on the mortgage and the only offer I've had or am likely to have to purchase it, is someone who wants to tear it down and rebuild - so why invest minimal resources on inspections? And why can't I just take video and pictures of what I'm doing, to show a perspective buyer? But then automation and technology are taking away jobs, which is another thing this culture isn't really talking about, I said. Basically, I don't need anyone to tell me how to make my house more energy efficient and resilient.
Then I read a little from the letter, the paragraph with all the grandiose talk about tyranny and my response to it, and about the predatory nature of institutions late in every empire - we built this infrastructure when we were charging the rich 70-90%, and now their taxes are lower than ever, there's too much debt and government is (like a) starved (leviathan), and I feel like I'm getting it from every direction, I said.
I have to draw a line somewhere. This is my line, I said.
The rest of the hearing was basically a reinforcement of the idea of the eternal nature of inspections, the permit system...it's inevitability. This will never end, the hearing officer said, if I don't pull the permit. The fees will compound, you'll be called before me or another again and again. I told him, the greenhouse works great, it even heats the house on warm days on either side of January and February.
The Inspector said I could keep the greenhouse if I moved it, further than six feet from the house. But then it will not be as affective a greenhouse, as it will not have the house to help shelter and insulate it on cold days. That doesn't matter, she said.
So you are saying if I pull a permit you are going to make me move it or dismantle it? Yes, she said. So I said, but this greenhouse is designed to go there, it is not designed to go anywhere else. No matter, she said. So I think I told the hearing officer that I won't pull a permit, and he reiterated the inevitability of the permitting process.
He gave me a thirty-day stay, to pull a permit, but then he changed it to 90 days. So basically at this point, I realize, if I had pulled the permit when they first told me to apply, they would have already ordered it to be dismantled, and as I won't dismantle it or move it, then it would have been removed by force, which I would have been charged for. But if I don't pull the permit they will charge me fee upon fee upon fee. But if I don't pull the permit they can't tell me to move it?
Here I was just afraid they would cost me more money. But no, they want the greenhouse gone, or made inefficient and out of place. Since when, I'm thinking, did International building codes declare a functioning greenhouse on the south side of your house illegal?
The inspector assured me during and after the hearing, that she was only trying to give me the best advice. I assured her I'm not trying to be antagonistic. She really does seem to believe it. What sort of fear is this, I think, to be so captive to written code, as if set in stone by the father of waters Himself! She could be advocating to save the greenhouse from the codes, or rather saving the codes from themselves. Instead she is trying to convince me to accept the illogical. I find it difficult to take these people seriously, but you can not afford not to take these people seriously.
Sitting at the feet of the father of waters, His security guards nearby, I found myself again talking about the collapse of empire, the inertia and the system and how little there really is you can do to change the course of empire. This is a culture with 5000 years of momentum at least. Just like in every empire, the empire extends so far, "terrorists" eat at the fringe, the center is gutted to pay for the war machine to keep the barbarians at bay, until the empire collapses from within. Here we are, clash of civilization, the wealth of empire flowing to fewer and fewer hands, the war machine gathering momentum...
People have this idea that civilization is a kind of ever evolving path to the truth. In a thing like building codes, wisdom has accrued over time, collecting in this set of tested and true (inviolable) laws...whereas sometimes I'm more like, law is an ever refined tyranny of totalitarian thinking, arranged to reinforce madness and protect accumulated power.
It can't be illegal under International building codes, to build a greenhouse on the south side of your house. These people must be mistaken.
Well, I've got 90 days to figure it out.
Posted by William H Duncan at 11:12 PM
Sunday, November 15, 2015
Tuesday the 17th of November, I am summoned to Minneapolis City Hall to answer for my "illegal addition" greenhouse, because I did not apply for a permit.
In the spirit of that upcoming hearing I built this, this past weekend, out of repourposed lumber.
Three inches of compost from the garden, and a 2.5" top layer of an "organic", "For raised beds" soil (from two corporations that shall not be named.) The back wall is covered with a tarp, the window cut out and taped. I have partially enclosed the surround with 4mil poly, not yet fully enclosed as the weather this weekend was more like spring, 60 degrees outside and perhaps eighty in the greenhouse. I'm enclosing the beds in a greenhouse within a greenhouse, to maximize heat collection. The window can remain open to help moderate the heat in the greenhouse, and heat the house on sunny days above 20 degrees.
I planted various lettuce, spicy baby greens (mesclun), Arugula, spinach, basil, cilantro, and some red onion plugs left over from the spring. On the top rack I intend to set some cherry tomatoes and maybe beans and peas in black pots (to absorb heat.) If all goes well I should harvest something around the New Year.
I staggered the beds so they can be racks of garden starts, beginning around March 01. The sun will climb higher and higher after Dec 21, about an angle of 21.5 degrees to the horizon, to about 68.5 degrees June 21. If I built the racks upright, the back of the bottom two racks would be shaded by mid-march.
More on the detail of the construction, after the hearing.
Posted by William H Duncan at 9:55 PM
Sunday, November 8, 2015
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement is not the New World Order as imagined by the far right and “conspiracy theorists” in America, but along with it's corresponding trade agreements Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) encompassing perhaps 75% of the global economy, is indeed a new world order – considerably more insidious and venal than the Right or 'conspiracy theorists” have imagined. Many on the Right, so obsessed with the idea of a communist or UN takeover, cannot seem to be aroused by this corporate fascist one, though it is every bit as destructive to the nation-state, every bit as nullifying of the Constitution, every bit the subjugation of the masses by an elite, that haunts the nightmares of the far Right.
Much of the Left and and Right in America, particularly those who benefit most by the economics of the day, fail to see this corporate/banking/finance usurpation of democracy, of the Republic; seemingly as supportive of the TPP, as they are of the infrastructure of total surveillance, the privatized War of Terror without end for all eternity. Is it a coup if everybody in power is in on it?
The final text of the TPP was released Nov 05, 2015. Upon cursory investigation, it has been deemed worse than it's opponents imagined. As if 500 corporate hatchetmen and assassins were put in some all-inclusive Caribbean resort or Mediterranean spa, told to write a trade agreement. We've been told for years by everyone from establishment Democrats and Republicans, to the New York Times, to the Washington Post to the Wall Street Journal, that TPP will be good for America, that America needs the TPP.
Now America has 90 days (86 as of the writing of this) to read, research and understand 5,500 pages of crypto-corporate/bureaucratic legalese, that would establish a multi-nation, supra-national court system, purely for corporations to sue nation-states for perceived barriers to trade, and lost profits; a system of laws superior in it's judgement to the laws of all signatory nation-states and their citizens (one nation out of 12 – TPPland - without a Constitution or Bill of Rights.) It would be more than probable, that every law established for the health and welfare of people or the earth, will eventually be challenged as a barrier to trade. It is no stretch to see, with government and it's institutions infiltrated by corporate minions, with globalization and monopoly control become like dogma that can't be questioned, that no law will be made or enforced, that might be perceived as a barrier to trade.
Following are just a few examples of how venal this trade agreement is.
The tone deaf slogan of the TPP trade agreement is, “Leveling the Playing Field.”
One of the main criticisms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was the fact that it forced American wage earners to compete with low-wage Mexico, which ended up gutting our industrial base. We see the ramifications of that today, in the declining life span of less educated whites, who would otherwise be known as “industrial labor.” When they say "Leveling the Playing Field," they mean they are reducing trade barriers, so we can make more consumer goods to trade with these countries. But that isn't true, because the Dollar is very strong relative to the currency of these other TPP countries, so it will be good for their exports, but not ours necessarily. (Unless of course part of the end-game is to destroy the dollar and make a TPPland currency.)
"Leveling the Playing Field” in reality means that most American's are going to have their standard of living reduced, closer to the conditions in Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. Sweatshops in Vietnam, 2+million slaves in Malaysia, Brunei executes gay people. Which sounds more or less like the America a few “conservative” types would aspire/regress to, but not the America most people imagine.
On the Labor chapter: here is some typical propaganda you are going to see about TPP, how workers in Vietnam are going to be allowed to unionize, and collectively bargain.
That's great. Now ask yourself, what has happened to union influence in America, and do you really believe these "unions" in Vietnam are going to have any influence, esp. as the influence and power of Americans to define their own fate is significantly reduced by TPP?
TPP isn't about lifting up the people of Vietnam, Malaysia or Brunei, as much as it is making Americans, Canadians, New Zealanders, Vietnamese, Malaysians and the people of Brunei etc, subject to an international TPPland monied cartel. There is no enforcement mechanism, if Vietnam refuses to allow such unions, or allows them but assures they are a controlled sham. And once TPP is legal, no “government” is going to protect anyone or any thing, as much as they are going to assure there are no barriers to trade. They will exist mostly to facilitate trade, so they can't be sued, to stifle dissent and to protect property (which will continue to gravitate to fewer and fewer hands.)
The fact is, there is no enforcement capability in TPP, to address labor issues. There is no mechanism to sanction any nation, if it fails to enforce labor practices outlined as recommendations in the agreement. The labor chapter amounts to feel-good language to assuage the bleeding hearts, who are otherwise trusting of corporate intent.
On the Environment chapter, twenty-five pages of recommendations, with no enforcement capability, entirely voluntary, not really even a bare minimum of protections, the "environment" entirely subservient to the trade imperative and the elimination of any and all barriers to trade.
In bureaucratic/corporate speak, like an afterthought, or a mission statement to lend the appearance of social responsibility. Veiled language to give the impression of environmental protections, but really the tacit approval for increased economic monopolization at the expense of local subsistence or sovereignty, and the commodification of every last little thing. And with language like, "the importance of facilitating access to genetic resources within their respective national jurisdictions, consistent with each party's international obligations..." well, a Nazi couldn't have framed it better.
There is not one environmental law anywhere in TPPland that is going to stand up to this, long term. Everything sooner or later would be questioned as a barrier to trade (read, exploitation), limiting profit.
A race to the ecological bottom.
" In respect of willful copyright or related rights piracy, “on a commercial scale” includes...:
significant acts, not carried out for commercial advantage or financial gain, that have a substantial prejudicial impact on the interests of the copyright or related rights holder in relation to the marketplace."
TRANSLATION: If say, Monsanto copyrights the phrase "Monsanto: Feeding the World" and someone uses that phrase in some post or article that is a mockery/negative portrayal/satire of Monsanto, the post goes viral, Monsanto's stock goes down (or not), the result may be:
"Penalties that include sentences of imprisonment as well as monetary fines sufficiently high to provide a deterrent to future acts of infringement, consistent with the level of penalties applied for crimes of a corresponding gravity."
No more Internet memes etc publications using copyrighted material (and everything will be copyrighted) to question, critique, satirize authority, no more whistleblowing “trade secrets” that are a a detriment to the health of people or the earth: aka criminalizing dissent.
On the chapter on State-owned Enterprises and Designated Monopolies: a round-about way of privatizing the water supply?
As in, multi-national corporation/financier buys local water rights, commodifies the water and then challenges local government in TPPland tribunal, that public water price is undercutting privatized price, TPP-tribunal orders state-owned monopoly to provide water at the commoditized (market) price, raising the cost of water for everybody. Or the TPPland tribunal orders America to make payments to foreign corporation for lost profits, and the price of water goes up.
Like this ridiculous passage, which is basically saying, gov-monopoly can sell it at whatever price it wants, or no price at all - as long as it's the price dictated by the TPPland market:
Paragraph 1 (b) and (c)
and paragraph 2 (b) and (c)
do not preclude a state-owned enterprise or designated monopoly from:
purchasing or selling goods or services on different terms or conditions including those relating to price; or
refusing to purchase or sell goods or services, provided that such differential treatment or refusal is undertaken in accordance with commercial considerations.
Commercial considerations....again, the be-all, end-all of TPP “trade”.
The TPP too could be the end of the US Postal service. If a foreign investor/conglomerate owns UPS or DHL or Fed Ex, they could sue the US gov for it's subsidized Postal Service in TPP-land tribunal, requiring the USPS to deliver mail at a price dictated by the owners of UPS, DHL, Fed Ex – or a judgement for “lost profits” (most likely attached to the national debt, extend and pretend.)
Perhaps too, the end of public education. International for-profit education corporation opens up satellite schools in every state, sues for lost profit because they cannot “service” all the children? (It might sound crazy, but then, what is crazier than a trade agreement that commercializes every moral, ethical and ecological concern?)
On the chapter on Investment, so far the take-away is, this is like making one nation of 12 nations, without a Constitution or Bill of Rights, for whom the only “persons” that will matter will be international corporations, banks and investors.
There can be no restrictions on investment, in the sense that any "party" can purchase investments anywhere in TPPland. In other words, any multinational corporation, bank or financier can purchase any land or business etc, anywhere in TPPland, the use of that land/business dictated not by local needs or concerns, but by the "most favorable treatment," meaning that which is designated by the TPPland market, and adjudicated by TPP tribunal. Basically, you can expect as much as any peasant in Malaysia, Brunei, or Vietnam.
In other words, setting up the framework for creating a kind of international land-lord scheme by which Corporations and Financiers can own anything anywhere in TPPland, but will be governed by their own TPP court system, not by any local concern. It's like taking the absent landlord scheme to it's most extreme. We'd all end up serf/peasants to this TPP cartel, without any recourse to do anything about maltreatment. It's like a reversion to feudalism, or the treatment of industrial workers in the 19th century.
It becomes clear, as to enforcement of the TPP, there are a lot of teeth when it comes to property and investment monies (capital) and profit expectations, and perceived barriers to trade. When it involves the environment or labor, you establish committees, councils, working groups, dialogue, action plans, to arrive at programmes, cooperation and consultation, to arrive at mutually satisfactory resolutions aka, a washing of the hands.
Because the tribunal dispute settlement system is really only for corporations to sue for monetary remuneration, it defies reason to imagine any corporation would sue Malaysia because they still have a slave trade, or they ravage their national ecosystem. Once TPP is legal, all labor and environmental concerns will be subject to trade concerns and expectations. Again, a race to the bottom.
When it comes to corruption, or breach of contract or agreement, any perceived barrier to trade, and a corporation has or believes it has lost money or property or potential profit because trade has been “nullified or impaired,” then the language becomes more harsh: from consultations to establish contact points, conciliation and mediation, failure of which leads to a panel (tribunal) arbitration, and the potential suspension of benefits, compensation, and payment of monetary assessment, restitution, monetary damages and applicable interest.
It becomes clear a corporation can sue for any imaginable slight, the tribunal likely a pure reflection of corporate intent.
It begins to look like nation-states will become like Indian reservations here in America, where the most corrupt sell-outs often rise to leadership and make dirty deals with corporations who come in and remove resources while leaving for tribal posterity the polluted mess. A sad end for a once proud Republic, America.
The 2008 financial collapse, and the bailing out of the banks, has been described by many as a quiet coup. This is part and parcel of a coup known as 9/11, and an ensuing War of Terror, increasingly privatized military industrial complex, institutionalization of the total-surveillance police state. Government at every level, and media, are infiltrated by those who serve the “persons” that are corporations.
The model of corporations in America and throughout the possible TPPland, is not democratic, not employee or shareholder owned, but top-down dictatorial. Their allegiance is not to labor, ecosystems, democracy nor the ideal of a Republic, but to profit, to “shareholder value” and executive compensation, first and foremost.
The TPP, along with TTIP and TISA, empowers foreign corporations to sue nation-states, in TPPland tribunal, to challenge domestic laws of nation-states, the domestic laws of America, that protect ecosystems and people from predation by the powerful, protection from exploitation. If finance/money is indeed a means of making war in this modern age, then “lost profits” doctrine aka legal extortion, is a kind of war-making against the sovereignty of people to define their own fate, by foreign entities. Combined with the creation of this supra-national tribunal, with powers superior to nation-states – making even the Constitution and Bill of Rights subject to the trade imperative - that is aiding and abetting a foreign interest to the detriment of America. That is a kind of making war against Americans. An American making war against America in concert with foreign powers, is treason, and the punishment of treason is death.
Negotiating these trade deals may be treasonous. Making them law may be treason. If you believe in the rule of law, in the sovereignty of the nation-state, the Constitution of America, our Bill of Rights.
But the idea is absurd. There are thousands of Americans, tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, who have written, supported, advocated for the TPP. It is unrealistic, nay horrific, to imagine such a punishment, meted out to so many. That would be a revolution indeed, but more like the French, which gave the world Napoleon, and the Russian, which gave the world Stalin, not thousands but millions dead. When such a “purge” begins, it expands exponentially, out of the control of anyone, least of all any of the ideals it might have started with. And the resulting power may be as much or more the tyranny supplanted.
A healthier model would be that of South Africa and Apartheid: reconciliation. Not just about TPP, but about an economic model that has become parasitic and cannibalistic, in its growth imperative and expectations of consumption, and what it will do to sustain that, something like a death cult. But not just about TPP or economics, but about this privatized War of Terror, the surveillance infrastructure of total tyranny, and 9/11. America never had a fair, open and honest hearing about 9/11, and has yet to heal from that wound. The horrors that have been unleashed since, need to be reconciled, not by more bloodshed, but by shining light.
That is the true opportunity of TPP. That is good news to share.
Posted by William H Duncan at 6:11 PM
Monday, October 19, 2015
I've been summoned to a City of Minneapolis, Administrative Hearing, Nov 17, about my greenhouse. I suspect it will be much the same as the time the City hired contractors to remove white pine logs from my garden, that I had intended as garden art. That Hearing was me, a guy from inspections, and a retired lawyer as arbitrator. Off the record. A mere formality, the City doing it's due diligence, to fine me what they want to fine me, and add it to the property taxes, or put a lien on the house. I lost that hearing, but there was no way to win it. Like the saying goes, you can't fight City Hall.
I would prefer to go before a judge, in a court of law, on the record. But the City doesn't want to shine too much light, that they are after a guy for not applying for a permit on a greenhouse built from reclaimed glass and lumber most people would toss in a dumpster. That could make for bad press, in this age of viral Internet communications. They want a closed hearing on their terms, quiet, without context. I am wilfully defying city code, which is all anyone needs to know. In fact, I don't believe the City is conscious of me, or what this violation even is, it's just the gears of bureaucracy churning. If I would simply pay the permit fee and have the greenhouse inspected, they would probably rubber-stamp it like nothing happened.
What is the point of fighting it? Seriously, in the context of the Federal government bombing hospitals and wedding parties, the privatized Military Industrial Complex training Jihadists and assorted killers in the ways of modern warfare, to destabilize whole nations and regions, to fight proxie wars against undesirable governments (govt's that won't become debt slaves to our banks and corporations), without accountability of any kind - what hope do I have fighting this system, this local government branch of American governance, bureaucratic enforcement of International building codes, on threat of fines, jail, condemnation? What does America do to it's truth tellers, those who shine light on the abuse of power, institutional corruption?
Fact is, there is a lot I want to do here, that would amount to many hundreds/thousands of dollars of fees paid to government and it's contractors, to simply let me do it, and some work I know they simply will not let me do. Like build a thermal mass stove to heat my house. It is not code, so it can't be built legally. But it could reduce my natural gas consumption by 80%. That won't matter either, because if the City can't prevent me from building it, they could order a cease-and-desist/order-to-remove, or initiate the condemnation process. If the Insurance company found out I built such a thing, the increase in the price of insurance would probably wipe out any savings in natural gas payments, and then some. They might refuse to insure the house; what then is the status of the mortgage without insurance? Foreclosure.
It reminds me of a book by Joel Salatin, "Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal." People like to think we live in a free country. You are free to buy stuff, if you have money. You are free to choose your career, more or less, within the confines of what this society will accept. You are even able to define your own career, if you have the money, and society deems it acceptable. Otherwise, there is a very rigid framework underpinning civilization, and as long as you stay within the bounds, it will feel very much like freedom, like it is your choice. Challenge those bounds, and see what happens. That is the thing that actually unites all Americans - fear of their government. We all know it. It is easier to stay within bounds.
It is also like the death of creativity. How are we supposed to redefine the rules of society to be better for everybody and the earth, when not only the codes and rules and laws dictate a status quo, there is a vast surveillance machine copying all of our digital communications, tied to a vast humorless militarized police state? It's like totalitarianism 2.0. It is not right up in your face, but step out of line....
And Americans? How do we respond? Some lost boy shoots up a school, half the country advocates to militarize the culture further, while the other half having next to nothing to say about a privatized military industrial complex contracting for multinational corporations and banks all over the globe, wails to disarm The People!
Meanwhile this government has proffered forth a trade agreement, TPP Trans-Pacific Partnership, part of a triplicate of trade agreements, including TTIP (European version) and TISA (purely for the abstract realm of global Finance), that are fundamentally undemocratic, totalitarian, creating a quasi-state made of multinational Corporations and Banks, with it's own judicial system, superior to any Nation-State. If you are inclined to think this society is lock-down nazi/fascist, wait and see what totalitarianism 3.0 globalists are building.
Notice there is little to no discussion about TPP in the media. There was no real debate about Fast-Track legislation, which passed in the summer of 2015. You don't believe in conspiracy? It is like the first Democratic debate of 2015, how Bernie Sanders won all the initial polls and focus groups by a landslide. Then the major media Left and Right went on a blitzkrieg declaring Hillary the run-away winner, and low and behold new polls came out declaring Hillary the debate winner (after group-think Dems had been told what to think.)
TPP didn't even come up in the debate, except in the context, right out front, of Hillary flip-flopping, supporting TPP then not, painting opposition to TPP in the negative, and then forgotten. The national debate about TPP is not even a debate, it is a white-wash. Hillary even left the door open to TPP, by claiming that it's all about jobs and wages. The discussion is always focused on jobs and wages. But what are jobs and wages in the context of increasing totalitarian controls, less sovereignty, less freedom? Jobs and wages supporting and reinforcing totalitarianism?
What this is is nothing less than a kind of quiet coup. That is how foolish Americans have become, that they do not see how establishment Democrats and establishment Republicans are all fighting for the same thing, total global domination, total global control, threatening total annihilation to anyone not willing to become debt serfs to multinational corporations and banks. That is why elite on the Left and the Right called Hillary the winner, immediately after that debate, why they talk as if she has a lock on the nomination. Because Hillary won't upset the apple-cart; Hillary is a neo-liberal economic monopolizer and a neo-con warmonger, just like her Republican brethren. The elite on either "side" have nothing to fear from Hillary. Americans generally, if Hillary wins, or any of the Republicans, are going to get the worst of GWBush and Obama: more war, more economic inequality, less freedom.
I've said elsewhere, there might be war and economic collapse before TPP comes up for a vote, after which Dems and Repubs unite, to pass TPP to "revive" the economy, thereby cementing their status as traitors to the Republic - empowering a foreign power/quasi-state for multinational corporations and banks, at the expense of America.
We already live in a totalitarian America, more or less direct rule of the corporations and banks, the richest financiers and families. With TPP/TTIP/TISA you would still appear to vote for a legislature, local to Federal governments, but they would all be powerless to do anything contrary to the will of multinational corporations and banks.
What is there to do then, in the context of successive administrations Right and Left, eviscerating Constitutional protections in the name of "security," Right and Left elite working together to make certain Hillary gets the Democratic nomination, so that Dem or Repub President, we maintain continuity of empire, continuity of totalitarian controls, status quo/business-as-usual warmongering, cannibalistic economics?
What is needed is a kind of revolution of consciousness in America, and really, for all of humanity. Bernie Sanders talks about political revolution. What he means by that is, regular people coming together to educate themselves about the issues, speaking out. I don't know if he could be an effective President, or even that he wants to be. If he wants to win he needs to humiliate Hillary in the debates, about Libya and her comments about "smart" power, in the context of her sociopathic "We came, we saw, he died..." and her equating Putin with Hitler; How can she communicate effectively with Russia and Putin, as President (that alone disqualifies her to be Commander in Chief, IMHO); is there any check whatsoever on this privatized military industrial complex, demolishing whole countries, perpetuating wars of terror; are you Ms Clinton merely a puppet of said machine or do you get off on the idea of wielding it? I don't know if Bernie is willing to do that, or even want's to. Necessarily, I don't hold much hope for political revolutions.
A revolution of consciousness would look a lot like greater responsibility for the care of the earth. For all the Democratic talk about climate change, that seems, in the context of the mostly unmentionable TPP, like more totalitarian controls, only tangentially about care and concern for climate. That's not much of an evolution of consciousness.
Such an evolution is not going to come from the top down, any more than trickle-down works as economic policy. A true consciousness shift is going to have to come from the heart, grounded in care and concern for the living earth.
I'm not sure fighting the City about this greenhouse is anything but martyrdom. But, economically, I can't not do what I want to do here, illegal or not, when it comes to growing my own food or saving energy. Not because I want to fight government, but because I want to prevent government from crashing and burning and chaos ensuing, because government tried to control too much no matter what the cost.
I've received a summons, I will attend the Hearing and report faithfully.
Posted by William H Duncan at 9:55 AM
Thursday, July 2, 2015
Early this spring, the City of Minneapolis issued a citation to me for an illegal addition, failure to pull a permit for my greenhouse. Several deadlines have passed, and while I have visited the Inspections Dept. three times, I have not complied with the order.
More recently, the city sent me another citation, demanding I remove all grasses and weeds in the "ENTIRE YARD AND BOULEVARD" taller than eight inches, by July 02, or a "CONTRACTOR MAY IMMEDIATELY CORRECT THIS CONDITION WITHOUT FURTHER NOTICE AND ALL COSTS...WILL BE ADDED AS A SPECIAL ASSESSMENT AGAINST THE PROPERTY."
I asked, but no definition of "weeds" was offered by Inspections. Half of the wildflowers in my garden, probably more than half of Americans would call them weeds. I do not trust the city contractor to know the difference.
I delivered copies of the following two letters to the Mayor, City Attorney, my council member, and the Inspections Dept, this afternoon.
Happy Independence Day :)
To whom it may concern, regarding my failure to apply for a building permit from City of Minneapolis Inspections, for my greenhouse:
I have wanted to build a greenhouse for a long time. For years, I have been collecting old sliding glass doors, mostly through social networking sites like Craigslist. In the Fall of 2013 I began construction on the first half of a greenhouse, on the south side of my house in Minneapolis. For the frame I used Cedartone treated lumber; the second half, in the fall of 2014, I used old-growth douglas fir, I reclaimed from a remodeling project near Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis, during the housing bubble.
The entire project cost me approximately $1000. Had I used douglas fir instead of Cedartone on the first half, I could have reduced the cost to $500. A glass greenhouse that size, purchased as a kit, might cost $5000, $10,000-$15,000 installed.
In the early spring of 2015, I received a letter from City of Minneapolis Inspections, that I was in code violation for an illegal addition, failure to apply for a permit. I went to the Inspections Department downtown, to inform myself and to voice my concerns, and to go on record.
A Final Notice arrived, when I did not apply for the permit, after which I visited Inspections again, to clarify my concerns and to ask more questions. When I did not pay for the permit, an Administrative Citation arrived, May **, stating there was a $200 fine.
I did not apply for a permit when I started building the greenhouse, because I did not believe I needed a permit, because I did not attach the greenhouse to the frame of the house, thus there was no structural change to the house. As a former licensed general contractor, I am familiar with building codes and the licensing regime. I did not do the necessary research however, nor did I contact Inspections to tell them what I was planning.
In retrospect, the greenhouse is clearly in violation of building code, insofar as it exceeds the 120 sq ft threshold requiring a permit, at 155 sq ft approximately - though there are no building codes specific to the actual construction of greenhouses.
Primarily, my concern in not applying for a permit is economic. As a maintenance man for a small company managing group homes for the profoundly autistic, my income in 2014 was $33,000 (with median household income in the state of Minnesota @ $60,700.) I purchased my house in March 2006, as I like to say, 12 minutes before the market collapsed. I am 20% “under water.” I purchased the house @ $154,000; Hennepin County has had it appraised as high as $169,000; six months on the market in the summer of 2013, there was one offer @ $109,000. It is a one-bedroom @ 750 sq ft, 1918 construction.
City Inspections has the right to require me to hire an architect or an engineer to assess the greenhouse. Because there are few codes regulating greenhouses, there not being much in the way of precedent, that seemed possible and even likely, which could add thousands of dollars to the cost of construction.
Secondly, as this is not a permanent structure necessarily, it is irrational to inflate the cost as if it were permanent, or a living space. It is experimental.
Third, I am a long-time builder: I can build a house, I have built townhouses, I have torn the roof off houses and added a second story. I do not need an inspector or an engineer to tell me if my greenhouse is structurally sound.
Fourth, in this time, in this digital age, if I am able to document all that I do in pictures and video, why do I need an inspector to stand between me and a potential buyer? Indeed, the house is nearly 100 years old, a one-bedroom on a corner lot-and-a-half. The lot is extensively wild-landscaped, with 200 species of plants and 30 fruit trees. The most likely buyer would bulldoze the lot and build a “McMansion” - making any inspections on this greenhouse and house, a waste of resources. In fact, inspections do not remove me from liability, if there is a danger to the general “health and welfare” of the community. So precisely what is the point of inspections?
Fifth, there are a great many things I would like to do to my house, as an experiment making my house stronger, more energy efficient, more resilient, using reclaimed materials whenever I can, documenting everything I do. Aside from the fact that I do not need Inspections to tell me how to do that, I can't afford to pay for a permit every time I want to start a project, nor risk excessive and arbitrary fees, hiring engineers etc. My not being able to afford permits and fees, should not preclude me from applying my expertise, working on and experimenting with my house, changing it for changing times.
Sixth, if America is indeed a Republic, or even a Democracy, government exists to serve me, I do not exist to keep government economically solvent. To some extent, the expectation that I submit to inspections on this greenhouse, on my own house, is just the wheels of bureaucracy churning: “the wheels of fate churn slowly, but they churn exceedingly fine.” I do not accept inevitability, I do not acquiesce merely because it is so, I do not pay the fee just because I am told to. Unchecked government is the foundation of tyranny; in a time in declining revenue for governments, in a time of peak social complexity and institutional corruption, it is well documented that governments and Institutions of all kinds, become predatory and parasitic, particularly against the powerless.
My greenhouse exceeded expectations in 2015. I maintain a big garden, and a community garden for the autistic, for the company I work for. My 2015 vegetable starts were the best I have ever grown, the healthiest. If it is 0 degrees outside and the sun is shining, it might be 70 in the greenhouse. The greenhouse actually helps heat the house if the temperature outside is above 30 and the sun is shining. My furnace didn't turn on after Mar 01 this year. The greenhouse acts like an insulator, for heat loss in the house, at night in the winter. I will be able to grow fresh greens all winter, 2015-2016.
I realize, fighting inspections is a losing battle, insofar as the city will get it's money “one way or another,” fining me until they put the payment on my taxes, and then if I don't pay, putting a lien on the house. Whatever the case, I am documenting all of it, blogging about it, writing about it.
William Hunter Duncan
City of Minneapolis,
On June 29, 2015, I received a citation from the City of Minneapolis, Housing Inspection Services, about vegetation in my “yard”. The letter states that I must remove all grass and weeds taller than 8”, by July 02, in my “ENTIRE YARD AND BOULEVARD.”
My “yard and boulevard”, which I call my “garden”, is landscaped with appox. 200 species of wildflowers, wild medicinals, food and fruit. There are grasses that are edible. I weed regularly. What many consider weeds, are in fact wild flowers.
The city receives perhaps hundreds of calls each year about my garden, most if not all negative. The city does not hear from the many who tell me that they love my garden, and walk by regularly to view it.
I will comply with the order, to the degree I believe acceptable. I will clear the boulevard near the corner and the alley; it is a corner lot. I will pull all tree saplings. I will fence back the vegetation along the sidewalk, and pull all vegetation growing in the sidewalk. I will pull any weeds and saplings, but not the wildflowers or climbing vines, from the alley.
I will document all that I do. If contractors then remove anything by cutting or spraying, I will document that as well. I have been blogging about my garden since 2010. There are people across this country, in as many as 10 different countries, aware of my garden. Please respect this sanctuary oasis for birds and bugs. Thank you.
William Hunter Duncan
Feel free to contact Minneapolis about it. Just add my name ;)
Minneapolis City Attorney or Mayor Betsy Hodges (612) 673-2010
Feel free to contact Minneapolis about it. Just add my name ;)
Minneapolis City Attorney or Mayor Betsy Hodges (612) 673-2010
Posted by William H Duncan at 3:33 PM
Friday, June 19, 2015
Earlier this week, one of the group homes I help maintenance for the autistic had their yearly re-licensing inspection. The county inspector dropped a fire extinguisher she had removed from a closet at the top of the main stairs, it broke, releasing that fine particulate fire retardant, filling the upstairs hallway into the bedrooms, into the kitchen and downstairs into the basement. When I got there two hours later (no one thought to call me, I only found out because I called the other maintenance man about another “save big money at …....” fraud of an assemble-yourself picnic table purchase, trash out of the box,) the other maintenance man was blowing that hideous noxious fire retardant dust throughout the house and out the front door with a shop-vac, without wearing a mask.
“Like a perfect metaphor for government at this point,” I said, to everybody there. “Making a mess and not there to clean it up,” someone else added. I feel bad now that I didn't add that banks and corporations do the same thing, to be fair, but it seemed out of context at the time. It was a government official who did this, who might otherwise have quarantined the house and called in the MN Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the Health Department et al, if one of the $12/hr house staff had done it (we are a private contractor at the mercy of the taxpayer's government.) There were no government officials to be found in the clean-up of that debacle.
I've been ranting on Facebook again, about gov, banks and corporations. People must think I am crazy, talking about traitors and the most fascist collusion between corp and gov there ever was, OKA (otherwise known as) TPP/TISA/TTIP trade pacts. This, after the Minnesota legislature and Governor Dayton just passed a MN State budget that allows nurseries to sell plants containing pesticides that are fatally toxic to pollinators, as “bee friendly,” among other hideously eco-fascist new laws (if fascist is the collusion of gov and corp in violence against economy and ecology,) like allowing county boards to spray wild hemp on private property and then charge the landowner for it; Eliminating the citizen review board at the MPCA; greenlining the Polymet, 20 years of mining for 500 years of sulphuric acid in Minnesota waters, copper/nickel mine in northern Minnesota.
Which Polymet mine, if Minnesota outlawed it, if TPP passes, Polymet would be able to sue Minnesota for “lost profits.” They are going to get their mine and give us the pollution, one way or another.
While gov/corp/bank continue their manifest destiny, to do unto Africa what has been done to America, what has been done to so much of the rest of the world, this mono-cultural totalitarian treatment of people and the earth.
And I'm the crazy guy?
Few care about any of this, in the context of a bowl-cut white guy shooting up an historic black church/symbol of God and freedom for black people, killing nine. Or Gov/Corp/Bank, OKA Military Industrial Complex, antagonizing Russia and China to take up common cause against us? Or that fraudulent con, OKA aristocratic pageant OKA Presidential Election 2016? Or the myriad entertainments? Or the pay-check to pay-check existence most people live? God damn, the only thing keeping most Americans believing their standard of living is better than it ever has been anywhere ever, are their smart phones and tv programming. War against Russia and China would put an end to most of that, I suppose.
What am I trying to do? Do you think I am trying to start a movement, some revolution, with all this online ranting? Yeah, what sort of revolution do you imagine in this disparate, dissolving mega-state empire, with all it's ghastly tools of mass destruction, it's divide and conquer methodology, it's history of hidden and not so hidden atrocities in the name of freedom, democracy and the holy market?
The harder they try to hold onto control, the more it dissolves. What am I trying to do? Survive, like everybody else. To live well. I love my life. I have a greenhouse, an oasis of a garden, a great job, the greatest girlfriend ever. All this ranting about traitors and TPP trade pact treason?
I like coffee. Coffee plants thrive in Hawaii, but nowhere in the 48 contiguous states. I am growing one, as a novelty. I could probably grow more with the proper infrastructure, at great expense, and not very much of it. America isn't going to feed it's coffee habit on what Hawaii and greenhouses can produce. Trade is good.
I am not in favor of trade in people, or any system of trade monopolized by supra-state, multinational, private corporations, or any monopolized trade that comes at the expense of the health of people or ecosystems. I don't care about 99.9% of the consumer trash available, nor “fresh” fruit in January that tastes like cardboard because the few sugars have turned to starch. Trade is fine, if it is mutually beneficial and ecologically responsible. TPP is good for corporations and their investors, no one and nothing else, it is the death of nation-state sovereignty and the sovereignty of people, and the rise of a new aristocracy attached to quasi-states unto themselves, multinational corporations and banks, a kind of untouchable supra-state in collusion, controlling the globe.
Crazy. What am I trying to do? What have I been doing, all these years, ranting about this and that online, face to face to anyone who could hear it? I'm trying to articulate what I see in a way that makes sense, so that others will have the courage to question the narratives we live by, the narratives we are controlled by. To give people the courage to construct a new narrative, a new story about what this life and this earth and this economy are about. To fall in love with the earth again, how about that for a revolution? If the Pope can do it, you can too. LOL. Let that not be construed as support for monocultural anything. We've already had that revolution.
Posted by William H Duncan at 3:14 PM