Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wacky Jacket Jenkins

Here's a video of me dancing on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis, outside Monster Halloween as Wacky Jacket Jenkins from Magic Mama's Rodeo deGaia (, to the song "Dunia Tuna Pita" by Samba Mapangala

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I was at my sister's, with my niece, as my sister was at the hospital having her second child, when I saw the Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowski on the Lehrer Hour. He was publicizing a recent National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) study, which found increased drug use among American teens. I found it curious that Czar Kerlikowski spent the entire segment talking about the scourge of marijuana, making little of the studys conclusion that Ecstasy and pharmaceutical abuse is up as well.

Looking into it, I found a 2008 Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) pamphlet called MARIJUANA: THE CAUSE OF ALL DRUG ABUSE. The cause? Reading through this pamphlet, and NIDA and DEA websites, it occurred to me that, if someone hopes to sound authoritative on a subject, and make sense, it helps to have some understanding of the subject. One wonders what kind of damage is required in the brain, to suggest that marijuana smoke is "50-70% more cancerous than tobacco smoke," while not being able to point to one cancer death anywhere, ever, attributable to marijuana, while the National Cancer Institute tells us, of the 438,000 deaths directly attributable to tobacco smoke, 40% are due to cancer?

I thought smoking pot was supposed to screw up your brain?

The stance of the Government on Cannabis can only make sense if you know nothing about the plant. Learning about the plant coincides with learning a truth about the State.

There are four primary reasons Cannabis is illegal. And not just illegal, but the focus of our Government's war on drugs, a civil war, Americans against Americans.

I. There are as many as 200 different medical conditions that respond favorably to marijuana. There is no known plant or compound that is so widely beneficial, with so much potential for market share. Or rather, as it can be grown indoors or outdoors just about anywhere in the United States, it is a market share eliminator. Pharmaceutical companies are the second most powerful lobby in America, behind the Oil Industry. They will do whatever is necessary to maintain control of that market share.

II. Hemp, the unsmokeable variety of Cannabis, is without question the most useful plant on the planet. It is so useful, so flexible, it could be the raw material for a multi-trillion dollar tier of industries, from paper, to food, to clothing, to bio-fuel, to housing material, etc. It can grow just about anywhere, and it does not require herbicides. It would also compete with corn for room in the fields, which means all of corporate Agri-business and most industrial food producers align against hemp, as do logging interests.

III. There are, according to the DEA, 45,000 people in federal jails on marijuana convictions. That does not include state, county and private facilities. There are more than 500,000 marijuana arrests each year. Marijuana laws keep law enforcement and prosecutors busy, and jails full. In addition, treatment facilities benefit from an influx of "offenders", often under-age, who are given a choice between jail and treatment. An industry has sprung up around drug testing, though the only thing such tests are likely to find is marijuana, as nearly everything else (being more objectionable) leaves the body more quickly; and there is no evidence of any kind that shows a decrease in work-production among those who smoke marijuana.

IV. Smoking pot makes people peaceful. Ronald Reagan called it "the most dangerous drug in America," not because the plant is dangerous, but because it can help people stop, think and consider, which is dangerous for the State. Had we all puffed in 1979, we might have reconsidered the idea of turning American Democracy into Plutocratic Empire. It's hard to build and maintain Empire if the people desire peace. Felony marijuana convictions disenfranchise the poor and the peaceful, preventing them from voting. That, and simple marijuana possession, under the statutes of the State, is cause for the State to confiscate everything you own. A constant reminder to those who tend toward peace - we the State have established and maintain the power to destroy you.

Suppose I want to make hemp paper. I can import hemp from Canada, or the European Union, but I cannot buy it from a farmer in the United States? Why? This is a free enterprise system, yes?

The violence of the marijuana trade would decrease to non-existent within a year, if it was legal to grow. But that is not the point, if you are the State. It is instructive that the only people who want to keep marijuana illegal, more than the experts at the NIDA, or Law Enforcement, or big Ag or pharmaceutical peddlers, are big time drug dealers. The flower of Cannabis sativa, marijuana, which is the flower of a weed, is as much as $3000-4000 a pound, more if you sell it by the eighth ounce. It would be about $10 a pound if anyone could grow it, without fear of having their life destroyed by the State.

Hemp is so valuable in real terms that it may prove to be incredibly important to local economies in an age without abundant fossil fuels. American ingenuity loosed on that plant would transform the culture dramatically, in a healthy way. It may prove to be such a prolific plant, that when fully established as a commodity, it could help provide local sustainability and autonomy, even help put an end to the dominance of the centralized Nation-State.

Cannabis prohibition, top to bottom, is a lie. No Republic that rests so fundamentally upon a lie can stand. It is not a Republic when the State perpetuates such a lie. A government that practices such a lie is not fully legitimate. A democracy beholden to such a lie is not fully mature.

We can all agree, smoking marijuana under the age of 18 is not a good idea, at least not in daily abundance. Under observance, for understanding, in a sacred way, is something else entirely. This however, takes maturity to understand, accept and teach, maturity made criminal by the State. The cultural ninnie would rather demonize than understand in a mature fashion, which only makes a thing more attractive to young people who are not attracted to hypocrisy and self-righteousness.

The criminal status of marijuana, because it rests on a lie, makes the growing, selling and smoking of it an act of defiance against tyranny. Though all things in moderation, sayeth the wise sage. Growing, selling or smoking becomes less political the greater the profit, the greater the consumption. With exceptions, of course. Medicinally, I trust you to know what you need. For profit, are you out to feed your family, or are you after bling?

The criminal status of marijuana, because it rests on a lie, makes the prosecution of those laws subject to conscience. But what is conscience, to one whose livelihood depends upon the maintenance of a lie?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Wealth V - Education

Looking back on my early education in the public schools and the Churches I was obliged to attend, I find that education wanting. Little on ecology, the interrelatedness of all things and the fundamental Laws of Nature, nothing on economics beyond "capitalism is good," almost nothing about the true nature of my species, little in the way of useful skills, like how to build and grow things. Mostly, I was taught a hollow sense of history meant to encourage nationalism, fear of a vengeful God who sanctioned violence and rewarded the powerful, how to sit in a chair for extended periods of time and be quiet, how to obey the rules - but not to question them. A very shallow education, and very effective, as evidenced by my generation, Generation X, as I come to the middle of my 38th year.

Here is a brief tutorial on American history. Thomas Jefferson warned that banks might prove to be an enemy of the Republic. Abraham Lincoln warned that corporations might take control of the Republic and encourage the people to fight amongst themselves. In 1961, Dwight Eisenhower, in his farewell presidential address, warned of a Military-Industrial complex, about the influence of money on intellectual curiosity, a path that could destroy the Republic if we let it. In 1962, President Kennedy challenged us to go to the moon. By 1969, we had. In 1973, the year I was born, we were given a warning about the finite nature of oil and what would happen to our economy without it. In 1977, President Carter challenged us to build a new, sustainable economy based on renewable energy. The Republican party presented us with an actor, Ronald Reagan, who modeled for us a militant, empirical stance. We chose Empire.

In the 21st century, our Government-Military-Industrial-Financial complex has brought us the on-going destruction of New Orleans, a crumbling infrastructure, privatized prisons, a breadbasket agriculture that is polluting the Earth and people, a Health Care Industry designed to treat the illness it helps perpetuate, the war in Iraq, the implosion of the housing market, the theft of the Treasury, a national debt equal to GDP, a contraction of the middle class, a new class of sky gods who grow ever richer even in the midst of recession, banks that grow without oversight or restriction at one with the extra-judicial Federal Reserve, continued fossil fuel dependency and a Congress that continues to encourage a path of Empire, even as that Empire appears to be on the verge of collapse. And every step of the way, the Christian leadership of this country lending that Government-Military-Industrial-Financial Empire moral legitimacy, in direct contrast to the teachings of Christ. Continuing to do so, fanning the flames of social in-fighting and distraction.

Democracy was conceived in Europe and born in America. We remain a very young, immature nation. It is no surprise that maturation into a true democracy would prove to be difficult, that we could lose our way. We imagined the country was born a democracy, that it would always be one. We forgot, or never new, Democracy requires practice, engagement, that every generation has to work to maintain and strengthen democracy, to maintain democracy. Instead, we absolved ourselves and left that work to leadership. As a consequence, our Republic is about to get a lesson in the collapse of Empire.

Whether or not we pursue a path of democracy from here, will depend on whether or not we revive a notion of the common good, for all Americans. The common good has not been a part of the national lexicon as long as I've been able to participate. Mostly, I hear about the virtue of self interest. Which has led to an increasingly pervasive economic amorality that is indifferent to the health of the Earth, of the Republic, or the well-being of people.

Here we stand. On this beautiful Earth. This widely differentiated biosphere, this cradle of Life. Revolving around a star which warms our atmosphere just right, a star myriads of interstellar bodies revolve around, all encased in a protective heliosphere of outward rushing solar energy, revolving in turn on a great arm of a great galaxy of 100 billion stars, in a universe of 100 billion galaxies. All the Universe the residual energy of some grand creative event, some 14 billion years past; perhaps some many billions of years hence to contract to a single point as in the beginning, like one great, grand breath of a Creator.

Here we stand, on this Earth, alive, of nature, of the biosphere, of the ascendant species, the last surviving species of Hominid, in whose hands the fate of the whole of the biosphere now rests. We will destroy the biosphere and ourselves, or we will find some way to live in harmony with Life, in rhythm with the rhythms of the Earth. Whatever we do, the Earth will survive, and even if we destroy ourselves and most of the species of the Earth, in another few million years the Earth will recover a measure of the biodiversity we destroyed, life flourishing once again.

I'm optimistic there will be descendants of Homo sapien sapien around most of the rest of the life of Earth. I am not so optimistic that we will prevent ourselves from causing the sixth great extinction event and the loss of civilization. Though I believe Americans can lead the world in the healing of the planet, if we choose. First, we will have to choose to heal ourselves, our Republic and the land we inhabit. That will only happen if we de-emphasize self-interest in favor of service, and require the same of our leaders. If we re-evaluate the path we have chosen, the path of Empire.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wealth IV - Health Care

My health care policy amounts to this: stay healthy. I eat reasonably well part of the year, the rest of the year I maintain a garden, and I bike or walk most of the time I travel. I suppose if something bad should happen, Medicaid would cover part of it, as I have about $5000 dollars and no job. My father might, if the cost wasn't too great. I don't spend much time thinking about it. I'm too busy living.

Recently we passed a Health Care bill requiring everybody in America to have health insurance. Very lucrative in the short term for insurance companies (and creating a vastly larger and ever-less informed army of corpra-crats), but a bill which did absolutely nothing about the two greatest underlying health problems in America: Government/Corporate policy that assures the worst, most unhealthy food is the cheapest and most readily available; Government/Corporate/Social policy that allows the soil, the air and the water to be poisoned with more than 100,000 different kinds of man made chemicals, without any cost to the poisoner, but his or her share of what falls back on all of us. A Health Care bill to stimulate the economy even as that economy is rigged to make people sick. Genius.

Conservatives hate the bill. It is exceptionally lucrative in the short term, but long term, it's harder to maintain 12% growth or better annually. They are afraid the bill will make it more expensive for them to receive the most expensive Health Care, if everybody has access to it. And fundamentally, secretly, they bristle at the idea of giving platinum Health Care to someone who is not contributing significantly to the economy. I will remind them, in any hierarchical system, it's not a good idea to make the foundation sick. Sooner or later, they figure it out. And if they don't, the whole damn pyramid falls.

Democrats tend to be oblivious. They seem only to understand the spending of money, even if that "money" is only credit.

And really, what does either party know about health, fiscal or otherwise? The Boomer generation is about to retire. I'm aware there is an obligation to elders, but I didn't agree to a 15 trillion dollar debt. That is expecting a lot from a generation that is smaller in number than yours. At the rate you've been charging, I half-expect the debt to be 25 trillion by the time the last Boomer retires. I don't know about my fellow Gen Xer's and the Millennials, but I have little interest in living captive to Boomer interest payments, and Boomer Health Care, particularly if that means we have to accelerate the rate at which we pollute the biosphere and deplete its resources by turning those finite resources into toxic garbage.

In reality, Boomers, the rate at which the Earth's resources have been depleted, the age of the boom has come to an end. Except maybe more of those kind that are delusion, which increase the debt and weaken the economy. Besides that, declining oil doesn't bode well for the ease of your retirement.

As for universal Health Care, it is a noble goal. Delusion though, if we expect to give all Americans, indeed, all the world's people, the kind of Health Care Americans have come to expect. The point cannot be to provide Platinum health care to everybody, but to attack the underlying reasons for ill-health, which are related to the underlying reasons for the ill-health of the entire Earth, which is the human notion that all the material of Earth is just dumb matter to be exploited, that Homo sapien sapien somehow exists outside the biosphere, that we can continue to break the most fundamental Law of Ecology - let nothing go to waste - and the second most fundamental Law, that you don't shit in the water supply.

There is a prophecy abroad, that we are on the verge of the sixth Great Extinction. Homo sapien sapien is industrializing beyond the capacity of the biosphere to maintain growth as we have come to perceive it. If we continue to look at the world as we do, and not as it is - a dynamic, wildly differentiated reflection of the energy of the Creator, an inconceivably intricate web on which the existence of Homo sapien sapien depends - then we will continue to exploit the biosphere until we kill it, at which point it will not sustain Homo sapien sapien, or very few of us living a very mean life.

Again, you can't poison the base of the pyramid and expect the pyramid to stand.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wealth III - Food

When I returned to my house in June, I spent the first two weeks tearing up sod. I planted a wide variety of vegetables and fruit, in ten new beds, 2400 sq ft of garden space, but mostly I planted potatoes. This fall I harvested approximately 250 pounds of potatoes. I built a root cellar in the basement, a small walled-in space enclosing a window, where the potatoes rest in a temperature of about 40 degrees. They will keep this way through the winter, and those I don't eat will be seed for the spring planting.

Why do I do this? One, I am in love with the potato. It is easy to grow, it is bulky, it is nutritious and tasty. Two, having those potatoes in the basement gives me a sense of security. I recently got caught at a woman's house during a blizzard, snowed in for two days, literally caught with my pants down. I had left the window in the root cellar open, and the sub-zero north wind found it's way in. I was concerned I lost my potatoes. The feeling was one of deep loss, and also an awareness that should the food supply be disrupted, the loss of my potatoes could make a very difficult winter painful. It's hard to imagine that, in this culture - empty grocery stores - but it's a reality the body remembers, as food shortages have been reality for most of the life of our species.

Three, I do this to teach myself about food. It's a broad subject. One might begin by understanding how the majority of food in this country is produced. That is, generally, by poisoning the field. Herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, artificial fertilizers by the million ton. Crops planted like military columns, the soil left bare after harvest, polluted soil by the billion ton washing into rivers. An intensive, fossil fuel driven process, exacerbated by arrogance, and a perception of the living Earth as raw material to be exploited (We are made of the same Earth, yes?) Much of that Agri-business dedicated to genetically modified corn and soybeans, the primary base material for a food supply for people, and commoditized animals who live in vast, sickly, concentrated housing, animals fed daily pharmaceuticals and antibiotics to keep them alive long enough to grow big enough to satisfy Wall Street expectations. Toxic shit accumulates and enters the water supply. Corn for people is alchemized into mysterious incarnations, including an addictive substance, High Fructose Corn Syrup. Industrial food-product of all kinds is transported many miles by fossil fuel, approximately 1500 miles per meal. Despite this poisonous, energy intensive process, and because of Government subsidies, the worst, most unhealthy food is the cheapest. Food which weakens people over time, which contributes to a Health Care Industry that is nearly 20% of the economy and growing.

In contrast, the best, healthiest food is always local, from small, organic, family and community producers, who care about the land, air and water. Food which, because of the twisted, unholy relationship between Government and Industry, is the most expensive by a wide margin. Two fine presentations on how this works are the documentaries Fresh ( and Food INC (

I have long planted a garden. It was only after learning about our food supply that I began to take gardening seriously. I've learned that even here, in Minneapolis, I can grow fresh vegetables most of the year, some through the winter. I've learned about the importance of seed, the heirloom varieties that have been with us for many, many generations, and how important that is to freedom from companies like Monsanto, who actively pursue the control of the seed supply. Without seed, you can't grow your own food. Without seed you have to buy it from someone else. And when that someone else is a "person" that is a corporation with amoral, even pathological tendencies, that is an invitation to tyranny. A fully centralized food supply is not only the end of freedom, it is inevitable disaster. Because everything about the current industrial process is contrary to, inherently detrimental to, natural processes.

The future is almost all about local production, from backyard gardens, to city open space, to specialized small farms more like what we see in Italy. Some Americans will be aghast that I could compare America to Italy. But the Italian food supply is a fine model for an America where fossil fuels are no longer readily available. That time is coming. As it concerns food, we can prepare in three ways: learning to grow food, supporting local growers, and demanding the end of all subsidies for Industrial production. The first two parts are easy. The last part will be incredibly difficult. The Health Care Industry will fight it, for fear of losing market share (healthier people means less Health Care). Cargill and Archers-Daniels-Midland will fight it, for they are the greatest beneficiaries of agricultural subsidies. Industries of all kinds will fight it, though it be healthy of the Earth and people. And even if we succeed, if we aren't intentional about it, the Banks and Agri-Business will take over the land, farmers will become serfs, and nothing about the poisoning of the Earth and people will change.

No home should be without a food supply to last the winter. And the means to cook it. Because, if there is a disruption in the oil supply, there will be an immediate disruption in the food supply, and you don't want to be out in winter looking for food for your family if everyone else is, when that food is hard to find. And a word of warning: governments of all kinds know food can be used as a weapon, one far more powerful than any conventional weapon, if you can control it.

But really, learning about food is mostly about reconnecting to the Earth. Much of our sadness, despair, disconnection, alienation, etc, can be healed by an awareness of nature's rhythms. Planting food, tending to food, harvesting food, storing food, cooking food, eating seasonally, is reconnecting to the rhythms of the Earth, which is healing. And there is nothing the world needs more now than healing.

One who knows much more about food and food production than I do is John Michael Greer @ He has a fine recent post about saving and storing food. He's one of the more insightful writers working today on the end of the Age of cheap and abundant fossil fuels. A great resource.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wealth II - Housing

My house was built in 1918. The original footprint was approximately 450 sq ft. The builders did not have much building sense, as they missed the bearing beam with the bearing wall by a full eight inches. They built the foundation walls too shallow, then toe-nailed the floor joists into the side of the bearing beam, instead of resting them on top and nailing them together, which meant someone later came in and cut four feet out of the bearing beam to accommodate the mechanicals: plumbing, electrical, etc. Whoever it was removed the beam directly under the main pathway between the dining room and the living room, which caused the floor to buckle. I didn't know this when I bought the house, because previous homeowners had piled four layers of flooring on top of the maple hardwoods.

In the 1950's, someone added a sun room with a foundation. In the eighties someone added a kitchen without a foundation; the kitchen extends out from the main body of the house, with three exterior walls, with no direct heat source - in the winter it is rarely above 50 degrees. The footprint today is about 750 sq ft, and there are 28 single pane windows. The roof joists and the walls are 2x4 with vermiculite (asbestos) insulation. This winter, I've closed-off most of the house, but the living room and the bedroom, or my heating bill would exceed $300 a month, maybe more.

My house is not the most egregious example of foolish house design, but it is foolish. First of all, it is built as if the sun does not emit energy. It is built as if there is no such thing as a cold north wind. Which is the case with most of the houses in America, a foolishness induced by inexpensive, abundant fossil fuels. Why regard the elements, when coal, heating oil and gas are so cheap? Well, first of all, because these fuels are finite, so burning them wantonly is profligate and immoral, like stealing from your children. But that is what America has been about, the last hundred years. The world seemed bigger then. It is a forgivable error.

If my 750 sq ft house is an energy sink, what of the 4000 sq ft house? This ubiquitous, more modern version is better insulated, but what a lot of space to heat! And, these houses tend to be remote, from a pedestrian standpoint; you burn an abundance of fossil fuel just getting back and forth from work, school, food, etc. To call the suburbs the greatest mis-allocation of resources in the history of civilization, as James Howard Kunstler did, is no stretch.Without cheap and abundant fossil fuels, most suburban houses will be uninhabitable.

The house of the future will be smaller, and it will take full advantage of the sun. Passive solar design is often less expensive, and more livable, if you are willing to do with less. That house will be made primarily from locally derived materials, recycled and sustainably harvested, without toxic properties, with a minimum of waste - a house to last not less than seven generations. From this point on, any house, any building, not built at the very least for optimal solar collection, is madness. Socially irresponsible. I am not in jest.

The most important question is, when it comes to housing, what are we going to do about the houses that exist? The Market is not going to fix that problem. Under the current incarnation of capitalism, there are hundreds of thousands of men sitting idle, who have the skills to help with this. They could be engaged in the retrofitting of houses. But as far as I know, I am the only one in America thinking about it.

(In my own city, Minneapolis, my point is almost moot, because the streets were plotted in such a way that houses are side by side, north to south. Which means, they rest in each other's shadow. Which means the few houses that can be retro-fitted for passive solar collection are mostly on the south end of the block. Such a small decision by a few men without the simplest of sense, with such a terrible consequence. Nothing short of re-plotting and re-building, or tearing down half the houses in the city, will do.)

The alternative, of course, is to wait until it is no longer financially viable to heat a house with fossil fuels. At that point, of course, the economy will make the so-called Great Recession look like a boom. Which is the likely outcome, because our conception of economic growth is sadly narrow, neither accounting for natural capital or human capital, only accounting for the exchange of financial capital between parties. That the health of the biosphere, natural resources and quality of life are declining, is irrelevant to those Market fundamentalists dominating politics and business these days. Self-interest is paramount. Nowhere is that more evident than in the discussion about taxes, and the unspoken notion that the pain of preventing the insolvency of the nation should be borne by the financially weakest among us.

We Americans have wanted so much. There were no limits. We want to continue to believe there are no limits. But we overshot, badly. We are finding that the modern American house has not been good for America, nor for the character of Americans. We will find, I hope, graciously and without (much) rancor, that a smaller house in harmony with the rhythms of the Earth, will lead to a greater harmony within oneself and with one's neighbors. We are going to have to help each other get there. We haven't had much practice, the last few generations.

I'm hoping to do a passive solar retrofit with my own house. We'll see. I have the knowledge, the skills and the time, but like anybody else, as soon as I come up with the money, I won't have the time. We are all being pulled forward relentlessly by our own insatiability, and America's slavish, narrow-minded, self-righteous, sycophantic, Market fundamentalism. And guess what, fundamentalist, just because I critique capitalism, doesn't mean you get to accuse me of socialism, or communism. That dog don't play no more. I'm a capitalist. A real one. The capitalism I subscribe to isn't so god-damned mean. The capitalism I subscribe to is about harmony between financial, human and natural capital. Which is the future, if we don't destroy America, the Earth and each other before we get there.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wealth I - Water

To recapitulate: I am being charged $350 dollars a month for the right to use Minneapolis city water. That does not include charges for the water I actually use. Why am I paying this much? Because the city replaced a broken stop box on the boulevard, this past fall, the stop box serving no other purpose than to turn the water on or off, from the main line under the street. If I do not pay, the city will condemn my house. Never mind that I am unemployed, or that my property taxes will increase 16.2% ($400) this year, or that the county is valuing my house approximately $50,000 dollars more than it is worth.

I am paying my bill. Though my sewer is still plugged with tree roots, and I have used approximately 100 gallons this past month. Which is slightly more than the median household use in America for a single day. My intention is to use as little city water as possible for the duration of the payment plan. Already, my attitude toward water has changed fundamentally.

If there is anything sacred in this world, it is water. Without it, there is no life. We are offspring of sunlight and water, in a cradle that is the Earth. But that does not prevent us from manufacturing more than 100,000 different kinds of chemicals that are not otherwise found in nature, and releasing them into the biosphere more or less indiscriminately. Many of these chemicals persist throughout the water cycle, from groundwater to surface water to rivers and streams and the ocean, evaporating into the sky and returning to the land as rain or snow, and eventually, through us. Homo sapien sapien is 70% water. Our treatment of the water is quite literally changing the chemistry of our bodies. Which is one reason the Health Care industry is growing even in the midst of economic contraction.

Any chemical not otherwise found in nature is poison. Which means, we are poisoning ourselves and the Earth. This is immoral, but in this Age, this is business. Follow blindly the most central creed of the Market, which is growth, and this poisoning will continue to get worse. They will say Market forces will make the environment healthier. But the number of poisons, the amount and the scale of their use, continues to grow, world wide. If the Gaia Hypothesis is right, and the Earth is one giant living system, it will someday suffer a kind of toxic shock, as any human body would, or its immune system will kill the species that poisons it.

Approximately 1.5 billion Homo sapien sapien do not have regular access to fresh drinking water. Forty percent of the world's people do not have sufficient water to maintain basic hygiene. How can these people rise up out of poverty without fresh water? They cannot. And though we have the technology to provide adequate fresh water for as little as $2 per person, per year, less than 1% of the worlds people who need it most have access to that technology, because there is not any monetary profit to be made from it, for the people who have the means to provide it.

It's not just that we are selfish (that great virtue of the Market) about providing fresh water, and we introduce industrial poisons into the water. Industrial agriculture (crops and trees) muddies the water with soil. Aquifers are emptied. Big dams turn comparatively clean rivers into methane producing cesspools, compounding the greenhouse problem. We alter the flow of major rivers, such that an increasing number of them do not replenish the sea. We treat fresh water as if it is infinite, but fresh water is a finite resource and we are exceeding the Earth's capacity to provide it.

There is and continues to be an attempt to privatize water. We have literally swallowed the idea of bottled water, though bottled water is not really regulated at all, oftentimes less healthy than tap water. It often is tap water, though we pay more for it than we pay for gasoline. Municipal Water Works are being privatized. How do you provide water to people and meet Wall Street expectations of not less than 12% growth annually? You can't, without disenfranchising an increasing number of people. How do you turn water into a commodity without eventually making wars over it? You don't.

It is all quite insane. To know this is to ask, what can one do? How insurmountable it seems. How inevitable. How unstoppable.

How do we repair an aging infrastructure without doing things like charging $350 a month for a stop box replacement on threat of condemnation? I can assure you, that $3100 dollars the city charged me would have gone a long way to getting my house off city water completely. I could build a very fine cache system with $3100 dollars. Which is the future. Every house should have a cache system - rain barrels, filters, cisterns - sufficient to provide water for the household, for the entire year. Centralized water suppliers, public or private, are an invitation to abuse. A self sustaining water supply is about security, as well as a realignment of our perception of water. Currently, water just comes out of the tap or the bottle and we don't really think about it at all. Which is the source of abuse.

Such a change is a radical departure from the life we have grown accustomed to. The life we have grown accustomed to is terribly detrimental to the water supply, which is terribly detrimental to Life, which is terribly detrimental to people.

If I change, I change the world around me. If I heal myself I heal the waters. How do I treat the water I use? How do I treat the water inside me? What would I do, for myself and my family, if the water ceased to flow?

Water is Life. There can be no life worth living, without access to fresh water.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cool It

I recently commented on the documentary Cool It, based on the book of the same name, written by Bjorn Lomborg. Few readers are likely to be familiar with the man, though he has been described as one of the 50 most influential people in the world. I thought I might read the book as well.

Lomborg's basic working premise is, that our fears of a global catastrophe, due to the rate as which we burn fossil fuels, i.e. climate change, is scientifically unfounded; and, that our attempts to limit CO2 emissions through Kyoto and Kyoto-like protocols are absurdly expensive, futile and misguided. He believes a fraction of that money could otherwise be used to address clean drinking water, healthy food, good housing, basic education and basic health care for all the world's people, with far more effective results.

For this he has been compared to Hitler. Some have called for Nuremberg-like tribunals for climate change deniers. His suggestion that climate catastrophe is not imminent or even likely has been compared to holocaust denial.

You can be sure, when a perspective has become so ingrained and orthodox that there are threats of violence against those who question it, it has lost its way.

That said, there are serious problems with Lomborg's outlook. First and foremost, he thinks like an economist. Most economists look at the world from a defunct Newtonian/Cartesian perspective, which is to say, he thinks of the Earth, the Universe, the great Market and humanity as if it were all a perfectly ordered, perfectly mechanical, perfectly predictable machine - a common delusion which is often exacerbated by an infatuation with technological progress.

The weakness of this attitude is on display in the one and only tangible option Lomborg offers to deal with rising temperatures: paint the cities white. His economist mind says, great! White reflects sunlight. The city will be less hot. Never mind the poverty of the imagination soon engendered, among the people in such a perfectly white city, or the damaged eyesight. Nor, that such a scheme would do nothing to reduce temperatures across the globe. His economist mind cannot conceive of, say, gardens on roofs, as a more attractive, more ecologically sound option.

The Earth nor the Market are machines, perfectly ordered. If that were the case, weather would be predictable. Bankers would not implode economies. There would be no housing bubbles. People are not machines. Contrary to the orthodoxy of economists, we rarely act - especially these days - in our truest best interest.

Secondly, his reliance on data leads him into the same trap that befalls most climate change models, which is, no model can come close to approximating a dynamic Earth in relationship with the Sun. He makes decisive statements meant to sound irrefutable, about what the temperature will be in the year 2100, when the fact is, no one knows what will happen if we burn most of the Earth's fossil fuel, which took a few hundred million years to create, in two centuries. The most we can know for certain, based on the rate at which we are killing the Earth and each other, it can't be good. Add in the uncertainty of solar output, and the reality that the Earth is perfectly capable of cooling itself, radically, in a period of a few years, it begins to seem like a very foolish path indeed.

Lomborg's data has the effect of making it seem there is no threat at all.

Which leads to the third flaw in Lomborg's perspective and his book, and that of most economists and books on economics, that he assumes fossil fuels are infinite. As if we will be using the same amount of fossil fuels, adjusted for economic growth, etc, in the year 2410 as we are using now. The Earth is going to reduce the rate at which we emit CO2 a lot more dramatically than any reduction scheme agreed to by Governments, in considerably less time, by the simple reality that demand will soon exceed supply, and that supply is declining.

The fear some have of Lomborg, is that his work will be an excuse for Governments to do effectively nothing about climate change. Governments are not likely to do anything about climate change, anyway. I agree with him, climate change policy as prescribed by Kyoto et al is fundamentally flawed. Not because it is "expensive", but because such policies do not really address the issue of consumption, or rather, the right of a few people to consume massive amounts of fossil fuels while an estimated 1.5 billion people live without access to any fossil fuels at all. Such protocols will not reduce the rate at which we are consuming fossil fuels, they would at best redistribute them, not to all people but among the richest countries, more evenly.

There is not any point in "fixing" climate change if there are a few more billion people without access to fresh water, clean housing, good food and basic education and health care, after you've "fixed" it. Which goes directly to the dirty little secret of the "developed", 'that the world's poor are poor because they choose to be, so they aren't really deserving of these things and if they had them, they would just make more babies, as mindlessly as they do now.'

This of course is uncharitable and mean, when we have the money and the technology to make it happen, and we have ample evidence that the more wealthy a people are, the less babies they have. True wealth being good water, food, housing, education, health care and companionship. Which leads to another dark secret of the West, and increasingly the East, that it is far easier to control and extract the resources of a nation that is poor, than the resources of a nation whose people are wealthy. The resources the most powerful nations require, to feed an ever greater affluence for a comparatively small number of people.

So really, Lomborg isn't totally wrong. His mind is simply suffering from an economic newtonian cartesianism (which may prove to be a more difficult thing to dispel than poverty.) And he's right, that we could be devoting ourselves to providing wealth for all. We would be a better people for it. The Earth would be healthier. To do that though, were going to have to dispel the notion that either the Market or Governments will do it for us. And we are going to have to address our own notions about wealth, here in America, which are peculiarly povertous.

I'll do what I can to help with that in the next several posts.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Few Thoughts on Revolutions

Julian Assange is incarcerated, by the English. Visa, Mastercard and Pay Pal have prevented us from donating to WikiLeaks. He is not really in jail because of the release of diplomatic cables, but for the sexual misconduct charges in Sweden. It is possible that Mr Assange has been corrupted by power, the power to influence Governments, knowing that both Governments and Corporations are afraid of him; he may have abused that power and hurt women. It is also very convenient, these charges. They don't have to be true. It is not about the truth necessarily. If it happens that three years from now he is exonerated, will justice be served?

Visa, Mastercard and Pay Pal don't give a damn about leaked American Diplomatic cables. No less than the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates doesn't think it's a problem. Many are saying it might be beneficial, showing us that American Diplomats are human, clear eyed and resolute. The attack on Julian Assange is not about diplomatic cables, it is about sensitive Bank of America documents, etc. I have written before about Bank of America's purchase of Merryl Lynch, how Bank of America defrauded America of 30 Billion, how the SEC fined BofA 125 million for this transgression. What will those documents say about that? What will they say about the Federal Reserve bailout? How many banks and corporations received a portion of the trillions of dollars that did not exist, money "conjured" out of the ether, and what do these institutions and the sky gods who control them really think about that?

Clearly, they do not want us to know. Hackers, unite. Bedevil them. Whistle blowers, take courage. America was betrayed and the truth must come out. This is a peaceful revolution - transparency and accountability are the objective; our purpose is to save the Republic from those sky gods who would destroy it.


I was listening to a program on public radio this morning, about the climate change summit in Cancun and the proposed green economy. What is striking to me about the American attitude is, there is an increasing awareness that a change is coming. I hear more and more talk about a green economy. The trouble is, the discussion invariable stands on an assumption that the end of fossil fuels will be nothing more than a blip in the progress of our great Nation. We tend to assume that whatever happens, our standard of living will not fundamentally change.

Make no mistake, the end of fossil fuels is nothing short of a fundamental, broad scale restructuring of the entire culture, of everything we have come to assume as the normal way of things. Take my home State as an example. We have perhaps a million houses in Minnesota, 99% of which were built according to a fossil fuel paradigm. If you do not heat those houses with natural gas, which is generally the case, you must use heating oil, wood or coal. If you don't have access to natural gas, you probably don't have access to heating oil. If we try to heat those homes with wood we will deforest the state in a few years. We could heat those houses with coal, but that will reduce the average lifespan, and radically ratchet-up climate change.

Then there is electricity generated by Nuclear. To heat homes for 300 million Americans? A devil's bargain.

We could rebuild those houses to take advantage of solar energy, and cut our fossil fuel inputs by half or greater. But where the Market is god, that is not going to happen. Our standard of living prevents it. It would cost too much.

That standard of living, by the way, is the most resource intensive standard of living of any culture in the story of the species, by a long shot - as if we can forever and always consume 35% of the worlds resources. Our economy is 70% consumer spending, which is by definition antithetical to the health of the Earth.

Is there a way out of this mess? It entirely depends on whether or not we remember why this Nation was created, whether or not we can restore in ourselves a reverence for the Earth, and a reverence for Life, and whether or not we can accept a less affluent standard of living with dignity and grace.


There was an officer of the law at my front door yesterday. For all the talk about the ugly reputation of the Minneapolis Police Department, I have yet to meet an officer I didn't like. This officer was at my door to inform me that someone had broken into my next-door neighbor's house. Whoever it was, they kicked in the back door at five in the afternoon. Brazen. There have been several burglaries in my neighborhood, which is not what you would consider a high-crime neighborhood. I probably should have run down that white dude who tried to steal my garden tools, last Fall.

I expect more of that. The richest country in the story of the species, under the sway of the Market inspired ethic of Every Man for Himself. What is happening to the Republic? Wealth is increasingly aggregated at the peak of the social hierarchy, which is to say, the richest are getting a whole lot richer. The way in which these men (mostly) sustain and increase their wealth does not necessarily entail the creation of jobs. They generate their wealth through opaque financial schemes that depend on individual and institutional debt. In 2008, there was a recession. In 2009, there were 58 new billionaires in America. In some ways, the more indebted the Republic becomes, the richer these men become.

"Republicans" genuflecting at their feet. Obama caving in. He is no strategist. He could have forced the "Republican" party to choose between protecting the middle class and these sky gods whose self-interest supersedes the health of the Republic. But then, self-interest superseding the health of the Earth and the health of the Republic is the American Way, these days. "Republicans" are saying we are all in this together. We are all Americans. Don't believe it. When you start hearing sky gods demanding to pay more in taxes, with the requirement that government spending is cut across the spectrum, so we can reduce the debt, then you can believe it. Expect it. Demand it. Americans.

I make a point of thanking every officer I meet for their service. But service is not a thing reserved for officers of the law, or the military. Service is a thing we all can aspire to. The health of a Republic depends upon it. The health of the Earth depends upon it. It will be fundamental to the viability of the species, in the face of increasing resource and energy constraints, if we hope not to destroy ourselves in the transition to a so-called "green" economy, which is to say, to an economy that is healthier for the Earth and for people.

We are in the midst of a revolution, whether we want to admit that or not. It doesn't have to be a violent one. It shouldn't be. But it will be, if we fight to maintain a standard of living that is so energy and resource intensive. If we choose that path, there will be no limit to the pain.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Golden Shoes

I returned to Monster Halloween and the old Hollywood Video building one last time (maybe), to hang a sign for the building's owners, and to meet with Stephan, a sixty year old black man who owns a business on the North Side. He wanted our front desk, the former Hollywood Video front desk. We weren't required to move it, but he wanted it, so I agreed to a meeting.

The desk is a colossal thing, pressed laminate, designed not to be taken apart without destroying it. Which meant a considerable amount of unnecessary strain in moving it. (What gives a man the right to design such a thing? The Market, of course.) Stephan showed up with an SUV, which meant three trips to his North Side shop. I thought to go with him the first trip, but I didn't. Instead, I stayed in the cold and empty building and thought about the move The Road, based on the Cormac McCarthy book, dancing around the open floor, working with a broomstick, thinking about Great Difficulties and how such times exaggerate the qualities of men, good and bad.

I wasn't in a very good mood by the time Stephan returned 90 minutes later. A friend had borrowed me her car, which I told her I would return at 5:00. It was almost six, and there were two more loads.

He offered to return another day, but I wasn't interested in that. I decided to help him unload, so I hopped in the SUV and we were off to the North Side.

Stephan is a good looking man, with a neatly trimmed white beard and a former body builders body. He has an equally beautiful wife, a blessed spirit who preaches the Word, and teaches leadership to prospective nursing assistants. Stephan is often heard saying, "Praise Jesus", "Praise the Lord." It is less proselytizing, more like an incantation to ward off evil spirits. His wife, being the gentle, trusting spirit she is, is often taken advantage of. Stephan is a former hustler, who knows one when he sees one. Half her congregation disappeared when he showed up.

We got to talking about the black community. He has two kids, good people with abundant talents but insatiable desires; nothing is ever enough. He sees it all the time at his wife's classes, at her church. People wanting without the capacity to give. "Never any money, always a story about this or that. Me, I'm grateful for everything I get. They ain't grateful for nothin'. Always trying to take advantage. I see it, I call it out. But I'm the bad guy. I don't mean to hurt anybody, I just call it what it is. Jesus says turn the other cheek, but he didn't mean let people do you like that. He didn't mean you just let yourself be taken advantage of." He is his wife's protector. And a good one, I think.

He counters. "I hear all this talk like the North Side's such a bad place," he says, laughing. "Let me tell you, the North Side ain't nothin' like a lot of cities I been to. All this talk too, like they know what's best, like they're gonna fix the place." He laughs again. "It's the same stuff I been hearin' since the fifties. The same stuff and not much of anything ever gets done."

"And it's not ever going to get done, either," I reply. "The only thing that can heal the black community is the black community."

"That's right, he says,"You go around with darkness in your heart, takin' advantage of people and expecting to have whatever you want whenever you want it, ain't nothin' gonna change for the better. People acting like they can do whatever they want, without any regard for their fellow man.

"The White Man," he laughs. "Everybody complainin' about the White Man. White Man, nothin'. We're all people. We're all human. White folk ain't got it any better than black. Were all servin' the Man. We're all hurtin'. White people are sufferin' too."

He robbed a bank when he was 24, spent some time in Lewiston, bounced around various hard-ass Federal facilities. "I was a stupid kid, didn't know what I was doing or what it meant. Never knew my dad and my mom died when I was 21, didn't really know her either.

"You want to keep people out of jail. Tell you what, it costs $70,000-$100,000 every year to keep a man incarcerated. Give a brother a job and $70,000 a year and I guarantee a lot of brothers are gonna think twice about gettin' into trouble."

"But that's not the point," I tell him. "Like my good friend Snake says, If you have a choice between building a hotel that's half full most of the year, or a jail that's full all year, every year, year after year, what are you going to build?" Stephan's an old hustler. He laughed long and deep about that one.

"Right, he says, thinking. "Prison guards, food vendors, clothing vendors, linens..."

"What do you think drugs are illegal for, anyway?" I say. "A very lucrative business, keepin' people in a cage. Your investors and vendors aren't going to be happy if the jail isn't full."

He asked if I was a Christian. I said no. "Well, what are you then?" I told him a story about giving my life up in service to the Goddess; that I didn't know what it would mean but my life changed irrevocably for the better after that. That every day I repeat "My Goddess, my Goddess, my Goddess, my name is William Hunter Duncan, and I am in service to you." I had been pondering what he might think. "That's a beautiful testimony," he said. "That helps me, hearing you say that. That's a blessing for me.

"Whatever you call it, it's the same thing." This is a Christian I can relate to, I thought.

At his shop after the final load he kept telling me what a blessing this was, "the opportunity of a lifetime," he called it. He wanted to give me more money than the $53 he paid for the desk, but I wouldn't take it. He sells shoes. "What size do you wear?" He dug through a box and gifted me with a glittering (literally) pair of bronze and gold Nike's. "What the hell am I going to do with these?" I said. "Wear them, of course," he replied.

It didn't occur to me until later, the significance. I've been very ugly to myself lately. I haven't felt very worthy. I'm thinking of the bronze statue of Nike in our Shrine to the Goddess, at Monster Halloween. As for the corporation, I can take it or leave it. I generally don't advertise. As for the Goddess, I am very thankful. It is an honor to serve.

I've been very dark lately. Yet somehow, I am blessed. The meeting with Stephan; a job offer the first morning I felt free of Monster Halloween; and my childhood playmate has mysteriously appeared, living not much further away than we were growing up, which is to say, within easy biking distance. She is the peace pirate Miss Chiff. She has hair like a magical woodland sprite and a big Newfoundland/Labrador/Shepherd named after a king. I'm not sure where the name Miss Chiff comes from, but I'm curious to find out.

Thank you, Stephan. Blessings. We are brothers, indeed.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Fire God

Biking through my neighborhood on a sunny morning. The sun feels good, though the air is very cold, about 10 degrees. I weave in and out the peaked shadows of houses, through shadowed webs of tree branches and telephone poles, contemplating mortality, the dragon, the fire god, and my species head long rush toward oblivion.

Any one man could bring down any one of the big banks from within, quite easily. Shut down all activity associated with the bank for days, maybe weeks, costing the economy tens, perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars. Of course, they would get the bank running again, and the hacker would spend the rest of his life in a cage while society debated the merits of his action, while the banks continued to centralize economic control. It would serve no purpose at all but statement. You aren't going to end the worship of the Market and the poisoning of the Earth by temporarily disabling a bank.

The sun, however, could wipe out banking worldwide, in a moment. We are heading into what is know as a solar maximum, the peak in the cyclical eleven year ebb and flow of sunspots. Sun spots are magnetic storms that periodically unleash Coronal Mass Ejections (CME), energetic solar wind which sometimes collides with the Earth. Our atmosphere generally channels this energy toward the poles, causing the northern lights, that energy then funneled into the Earth. Occasionally, the solar wind is so powerful it can disrupt communications, fry electrical stations, even knock satellites out of commission. We know the sun is capable of CME's that could wipe out satellites globally, even disable the electrical grid of whole continents. In the dark, in a moment, indefinitely.

It is also true the Earth has been hit by interstellar debris so large it initiated tectonic activity world-wide, dust and ash clouding the sky for years, causing mass specie extinction. The Earth alone is capable of such devastation - the Toba supervolcano eruption 75,000 years ago led to climate change so severe, some believe it was the near extinction of Homo sapien sapien. Yellowstone has that same potential.

The WikiLeaks dispersal of sensitive US diplomatic cables largely reveals that people act well, and people act badly, even among sky gods, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate a political realm where increasing numbers of people are capable of initiating global, thermo-nuclear devastation. Thank you, Juilan Assange et al. I am so looking joyward to the release of sensitive Bank of America memos.

Sitting in my sun room, the sun on my face making vitamin D, my hair standing on end as I contemplate a nuclear Iran, with their Ayatollahs and their militant jihadist hatred of Israel and the West; Kim Jong-il and his prickly man/child successor son; rogue Islamist Talibanic nutjobs in the Pakistani military; end-times advocates in Israel. The world is increasingly volatile and the great global Market churns away blissfully oblivious to its affect, exacerbating the volatility - and I am so angry and so tired of being angry, the way we are courting this revenge of the fire god. The way we poison the Earth and ourselves and then wonder why the world is such a mess.

My friend Snake thinks we don't think enough about death. That's about right. If we think about death at all, we think about how to avoid it. Which may seem practical, but in fact it only exacerbates the probability of death on a grand, even epic scale. Seven billion Homo sapien sapien finding ever more creative ways to kill each other, in the name of staying alive, to take over the world. Or in the case of suicide bombers, giving up on the instinct to survive, entirely.

God and Goddess have nothing to do with it, except insofar as they are used, God in particular, to justify the use of violence, the act of destruction, the accumulation of vast resources and the power that is associated with such control.

Death? I am going to die. I have no desire to avoid it. But I can tell you, whether it be fire from the sky, fire from the sun, fire from the Earth, fire from Homo sapien sapien, I will endeavor to survive. I will help others survive. If I do not first destroy myself with my anger.

And why am I so angry? Because this Earth is a wonderful and blessed, beautiful garden, and my species is destroying it.


I'm having breakfast with my friend Snake, tomorrow morning. My clothes are long overdue for a wash. I've been meaning to do it for a week or better, but the opportunity presented itself. Actually, I could have washed my clothes Thanksgiving night, at my sister's; but the truth is, I haven't really cared.

Snake won't mind if I show up smelly, but we'd both rather I smell strong, pleasantly. So, I thought I might try the laundry machine downstairs, though it hasn't run in more than two years. I think the drain is open enough.

A test run. No clothes, just detergent and water. And now there is an inch of water in places, on the floor. Fuck.

I send the sewer auger down the drain. I can feel it building, my anger, the farther the auger reaches toward the sewer. I'm cursing God again. Fuck you God. Fuck you, God. What did I ever do but try to be a good man, to protect the Earth, to treat people well? What the fuck, God?

And I know it's all childish and irrational because I know I've unplugged the sewer as far as this auger will reach and it's another thirty or forty feet to the sewer. I pull the auger out and curse, standing in water. Fuck you God. You know what? Fuck you too, Goddess. What the fuck? What the fuck do you got to say about it? Fuck you.

The whole world is a mess, increasingly ruled by despots, by men seeking to control, to control nations, to control the water, to control food. Fuck you, God. Fuck you, Goddess. What the fuck do you got to say about it? Nothing but silence. Almost nothing but what comes from men who rule, who support rulers.

I'm stomping through the house, cursing. I step outside into the cold, to the garage, to gather a rubber tub I used this summer to gather water under a downspout. I carry the tub downstairs, set it behind the washing machine and hang the washing machine drain from the edge. I fill the machine with clothes, turn it on and stomp upstairs. I sit down on the couch.

They are talking about adding 25,000 field staff at the FDA, pursuant the passing of s510, the Food Safety Modernization Act. I wouldn't mind 25,000 men and women of service, assuring Monsanto, Cargill, Archers/Daniels/Midland etc. don't succeed in taking over the food supply. That's what this bill really is, a response to the local foods movement. Sky gods are losing market share.

What we are likely to get instead is 25,000 attack dogs hounding farmers growing food responsibly and delivering it to their neighbors, eliminating the competition, ruining families. Both parties would squawk "how awful," as they let it happen. The continued centralization of power, the food supply potentially controlled by one man serving a few dozen corporate masters. If you call yourself a Republican and support that, you have lost your way. The Republic cannot stand, the more centralized power becomes, when people lose control of their food supply.

And that is water splashing on my basement floor. Fuck. I walk downstairs, laughing, water pouring over the side of the tub. I shut off the washing machine. Fuck you God. Fuck you Goddess! Waatch you got to say? What the fuck you have to say? And there I am, standing in a pool of water and the extension cord connected to the washing machine is in the water.

That's how Thomas Merton died. A faulty wire connected to a fan, on the floor, in a bathroom, in southeast Asia.

I don't give a fuck how Thomas Merton died! Fuck you, waatch you got? Fuck you! Fry Me! Fuck. Fuck you. Fuck!

I sit down on the washing machine and think about it, my head bowed, my eyes wet, my face numb. You think I'm angry? Spend a week in the jungles of Congo or Columbia, a few days in Mogadishu, a tour in the Afghan/Pakistan borderlands, Hanukkah in the West Bank or Gaza. I'm a puppy dog by comparison.

I walk to the garage, gather another tub and a milk jug with part of the top cut out, return downstairs and transfer water from tub to tub, restart the wash and wait, thinking about those young men I wrote about recently, wondering about wearing my wooden swords and patrolling the park on Fudo Myo, my bike. I heard from a man who knows a man who was in the park that day, who came upon the assault just as it was ending. There were many people in the park that day, it turns out. Had any one of them followed those young men, would the other assaults have happened? I wonder if most Americans are like that, finding reasons not to help, not helping in any way they can if they think there is any kind of danger? For all our talk about freedom, I wonder if we will one day accept a full-on centralized tyranny if we think it will keep us safe?

The wash is done and I carry it upstairs, hang it from 12-2 electrical cord I've strung six ways from screws I tapped into the top of a window and the bathroom door. The irony is, I have pants in the closet I could have worn. I could have patched something together nicely, to make myself presentable, not having had to wash clothes and get water on the floor and add two more tubs of standing water including the bath sink and the rubber tub in the bathtub. But I'm glad to have the clean clothes.

No question, I need to unplug the sewer drain. I need to find an auger that will reach, and maybe make the full commitment and tear up the floor. I have an idea about sending pex water lines down the drain to the sewer, to see if I can generate some radiant heat to help heat the house. I met a man this summer who thinks it will work.

Just don't tell the city I'm trying it.