Monday, April 2, 2012

A Window Into America's Soul

These are windows I replaced with an identical set for a client years ago, during the housing boom. There were actually four of the shorter windows, which were all in one large frame. They had built-in shades, with built-in storm glass as well. The original purchase price was about $3000. The primary frame had rotted out, and the replacement windows, which were identical but about a dozen years newer, were $6000, not including the install. The tall ones don't even open. I tried to sell the whole lot for $25 last year at a garage sale, but no one would take them.

I started tearing this one apart, as I wanted the glass but not the frame. Double pane glass can be excellent as a greenhouse glass, provided it's not clouded between the panes, and it's not UV resistant.

Here is one with the wood frame still intact for comparison.

The trouble is, the glass is inset into the aluminum cladding, and there is as much toxic puddy and adhesive by volume holding the glass to the aluminum cladding and wood, as aluminum.

It was nearly an hour process, pulling this one window apart. Resulting in adhesive and puddy covered glass, toxic crap on my hands, and all that aluminum in the background of this last picture, unsalvageable. There is no recycling aluminum with so much crap attached to it. I gave the rest of the windows to a neighbor who is going to cart them all the way to Colorado to put in his cabin.

Was all this toxic puddy and adhesive necessary to the performance of the window? No. Why was it there? For the same reason that modern building codes led to so many houses built after the 1980's rotting from the inside out. Subconsciously terrified of nature, we built houses that were entirely closed systems that could not breathe. Moisture trapped inside turned the wood frame to mush. Here in Minnesota we were forced to tear down whole neighborhoods that were not a decade old.

Not only that, nearly everything in the modern house is toxic. From the plywood or ASB sheathing, to the adhesive impregnated LVL (laminated veneer lumber), to the carpet, to the paint, to the synthetic clothing in the closet, all of it off-gassing chemicals into the stagnant air of those balloon-like houses.

It was Autism awareness day Monday. There has been a radical increase in autism diagnosis in recent decades. The experts are stymied, except to say the increase has nothing to do with anything but increased reporting. Some parents blame vaccines, though official science has said this is nonsense. I'm no scientist, but I know that American industry creates more than 100,000 different kinds of chemicals and chemical compounds regularly released into the environment, of which the government regulates something like nine. What has science to say about that? Next to nothing. Science is the thing creating those chemicals though, with the money provided by industrialists and CEO's and governments, under government protection. But then, are Americans saying anything about chemicals? Ask most people about yard care and they will tell you which chemicals they use by trade name. What do you use to clean your house? A female Facebook friend posted the other day, in all seriousness, "Calgon, take me away."

I'm not saying all those chemicals cause Autism, but I am saying it's a hell of a lot easier to make chemicals than deal with them once they're rooting around in living systems. And there's one hell of a lot more incentive to make chemicals than deal with the consequences that Science either can't or won't figure out. And it is asinine to say there are no negative consequences, releasing so many chemicals into the biosphere - but there's plenty of motive.

I'm no saint in regard to chemicals. I sprayed expandable foam around some windows I installed for a friend recently, though I didn't buy it. I'm thinking about using some glyphosate from that hideous monster of a corporation Monsanto, on the crab grass in my yard, using the rationale that I didn't bring that damn grass to this continent, but I have to fight it constantly in my gardens, which is a flimsy rationale, subject mostly to my time away from the garden. I probably won't use it, but I'm tempted. I sometimes eat food I suspect contains industrial residue. But my neighborhood only has food outlets that sell industrial food. It's a long way to the nearest co-op, by bike, and I don't have a trailer - yet.

Where are the non-toxic options? Rarer than Catholic saints. Why? Because on the whole, humans do not give a damn about the Earth. Those of us who do care can't buy what isn't available, and much of what is available is at best dubious. The cradle-to-cradle concept championed by some has been around for awhile, but the Earth grows more toxic every year, notwithstanding what the industrial, corporate apologists have to say about it. And what do a people who do not care about the Earth get? For one thing, corporations and banks and industries and governments that don't care about people.

Did you notice the recent Supreme Court decision saying that invasive strip search is constitutional, even if you didn't do anything more than get hauled in to the county jail for say, unpaid parking tickets, or drinking too much? What do you suppose the verdict might have been, if Scalia or Roberts or Kennedy or Alito or Thomas had to suffer the indignity of a strip and body cavity search, for such a crime? Don't you think they should have to consent to going through a strip and body cavity search, before making such a judgment? Perhaps they should ask themselves if it is just that there are 13 million people or so incarcerated every year in America? But Kennedy and Roberts and the rest of the conservative ideologues on the Court would have to give a damn about the rights of people, other than those "people" that are private banks, corporations and industries, i.e. private institutions, and the few actual people who own and run them, who they presumably pal around with. What's good for them is good for America, yes? Or is this just another twisted remnant of our Puritan origins, and a statement about the punishment of sinners? Spare the rubber glove and spoil the child?

I'm guessing plenty of corrections officers find applying the strip and body cavity search undignified. Others find pleasure in the humiliation, no doubt. To what extent the justices find pleasure in rendering a judgment that is a license to and affirmation of sadism on such a grand scale, I can only guess.

Did you hear about Tim DeCristopher, the young man who was sent to jail for bidding on mining rights, though he had no money? He bought $1.7 million in claims; but when he did have the money later, the government wouldn't accept it, even though the auction was a George W. Bush fire sale at the end of his term, and most of the sales were subsequently declared illegal. Tim just got out of isolation, after a 20 day stint. Why? Because in an email, he asked his friends to corroborate a rumor he'd heard, that one of the contributors to his defense fund was moving jobs overseas. If true, he said he would "threaten" to give the money back. A Congressman who shall not be named (apparently) found out about it. The twenty days isolation was punishment for use of the word, "threaten." Very gratifying for that Congressman, I'm sure.

We are an increasingly punitive society. Have you heard how many Americans are under the thumb of law enforcement? Almost eight million under direct supervision, a good deal more millions arrested every year - officially. A full five-fold increase in incarcerated American citizens, since the advent of Saint Reagan. That probably doesn't include all those Mexicans and central and south Americans in our modern day, sanitary concentration camps. What do you call the rule of law when your government has provided law enforcement with near impunity, incentivizing it with the profit motive, your government incarcerating more per capita than communist China, or lawless Russia, or any of the other multitude of countries ruled by despots? That, and there are millions of Americans who cannot vote because they have non-violent felony drug records, but if you are a college level (or professional presumably) football coach with a penchant for gaining the trust of, then raping boys, or a sociopath investment banker bilking clients of hundreds of millions, you get the indulgence of the court, and maybe a trial, someday. Maybe. Get caught with a few marijuana plants in your house, or psilocybin mushrooms, things that grow wild in many places on Earth, and it's a fast track to a cage, and law enforcement can confiscate everything you own.

The punitive application applies only so far up the social hierarchy. Dominators stick together, no matter how foul they might comport themselves in private.

We live in a police state, masquerading as a democracy. The demand is to get in line economically, and play your role on either side of the ideological divide, and freak out about the evil Other whenever you are expected to, and if not, or even if you do, like a good little parrot, you are potential fodder for the law enforcement industry to generate capital, to make more arrests and incarcerate and disenfranchise more people.

(I defend Minneapolis cops wherever I can. But they are people, and while most people are basically decent, ten percent are basically sociopaths, and that's who most people these days follow.)

Meanwhile, what are Americans freaking out about? With respect to the family of Trayvon and of George, there is something almost infantile about the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman debate. It has all the hallmarks of a witch hunt. Is it a tragedy? Most certainly. Is it more than the tragedy of two young men growing up in a country that glorifies violence and dominator behavior, with few models of mature masculine available, trying to prove how tough they are? Trayvon lost his life, but do you really believe he didn't try to prove to George Zimmerman how tough he was? And George has pretty much lost his life too, now that he is a symbol of all that is wrong in America, a Latino with a white boy name as proxy for our clueless rage against the machine. We Americans recently fought two ten year wars - we're still fighting one of them - which have helped bankrupt the empire, which we accepted a tax cut to wage! The Supreme Court has affirmed, you can't show the vagina or the penis in mainstream movies or video games, but there is no violence that is off limits. What do the children of Empire have to say about that? Porn is at least a 4 billion dollar industry, and rape is endemic.

What is the Supreme Court really up to? One question: how can the Affordable Care Act be unconstitutional, but the Patriot Act is not - or the recent decision (by Congress) to let the military incarcerate Americans indefinitely without trial? The Court is falling firmly with every controversial decision, on the side of private institutions, the super rich, and law enforcement. Trouble is coming, as these decisions, and most of what comes out of our Congress, and declining resources make life harder for more people. In the future, you may have the liberty to work for a public or private institution, or be incarcerated, or desperately poor, while eating and breathing and drinking toxic food, air and water. Who isn't positioning themselves for the decline of civilization? If you were a rich jurist, wouldn't you want the police on your side? If you were an elite dominator afraid of the mob, wouldn't you send a message about what we can do to you?

(Can you imagine the colonies, before the revolution, if King George had subjected his American subjects to strip and body cavity searches? What would Tom Paine have said about that? And yet conservatives everywhere, like good little ideologue idiots, are in love with their tyrant Court.)

It may be, the only way they are likely to rule against the Affordable Care Act, is that they decide it is bad for insurance companies. And don't be surprised at all if they start invalidating environmental protections. Because such protections interfere with the rights of industries and corporations to make money, and there is clearly nothing more important to this Court (and the rest of our government) than the rights of people who aren't people. Your health and the health of the Earth is inconsequential. And really, what do Americans know about health, but the financial kind? After all, the sicker we are, the more healthy the Health Care industry, which is the healthiest sector of the economy, keeping the economy afloat. Right?

(But aren't we superior to our ancestors in every conceivable way? That must be why there are more than a hundred million prescriptions for anti-depressants in America.)

And the Affordable Care Act? Government requiring everyone to carry health insurance, at the same time it subsidizes and enforces all the industrial and corporate output that makes people ill. And you pay not according to your health, but according to how much money you make. If you are 500 lbs and you make nothing, you pay nothing, or about $2180 less than someone who makes $27,000 a year, who is trying to live a frugal, ecologically responsible life, and visits a hospital or clinic once a decade (The Justices believe, and the whole of our government, that $22,500 for a family of four in America is not poverty). If that isn't coercion, it surely is madness. But it seems almost as if the only reason the majority of Justices care, is that those who make more than $250,000 a year pay anything at all.

How do I cope with this absurdity? I bought $100 of seeds and seed potatoes and asparagus roots today, to plant in my garden, which will translate into about $3000 (approximately) of food, and immeasurable amounts of Joy, as long as I'm able to stay in my house. I'm hoping to get a job with a non-profit helping people with a record get employment. That feels about right. I hope it works out.

The Realtor was over to look at the house today. Which is part of the reason I'm a little pissy. My apologies, for my hostility, though not for what I'm saying. Plus, I'm out of weed. I'd be growing that too, and shrooms, for personal use, and gifts. But I don't care to be fodder for the sadism of jurists, politicians and lawmen, or feed for the righteousness of my fellow conservative Americans.


Luciddreams said...

Wow! That was an amazing dissection of the American Madness...the result of a nation worshiping the illusion that is the American Dream. The dream is a nightmare, but nobody can see it because they are too fucked up on the poisonous output of said dream.

I've come to believe that the best thing those of us who are awake and dreaming can do is to turn our backs on the system completely. The machine is crashing in it's own self generated toxicity and causing more and more misery as the days click forward. Why should we, the awake and dreaming, the newly born brothers and sisters of the post petroleum human tribe, give two shits about the inevitable tragedy we have already cemented into reality as a species?

It's not wrong to walk away from madness you can do nothing about. In fact it's wrong to do anything but turn your back and march toward the post petroleum age that is our only hope. There is no hope in this current progress myth. We must progress toward life. We must turn our backs on the current system. We must stay intelligent, careful, cautious, and grow eyes in the back of our heads. Anything less is suicide for humanity.

The planet will take care of herself. I was thinking today that the goal is for humanity to just not act like a virus on the surface of the Earth. Not to save the Earth, but to save our species.

William Hunter Duncan said...


The Earth will indeed take care of Herself. If there is anything at all we can do to help Her, it is to do what we know to be true to ourselves, with respect for Her. She will live a very long life, with many Era's remaining. There is every reason to believe She is capable of wiping the slate clean before the next one. I think the species is worth saving, but I'm biased. She is likely partial to all Her creatures - and there is only one that shows contempt for all.

dkallem said...

Mr. Duncan; terrific, on point writing about some of the many signs of the slow unravelling our society (or is it, all of Earth?) is now experiencing.

I enjoyed most everything you wrote in your latest post, but do have to observe that it seemed to me to be a bit too long, too diverse to encapsulate well within one post. Perhaps breaking this up into several separate, titled entries might be better?

For instance, your first meme, regarding the rotten way we construct homes and other buildings in America, could easily stand "on its own" and ended just before you moved on to, "Did you notice the recent Supreme Court decision..." Not that, strictly speaking, these aren't related matter, they are, but rather that each might benefit some from being set apart as distinct posts, with their own beginning, middle and end (summation).

My two-cents worth, but make no mistake, this is merely a suggestion about your editing, not your writing, which I find to be top-rate. Thanks again!

William Hunter Duncan said...


Yes, this post is very much like two posts, but it all flowed together in my mind, the real and the metaphorical toxicity embraced by America's core. Too, I was in a bit of a toxic mood writing about it, and wanted not to carry it over another week. Too busy planting and building and writing and dancing and singing, to be undone by the ill-chosen drift of America.

Thanks too for the kind words this Easter. I was worried I had come across too harshly on a holiday weekend, for my readers. Blessings.

Jeff Z said...

Damn good post, and not too harsh for a holiday weekend. I sometimes appreciate a good rant after a weekend of being stuffed with pork products and chocolate by my family members.

As the purchaser of the aforementioned toxic window foam, I'll admit that I hadn't thought much about what it contained before buying it. I do that more than I like to admit.

I've sprayed it myself and am always pissed off that the stuff doesn't come off of my hands for a week. Sorry you got stuck with it. If it matters, it wasn't on purpose.

That said, I'd sure as hell never use Roundup anywhere near my garden. I might bend on chemical fertilizer every here and there, but Roundup is just nasty. It kills everything it touches. And they've lied about it breaking down on contact with soil. I'd find another way to deal with the crabgrass.