Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Father of Waters

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.

Image result for father of waters city hall minneapolis

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.

Image result for father of waters city hall minneapolis


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Winter Greenhouse 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. 


Sunday, November 8, 2015

TPP, Tyranny and Treason

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.

Copyright Infringement, Article 18.77 Criminal Procedures and Penalties

" 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.