Friday, November 25, 2016

On Healing the Earth and People

As an American citizen, I find that neither the Democratic or Republican parties say much of anything that resonates with me. Most of what they talk about are social issues they intend to do nothing about, as a means to divide us to more easily rule over us; otherwise most of what I hear is just Orwellian for whatever corporations, banks and big donors want, but don't want you to know or understand.

Politically, I'm an Anarchist. If you share the view of Anarchy of the Democratic and Republican parties, then you probably suppose I want chaos in the streets, mayhem, everyone against everyone else, death and destruction. But that is just projection, because that is what you are increasingly getting from the strict command and control leadership of Dems, Repubs, Corp, Bank and super rich people.

Anarchy is the Way of Nature. Anarchy is the way nature organizes, evolves effortlessly. Nature is resilient, irreducibly complex and sustainable. Humans at least are material, of nature, of the earth. It follows then there is the capacity within humanity for self-rule, spontaneous organization. I think you see that whenever there is a crisis, many people simply begin to organize a functioning society to meet simple necessities spontaneously.

Those who rule over us tend to believe however, either we are not of this earth (of God), so the rules of nature don't apply; or the opposite extreme, we are of nature and nothing else, it is all about competition, I can do pretty much whatever I want in the interest of my evolution (basest instincts). And so they feed us these ideologies that we might be separate from our true nature and each other.

If humanity were able to organize more as nature does, life would be more peaceful. An anarchic people would be self-organizing, core-strong, practicing self-rule. An anarchic people would value cooperation above competition. A truly anarchic people would take care of the earth and each other.

Organizing ourselves contrary to nature, we build immense, complex but inflexible societies one after another, every one of them collapsing under the weight of that complexity and inherent contradiction.

We now risk even human extinction, or worse, reducing the health of the biosphere such that we wipe out the majority of species and leave a severely degraded existence for a few wretched survivors.

Those who rule over us seek to divide us, by preying upon our prejudices, by exacerbating ancient hatreds, by encouraging us to percieve in absolute Good vs Evil, by highlighting petty grievances - while ignoring the overwhelming similarities between us, denying the systemic corruption that oppresses us all.

There are several tangible things we could do, that transcend race, ethnicity and political divisions, that would allow us to unlock the potential of individuals, strengthen communities, and make of America a true shining light and leader in the world.

1. Debt Relief
2. Redefine Currency
3. Land Policy
4. Rebuild Community
5. Shift in Consciousness

A simple list (the fifth one is a kind of summation of the four). Politically unimaginable in America, but the great thing about a Democratic party in a state of collapse, and a Republican party that doesn't know it is dead yet, it's a very creative time to imagine a different America.

1. Debt Relief

Don't you think that because money is so central to this society, that a study of economics would be central to a grade school education? Many American kids might be earning money by the time they are 15, yet the vast majority of American adults have no idea what the Dollar is, how it is created, or who owns it.

Why is that? Because an uninformed people are more easily made debt serfs.

Banks create money out of nothing, It is a slight of hand magic trick. They "loan" it into existence, as when they issue a mortgage, or they "buy" junk assets from distressed financial institutions and investors, usually for the full value, creating money and a corresponding and then-some amount of debt, or a claim on future production, ie interest. The money doesn't exist anywhere in reality: like some genie, say "poof", a cloud of smoke appears and suddenly it says right there on that piece of paper or computer, X amount of $'s exist - and everyone believes it.

Making money this way makes for a lot of debt. In fact, the debt can't do anything but increase exponentially over time. Thus, the Dollar is the greatest ponzi scheme ever created. Since 1980 debt has climbed relative to wages, and since 1970, considerably faster than GDP. Do you imagine these trends are sustainable indefinitely? Over time, more and more production, instead of re-invested into society, is consumed in the form of debt payments, until society breaks under the obligation.

There is a reckoning coming for the Dollar. Those who control the dollar imagine the whole world and all it's people indebted to it. But even total global domination doesn't prevent debt from growing out of control, eventually. Total global domination is not likely to happen, so the reckoning is likely coming sooner rather than later.

What would benefit regular people most, and the economy generally, would be debt relief. Growth in debt is inflation official bean counters ignore. Debt is eating away at purchasing power.

Debt Jubilee is a very old concept, mentioned in the Old Testament. A wiping away of debts, a kind of starting over, starting fresh. The ancients recognized runaway debt has a pernicious effect, causing great discord, and eventually, uprising against the creditors.

Those who own the majority of that debt are the richest among us. The most powerful among us. But it is also owned by pension accounts, IRA, 401K, retirement accounts of all kinds. There are a lot of people invested in that debt, maybe half the society, who are the "rentiers", people "letting their money work for them", which is also living off the production of the lesser half, or rather, most of the rest of the world.

The economy is swamped by debt, something has to be done or there will be ever greater discord.

2. Redefine Currency

The Dollar is the world's greatest ponzi scheme. It is an ever greater claim on future labor/production, which stagnates the economy, eventually collapsing the currency.

But it is not enough to wipe out the debt, if you just start over the same process of debt creation. The very nature of currency has to be judged. The dollar is like a mechanical hamster wheel that spins ever faster. Over time, regular people are expected to work more for less return. The product available to them becomes ever more shoddy, yet the price increases. The demands of the dollar and debt encourages wasteful, predatory and even parasistic and cannabalistic use of resources. Growth then amounts to more pollution, ever more garbage and a ruination of ecosystems. All talk about the sustainable is just that, as long as the core currency demands the unsustainable.

Imagine, instead of a debt- and waste-based currency, what about a regenerative one? Instead of propping up a leisure class, a currency that is generated by the very act of production, and ecological healing, empowering all?

For instance, I have been hiking around the Twin Cities this fall, marvelling at the abundance of Eurasian buckthorn. A non-native, berry producing shrub that grows to about 20 ft, it is a diuretic to mammals so deer and rabbit won't browse the saplings (while they do eat native berry producers.) Birds particularly robins, scatter the seed across the landscape, the seeds are efficient germinators, it grows in dense patches crowding and shading everything else out. It is most noticable in the late fall because the leaves remain green after most of the forest is barren because of the cold.

Now imagine Joe Schmo spends his day ripping out buckthorn saplings, and by the very act of that labor, he generates currency? Money appears in his account relative to his labor. No one pays him, the money is simply generated.

Joe and Jill Smith start an organic farm on former GMO industrial corn mining land. Simiarly, they generate money simply by the act of growing vegetables, by producing food. They can also sell product for cash to people like Joe Schmo, but otherwise their labor literally creates money.

Tyrese Jackson generates money by picking up and delivering produce from local organic farms to urban areas. Maria Gonzalez generates currency by feeding and taking care of those who can't take care of themselves.

Thereon, throughout all the menial, "chop wood, carry water" tasks of developed, civil society. Taking money creation away from centralized powers, and from those ambitious, ruthless types who strive to rule over us, giving money creation back to "we the people."

Central to this notion of a regenerative currency, would be about healing. Healing people and the earth. The act of healing and restoring ecosystems would generate currency. Healing, restoration and sustainability would be incentivized.

3. Land Policy:

Land policy, such as it is in America, favors monopoly control, by large corporations and banks, agribusiness on ever larger land holdings, and the treatment of most of the land including public and private, inherenty extractive and exploitative.

Nor are these monopolies held accountable for the pollution they release into the biosphere. This is an "externalized" cost acting as another kind of debt, to be paid by society, by sucker consumers.

A new currency as described would encourage and incentivize the expansion of wild lands, while facilitating the healthy production of food and necessary materials, while eliminating pollution. If monopolies were forced to pay for their pollution, none would exist.

The script would be flipped. Favoring individuals and small groups, preventing monopoly, destructive, extractive, predatory behavior.

The economics of the local would be paramount. Local, responsible, ethical, sustainable, restorative, generative; a people with a close connection, care and concern for the land will protect it.

4. Rebuild Community:

Favoring small producers, citizens and small business over monopoly would help restore community. By empowering individuals economically, in relation to the needs of local community, local community is made more resilient and sustainable, healthy. Whatever your skills are, there is a need, and if filling that need generates income automatically, it is empowering people to fulfill their destiny.

As it is, globalization has hollowed out rural American communities. It has removed income potential, chaining most to low wage service employment and social welfare programs, such that many have turned to meth, heroin and alcohol to "escape." Many escape to the cities, where the forces of predatory capitalism congregate. Agricultural land prices around small communities have been preverted by a combination of monetary policy, the revolving door between corp/bank/gov, and globalist trade rules, putting local land out of reach economically, leading to a sence of helplessness, disconection, depression and dispair.

There are many who would be restored spiritually, given the opportunity to thrive economically, restoring a sence of community and healing the land and waters around community.

Some communities can't be saved, others will rebuild, some might spring up where there was none.

The point is, if trends continue, the whole of the earth will be a rich mans play ground, a mostly destroyed, degraded, polluted, ecologically barren tennant farm and mining camp, if the vast majority are huddled into the cities to live a "virtual" existence. Strong communities are made of strong people with strong ties built with love, care and concern. Such a people are not so easily reduced to consumer, junkie debt serfs.

5. A Shift in Consciousness

We are now more than 7 billion people on planet earth. That is by definition, humanity "separated from nature." In a way too, it is humanity succumbing to the most brutal of all ecological rules, overpopulation in the precence of over-abundance; it happens with rabbits, reindeer and rats etc too. But it is also humanity assuming there will always be a technical sollution, or that God will save us, or aliens will...

The 'solution" probably looks more like unintended mass starvation and war, if humanity stumbles into resource constraints and point-of-no-return biosphere damage. Most signs seem to point to a very dumb human totality going berserk.

It doesn't have to be that way. If humans are in fact an intelligent species, a radical shift in consciousness is possible.

America is supposed to be a place where a diverse people come together to structure a society that would benefit all. It was not meant to be the consumer driven seat of global warmongering and economic control, global empire, for the benefit of a new internationale aristocracy. It was not supposed to be utopia for grifters, nihilists and sociopaths.

It was supposed to be a culture free from the rule of tyranny; a society protecting the right of all, to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

America could be the seat of a new kind of consiousness. I still believe, where America goes, the world will follow. This new consiousness would be focused on healing people and the earth, particulary the waters. Aware that a healthy earth will be reflected in healthy people and likewise, that we are All relations, that the way of Life is cooperation.

We are all of the earth. How we treat the earth is reflected in body and mind. The biosphere is suffering, as are people. Heal the earth and people will be healed.    

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Reflections, Post-2016 Election

After the "surprise" 2016 sweep by Republicans nationwide, including the Presidency of the United States of America, by Donald John Trump, I can say at least that I am relieved not to be occupied with passage of TTP/TTIP/TISA trade agreements, war with Russia or the invasion of Syria.

I'm loving the comeuppance in the media. Telling us what we are supposed to believe doesn't work as well anymore.

I've been holding my breath, only pointing out on social media, the success of Republicans has less to do with any virtue in them, than the failure of Dems to stand for the middle class, working poor or poor, abandoning them to globalist/monopoly market forces.

What is a Democrat anymore? What is a Liberal? Whatever they are, we are all about to get a big dose of Republican, whatever that is (retro-grade moneygrubbing and warmongering?)

I didn't vote for Trump; nor did I vote for Hillary. Good conscience, you've got to be kidding me. Democrats are in denial, wanting to shame people like me, because I am clearly a misogynist, racist bigoted stupid idiot, not to vote for Hillary. "Not ready for a woman president," despite that I voted for a woman who wasn't a war-loving economic elitist.

I think one of the biggest problems with America is our inherited Western duality, the indoctrinated tendency to see all things in Absolute good vs evil, black and white, light and dark, not as complementary and necessary to each other, but inherently opposed, ever at war.

Dems still love to mock George W Bush for saying, "you're either with us or you are with the terrorists," But Dems lost this election, in part because Obama and Hillary are not Good, to Trump's Evil, and so Dems did not hold either Obama or Hillary accountable for record income inequality, systemic corruption, a privatized, unchecked, unaccountable military, treating whistleblowers like spies, the total surveillance state, trends toward direct rule by corporation and bank - Dems have no more credibility. What, all this is goood when a Dem presides over it, but evil when a Republican does?

Instead of focusing on issues, Dems reduced the conversation to a gender, ethnic and race one, trying to ride an unenthusiastic coalition of professional women, black folk, Hispanic/Latino and other minorities, Muslim and LGBTQ, focused not on systemic corruption in economics and politics, the war machine, total surveillance, but on white power, white privilege. Not a winning strategy.

A lot of white people suffer in this system too. I want to stand with that coalition, but not if it means I have to hang my head between my knees, for my gender/ethnicity/race.

Dems remain in denial, falling into old divide and conquer patterns, doing it badly. Many are now focusing on the electoral college, as if the electors might flip the vote, give it to Hillary. So that Hillary can preside over a Republican Congress, who only agree on war, and corp, bank and billionaire (monopoly) power? So that you can confirm for all those Bernie and Trump supporters that the system actually is rigged and the establishment will take what it wants no matter what? There is nothing civil about civil war. Hillary didn't lose because everybody who didn't vote for her is a racist bigot woman hater. Acting out of denial is a bad idea, generally.

Grieving takes healing and time. There are many stages. You can't skip or cheat.

So what will Trump do? Not even Trump knows. He said a lot of things on the campaign trail, and I don't necessarily believe he believes half of it, not deeply anyway. There are only two things he said that truly matter to most of his voters, that he will focus on the American economy more than the global, and draining the swamp, cleaning house in Washington.

Hell will have no fury like Trump supporters, if he betrays them by embracing neo-liberal/neo-con principles, embracing the establishment he railed against, reinforcing existing predatory economics favoring monopolies, and the war machine and the total surveillance state continue to expand exponentially.

But then, maybe Trump voters will be like O and H voters, excusing the most heinous because their "good" guy did it.

It's early yet, but it appears Trump is surrounding himself with the ususal characters, who will be incapable of doing anything but reinforcing what is heinous about the status quo, predatory/cannabalistic economics, and incessant warmongering. The sheer momentum of the State will likely overwhelm him, he will simply fall in line, and nothing fundamental will change.

Except that Republicans nation-wide are adept at manipulating the system to entrench themselves. In the next two years they could gerrymander the voter right out of democracy, making America Republican indefinitely. Except that Republican elite are just as dense as Dem elite, and while it remains to be seen whether Dems learn anything from this election, I'm certain elite Republicans won't, offering up nothing but what they have offered up before, over-stepping their "mandate" by about 1000 years.

Pence leading the transition team, a true inside elitist if there ever was one, assures all the same elite actors will be recommended, while the bureaucracies will not be hampered, as much as filled with true believers in the hoax that is climate change, the holy holy market and the sole-sanctity of the fetus.

If there are serious market disruptions in the next two years, part of me expects Trump to go full authoritarian. I'm hoping instead he focuses on cutting the legs out from the Military Industrial Complex, the neo-liberal agenda of direct rule by corp and bank, and rebuilding America's productive capacity.

More, the world needs debt relief. Americans need debt relief. The world needs a reprieve from war. The world needs healing. America needs healing.

I don't hear much of that coming from either party. I don't expect it from a Trump Administration.

~~~ Next post I will focus on some tangible things that could be done, to focus America on healing.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Election 2016

When it still looked like Bernie Sanders might secure the Democratic nomination, I gave his campaign $27. I never gave a Pol so much as a penny, before or since. For the first time in my life though, I felt like there might be an opportunity for a course correction for America, some kind of spark of positive change for regular people (when Obama took more money from Wall Street than anyone ever had, I knew Hope and Change was Orwellian for More of the Same.)

I wanted Bernie to run as an Independent, after it became clear that the Hillary campaign and the MSM colluded to shut him out. That he did as well as he did, despite the near media blackout (what coverage there was, mostly negative), seemed a sign, a tide had shifted. I was convinced - still am - he could beat both Hillary and Trump in a three-way race. Seriously, how would things have appeared in those debates if Bernie were there? If he had declared Independent and continued his campaign, he would have been well past the threshold of 15% required support, to appear in the debates. Bernie is no savior, just possibly the catalyst of a movement of change.

But Bernie didn't have the stomach for it. And now he is out there campaigning for Hillary, promising at least to challenge her to turn progressive (good luck, Her cabinet will be a Who's Who of neoliberal/neocon globalist elite), while calling Trump the most dangerous candidate for President in at least a generation.

That last part is debatable at least.

Donald Trump is most certainly dangerous. In the third debate he said he thinks America should be run like his business. A corporation is a not a democracy, and Trump is the dictator of his corporation. How do you fire a Citizen, tyrant? Would you fire this citizen because I have worked for several corporations and find the culture inhumane and profoundly distasteful? I have a friend who calls all CEO's and billionaire financier types, Pigmen. Pig-Orange Augustus, going to run America like a predatory dictatorship?

Hillary on the other hand, notwithstanding Bernie's promises to liberalize her, is probably more dangerous than Trump. Russia is the crown-jewel in neo-liberal/neo-con, regime change, global hegemonic doctrine. Five minutes into the third debate and she was beating the war drums. At every opportunity throughout this election, she has raised the spectre of Russian barbarians at the gates, to cover every revelation of the untoward, ugly activity of her campaign, of the revelations of collusion with the DNC and media, of the revealations of her behavior and activity behind the scenes contrary to her public persona - while risking nuclear conflagration and WWIII.

In that third debate she spoke of Mosul in Iraq and the fight there, then moving on to Raqqa in Syria? To Alleppo then? Damascus? First establishing a no fly zone, which she knows well will kill many civilians, and will certainly provoke Russia to all-out war, as they have military bases in Syria. Except invasion of Syria is an act of war, and we are not officially at war with Syria, nor is Congress likely to declare war. But then, the Chief Executive can now go to war wherever, whenever he or she wants, without declaring war or even speaking of it. More like, the Military Industrial Complex decides, and tells the Executive.

This nebulous state of war/not war has made for much mischief, and more blowback. When Hillary says America is Great because we are Good, that is just a political mantra to carry her to the "We came, we saw, he died," of her presidency. Surely she is giddy at the thought of sitting at the head of the greatest military the world has ever known. But again, the Military Industrial Complex is not controlled by the three legislative checks on power in Washington, but by the expectations of Wall Street and GDP. Our weapons makers are undemocratic corporations, requiring 12% growth year on year. While most corporations maintain growth by suppressing wages, decreasing benefits, stealth crappification of their products, and manipulating the tax code, weapons makers (war profiteers), Wall Street and Washington conspire to make more war every year.  

Hillary is the candidate of that status quo. And the momentum toward direct rule by corporation and bank. If you think everything is pretty much ok with that, that America under Hillary would stay on a path of increasing prosperity, tolerance and moral exceptionalism, then vote for Hillary.

Trump is the wrecking ball, who threatens to derail the neoliberal, neocon consensus, while possibly initiating race and gender wars, while dismantling American governance, while handing out the largest tax cuts in history to predatory dicatorial "pigmen" (Animal Farm) - who have been feasting on bailout money and free money from the Fed, but that has dried up mostly - enter the Donald.  Probably nothing about the neoliberal, neocon takeover of the world will change, under Donald, whatever his squaking about draining the swamp. Probably under Donald, his Law and Order will just be a heavier boot on the neck of Americans generally, while he and a GOP controlled legislature, do a slash and burn to America's safety net, and old people and the poor can go back to dying in the street like "God" intended.

So you see, whether it is Hillary's wars or Donald's wrecking ball, 2016 is not like the positive change for regular people and the earth I was hoping for with Bernie.

More of this status quo, and I expect a monster worse than either of these two, 2020.

This is clearly the election consumer America deserves, the triumph of marketing, aka separating you from your money by preying upon your fears and insecurities. Total bullshit is to the Trump campaign, what horseshit is to Hillary. That's what America has neen reduced to, what Americans have been reduced to, in this neoliberal, neocon, direct rule by corporation and bank, eternal warmongering former Republic - proud citizens to consumer debt serfs, slaving away ever harder to maintain the gilded lives our elite betters have grown accustomed to.

What is a conscientious American Citizen supposed to do then, this election? Stock up on canned goods and gunz? It seems to me, to be Democrat or Republican is to be susceptible to group think, participating in mass psychosis, excusing the most inexcusable, unethical, anti-democratic behavior. A Republic needs clear eyed, skeptical, free-thinking citizens of solid character and dignity, incapable of being manipulated, who neither care to rule nor be ruled, who are impervious to group-think.

Your beloved Dem and Repub parties are competing to sell you out to the highest bidder. Neither serves the people, democracy or the Republic - like the monopolies they are, they serve monopoly control, they are conspiring to take the sovereignty of the people and this nation-state, to empower corporations and banks to control the affairs of all people everywhere, to control the earth, that these American elite may become the neo-Internationale, global, untouchable aristocracy.

I will never, ever vote for that. ever.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Greenhouse Resolution

Last week I was with a friend, fixing an over-heating problem in my car, when I recieved a call from Minneapolis Code Services. It was the lead inspector, who reviewed and rejected both sets of plans I offered to the city, in my application for a permit for my greenhouse. Sept 02 he rejected my second application, I had until Sept 22 to respond, I sent an 8-page detailed response. A rejection of that response would mean an immediate order to tear it down. He was responding within a week.

"The Building Official said that because you didn't attach it to the house you don't need a permit, if it is under 200 sq ft."

A year and a half, two sets of plans rejected, $1460 in fines, two hearings I lost, a dozen visits to code services, 100 hours in labor, 100's of hours occupied about it. To recall, I built a greenhouse out of used sliding glass doors, and reclaimed lumber, 2013-2014, for about $800. In the winter of 2015, Code Services tagged it as an illegal addition. I did not apply for a permit before I built it, primarily because I didn't think I needed a permit because I didn't attach the greenhouse mechanically to the house - a point I informed the city about from the beginning, and throughout the process.

I calculate the sq footage of the footprint @ 162.6'.

It looks like I get to keep the greenhouse. Which is amazing, because I spent most of the last 18 months thinking I would have to tear it down. Especially amazing, because EVERYONE I told about my situation basically took the attitude that my fight for this greenhouse was futile. How many times did I hear, you can't fight City Hall? I fought City Hall with nothing but my wits, and won.

Of course, I did not succeed, thus far, in engaging the City in clarifying the rules about greenhouses, as there is no clarity at all about it, in the International Building Codes (IBC), Minneapolis Codes, or Minnesota Provisions. Indeed, code as it is, and as it was interpreted, could potentially force a homeowner to spend $15,000-40,000 to build a greenhouse; with savings on energy and food, you might recover that in about 50-100 years.

But then, now I suppose, it is legal to build a greenhouse less than 200 sq ft in Minneapolis, without a permit (just don't anchor it to the house with any bolts, screws, brackets, adhesives etc.) Though zoning will still have something to say about where you build it.

Most of my fines will be rescinded. Unfortunately, $220 is already assessed to the taxes. If I weren't basically broke economically I might just let it go; but there is also the principle of it. I'd also like some acknowledgement from city officials that I was right all along. But I won't push for that. Mostly I'm just happy to be thinking about growing herbs and spinach etc for the winter, happy that I get to keep my greenhouse. With a bit more faith in the power of reason and logic in service to the heart, in love.


[This is the response to the city, after the rejection of the second plans. Pictures of blueprints etc follows....]

To:  Community Planning and Economic Development
Construction Code Services
250 S 4th St Room 300
Minneapolis MN, 55415

Dear Minneapolis, City of Lakes,

I built a greenhouse out of used sliding glass doors and reclaimed old-growth lumber, next to the south side of my house at the above address, 2013-2014. Code Services tagged it as an illegal addition in the winter of 2015, because I had not applied for a permit. I applied for a permit in the winter of 2016, which was rejected due to “insufficient plans.” I reapplied with new plans in the summer of 2016, which plans were rejected as of Sept 02, 2016.

What follows is a point by point response to the issues listed in that rejection. It should be noted that IBC/IRC codes do not include any reference to greenhouses, and in the absence of greenhouse codes, Minneapolis is relying on porch codes, which are effectively irrelevant to the actual purpose and structure of a proper greenhouse.

1. “The class V foundation is less than the 42” minimum required by MN provisions 1303.1600.”

The existing class V foundation spans the entire front of the greenhouse, 2’w x 2’d, which has proven more than sufficient for stability of the structure, through two winters. No greater stability would be achieved by extending class V to 42”. Existing foundation is more in spirit of a shallow frost foundation.

Code Services is calling this greenhouse a three-season or seasonal porch, thereby acting as though load issues would be the same. But this greenhouse is considerably lighter than a standard stick-frame porch, snow and people-load (no one on roof, no floor) would be non-existent, which important factors Code Services, IRC code and Minnesota provisions ignore.

2. “The structure is not anchored to a proper foundation per 403.1.6 [IRC].”

If a class V foundation is legal at 42”, there could be no anchoring, so this issue should be negated. This also supposes this structure should have a concrete foundation - post, block or poured - which would be an unnecessary expense, and should not be required simply to satisfy arbitrary code interpretation.

3. The foundation is not in compliance with a “shallow frost foundation” per 403.3”

As the first three issues raised are addressing the one issue of foundation, it should be noted that this structure is not in any way attached mechanically to the house: no bolts, screws, brackets, adhesive, etc. Therefore, even if the foundation is determined to be insufficient in relation to code, and even if there were some kind of compromise in the foundation that displaced the greenhouse, it is impossible to say that the greenhouse in any way compromises the structure of the house.

Compared to say, a garage, the foundation requirements so stated are arbitrary and excessive, insofar as the implicit suggestion that this greenhouse is somehow a greater public safety issue than a typical shallow footed garage.

It is my suggestion that this existing class v foundation is more than sufficient for the greenhouse in question, making it deeper would serve no purpose, and adding concrete footings or foundation would be an entirely unnecessary effort and expense.

4. “the structure does not meet a wall bracing method in accordance with 602.10.

The wall bracing methods referenced are about proper sheathing, tying wall studs together. This is emblematic as to how Code Services is ignoring the structure that actually exists: this greenhouse is not a porch. Why would you put sheathing over the glass of a greenhouse? You wouldn’t. This is also ignoring how the sliding glass doors that comprise the walls, still in their original frames, act as wall bracing, tying the studs together.

 This is effectively saying you can’t build a stick frame greenhouse.

5. “the roof rafters are over spanned and spaced, and do not meet table 802.5.1 of the 2015 IRC.”

The existing rafters are 2x4 old-growth douglas fir, reinforced with 2x2 on each side. The span is dictated by the glass. It is true the spans do not meet code minimums, 28”-36” as opposed to 16” or 24” code; but code minimums are assuming this is a porch, with a standard structural roof. Again, none of the load issues should apply for a greenhouse, as snow sloughs off, and no one will be standing on the glass roof. The spanning is dictated by the size of the reclaimed sliding glass doors, and is more than sufficient structurally, based on the weight of the glass.

6. “materials exposed to the elements must be treated per IRC 317.”

There is treated pine, and untreated old-growth douglas fir 2x4, incorporated in this greenhouse. The superiority of the untreated old-growth to the new treated pine is demonstrably evident in the structure. Even if treating of the douglas fir were an issue, it could be “treated” periodically with a variety of sealants.


Also in the letter of rejection, there is the recommendation, many times previously repeated, that I should obtain a letter of support from an engineer licensed by the State of Minnesota. It is clear however, much of the reason this greenhouse has not been permitted, perhaps the primary reason, is liability; the City will not permit this greenhouse, because it does not wish to assume liability for it, by permitting it.

Why would a licensed engineer assume liability for this greenhouse, if it does not conform to code? It is unlikely, though perhaps one would at great expense. One of the reasons I did not apply for a permit for this greenhouse, was because I knew the City would require an engineers assessment, but that no engineer could be found, or none at the “right” price, which is, I built this greenhouse for $800 and do not want to spend a dollar more than I deem appropriate.

I have no interest in paying an engineer thousands of dollars, so he or she can tell the City what I already know, what I have been telling the City, that this greenhouse is structurally sound. Nor do I have the money. I should not be compelled to pay for an engineer, any more than I should be coerced into spending money on unnecessary concrete or “proper” joist and stud spacing or bracing. Liability, I assume, will only be assumed for the right price.

Also, repeatedly, I have been told to move the greenhouse six feet from the house. Then I would not need a permit. But that too ignores most of the actual purpose of a greenhouse: this greenhouse insulates the house, the house insulates it; heating costs of the house are reduced, the greenhouse is partially heated by the house; the greenhouse helps heat the house on milder, sunny winter days; I can enter the greenhouse from the warm house instead of the cold outside, improving efficiency of the greenhouse; if the greenhouse were stand-alone it would have to be artificially heated by wood, pellet, corn, fossil fuel etc.

The city is effectively saying, you can’t have a greenhouse like what I have built, “attached” to your house, unless it is structured like a stick frame porch and costs $15,000-$40,000.

The City then, and IBC code, open up to the accusation that they are acting as a kind of gatekeeper for the big energy utilities, in the spirit of various attempts nationwide to make off-grid living effectively illegal, such as adding extreme fees to solar generation to negate savings, or the code in Minneapolis that states if you have a utility disconnected you have five days to reconnect, or condemnation proceedings will commence.

Code too becomes an act of homogenization, everything everywhere begins to look about the same. Over time all structures appear basically the same, with minor cosmetic differences, like some kind of monocultural field of GMO corn, only the wealthy permitted to be creative, while the buildings of the poor and working class degrade, and the middle descend into greater debt servitude to build like everybody else is building (who have access to credit.)

More specifically, people should not be forced to spend 10’s of thousands of dollars, or go into debt, to build a greenhouse. People should be encouraged, not discouraged, to make their houses more energy efficient, to produce more food on-site.

If the International Building Code regime is incapable of recognizing this greenhouse as legitimate, then there is something fundamentally wrong with IBC codes, and code enforcement.

If the City requires me to tear this greenhouse down, I am going to remove the glass, and then challenge the city to call the frame an addition. I will cover the frame with plastic in the Fall, and remove it in Spring. If I am forced to tear this greenhouse down entirely, I will build a collapsible frame that I can install and dismantle as necessary.

Instead, I believe the City of Minneapolis should write it’s own codes about greenhouse construction, that allow people to install greenhouses inexpensively, using this greenhouse as a model.

I built this greenhouse to show what can be done, using materials otherwise destined for the waste stream, inexpensively, responsibly, creatively. It is a work of art. The City of Minneapolis should be working with me to save it.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Healing Revolutions

Do I have any readers left? Blessings to those who read this. It has been five months since I last blogged here. The last year and a half I have not written much at all.

So much has happened. This past winter, I worked 100 hr weeks from Christmas to February, to finance a trip to Senegal West Africa, to vist my love in the Peace Corp. I was able to see the 1-5 millon person city of Dakar; her 500 person village, 20 km off the tar, on a wheel rut road you have to pass through 4 other small villages to get to; I saw the beaches of Saly, and ate 4star French quisine. Greatest vacation ever.

I quit my job and started my own residential remodeling business. I've found ample work, though one of the toxic legacies of the housing bubble that few people understand, is the grotesquely bloated code compliance regime built up during those heady days, now making life very difficult and maybe even impossible, for small businesses like mine. More on that later.

My battle with the city about my greenhouse continues. I applied for the permit I was ordered to apply for in my first hearing, Feb 16. They rejected my permit Mar 29, and then fined me $1460 in three seperate fines within seven weeks, for not pulling a permit. I had another hearing recently to contest those fines, I got a reprieve on the fines, so long as I apply for a permit with better drawings this time. I told them, I can provide you with drawings, but they will confirm your code will not allow for what I built, which is a solid, sound and secure greenhouse. I will probably have to find a structural engineer licensed by the state, to sign off on it, to even get the city to consider granting me a permit.

In adition, I've received four citations this summer for excessive vegetation.

So I haven't had much time to write, nor have I felt much like writing. This blog is full of commentary on the American experiment, but trying to make sense of that lately has proved a challenge.

Watching the media and the Democratic Establishment shut out Bernie and his supporters, has been distressing. Watching Trump go full megalomania in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention, was truly disturbing. It's clear to me he can't tell the difference between a terrorist and a protestor. His constant refrain of Law and Order sounded to me like the unleashing of the security state to kick ass with extreme prejudice.

Clinton was lauded for her optimism, which I found to be mere lipstick on a pig, but then I'm interested in policy decisions, mostly unmoved by lofty rhetoric. Her promise of continuity with Obama policies must mean more war and worse income inequality.

Still, the vision as articulated by the Democrats is vastly preferable to GOP doom and gloom, wrecking ball, authoritarian capitalist theocracy. Except for that Dem bit about turning America into a colony of some new Internationale trade cartel (TPP, TTIP, TISA), and war against Russia and maybe China.

The DNC Convention proved mostly that Hollywood and the Democrats are one. The stuff of make believe. Obama gave a fine speech too, notable mostly for his faiure to mention TPP, the espionage act, indefinite detention, drones, debt or specie extinction, but then real talk is not going to paint a picture opposite the gloomy and ever more rabid pessimism of the GOP.

Clinton might have jumped 25 points in the polls if she had condemned TPP and its wicked triplicate TTIP and TISA, with strong language, uniting a significant number of Bernie and Trump supporters, burying the Donald. Instead she uttered purely Clintonian doublespeak about trade: "If you believe that we should say “no” to unfair trade deals... that we should stand up to China... that we should support our steelworkers and autoworkers and homegrown manufacturers…join us."  

The TPP has been referred to many times by Obama himself as standing up to China, we can't let China write the rules of trade in the 21st century. From the neoliberal perspective TPP TTIP TISA are the next natural, logical step in total global hegemony. Few Americans believe this will be good for America or Americans. Obama is as neo-liberal in his economics as neoliberal gets. Speaking of continuity. In fact, these trade agreements were written by corporations and banks, to undermine democracy, to weaken nation states including America, to make them subservient to international trade law, and to disempower citizens.

If citizens are feeling powerless now, imagine all the important decisions for the water, land, air, immigration etc, defined and enforced by international tribunal?  America is already effectively a colony of this new Internationale, with NAFTA, and under World Trade Organization rules. TPP et al will only solidify that, and make trade monopoly the supreme law of the land by fiat.

When Hillary Clinton says "unfair trade pacts", it is impossible to know what she really means. I suspect, like the Chamber of Commerce and many elite donors flocking to the Democratic party, that Hillary will "come around" on TPP. They will paint it up, more lipstick on a pig, cosmetic changes to make it less obvious that some persons are more equal than others, and she will proclaim it fair and sign it.

That or Obama and the turncoats in Congress, will pass TPP after the election in the lame duck session, and Hillary will do nothing about it but increase hostilities toward Russia and China to distract.

I would consider that an act of treachery against the Republic.

So on the one hand, we have a Democratic Party working with congressional Republicans, to make America a colony of a New Internationale, while on the other hand, a GOP that wants to put the hammer down domestically, take a wrecking ball to American institutions and protections, and enforce by militarism a capitalism by oligarch theocracy.

Either way, the Republic seems deeply in danger. Not by forces without, but by conspiring forces within.

Meanwhile, I am just trying to make a living remodeling houses, which effort is exceedingly challenged by bureaucrats in city gov, administering International Building Codes (IBC). My three most lucrative jobs in 2016 have all been held up, a total of eight weeks and counting, by petty bureaucratic nothingness. I call it menacing disfunction, because there is no accountability, everyone you talk to will give you a different answer to every question, and there is zero awareness of the economic effect. It is truly an existential problem for me, reducing my income by 10% and counting, which income is already working-poor.

What do I hear from the Left about that? That because I am an educated white male I must be an oppressor? What does the Right have to say? They say they want to deregulate, but they aren't talking about IBC bedeviling of small business, they are talking about granting the right of Corporation, Bank and Oligarch to exercise "freedom" as they see fit, whatever that means for the health of the biosphere, or the health of America.

I admit I am beguiled by Trump's vision of dumping NAFTA, of pulling back on hostilities toward Russia, of pulling back on American Imperialism. But I am appalled by his constant appeal to the basest instincts, the megalomania of his prescriptions, and his might is right neo-darwinism. Every time I look at Mike Pence I see SS. While Trump promises a kind of wrecking ball approach to neoliberal economics and neocon warmongering, his tax cuts are a disquised feudalism, death knell to the social contract of social security, medicare etc, even the public lands. His demogoguery is distraction from and empowering of the very establishment he purports to attack. Trump/Pence purity patrols are not a thing I could vote for in good conscience.

Hillary on the other hand represents a continuity of Hope and Change, which in the main has meant more war and record income inequality, empowering of corp bank gov, including a militarization of homeland security and policing, at the expense of the citizenry. Blue lives do indeed matter, but what's with the black mercenary gear? Does anyone not understand, the military industrial complex, the war machine, is more powerrful and more bloated than it ever has been? If the military is depleted and weak it is not for lack of spending. Where would the Dow Jones be, Obama's vaunted economic recovery, if we cut security spending by a third? That the left has not held Obama accountable for his wars or his economics, is a sign that they will extend the same obsequiousness to Hillary. How can I in good conscience vote for that?

So in respect to the GOP boogieman behind every corner, the solution to every problem is a hammer/boot on neck, and Dem magical thinking that America is better safer stronger than it has ever been, while both seek to undermine democracy and the Republic? I don't believe either. I am repulsed by both, and have come to expect more war and worse income inequality, no matter which party is in power. All-inclusive totalitarian controls, or boot on neck show of force might is right - pick your poison.

What if I believe every human is a manifestation of the spirit, a divine being, that womens rights are human rights and every color and every shade and every queer are equal in their right to be free from oppression, to fulfill their potential, their gifts and peculiar genius, empowered with self-agency, in respect to the whole? What if I believe banks, corporations and government arrive at their power by people, and so are subservient in their rights to every human? What if I think the solution to our predicament is not more top-down economic activity, or debt, or war, but a shift in consciousness to include all the world's living creatures, the world itself? Where is my representation? Who represents me?

Bernie will still be in the Senate, with ten thousand times more people listening to him than there were two years ago. Maybe he can be a kind of check on the Imperial impulse. Maybe not. What revolution continues I don't know. The surveillance capacities such as they are, it is hard to imagine any revolution succeeding but one of peace. Government has a monopoly on force, and they are not averse at all to using it. If government can seek to bankrupt me for excessive gardening and building a greenhouse of scrap material from the waste stream, imagine their response to violence?

What the world and America needs right now is healing. Love. That begins with you. Learn to love yourself, heal yourself, help heal America and the world. That's the only revolution I care about.

(I'm not sure what to do about this blog. If you have any thoughts, let me know. WHD.)

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sang the Song of Hiawatha

Ye who love the haunts of Nature,
Love the sunshine of the meadow,
Love the shadow of the forest....
Listen to the wild traditions,
To this Song of Hiawatha.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The circle was getting too big for the room. The room was a large conference room in the Nokomis Community Center, in Minneapolis. The meeting was a gathering of people who want to turn the City Parks Hiawatha Golf Course into a food forest.

The circle was overflowing, which was unexpected, more than RSVP'd, despite it was nearly 60 degrees and sunny, 30 degrees above normal this time in February, but also a Saturday.

Most astonishing, the intelligence and talent in the room: teachers, professors, directors of non-profits, CSA farmers, half a dozen trained and professional landscape architects. Fifty people with varying expertise in organizing, teaching, design, plant management. An impressive group.

All the more impressive, as the likelihood that the Minneapolis Park Board would turn a revenue producing golf course into a revenue neutral food forest, is near zero.

What is a food forest? You tell me. Food grows throughout? The whole forest is food for something. A forest with an abundance of food for people? Gardens too. Aquaculture. Fungi.

It's also true the fate of the Hiawatha golf course is uncertain. After flooding in 2014 killed 47 acres of sod, knocking down 23 mature trees, causing an estimated $1.49 million of damage, people have begun to question the wisdom of rebuilding a golf course that suffers perpetual flooding.

It's also true, usage at the municipal golf courses has been cut in half since 2000, when revenue peaked at $1.85 million. The system lost half a million dollars in 2013. A report in 2013 suggested the course needed a minimum $8.1 million in upgrades. A kind of 'if you build it they will come,' failing to take into account, after the dot com crash in 2000, and the housing bubble, credit expansion and stagnant wages for 30 years, there just aren't that many golfers anymore.

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) ponied up $1 million. But at least some of that has been spent just studying the water predicament, as it was revealed in 2015 that the Parks Board had been pumping 1 gal/sec from the course into Hiawatha lake, 1/4 billion gallons per year equivalent, or 7 times what the MN DNR said they could. It seems clear, much of the course would flood every year, at least seasonally.

It's clear as an idea, the food forest's time has come.

Every human heart is human
That even in savage bosoms
There are longings, yearnings, strivings
For the good they comprehend not

Like bad, patronizing poetry full of made up "Indian" words, the Minnehaha Creek meanders it's way through Hiawatha golf course, dumping the toxic residue and trash collected on it's path from Lake Minnetonka, through the suburbs, into Lake Hiawatha, before continuing to the Mississippi.

It was a wetland before it was a lake and a golf course. Purchased by Theodore Wirth, the father of the Minneapolis park system, the "lake" was dredged, and the fill became the golf course. Still the course is on average about 2 ft below the surface of the lake, so the course is soggy much of the year and floods in the wettest.

In a kind of epic timing, like a curse, the golf course was built in 1929, when the market crashed, and didn't open until 1934.

Doubling down on absurdity, in 1993 and 1999, in the heady days of Greenspan/Clinton market deregulation, the city spent millions, adding several water hazzards/storm water holding ponds and expensive pumps.

Just in time for the market to revert to a rich man's game. Rich men don't play muni's.

But then there aren't a more brash bunch than your typical muni golfers, so the demand to keep the golf course is loud if not particularly broad.

There he sang of Hiawatha,
Sang the song of Hiawatha,
That the tribes of men might prosper,
That he might advance his people.

"For Christ's sake wouldn't it be better to have these guys doing some meaningful work, instead of riding around on lawn mowers?"

A 50 acre food forest is no joke. That would require a lot of maintenance. Especially if there are cultivated gardens, greenhouses, aquaponics.

The educational return would be immeasurable. Seriously, who cares about a golf course if you have the opportunity to show tens of thousands of kids what the city's parks could look like? Where does your food come from? Right here!

How do you cultivate an appreciation for nature, in the city? The world is being ravaged ecologically by ignorance.

After 2008, it should have been clear. Food sovereignty should be on everybody's lips.

When they asked in the circle, what is the word to describe what today is about, the first word out of anyone's mouth was "renewal."

What that circle revealed, is the circle is expanding. There is a lot more support for this than anyone thought.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

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'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.