Who Defends America?

I want to ask the question, Who is standing up for America?
I don’t want to address every part of this. But I am most concerned about a few aspects of this, questions and points of discussion:

One, is America going to be financially viable in fifteen years if we don’t change our attitudes about taxation, budgeting, pork projects and the deficit?

Two, Is America still made for you and me? Is Federal and state land being appropriated and or destroyed by concentrated wealth and resource based business? Is our land being bought or controlled for pennies and sold back to us for dollars? Where and how do people address this land appropriation by private interests?

Three, Private property is a pretty important right in America and so is the profit motive but that needs be balanced by low income peoples right to a home and natures right to exist as well.

Four, the Covid 19 epidemic that has swept the country is causing a slowdown and reassessment of life as we know it. These problems that I mention are being looked at in a new light, when we consider Covid 19 and climate change. Is there an opening for a profound shift?

What is America? It’s a country. It’s a concept. It’s the land. It’s the rivers and prairies. Its the cities and roads. It’s the government. It’s the infrastructure that supports the transport of physical goods. Its the communications network. It’s the concept of knowing that money put in a bank will be safe. It’s the knowledge that our governmental structure will endure. Its our culture. Its our freedom and liberty, to move about the country as we chose and chose who we associate with and marry. Its our freedom to choose what work we do and how we do it. It’s the knowledge that our water is safe to drink and can support robust salmon runs. It’s the knowledge that our meat is safe to eat. It’s the concept that everyone has a fair shake at success in life if they are willing to work for it. It’s the concept that we are a wealthy country and we can help the downtrodden and old and disabled. It’s the concept that we are big enough to help other countries, financially, militarily, culturally and engage and interact positively.

I want to start on a personal basis.

This year I will pay virtually no Federal income taxes. Since 2013 I think I have paid less than $5000 in Federal Income taxes. The only federal income taxes I have paid were related to self-employment income which supposedly goes towards social security payments. I am a fairly-low income earning American but there is a little more to the story that that.

In the early 2000’ (the aughts) I was living and working in Oakland California. The Dot com boom and bust were in full swing, so was Bush II’s wars and so was property growth and speculation. I was starting and running a tree service business, and living in an apartment.

The war business was horrible but people are good at compartmentalizing so you put that aside sometimes. Properties were appreciating all around me. I wanted to get into the game too but didn’t have a lot of cash. I was late to the party and by the time I was ready the west coast markets had gotten expensive. But banks had easy terms. I went to Oregon and found a property that seemed like it had potential. This market had gone up substantially as well, however. With mostly borrowed money I offered and got accepted on a property with an acre of land, a house and a barn. Not fancy but substantial and as it turned out, beyond my means for the price.
While I and an associate planned to rent out the front, the barn was reserved for the associate to live in and manage the property but first his apartment needed to be constructed. This happened over the next year and put me further in debt.
As I continued to live in Oakland, California, I was not able to stay on top of things when problems at the property occurred with tenants, with collecting rents etc. When the economy tanked, I held on for several years but got behind on mortgage payments. Ultimately in 2013 I lost the property to foreclosure.

I believe I had what is termed a sub-prime mortgage, meaning a loan with terms that are beneficial for the bank and not so beneficial for me. It was interest only to keep payments down. At some point the terms demanded I make substantially higher payments to cover principal. Also, interest was variable and could go up precipitously when benchmark rates went up.

When I got into trouble with the loan in late 2008 and into 2009, I contacted the bank and got a form to fill out regarding renegotiating or postponing payments as part of the TARP program that was part of the government bailout of the banks. I found out that my loan was no longer owned by Wells Fargo Bank. They had packaged and resold my loan along with many other loans, to a group of investors. The investors used Wells Fargo as the loan servicer but after multiple attempts to revise the loan or delay payment I got no where. In fact, I was never able to even speak with a representative of the investor group.

I saw that banks and financial institutions had been bailed out. The financial bailout of 2008, 9 and 10 saw the government loan, grant and protect many large companies, often the same companies whose dangerous practices had brought about the housing bubble and subsequent collapse. I got nothing. Millions of people lost houses and other investments.

My loan and house were foreclosed. My tax agent was able to show my loss of down payment and other payments as a tax loss that is carried forward every year till it is used up.

While this tax reduction has helped me get through a difficult financial time without having to declare a personal bankruptcy, our federal government has not gotten its tax revenues or pound of flesh from me.

Obama inherited the financial meltdown and acted as best he could with all the pressures to save businesses and prop up the economy. This started 4 years of above $1 Trillion deficit annual spending to stabilize the economy and fund the military and all the programs that people rely upon. It wasn’t until 2013 that the annual deficit went again below $1 trillion. This was despite the strong challenge to government as usual from the Tea Party Republicans that stressed cutting the federal deficit as necessary to protect the financial viability of our country.

The tea party republicans have gotten very quiet since Donald Trump took the office and Republicans controlled the Senate. Little was said when Trump proposed more tax cuts and more spending increases for war and nuclear weapons.

In 2019 Trump’s tax cut caused reduced revenues and a ballooning deficit, when we should have been reversing the trend as the economy appeared strong. The official deficit in 2019 was $1.092 trillion according to the balance.com, an online site that tracks US government revenue, spending and the deficit. This was the first deficit over $1 trillion since the 2013 when was again booming after the financial meltdown of 2008, 9, 10.

I recently watched a documentary called the https://www.powerofzero.com/movie, a film by Doug Orchard. The main presenter of the ideas is David McKnight who speaks passionately and clearly about the impending debt crisis that we are in and that our government officials never seem able to take on because it is unpalatable. The movie makes the case that the debt is ballooning out of control and may bankrupt the whole country when other governments and investors at some point refuse to continue loaning money to our country. The point when other governments and investors are no longer willing to buy a governments debt or bonds, is called a sovereign debt crisis. McKnight claims this sovereign debt crisis will occur within 15 years on the current trajectory.

Tom McKlintock is prominently featured in the film. He is conservative California Republican with a strong penchant for balancing the debt. I think he was a state senator or assemblyman in the 80’s and 90’s in California where I was living during that era. He unsuccessfully ran for governor in the recall election of 2003 when Arnold Schwarzenegger became the governor, replacing Gray Davis.

Now McKlintock is a Republican Congressman representing District 4 in California where Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park are located. He is not particularly friendly to the environment or the climate. He is often for cutting taxes for corporations. He is also an outspoken critic of budget deficits and believes we should balance the annual budgets. So, to me he is a bit self-contradictory in that he is for cutting taxes yet he is also a strong advocate for cutting spending and balancing the budget. I was impressed with his clear warning in this movie about the impending debt crisis. He says quite clearly, “The road we are on is a perilous one, one that leads, ultimately, to the bankrupting of our country.”

In this we can agree. If we want the American Experiment to be a long lasting one, we should be paying our bills as we go along, at least when economic times are strong. Instead our government acts as if a large portion of its bills can be put on a national credit card to pile up and never be paid down.

Neither party seems up to taking on the deficit issue though many offer lip service to it. Most recently in 2012 and 2013 the Tea Party Republicans made a big stink about not raising the debt ceiling while Obama was in office. They assumed the position that adding to the debt and raising the debt ceiling was dangerous to the stability of the country. Somehow, they don’t talk about it now that Donald Trump is president.

I started this piece mentioning that I have paid little federal taxes since 2013. The reason for mentioning this is, to personalize it and show that we are all somewhat responsible to our country. I think of the tragedy of the commons. We all enjoy clean water and fresh fish. Yet when we have freedom to fish as much as we please and pollution regulations are weak or not enforced, the commons, i.e. the rivers or oceans we all enjoy and nobody owns, suffers.

The Federal Government and it’s solvency is also part of the commons. The individual does not greatly benefit by paying their share of taxes. Society benefits. A government is more stable if people pay taxes.

This tragedy of the commons I would argue is one of the most glaring flaws of capitalism and the battle of nation states for resources. When there is no agreement on protecting certain common resources such as clean water, fishing rights, clean air, a stable climate, biodiversity, wild lands there is a rush to exploit them from the most pernicious of people or organizations.

This exploitation inevitably leads to degradation of the commons which means we all lose. Capitalism intensifies this. It is part of capitalism inherently I believe and must now be challenged head on.

I guess what I am getting at in a round about way is that America the concept is being expropriated cynically by the few and powerful for their benefit. They do not seem to care that:

1. their desire to avoid paying taxes and
2. to take tax breaks, protection and stimulus from the government and
3. exploitation of resources (nature) that are meant to be for us all
threatens the very future of the American State and the stability of climate and the biodiversity of life.

Further, Americans are taking the lead from the expropriators and are not into paying taxes, are cynical about government programs and are overwhelmed when we consider bringing the exploiters under control.

Who defends America? Who defends the financial stability of our government? Who does the government work for?
Most politicians want to bring federal money to their districts. Most support large defense budgets. Liberal democrats want to expand social programs. But how will we pay for it?

I am a big fan of Bernie Sanders, but I believe he is going too far when he wants all health care for free, college tuition for free, workers sick leave to be covered and many other social programs.

So, I feel like asking the question, “Who really is defending America?”
And so it goes and so the deficit grows. The on-paper deficit now stands at $24
Trillion. The actual deficit according to the movie I referenced before, the Power of Zero, is actually $200 trillion. There are many expenditures that government is obligated to pay for but is off the books, I learned. This is a fact.
Now we are dealing with the Covid 19 crisis. This crisis has made many abrupt changes to life in America. It has caused the Federal Government to again bail out the economy to the tune of $2.2 trillion, so far. More to come. People are questioning life in America, life on the planet really. We can’t go on as we have been going. We recognize that this virus is spread and is closely tied with people and things moving about.

It is sad what is happening to our America. It is being exploited. The government is asked to cover the cost of disasters of all kinds. It is asked to give special tax breaks to big business. And person like me, a working person for the past 20 years, because of circumstances described also pays little in Federal taxes. Nor are corporations, Nor is the wealthy. Who pays the taxes? Apparently fewer and fewer.

I am truly sad about it. America is like a bloated dying animal that all are trying to get a piece of before he/she dies.

But who is out there to defend the interests of Government solvency? Our government is so big, the expenses and revenues are so massive that people and business think, “Oh how could it hurt if they just gave me or my business this break? It won’t matter, everyone else is doing it?”

My tax enrolled agent showed that I lost money. Each year the loss is carried forward and it reduces my stated income each year till it is used up. For me of course this has been welcome and made getting by easier. But am I robbing the federal treasury by making this claim? Maybe but it is legal. I am carrying forward a loss from real estate. When I win in real estate I do pay taxes on capital gains but there are ways to reduce and delay paying taxes if you buy another property. So many games that investors play.
Real estate mortgage interest is tax deductible. Should it be? I believe that only a person’s primary home mortgage interest should be deductible. But who is defending the treasury? Not real estate investors.
If real estate mortgage interest was not tax deductible that would change things. Maybe for the better. Real estate speculation would be less profitable, less rampant. Maybe banks wouldn’t charge as much for origination if the costs and interest were not tax deductible.
I’m not paying much in federal taxes, the corporations are not paying much in taxes, baby boomers are retiring and will not be paying taxes soon, young people are strapped in trying to raise a family and buy a home. If all these parties are or soon to be not paying much who is looking after America, the mythical father and mother of us all. At some point rich foreigners will stop buying our security bonds to continue financing our deficit spends. Who will take care of America then?

Thank you to
Thebalance.com for information on government revenues, deficits and budgets.
The movie “the power of zero.”

Mother wants to Talk

Let’s say Earth wanted to have a conversation with us humans in these troubled times. She might sit us down and tell us nicely, at first, that we were out of line and needed to behave. She might say, “hey humans, you are running a mile a minute all over my back, you are carving up roads and cutting down my tree spirits to make stuff and make room for stuff. You are digging into my belly and extracting my precious parts and burning me up.”

“This is not good. I only have so much to give. I give and I give, but I see it is never enough.”

“Humans. You are from me and will return to me, but all your activity is making it hot on the ground and in the air and in the water. You are causing quite a lot of damage to my lungs which clean the air in a continual inhaling and exhaling.”

“You are causing damage to my water which is the life blood of my body.”

“You are making me sick and all my creatures sick and worried. Please, pretty please can you stop?”

“Can you slow down, what’s the hurry? All this zipping around, bringing my bits from one side of me and delivering them to the other side of me is not good. Things over there should mostly stay over there. Things on this other side should mostly stay on this other side. Things deep in my body should mostly stay deep in my body. The fish in the sea and the animals on the land may be eaten but with reverence and in balance with their needs and the other creatures needs.

You are disrespecting me and hurting me and making it hard for me to continue my the cycles of water, air, cold, heat, bounty and scarcity, light darkness. That is how it should be: cycles in balance. I ask you to accept this.”

“This garden that you’ve been living in is alive. It is part of me, Mother Earth. And you many people are only one of my children. You might think you are the best or the cleaverest but you are not. Your wisdom is very limited.”

What would we humans say to something like that?

We might say, “Well we know you are right Mother, but we just got to cut enough of those trees to pay for our nice house. We need to burn enough of your buried black gold to be able to have a nice trip with our kids. We need to convert your simple things into complicated things that are unnatural because we want to create stuff that is different so we can sell it and make money.”

We might say, “Just a little more. We are not yet satisfied.”

Mother will say that is not her way and it is very hurtful to her lands, her waters, her air and her other creatures.

She would say, “I want you to all stop….. Just stop for a while. And while you have stopped for a good long moment, take some breaths, breath some air, look about, feel deeply. Let your ears hear, let your eyes see and let your heart feel, deeply. You are at a critical time here. Do you wish to push me so out of balance that I cannot keep the waters flowing, the plants and trees growing, the air cycling, the fungi and bacteria breaking down the dead and making it food for new life? You have the power to do this harm, but if you do, we will all suffer. You are one of my creatures, and you humans will not be exempted.”

“You have this choice. I am benevolent, but I am also terrible. Wake from your mad dream.”

“I am sending the Angel of death down among you that you shall also know pain, disease, distress and death as other life knows it. It is the great and terrible Angle of death and you shall know me well if you continue down your path to control and own me. I am not for you to own and control.”

“I warn you because I care. I care soooo much. I love all my creatures. I love even the creatures that must die and many may die to return balance to the systems of my body. Be warned.”

“Be still. Feel, slow down. Think. Namaste. Amen. Shalom. Choose. Om.”

Corona Virus’ Gift

Today in our time of Corona Virus, a scourge that supposedly threatens life on earth, many of us are cowering in our homes.  Maybe that’s a little harsh.  We are sheltering in place.  Most of us can do that.  Well, those with homes.  Time for a bit of self-reflection, we spend time with family, catch up on Netflix.  (I just heard Outlander is quite a show for those looking for a stirring swash buckling vaguely historical storytelling of English v the Scotts, King James, the Catholic Church etc.  Quite a bit of violent sword play, and enough sex to satisfy most red-blooded Americans) Some people don’t have a stable home.  I didn’t.  When Corona was really hitting our country, I was in the process of moving and finishing a series of classes.  It wasn’t a good time to move or look for a new job.  It was most inconvenient.  I was in a precarious between places situation.  Not knowing what to do I thought of many scenarios, had fear and indecision, but ultimately decided to drive from Portland to Iowa to sit this thing out at the home of my mother.  It worked out but gave me some perspective on many who have housing and or job insecurity.  But enough about me (for now).

While the virus spreads around the globe, and causes death to some and universal upheaval, our government is being cowed into putting up 2.2 trillion dollars to shore up the economy, including improving and extending unemployment benefits and supposedly paying out cash payments to all adults of $1200.  A government’s most important role, I think, would be to protect and defend the people of the nation from all enemies foreign and domestic.  This situation, though unorthodox, I think qualifies.  According to the Boston Globe (April 12 or 13) which I read on MSN, there are over half a million infected in the US, and 22,000 deaths to date.  New York city is the hot spot has what 104,000 reported cases and 6,100 deaths.

Our government is quite schizophrenic.  It was founded on the ideals of freedom of religion, of freedom of choice in what occupation to pursue, where one lived, who you married.  It was a new nation, on a new continent and to be made in a fresh mold from bold, adventurous self-directed people.

It was founded as a representative government but not entirely so.  Senators were to be chosen by the legislature which were controlled by party bosses (later changed) and the house reps were voted in by popular vote.  Then there is the strange way we select a president, not exactly based upon who got the most votes but the anachronistic institution of the electoral college.  The country was founded by slave owners and rich estate men as well as people who wanted freedom and democracy.  But it was founded in a land already inconveniently inhabited by millions of people who lived in a pre-modern lifestyle in more or less harmony with nature.

Native Americans were viewed as inconvenient, then as a problem to be put in reservations or eliminated.  Early agreements with Native peoples were almost universally broken, eventually.

And women and slaves, were second class and third-class citizens, or in the case of slaves maybe not even citizens at all, but here, nonetheless.  Then, finally, a civil war sort of ended slavery and put us on a higher moral ground.  Concurrent to that was the incredible transformations of the 19th century, with the many inventions that heralded in the modern world.  The industrial revolution transformed work.  Machines were developed that doubled, tripled, made ten-fold increases in the amount of work a person (now running a machine) could accomplish.   Remember Eli Whitney and the Cotton Gin?  We don’t need slaves to pick the cotton anymore.

And Private Property and Capitalism.  These most American of institutions which are so schizophrenic especially in times of crisis.  The capitalist motto, “Privatize profits, socialize costs” comes to mind.  Costs include, exploitation of environment, workers, pollution.  But in times of crisis, the people clamor for support, for aide, for direction from the government and its agents.  The government must respond, and they are responding in a fashion, but it is somewhat against it’s nature.  I worry about the long-term cost of adding another couple trillion to the government (the people’s) debt.

This is such an internal conflict for our American Government today, especially a very divided government headed by a very divisive figure of Donald Trump.  The instinct of our resident President and those around him are to make America a friendly and profitable place to do business, mostly for the well off.  The land is here to be mined and drilled, bought and sold at profit and industrially farmed etc.  But then there are the inconveniences of democracy and working people and health care and now, Corona Virus, Climate Change and habitat loss.

Oh, so difficult.  What to do in these times?  Yes, we have a very schizophrenic government and in calamitous times.

I must tread lightly here.  Yes, there are a lot of people who have died and many more who are infected, and more are sure to come.  In my newly opened up schedule, I have been reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s historical book about Presidents’ Taft and Teddy Roosevelt in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, book called “Bully Pulpit” and I tell you, even in those quasi modern time, life was tenuous. From this reading I found out that Roosevelts first wife Alice, died shortly after childbirth.  Roosevelts mother Mittie died abruptly the same day as Alice of complications from typhoid fever.

Later the youngest son of the president Teddy Roosevelt and his second wife Edith, named Quentin, died in world war I.  And of course, the pandemic of 1918-9.

The Taft family were successful hard-working people and would have had access to the health care of the day.  Alphonse Taft, William Howard Taft’s father was a successful lawyer and involved in the politics of his day.  Yet he died young from bowel cancer.  What would have been Will Taft’s first and oldest brother died at 14 months.  Another of his brothers, Peter died, from mental health ailments.  Nellie Taft, William Taft’s capable wife had a tragic stroke just 10 weeks after the inauguration that she never fully recovered from.  I’m only 1/3 through the book.  I’m sure to find more tragedy.

What I am trying to say is that life is tenuous, always has been.  There are halcyon periods and there are bad times, having unrest, war, plague, famine.  But we are not used to this.  In the United States over the last 3 generations, say, the last 80 years or so, ups and downs aside, the times for humans, well American humans mostly have been bountiful and long lived.  We mostly vanquished other potential plagues like influenza, like measles, polio.  We were successful in generating great wealth and world culture.  We haven’t been used to being challenged and not having good answers or responses to big problems.  But that is changing.

And pandemics are not new things.  There was SARS in 2002 and 2003.  This was a similar respiratory infection from a virus.  It had a limited reach and mortality.  Less than 10,000 are officially reported to have died, mostly in China.

The influenza outbreak of 1918 and 1919 killed 50 to 100 million people, mostly in Europe, north Africa and America.  According to Wikipedia, the plagues of the late middle ages, the black death, or the bubonic plague killed upwards of 50 million to possibly 200 million people in Europe.  That is a staggering number for the day.  Europe did not recover to its previous population level for 2 centuries.  I read today that so far 119,000 people have died from the corona virus outbreak.  We would have a long way to go to reach the pandemic of 1918-9 or the Black death.

Yet in one way it is quite different.  This is a global pandemic.  No area seems to be completely unaffected.  This is not so surprising given the way we have truly globalized trade and travel.

Will this virus change the way we live?  For how long?  It seems like people are taking it very seriously.  We are quarantining in place.  We have shut down most “non-essential” businesses temporarily with great impact on the economy and social life.  I’m not qualified to say how necessary this is.  With death rates of around 2 % give or take this will not be on the level of medieval black death.  Most people who get the virus will recover.  It also seems that new cases are peaking in many places such as New York City, Italy and Spain.

Now people are taking the social distancing seriously and the hygiene as well.  This is slowing the rate of infection.  I was getting back into social dancing when the virus hit.  That got shut down.  I miss it.

But we are adapting.  We are using Zoom and so many other tools through the computer that we can stay in touch virtually.

I participated in a Zoom Passover service with 40 or so, other remote people.  I am in Iowa where my mother lives and there is an excellent Rabbi here, Rabbi Alan Greene, who mixes Judaism with other forms of spirituality and meditation.  For this connection with spirit and a culture that I somewhat identify with I am grateful.

I am grateful for some new friends I made in Portland that have been doing Zoom meet ups and are including me.  I am grateful to spend time with my mother.

But I am also struggling with life, my role, loneliness, where to live, how to stay positive, how to be part of the ‘save the planet’ crew, what is my work, professional calling? as I transition out of tree climbing work.  Now being idled by sheltering from Corona for these weeks or months, these things are more in focus.

I am reading, studying, writing, wasting time and worrying about the world and my future.  I hope we can get back to our interacting and working.  But I also fervently hope that we can learn something so we can build a stronger greener less divisive country and refocus on protecting the natural world that we all are ultimately reliant upon.

I hope we can take this time to reflect on life.  How can we work towards a more healthy world? Is the current situation just a symptom of an unhealthy system and if so, is throwing 2.2 trillion dollars at it to prop up our economy but not to change our economy, our health care system or to renew and protect the earth, just kicking the can down the road?

Notes:

Much thanks to Wikipedia for research on this paper.

How to Stop Climate Change

  • Replant the Midwest into what it was previous to Euro American invasion.  There are great mid-western trees and grasses, forbs, flowers.  The great oaks, hickories, maples, ashes, red ceder, white pine.  The long grass prairies contain many flowers and grasses which have deep roots.  The rich plains soil is currently being mined by agriculture.  If it is partly returned to the previous prairie and forest mix, these millions of acres will be a carbon sink, build soil, clean water and provide habitat for birds, plants, animals, insects, butterflys and more.
  • Stop using gasoline and diesel engines.  We are developing new electric cars and trucks.  In cities we can use more public and non-motorized transportation, (buses, subways, rideshare, bicycles, feet).  If we were serious about this we could transform much of our existing fleet of vehicles to electric.  We could have transition stations where there would be government sponsored stations that would take out the internal combustion engine and replace it with one of several models of electric motors. 
  • Stop building more freeways!  Take out unnecessary freeways and roads.  Building the freeways and roads breaks up the ecology and causes people to drive more and goods to be shipped more.  We need to re-localize and drive a lot less. 
  • Grow our own.  Most food we eat comes from an average distance of 1000 miles away.  It is packaged in plastic and shipped by truck to your supermarket.  Instead if we continue to develop local gardens, farms, orchards as well as the mechanisms for their dispersal we can greatly curtain the corporate food model which, I believe is the number two contributor to climate changing gases and activities.
  • Make our own.  We import about 10 percent of our goods from China according to a 2011 report, https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2011/08/10/139388532/only-a-tiny-sliver-of-americans-personal-spending-goes-to-china.  But these goods cause a lot of pollution from the transportation to the mostly unrecyclable packaging and the mostly artificial materials used.  American manufacturing is also polluting and causes great challenges to our waste disposal network.  How about going back to local production using mostly natural materials, for most of our uses?
  • Grow old growth characteristic forests.  Old growth forests store a lot of carbon, in the trees, and in the soil.  We know some of what the components of an old growth forest are.  The soil is thick and spongy and contains the roots, fungi, woody debris, moss, etc all in a dynamic environment that is alive and stores lots of carbon.  Though I am having a hard time finding good numbers I have heard there is only about 3 percent Old growth forest left in the pacific northwest and less than that across the country.  But we can mimic these forests by trying to grow big trees, taking out roads, doing thinning from below, working with ecologists, and mycologists, planting where appropriate etc.
  • Protect intact and healthy ecosystems including wetlands, prairies, forests where we can.  These ecosystems provide us with clean water, animal and plant habitat, and store lots of carbon.  Protection of existing ecosystems, whether public lands or private should continue to be a priority.  This can be done by doing land acquisition or less costly and in some cases more mutually beneficial are conservation easements.  http://sanctuaryforest.org/programs/land-conservation/conservation-easements/.
  • Break the chain of conquest.  The united states is still in the conquest game.  Our military has approximately 700 overseas bases and is continually involved in wars small and large.  Currently we are militarily involved in or with Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iraq, Venezuela, Pakistan, Syria in overt and covert ways.  We are ramping up for war with Iran and are challenging Russia with our continued intrusion in their back yard through NATO.  This is the more obvious stuff.  Our $750 billion yearly military cost makes it difficult to address the climate issue and causes greatly untold pain.  What if we could break the mindset of conquest as a way of life for our government? 
  • Continue to support women in government.  When women are involved with decision making, more peaceful outcomes, more durable peace occurs and better health is attained.  See UN report http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/peace-and-security/facts-and-figures. When people are secure, have enough to eat and are in good health they may then attend to other important issues that don’t involve immediate survival needs, such as climate action.
  • Follow Climate organization like 350.org. 
  • Support the Youth movement for the climate.  Learn from and teach the youth to protect the climate. As Greta Thunberg has said from a Ted talk, “If burning fosil fuels was so bad, that it threatened our very existence, how could we continue like before? Why weren’t there any restrictions?  Why wasn’t it made illegal?”
  • “If the emissions have to stop, we stop the emissions.”, “Instead of looking for hope, look for action.”, “When there is action, there is hope.”  All Greta quotes from the TED Talk. 

Crisis of Capitalism

According to Wikipedia, Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. There are variations on capitalism on how constrained business is by governmental regulation including tariffs and environmental laws, labor rights and other forms of regulation.  “Free Market” is often idealized and strived for by the capitalist class. 

According to Wikipedia, the Free Market is defined as, “an idealized system in which the prices for goods and services are determined by the open market and by consumers. In a free market the laws and forces of supply and demand are free from any intervention by a government…and are allowed to reach their point of equilibrium without intervention by government policy.”  A free market values transactions weather they be of strawberries or visits to the chemo ward.  It doesn’t care.

A free market is what Keynesean economists and big business leaders say they strive for, but there are always rules to the economy including restrictions on particularly damaging products as well as tax breaks for some types of businesses and tariffs for some imported products.  And these regulations are manipulated by lobbyists who infiltrate government and get particular benefits for their business or industry.  We have gotten to the point where it seems business interests supplant the interests of the common citizen and are superior to the rights of nature.

I see the stage we are in of capitalism as a crisis period, when the snake is literally eating its tail, where big business is destroying the future means of production and the very biosphere, we all rely upon to survive.   Government, the mechanism for the expression of the will of the people and the proper regulator of big business and capitalism is feebly inadequate to the task.

Capitalism’s penchant for concentrating benefits and externalizing costs are a big part of this looming crisis that I mention.  While concentrating wealth is the desire for the owners of capitalistic ventures, wealth must be taken from some place.  The waste products of the massive production operations must be put someplace.  There is no away.

Most wealth is not just created anew and fresh.  Most wealth is taken legally or illegally from and to the detriment of people, governments and the environment.  Some wealth is created when new techniques or technologies are employed, and greater power and freedom comes available.  When an inventor is motivated and rewarded for his/her invention by capitalism that is seen as good.  Wealth is created, industriousness is rewarded.

When nature appeared boundless, the natural world could be mined of its riches and the benefits concentrated to those intrepid capitalist individuals without undermining natural capital in a significant way.  Now humans are so numerous, and our technological use of machines and interlocking systems of production so powerful and efficient that we are affecting the very biosphere that all God’s creatures rely upon for survival. 

One of the challenges I see with changing the economic system I have been describing is that we in the US do benefit from the status quo, from cheap goods supported by foreign manufacturing, from access to cheap oil and from not factoring the true cost of cradle to grave manufacturing that should be the standard.  We benefit, in the short term by being able to travel on airplanes cheaply, by being able to have incredible choice of foods and technology products, most all shipped long distances and packaged in and or made with non bio-degradeable synthetic materials.  We also have a government that is still in the predatory conquest mode as an unending series of wars and approximately 700 oversees military bases can speak to.

As Dickens wrote more than 150 years ago, “It was the best of times; It was the worst of times.”  While that may have been true for the bustling, crowded and quickly industrializing Victorian England, it is also true today.  We can order most anything we want and get it shipped to our door, yet, we can’t protect the polar bears or seem to be able to stop climate producing gasses from spewing, or forests from being felled, or another Walmart from opening.  We can watch most any show ever created yet many of us suffer from anxiety and depression over the existential threat we all live under.

I have gnawed on these topics for years.  How can I not be part of the problem?  I spoke with a wise friend about it last recently.  He feels that we are all part of the problem and we must through our consumer dollars choose better, buy less plastic wrapped products and use less gasoline (to make a short synopsis of what he said).  While I try to do these things and think we all should do better in these matters, I really think the problem is so much bigger than making better individual choices.  We must make better collective choices.  We as citizens in citizen groups and through local, state and federal government have the responsibility to our future generations to try to reel in the beast of unfettered capitalism.

There is a responsibility of government to regulate industry and protect the citizens from undue harm and protect the land and its productivity for generations in the future.  Yet government doesn’t seem to be up to the task.

Let us call out capitalism for what it has become, more destructive than beneficial.  Let us not shy away from the words, regulation and socialism.  Let us be what Ralph Nader espouses as the best highest form of societal duty, civic minded citizens who are participants in the decisions of our time from a local school board to if a Walmart should be built or a highway expanded from two to three lanes.  Civic participation is one antidote to the death of our democracy by under regulated capitalism.

I believe we need to re-localize.  A positive future is not one where we and our goods are madly zipping around the globe at great speed.  A positive future requires us to slow down and root down and get connected in our place in our community.  If we produce our own things nearby, we won’t stand for dumping the toxic waste in the river or ocean, we wont stand for huge open pit mines, we won’t stand for damming another river for power at the cost of a salmon run.  If we have to deal with our waste instead of shipping it to China will we continue to allow the disposablization of most things?  We, must learn how to live within our means, and we must learn how to challenge big capitalism. 

Finally, somethings in the economy are too important to be left to the capitalists.  These are the items that support survival.  I believe in rent control, in limiting capital appreciation in some ways, in taxing financial transactions and in limiting weapons production.  I believe in socialized health care.  Some things are too important to leave to the market.  It is hard to fight when you can’t pay your rent, but of course the big business capitalist know that.

There is a battle going on.  We are in it and part of the crisis of capitalism.  Can we transform it before it wipes out everything we care about?

My Life

My life is a collection of disparate worlds, I am attempting to make sense of. Recently I decided to try living in Eugene Oregon. I need a new home base. Drifting drifting is psychologically destabilizing yet I feel compelled to do it as I haven’t felt home for a long time.

I sit at a computer in Eugene Oregon. Last night feeling lethargic I let the evening almost get away from me. I had no one to go out with. It was raining. But I had a Eugene Weekly and I scanned it for things to do. There was a Contra dance at the Villiage School on Willamette street. Contra dances are great ways to make a connection with a new community! So I decided to go.

After a call from a friend and being close to 9pm I motivated and got myself out the door. I plugged in the address to my smart phone and let the computer direct me across town. It was raining softly and the windows were partly fogged. I had smoked a wee bit o ganja and let the soft rains, traffic lights and newness of the town merge into my awareness with wonder and softness.

The Villiage School on Willamette street was a fair drive across town and into the base of a hill. I drove the wet streets, generally heading south east, making four or five turns and arriving on the moderate slope of a hill. There was no one there! I had gotten the date wrong. Dumb dumb.

I pulled into the parking lot, it was small and empty. I got out and this was in fact the Villiage School. There was a handmade sign that said Villiage school and some event that the folks were organizing for. I decided to walk around the school.

The building was old but well maintained and signs that people loved this school. They had signs in Spanish and about a spanish class, Salon de Espanol. They also had a sign for the music class in spanish, salon de musica. More signs around the school about things going on. I had the distinct feeling that the people from the students, to the teachers, the parents and the administrators, loved this modest school.

I got back into my truck, a vehicle which seems to fit in in Oregon cause, yep there are a lot of big trucks up here. Mine is a 97 tacoma with an extra cab and a big dent in the tailgate. Yet the truck is too big, gas consuming and disrespectful to the planet. I do have a bike up here so I can get all my gear up and then I can bike around town. I got my tail light charged now. I need a helmet and a head lamp and maybe some reflective gear.

I headed back toward the east side of town. I went to the Whittaker neigborhood and parked. I felt my best bet would be Sam Bonds garage. There was a live band going on. Kind of like Greenday maybe? Not quite that catchy but bouncy and forward, and cocky. They were from Portland. The lead singer looked like a toehead kid who is now a young adult, lots of confidence but a little naive.

I feel. Since I am often an observer, an outsider, a chronicler, I am not without experience in this matter. I float and I feel the room. I don’t do much other than take it in for an hour or so. The cider is excellent. Then I move to the dance floor. The music is somewhat but not entirely to my taste. I move, other people move. A forward women dances into me intentionally and then we couple dance for a while.

Somehow the barriers between people, me and the world, the people out there and the other people out there, the barriers fade and we are all in this busy bustling brew hall made of wood timbers and love and we dance together, drink together and I for one feel a little bit less alone in the world. Maybe this new life experiment will be ok.


The Mid West Starts to think about Protecting Nature

As the climate crisis continues to unfold with glacier melt happening at a rapid rate and climate disruptions now the norm rather than Rare, we all need to change; we need to adapt to climate change as a society but we also need to adapt our lifestyles to low carbon, low plastic lifestyles.

I have been spending time in Iowa and there is definitely talk of a changing climate. There are some great events, that highlight this growing concern. There is a forum on sustainable agriculture and a meeting at the state capitol on February 21 on citizens demands that there be a factory farming moratorium in Iowa. We also had a visit on Monday from Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, (D) of HI. She spoke passionately to address climate issues and protection of the environment as well as changing the foreign policy practices of “regime change” which we are currently attempting in Venezuela.

Finally Gabbard, spoke about ending our war based economy. All for the good. Lets hope we can come together on these ideas and then get behind a strong, progressive, take no prisoners, Democratic Candidate to unseat Trump.

I also am thinking that the mid-west is vast. We grow lots of corn and soybeans here. But most of that is either exported or fed to pigs and cows. Lets be more friendly to the pigs and cows, birds, foxes, buffalo and climate, maybe we can advocate (in the upcoming Green New Deal) for giving credits to these farmers to turn the farms of death into farms of life. Return it to nature. Grass prairies and forests could return to parts of the mid-west without, I believe depleting our ability to feed ourselves. I believe we are overproducing corn and soy and under-producing, clean water, wildlife habitat and carbon sinks.

Corporate agriculture gets tax breaks and corporate welfare. This need be changed. We should as a country, not support the destruction of the planet with our tax dollars, rather, let us encourage our legislators, in this time of rapid change and growing climate crisis to incentivize a return of some of the mid-west to prairies and forests.

Yes to the Green New Deal!