California Goes Too Far  101012

A Fringe Opinion on the State Responsibility Area Fee from CalFire

Rural residents on homesteads and in rural towns spread throughout the unfortunate land known as the CalFire State Responsibility Area are receiving a tax bill of $150 dollars simply because they live in the woods.  The Fire Fee doesn’t provide fire protection, and indeed, most who pay the fee will receive no benefit at all.  It’s a grab by urban legislators to further tax rural people without giving us noticeable benefits.  And, as is often the case when the bandit is one of the king’s high sheriffs, there is almost nothing we can do about it

In May of 2011 Bob Blumenfield Assembly District 40 introduced ABX 29, a bill that would levy nearly a hundred million dollars from owners of rural property in California.  The funds would be raised by a “fee”; if the money were a tax, it would have to get a super majority before the voters.  Instead, the legislators hoped to fleece rural homeowners by calling the money a fee.

Assemblyman Bob was the perfect person to introduce the bill; indeed he had to introduce the bill as chair of the budget committee.  There are no parcels which will be taxed the $150 a year for a single habitable structure in his district. The bill carried by 2 to 1 in the Assembly and 23 to 16 in the senate.  Though the bill authorized up to $150 per habitable structure for structures in the “state responsibility areas”  (SRA), the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection, the body responsible for CalFire, in 2011 just assessed a fee of $90 per structure.  Four new board members changed the texture of the board and the decision was made to grab all $150 bucks.

Blumenfield and his SRA free district.

The move is technically part of “realignment”, a phrase we know well and associate with buggery.  The fee has been popular with people working for CalFire, and the 57 new hirees who will oversee the fee at a cost of $6 million plus a year, but it is very unpopular with people in the woods.  First off, CDF is a giant pain in the butt, worse in its own way that the U.S. Forest Service.  Interactions with CDF personnel, as infrequent as they are in our neck of the woods, are typically frustrating and expensive.  Most of Sierra County has its wild lands protected through an agreement with the F.S.  Still, CalFire wants its wages from structure owners in the county.

The CalFire Budget

Does the fee send firefighters to your house if there’s a wildfire?  No!  CalFire doesn’t fight house fires, it fights wildland fires.  If the fee actually did something useful like that, there might not be so much resistance to it.  It mostly funds business as usual at CalFire, with some education, defensible space enforcement, and some hazard fuel removal, though it isn’t clear where that will happen or who will do it.

The fee is levied not on timber or land but on habitable structures, meaning permanent dwellings.

“Habitable Structure”, for purposes of implementation of Sections 4210-4228 of the Public Resources Code, is a permanent dwelling, and includes mobile homes and manufactured homes.

Including mobile homes and manufactured homes?  If the fire tax posed as any kind of value based fee it would charge more for mcmansions than for grandma’s old aluminum trailer.  Instead, mobile homes in parks each have to pay the fee, raking in more money from our poorest residents.   If it was based on fire costs it would be on land and trees, not structures.  Fees are typically applied to the cost of specific services; you pay a fee to have solid waste disposal.  This fee would give us nothing, but perhaps more BS from the rock star formerly known as CDF.

CalFire chief Ken Pimlott tells us the rational in a piece published under his name:

Through passing the law, the Legislature and the governor recognized the presence of structures within the SRA can pose an increased risk of fire ignition and increased potential for damage. This is borne out by the fact that people and their associated activities account for over 94 percent of all fires in the SRA.  From HERE:

This is simply urban bias.  There are houses in our woods, and hillbillies and their banjo picking spawn don’t belong there, let’s tax them.  The logic which was the driving force for this was the fire in the heavily developed areas of Southern California, though many of those are not in the SRA.  The Northern California fires which grab headlines are generally set by lightening.

The cause of many wildfires is not known. Even if Pimlott is right that “94%” of wild land fires are caused by people, does it mean they were in houses? In his apologetics for the fee, Pimlott cited fires caused by arsonists.  How does this relate to homeowners in the Sierra?  We are each paying a fee on our buildings because people passing through toss a cigarette or a camper leaves his fire unattended, or because an arsonist needs a summer job fighting wild fires?   There really is no justification for taxing structure owners in rural areas, except that the state is broke, and our urban masters who run the legislature have decided we can all afford another $150 a year to keep everyone on the payroll at CalFire.  We have something they can take.

And, make no mistake, they intend to take it.  According to the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA), who is bringing suit against the state for the tax, you must pay the fee when you get the bill, or fees and penalties increase; l;ikely one of the 57 new bureaucrats will put a lien on your house and foreclose.  Like any good bandit, the state knows it takes muscle to collect unreasonable taxes, and state means to collect this booty.  HJTA warns that the bills are due right away, in less than 30 days in some cases.  Being tardy will cost you another 20% off the top plus interest; another 30 days, another 20% plus interest. It’s vicious usury of a kind only the king can pull off.  Perhaps we’re lucky the state doesn’t require a virgin from each rural village.  Currently, the fee isn’t being collected by the local tax collector, but by the Board of Equalization.  No chance for rural politicians to muck up the works.

Some will also get a second bill within a year.  The craft legislature made the fee payable at once, and since it passed in 2011, we already owe them for last year.  We’ll owe them for 2013 in less than a year.

The wildlands, we are constantly told, belong to everyone in the state; everyone in the state benefits from the clean water and air the wilds produce.  Everyone needs to pay to protect them.  Even people in Assembly District 40.

It goes without saying that people in the rural places and particularly in the North have been protesting this fee.  The Regional Council of Rural Counties (RCRC) has given testimony against the fee, and its groups are forming specifically to protest the tax.  This is something we should all protest.

You can appeal for a possible redetermination and make it a protest.  Look at the form here  You can select “other” and state you feel the fee is illegal.  You can protest by writing “under protest” on your check, if that brings you any satisfaction (I’m going to.)  You must first pay your bill and then file the protest using the form WITHIN 30 DAYS!

Fire Fee Protest. Org a project of the Jarvis Taxpayers Association recommends that you send your form to three places:

Fire Prevention Petitions, P.O. Box 2254, Suisun City, CA 94585

Board of Forestry and Fire Protection, P.O. Box 944246, Sacramento, CA 94244

Board of Equalization, P.O. Box 942879, Sacramento, CA 94279

Get more information here:

The California Farm Bureau has great information and a letter here

There is an interesting analysis HERE

We have to pay this bill, but let’s register our protest and make those new employees earn our freaking money.


10/4/12  Troubled Harvest: Marijuana in the Mountains; Marijuana in the Environment; Marijuana in the Neighborhood; Marijuana in Los Angeles 
Fringe Greenbud Report

Outdoor cannabis is being harvested this month and next all over Northern California.  At one time, outdoor ganja was all there was; today indoor cannabis is a bigger market and it churns out cannabis all year long.
This year the outdoor crop has already provided headlines for the various types of cops who enjoy potbusting.  Most marijuana grown in the state will escape detection and destruction, but it remains a significant social issue.

In 1996 California voters approved Prop 215 which provided marijuana as medicine to patients with a doctor’s approval.  That was 16 years ago and the unintended consequences of that courageous and compassionate act have been a mixed bag.
The people of California forced political change on a flaccid and atrophied state government and called the federal government to come out as the oppressive overlord it is.

It has also forced local governments to govern, since the original proposition and the state laws which have attempted to provide for its implementation have no real guidance.  Several counties and cities have attempted to ban or curtail and a few have attempted to regulate and oversee medical cannabis production and distribution.

Most recently, the Los Angeles City Council repealed its ban on medical marijuana dispensaries.  The city had attempted to restrain, and then ban medical marijuana dispensaries; the first attempt ended in a garbled court ruling and the second sparked a referendum to over turn the ban; the referendum would have been on the ballot with eight of the city council seats and other city positions.  Rather than piss the people off the council decided to take another approach. With a council member who is a medical marijuana patent pleading his fellows to make the drug available to city residents the reversal of the ban passed 11-2.
However, the problem doesn’t go away for L.A.; the City Council found themselves essentially cornered into repealing the ban, but the most fundamentalist members of the council promised to find other ways of stopping med can dispensaries.  One report credits a council member with saying the city would move against the dispensaries because, since there is no zoning for them, they can’t be anywhere.  That might sound like a solution to a shallow thinker but there is a sound legal argument that the dispensaries fit into a number of categories, and further, it isn’t sound ministerial practice to prohibit a use that is not prohibited by ordinance.  The L.A. city attorney is reportedly working on crafting an ordinance which will exclude most dispensaries, but leave enough to make a legal challenge difficult.  What the city attorney should be doing is crafting an ordinance that provides a way to properly regulate the provision of what California voters have said is a right.  But, cops and prosecuting attorneys don’t consider freedom, they consider punishment, which is why L.A. and everywhere should ban the bastards, but that probably isn’t going to happen.

Los Angeles is reputed to have over 1000 dispensaries, and regardless the moans from city council members asking for more guidance from the state, in truth L.A. has not made a sincere effort to evaluate med can dispensaries and properly regulate them as the city does other businesses.  Indeed, the state, in failing to specify how medical cannabis is to be distributed, left a tremendous amount of freedom for local governments to act.  A local government is free to regulate, permit, and tax cannabis dispensaries and even legal medical grows.  But, freedom is a very scary thing for people like Americans, and so far very few locations have taken advantage of the opportunity.  Our wee pipsqueak politicians are afraid of the Big Dog.

The federal government and the Obama administration have continued to target California med can operations; the most current excuse for imposing federal will on the people of the state is that “the medical cannabis market doesn’t reflect what the voters intended under Prop 215.”  This threadbare ruse ignores the fact that the feds don’t understand or recognize Prop 215, which puts them in a weak position to interpret it.
Still, federal intrusion in to the state is the explanation of why, when Californians are polled, they support legalization strongly, but at the ballot box, they are less supportive.  Even so, there is an undiminished will to legalize cannabis in California. As our freedoms vanish down the memory hole and the government increasingly subjugates us in order to “protect” us, cannabis is one of the few issues where we are actually moving slowly toward more freedom.
The feds are pushing back against that freedom; will they follow Lincoln’s example and move on Californians with troops?  They already are, and the cops they are using against us are our own cops.  This is the face of “Battlefield America”; Homeland Security funds arm local cops like troops, and when troops are needed against the people, local cops provide the muscle.

Meanwhile, Northern California counties continue to wrestle with the burden of providing cannabis for those thousands of So Cal dispensaries.  As with water, timber, food, and the best minds from our rural schools, it is up to the North to provide the goods.

That might sound like a great opportunity for the rural counties to do something they normally can’t: pay bills.  But it isn’t working out quite that way.  It’s important to understand how med can dispensaries have changed the marijuana market.  The dispensaries want to sell as little pot as possible for as much money as possible.  Marijuana, like diamonds or gold can be stolen, so it isn’t a great idea to have too much backroom inventory.  At the same time, you want to maximize your floor space.  An ounce bag of good weed doesn’t fluff the bottom line like confections, oils, and especially fruity smelling buds in small bags with extreme names like “Velvet Train Wreck”.  The weed consumers want, and boutique dispensaries want to sell them, is tight, uniform, and artificially organic.  Bud like that can only be grown inside, with every day being the perfectly climate controlled day, and every need for nutrition perfectly met.  Growers, particularly hydro growers, can push a plant that normally takes eight months to a year to grow, flower, produce seed, and die, to produce a crop every two to three months.  That inside plant, that “chem bud” grown not in the sun but in artificial soils and nutrients which are derived from natural ingredients and therefore are technically “organic”, has become the industry standard while truly organic marijuana grown outside in the sun demands a low price.  Marijuana was once grown under artificial light only to escape the cops; now it dominates the market.

This capitalist drive has created a new niche illegal cannabis market.  Not everyone can get a doctor’s recommendation, so an illegal market for cannabis still exists.  This is the market the “Mexican drug lords” grow for in the mountains.  Unfortunately, this market pays less and so to make a profit the grower has to cut corners, grow more weed.  Cannabis grown on public lands or on remote private lands are increasingly located from the air; the cops and other market forces which kept the price of cannabis high still operate on the illegal market, but with less profit.  Outdoor grown marijuana has fallen from about $5,000 a pound less than a decade ago to about $800-1000 a pound today.  The per ounce cost of an ounce of pot has dropped to a level not seen since the middle 1980s, and the drop has nothing to do with the efforts of cops or prosecutors.  Less profit, grow more product.  This is the opposite of the goal of the successful boutique dispensary.

This has led the outside grow illegal market to clear trees, dam and pollute streams, spread pesticides; in short behave in the dreadful way once reserved for timber harvest and mining, two enterprises which cannabis has replaced in rural Northern California.  When a mountain grow is busted the counties are often left to clean up the mess, even if the grow is on federally owned land.  (The Big Dog has money for cops to stop a legitimate market, but not money to clean up after a bust.)  The cost of cleanup is high, and often the refuse that people create by living in the woods near the grows is left until the forest covers it over.

The environmental cost is being addressed two ways: first, counties are bringing environmental charges when they have someone to actually charge; second more legitimate growers are joining environmentalists to push for a small tax per grow-bag to offset the cost of cleanup.  The second idea has some chance of success; the bags are used almost universally inside and out, since they are cheaper and lighter to carry than pots and only grandma and grandpa Hippy still plant marijuana in God’s own earth.  However, big outside growers especially on public lands often import illegal migrant workers to farm the plants in the hills; if the tax is too high they’ll simply import bags as well.  In the end, it’s most likely legitimate legal growers who will actually pay the cost of illegal clean ups.

The environmental and other costs also accrue to inside grows.  Only the most skillful indoor growers know how to control moisture in the grow room.  Many places in Northern California have experienced an increase in indoor grows with the result that improper wiring causes fires, and poor moisture control has destroyed houses, filling them with mold that simply can’t be removed.  Power use in some areas has dramatically increased, and Arcata, California, in the heart of the Emerald Triangle, has suffered so much damage to houses that the city is putting a tax on excessive electrical use on the ballot.  The tax does not specify grow houses, but the indications are clear that’s the target.  The tax is a “greenhouse” environmental tax. It will be interesting to see the unintended consequence of this tax, but we might predict a slight increase in rents in nearby communities, as people flee the tax to grow nearby, and a slight increase in people stealing electricity by clamping the line, and probably a few more fires and electrical deaths associated with the practice.

These negative effects are the result of the pressure of money forced through an inadequate government response.  The inadequate government response is the result of people who have no reason to change the system, like cops, prosecuting attorneys and niggling nabob local politicians, being in the seat of change.

The government is incapable of simply allowing people to be free.  The whine of the Los Angeles City Council is the whine of all politicians who actually have to govern: we need more rules from the state.

The California Supreme Court has promised to move with extreme slowness to hear a cluster of med can related cases and make some kind of general ruling.  The legislature is too busy going broke to do anything about the estimated $14 billion that marijuana is believed to generate in the state each year.  It’s as though California had suddenly decided to ignore shipping as a source of revenue.

In the meantime, cannabis and medical cannabis advocates have produced a number of very simple, very reasonable, and indeed, very common place solutions.

One of the best was headed for the ballot this year but was derailed by division in the “legalize it” community.  Not surprisingly, medical marijuana dispensaries don’t want full legalization of cannabis; instead, they want to become burghers, they want to remain a privilege class by having the state carefully regulate the industry to protect those already in business (business as usual, in that sense.)

The idea was put forth by retired superior court judge James Gray and others and it simply regulates marijuana like wine .  It works well enough for our society’s most dangerous drug; it should work for ganja.  Then, the price will come down; it won’t be worth growing in the woods; it will be grown in buildings designed for the purpose instead of big old houses; it can be taxed, and so on.

But, that’s too clear an idea for our cops, prosecuting attorneys, and wee small politicians.

Live free or die, brothers!



Where’s the Fringe


He said he had a piece and he promised to have it to me. I don’t have it. If it comes I will print it. Let’s cross our fingers.


9/26/12  Spank me in Delaware

The Fringe on the Soft New World

The legislature in Delaware, after, and indeed in spite of, much public debate, made it against the law to inflict “pain” on a child.  This essentially ends spanking in Delaware, the first state to take such a move. In Texas, spanking not only by parents but also by teachers is legal.  In some instances in Texas, a teenaged child can be spanked by an opposite gender teacher (probably already a porno site profiting from that one).  There is clearly a difference of philosophy between Texas and Delaware.  The differences are reflected in the death rate of children in those two states; Delaware has not quite one child death per 100,000 kids; Texas has the second highest rate of over three.

Throughout much of the history of Rome the Empire it was legal for a dad to get fed up and sell his children in to slavery, or get drunk and kill them.  For awhile in England, when a man died his wife and kids went to his brother for his use, if he wanted them.  Even so, even in Rome, most parents didn’t kill their children, and the lives of the poorest Romans and the lives of slaves didn’t differ greatly; a child might be better of as a slave in the houses of the wealthy.  The lesson here: things are relative and moral judgements are ultimately only value judgements.

It is almost impossible to get valid, useful statistics on child maltreatment deaths.  Statistics are most often used to create a compelling case, but rarely are they meaningful comparisons.  It’s common to say that the U.S. has a large proportion of the deaths of children in developed countries, but we are also by far the most populous of those countries, so the raw numbers would be correspondingly higher.  The term “abuse and neglect” also change from nation to nation, and the kinds of records kept vary.  Currently, around the world, diarrhea is a leading cause of death.  If a child dies of diarrhea in the U.S. it is considered preventable, and so the death is a result of maltreatment.  In Africa, everybody dies of diarrhea.  By far most child deaths occur from birth to 3 years old, with the majority even in the U.S. being less than one year.  Some organizations don’t consider children over 5 when gathering death statistics; in the U.S. a person is a child until the age of 18.  The rate of child death in the U.S. is very small, about two children per hundred thousand.


Child Death Rate; most are under 1 year old, and death is from neglect.

The statistics are often used by people with an agenda like Beau Biden, Delaware Attorney General and son of Joe Biden, to muddy waters and blur issues in the minds of voters.  Biden is quoted by Delaware National Public radio:

“Biden pointed out that more than three million children are reported to be victims of abuse or neglect in the United States each year, and the U.S. ranks higher in child abuse fatalities than any other industrialized nation in the world. Biden also noted that a child who is abused or neglected is 59 percent more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28 percent more likely to be arrested as an adult, and 30 percent more likely to commit a violet crime.”

Let’s examine the statistics for a moment to see how much bullshit Biden is trying to peddle.  First of all, “reports” on child abuse are the first step in investigating child abuse.  The great majorities of reports are for neglect.  Biden isn’t clear if these are “reports of abuse and neglect” or “children on whom there have been abuse and neglect.  Finally, three million reports in a nation of 74 million is a very low rate of report.

Biden’s other statistics are equally bogus, and are presented to the voter to stir fear and concern: a neglected or abused kid is more likely to be arrested for several reasons, not the least of which is she or he is already in the system, already under surveillance.  Indeed, many children in juvenile probation are determined to be neglected, and they are already in jail.  Neglected kids are indeed more likely to be in foster care, and if Biden had wished to be accurate he would have pointed out that foster kids are more likely to go to jail.  That kids from in the system are more likely to go on to commit violent crimes avoids the fact that many kids have significant mental health issues which are only peripherally related to their home.  It simply stands to reason that kids with a history of government intervention are more likely to remain institutionalized as adults.

In the end, all of this has very, very little to do with loving parents spanking their kids.

What we’re really looking at is philosophy.  Our philosophy comes to us from middle class Europe, and is residual from the Enlightenment, that period of European and American history which was peaking with the American Revolution.  The Enlightenment replaced God with reason, and made a new religion of science.  Post Enlightenment thinkers challenged some of the tenants of science as the basis for public policy, but it remains a strong part of our belief system that science, and through science, government, can correct any ill nature or sloppy personal habits can create.  It’s a wishful, hopeful, uplifting way of seeing the world and it’d be nice except that the reality which emerges from it is twisted and dystopian, and in its extremist view puts good parents in jail for spanking their kids.

Biden is likely tickling the voters with fallacious logic and inappropriate statistics because he thinks it will win votes and because he thinks it’s bad to hit little kids.  He, and others in his cultural group, believe in a “culture of violence” and a “cycle of violence.”  Violence is indeed cultural, and value judgements made about violence are culturally based.  The “cycle of violence” is a valid concept; children act as they are taught.  In the real world, parents who neglect or abuse their kids are themselves among society’s most vulnerable.  These parents are more likely to die of violence themselves, more likely to be the victims of crime, more likely to go to prison, more likely to be ill or die young.  These variables are correlated and not necessarily causal; they form a “nexus” of life misfortune or fortune.

What Biden left out.

It’s pretty clear that government intervention into the family increases the likelihood of economic deterioration and job loss.  Spanking your kid in Delaware gives you a criminal record as someone who beats kids.  Try to get a job with that on your resume, mom.

Is it bad to hit little kids?  That idea has only been popular in the last 50 years or so, so maybe it’s wrong.

People who are against hitting little kids point out that growing up in a potentially violent environment hardwires one for that kind of life.  For those who imagine a passive utopia under the hand of the government it seems a terrible disservice to those children to let them grow up with a nervous system that anticipates violence.

And, it’s odd that it should since the government metes out violence at a rate far greater than that of its people.  Indeed, one place that amped-up violent  personality does well is prison, government run houses of violence. It is possible, according to some studies, that simply going to prison makes you more violent on release.  Government intervention in the family is violence; being thrown in jail is violence and if you resist, the cops will show you professional quality violence.  At the very least, Biden is a hypocrite, and self professed do gooders of his ilk are disingenuous.

The truth is there are many places in America, and no doubt even in Delaware where cops don’t always go, and it pays to be tough, even a little violent.

In fact, taking the long, evolutionary view, violence is why we have these wonderfully strong and resilient bodies.  History is violence, biology is violence, the circle of life and death is violence.  In Biden’s America people don’t need strong and resilient bodies, they need wool.

Whereas the idea that parents spanking kids is necessarily bad is really only culture, the “culture of intervention”.

Biden might, instead of squandering his state’s resources on more laws to give more lawyers and cops more jobs, is to address the root sources of child neglect and abuse: joblessness; poverty; physical and mental illness, and substance use.  I add substance use even though the likelihood that kids or parents are on powerful drugs goes up rapidly if the state intervenes.  I also note that one in five Americans is on a psych med of some kind.  Drug laws create criminals.  The drug most often associated with criminal activity and child neglect and abuse is alcohol.  Biden said nothing of alcohol at all.

Let’s also stop to realize that witlessness is a common cause of child neglect and abuse, and there is nothing we can do about the gaussian curve of distribution which predicts a lot of stupid moms are going to have kids.  .

 Where does Biden and others who profit from find their support?  Among those who can’t think critically.  People who vote with their hearts; show them a cute little kid and tell them a sad story and they’ll support imposing any kind of insult of good parents, just incase it keeps another little kid from dying.  That’s short sighted, unrealistic and counter logical.

Educate parents when possible; buy ads on the bus or run commercials on TV; create a society that values kids and families, but don’t create more unnecessary laws for an issue that is really a matter of moderation.  Don’t beat or hurt your kid, don’t spank them when you are angry, don’t spank them when something else will work better, but parents should still have spanking as an option.

This is another whack at our liberty and our view of ourselves as sovereigns of our own homes.  Our children belong to the government to be soldiers and workers some day, and we might pay for them and take care of them, but Nanny knows what’s best.  It’s an insult for a free people.

Really worried about children?  Consider these statistics on real world kids from the Lancet     :

Of the estimated 8·795 million deaths in children younger than 5 years worldwide in 2008, infectious diseases caused 68% (5·970 million), with the largest percentages due to pneumonia (18%, 1·575 million, uncertainty range [UR] 1·046 million—1·874 million), diarrhoea (15%, 1·336 million, 0·822 million—2·004 million), and malaria (8%, 0·732 million, 0·601 million—0·851 million). 41% (3·575 million) of deaths occurred in neonates, and the most important single causes were preterm birth complications (12%, 1·033 million, UR 0·717 million—1·216 million), birth asphyxia (9%, 0·814 million, 0·563 million—0·997 million), sepsis (6%, 0·521 million, 0·356 million—0·735 million), and pneumonia (4%, 0·386 million, 0·264 million—0·545 million). 49% (4·294 million) of child deaths occurred in five countries: India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, and China.


The President I would vote for

9/19/12  A Fringe Analtainment Special

Regardless the smoke and trumpets, Obama is going to be president again.  The Republicans are going to be in power next time around, if the country is still on its feet.  Don’t be upset, though, because, let’s face it, the two old parties are like sports teams; rivals in public, but pals in the executive lounge.  I predict that no matter who gets elected, them as have will get, them as not will lose.  The empire will still kill people in foreign lands, only now with drones and contract soldiers, instead of the nation’s surplus young men, who are instead unemployed or in prison.  Further I promise that my fellow voters will continue to ignore the big, complicated truth of America in favor of niggling over gun ownership, abortion rights and other issues of personal life that are really nobody’s business.  In short, no matter how you vote this November, nothing is going to change, except to get worse in lumps and jumps.

The person I would elect for president would be a freaking nutcase.  That’s what it would take to extricate our sorry nation from the quagmire of greed and bad habits.  He or she would also have to do what George W. wanted to do but his handlers wouldn’t allow: declare full on marshal law.

First, the President would pull the plug on the Federal Reserve.  Jefferson was against a central bank, and what we have is even worse than that, because it’s an exclusive club of bankers, and hardly under the control of government at all.  It is unashamedly made up to watch the wellbeing of bankers, on the belief that if wealthy generate wealth while the poor mostly just make babies.  My president would see that babies are more important than bankers and that people will find a way to trade as they have through all history.  We’re stuck with the Fed because early in the century banks went broke.  Banks went broke then, like they do now, because they dabble in accounting black magic.  Banks take your money, lend it out and collect the interest, hopefully giving you something back too; you remember “It’s a Wonderful Life” when Jimmy Stewart explained banking: we don’t have your money, it’s in Bill’s house” and so on.  Only this isn’t Jimmy Stewart we’re talking about, it’s deeply entrenched billionaires who have staff to tell them how to parse a dollar nine ways and reap ten bucks from it.  The Treasury prints money and sells it to the Fed for much less than pennies on the dollar, essentially charging only printing costs.

The Federal Reserve was intended to help stabilize the economy and so “create jobs”.  It isn’t clear that’s actually happened and in the mean time, the Fed threatens to send us in to free for all inflation by “creating” two trillion dollars and lending it to banks who invest in other things and don’t actually make the kinds of loans that would help us.  It’s clear we need something; it isn’t at all clear we need the Fed.

Next, my ideal maniac president would pull the army out of Afghanistan and send them to occupy congress.  El Presidente would cause congress to pass laws which constrain a corporation to doing business only in the state it was chartered in.  It would constrain interstate commerce so that states could actually weigh the benefits the corporation brings to the community.

At that point all the power to Wall Street would be cut.  All sales would hang for 3 days before the purchase went through.  That delay alone would help stem the insanity which plagues the stock market.

The President would then put a tax on all “persons” making more than $150,000 per family member per year to pay for complete medical and dental care for all residents.

The President will issue a decree prohibiting GMO human and animal feed, and providing tax breaks to companies that use productive heritage strains.  She or he would push to educate consumers to spend more on food and less on fossil fuels by supporting small local producers.

He or she would then create the “transportation contract” which would create funds for six models of motor vehicle from sub compact to tractor trailer, all capable of running on a variety of renewable fuels, all safe, completely recyclable, and available to purchasers at a hair over production costs.

Some might say this loco president would plunge the nation in to poverty, and I agree but it will be a poverty we can afford, as compared to the poverty we have now which is killing us.

There’s my candidate, and we won’t see such a candidate soon.

The Board Moves Against Doing Nothing
9/12/12  The Sierra County Board of Supervisors approved an Aquatic Invasive Species ordinance this Tuesday, September 04, 2012.  It creates, and attempts not to create, a program of boat inspection in the county which is mandatory though they hope not necessarily mandatory, and requires inspections of boats and so inspectors, though the county is not required to require the inspection, necessarily.
In short, it’s the kind of ordinance you would expect from people who have no staff and no funding but still feel compelled to act to prevent a disaster which any rational person could see coming.
To be sure, you’d have to be howling mad not to see that the county is inevitably going to suffer from AIS, and there is a great likelihood that some of our lakes will one day be impeded with mollusks including Zebra and Quagga mussels and the New Zealand mud snail.  The Prospect has long followed the AIS story, including the effort by watershed groups on the Truckee River, including the town of Truckee, Tahoe Resource Conservation District, Truckee River Watershed Council, and Sierra County to derive a watershed wide system of AIS prevention.  See stories on AIS in the Prospect HERE .
Originally, the plan had called for counties and Truckee to pass an ordinance among them, giving some kind of blanket authority for an uber-fish cop to patrol the waters of the Truckee River Watershed.  It had called for fees and tickets and complicated sealing of boats and so on.
The Board on Tuesday sent the ordinance to the books that was quite different from the original conceptions.  First of all, this ordinance covers not only the Truckee River watershed but all waters in Sierra County.  A tall order, except that County Council Jim Curtis crafted a special spell into the ordinance to protect the county from actually having to enforce it.
Magic Spell: Curtis hopes freaky groups don’t sue the county if it can’t afford to provide the inspections boasted of in the ordinance.
Second of all, it doesn’t rely on multi-county rock snot cops, and focuses on Sierra County, and gives the county the authority to act to mandate boat inspection in any waters, not just the Truckee River watershed, even though it has no way to do that.
In discussion at the two pertinent board meetings, several strong points were made which tempered the final document.  Bill Nunes asked Teresa Crimmins, who was instrumental in crafting the multi-county effort, why motorized boats were being singularly targeted.  Crimmins provided a candid answer: first because a motorboat and trailer have so many more interior spaces to capture and protect mollusks and their offspring, but also because they are easier to “seal”.  The boat can be inspected, when it comes out of the water it gets a wire “seal” to the trailer. Everyone hopes people don’t get their own seals or learn to heat the wire and remove it or whatever, so they can consider the boat “still inspected” when it next enters a protected lake or river.  It’s tough to do that with a kayak or canoe.  Unspoken was the bias against motorboats which many muirish people have.
Comments from Supervisor Adams lead to a dismantling of the complicated system of punishment in the original plan, and in the final version, it is a garden variety infraction to disobey the kings of Sierra County. In discussion of the ordinance, Supervisor Schleffstein was clear, he didn’t want a complex system of “snail cops” in the county waters.  It wasn’t the Board’s intention to create a bunch of new cops.  Yet, it did.  The ordinance itself speaks to “the County or its agents”.
In discussion, the various supervisors spoke of “volunteers” actually doing the work, we guess as “agents of the county”.
Will the board’s actions create new bureaucracy?    It can’t help but do that.  There are a host of do-well-by-doing-good grant writers out there, and the state, whose responsibility the mess actually is, isn’t going to do anything much, leaving a vacuum.  There is a state plan, of course, but such a plan becomes a thing of its own, and sometimes becomes incapable of actually doing anything.
Instead, the state is going to hope there is going to be grant money to get local non-profits to do the work more or less on the cheap, since many have no retirement or health care costs.  The grant funds will nourish well-meaning folks who are reliant on grant dollars to keep body and soul together.  The flush of water money, as California prepares to finally seize every drop and ship it south, has given rise to new hopes among local non-profits.  A great example is the tail of watershed money wagging the dog of hazard fuel removal over at SC Fire Safe and Watershed Council. So, yes, there will be more bureaucrats, and cops will be called.
And, in a nation of cops, the County created slots for new ones.  Schlefstein and the others might have “hoped” volunteers would do the work, and “hoped” there wouldn’t be a snail cop, but the document they gave birth to now as a life of its own, and it’s got its own agents and infractions, and fees.
The fees haven’t been set yet; can’t wait to see what they are.  Fees power the effort, a philosophy known as “making the law-breaker pay for enforcement.”  A very capitalist idea and a wonderful way to make mercenaries out of local cops.  We may see local “infraction” fees which rival the unreasonable and draconian fees of the Department of Fish and Game regs.
Speaking of the DFG, where are they in the drama?  Nowhere.  In truth, it is possible that, without specific permission from DFG, this Sierra County Ordinance violates state law.  It is attempting to control animal species, and a “regulated” species, to boot.  Why doesn’t the DFG do its job?  Maybe some fish cops could stay off TV long enough to look at boats.
Indeed, the board took the step because, as Lee Adams pointed out so clearly, no one else is doing anything. Adams enumerated lake and watershed owners and authorities in the county: The U.S. Forest Service, the USGS, certainly the Department of Fish and Game should be taking responsibility for the waters under their jurisdiction.  On record, these overpaid state and federal bureaucrats are against AIS, but they don’t have the money to create and manage a plan, so they’re handing it off to the 3200 citizens of Sierra County to manage.
It also took this step because of pressure.  Tim Beals, Director of Building and Planning, encouraged the board in the strongest possible terms to enact an AIS ordinance.  The ordinance first put forward from the Tahoe RCD group had a lot of Sierra County’s best staff involved, including Andrew Winberry, from the Planning and Building department.  Beals is infected with the idea that something has to be done locally.  Local business owners, particularly those who own businesses right on lakes or rivers, also want something done, fearing bivalves and weed will sink their investments.  Fish lovers of every stripe, from “throw a Lahonton Cutthroat on the barby” to “fish are pure souls who must be protected” want something done by someone.  And, of course, those who stand to benefit from grant dollars really, really want something done.  No one else will do anything.  Since the state and feds feel overwhelmed by the project, then Sierra County volunteers will just have to step forward and piss off boat owners with a butt sniffing inspection and a healthy fee and get the job done.  Boat… “boat sniffing inspection”.
Will it work?  Hell no!  Sierra County lakes are like ten pretty daughters and the fleet is in town.  Somebody is going to catch something sooner or later.  An “AIS” ordinance isn’t a condom.
Worst of all, there is no better plan.  A real plan would require a traffic study of each lake, and an individualized plan.  Some lakes would have to be quarantined.  It isn’t a pretty picture, but it beats a bunch of people, on again, off again, patrolling the lakes, or not as the case might be.
Indeed, after the waived first reading the supervisors read a request for their support for a bill which would impose a fee on boat registrations.  A close reading of the bill suggested that it would give money to some entities, but not counties.  The supes were deeply upset.  Without the mother’s milk of grant funding, the county might really have to use volunteers.  That would be awful!
Shall we fault the Sierra County Board of supervisors for stepping in where state bureaucrats fear to tread?  Shall we fault them for fearing to do nothing in the face of an impending disaster?  Shall we curse them for listening to the tourist business owners and the fish folk?  Nah.
But I can hardly wait to see what kind of monkey hump this voluntary/mandatory no cop/county cop plan works itself up to in the next few years.  Besides, as I’ve said publically before, if the board is going to usurp state and federal powers, they should do something actually beneficial and likely to succeed, and legalize cannabis in the county. But, I guess there aren’t a lot of business owners and non-profits to pressure the board to do that.  Too bad.
Good Luck!

9/12/12 The Fringe tells me he is writing something for this week and I believe him and as soon as I get it I will post it, so check back later to see if he does what he says he will do. I’m sure he will.  HE DID and there it was….





A Nation of Pissants
A Fringe Perspective

A Nation of Weak Bladders

There are rumors that the witch-hunt for those who speak freely continues in Downieville.  Someone said something that offended someone else.  Now, that someone is complaining, of course.  I am offended by the complaining.  The U.S. has become a nation of pissants.
Words in the air
“You work like old people fuck, slow and careful.”  Legendary Sierra Valley wit Bing Dotta.
Speech is air being pushed across bands of tissue, with the resulting sound being sculpted by the throat, lips, tongue and nose.  Speech is air.  In and of themselves, words are not dangerous. A word is not a bullet.  We wouldn’t blame a shooting victim for how he took the slug. Words, however, are completely relative, and the speaker should not be held accountable for how the listener perceives.
We are, though.  Our speech is increasingly constrained due to the sensitivities of the hearer.  Such sensitivities are deeply cultural.  There are many constraints on speech which might impact the average jabberjaw.  “Fighting words” were found by the Supreme Court in the 40’s to be unprotected, but, like the bullet, they must be aimed at the person, in their hearing, and they must be calculated to incite violence.  So for example “yo mama” could be illegal speech.  Free speech does not protect public employees while executing their duties. One can’t slander others or utter things which will cause them extreme emotional dismay, but these are mushy prohibitions and hinge on a judge to decide if speech is protected or not.  Speech which might somehow “harm” children, whatever that means in an age of undisciplined, precocious  In short there should be rational limitations to what one can say even if words are simply sound.
But as philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said: the meaning of a word is its meaning in use.  The speech, alone, does not determine whether something is offensive; the hearer is required to interpret the words.  The hearer is always free to not listen; listening is a voluntary act.  Still, speech is dramatically curtailed today because of what some nearby pissant might hear.
The 1970s were a busy time in U.S. history.  The end of the Vietnam War freed young men and women to take on new social issues.  It was no longer permitted for White people to make remarks about Black people, though of course Blacks could still call each other “nigger”. Feminism, literally the cult of the female, rose to power and women a few of them anyway, suddenly objected to being objectified.  The “Miller test” for obscenity was derived in 1973. During the 70s there was a sea change, and the poster child for that change was Earl Butz.

Earl Butz: not for pissants

“He no playa da game, He no maka da rules”.  Earl Butz to the Vatican regarding the Pope’s stand on birth control, 1974.
Earl Butz was Secretary of Agriculture from 1971 to 1976.  Butz was a good old boy, and like good old boys today, he had a colorful way of speaking.  Butz made several remarks in private conversation which got him in trouble in the increasingly sensitive U.S.
His best known remark, and the one that signaled the end of private speech as protected speech is this: “I’ll tell you what the coloreds want. It’s three things: first, a tight pussy; second, loose shoes; and third, a warm place to shit.” The remark was found to be offensive on several levels by many people, but it’s the kind of good old boy speech one still finds today where people feel comfortable to talk.  We’ll note that Butz used the term “coloreds” which was losing popularity to “colored people” and finally “people of color.”  The term “Black” was seen as somewhat aggressive by modest honky folk, as it was associated with the scary black fist.  Butz wasn’t arrested for indecent speech but he was forced to resign.
Earl’s remarks were offensive, we can easily see that, but he was making them in private conversation, not as a representative of the Ford administration.  Many a good man and woman have been taken down by a pissant with a grudge and the public sympathy.
The Problem of Culture
“If it’s got tits or tires, it’s trouble”.  Wise saying.
The problem with using “community standards” as the “weak bladder test” on public and private speech is that it is inherently classist.  The ideas of “clean speech and proper deportment” spring from the upper class European prohibitions, and from religious prohibitions against blasphemy and other sports of the tongue.  However, many of us are neither classist nor religious, and for us, a nice twist of the tongue is always welcome, and potty talk is preferred.  That’s where Miller’s obscenity test (which was not intended to curtail private, informal speech among friends anyway) gets wobbly.
The Miller Test: Would the average person, applying contemporary community standards would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
Ugliness is in the ear of the beholder
“Anyone who bleeds for five days and doesn’t die deserves some flowers now and then.”  Reginald Perrin, BBC, on respecting women.
Your Fringe Editor has, as a young man, worked with rough men, for whom sexual and insulting speech is common lexicon.  I have known men and women of wondrously colorful speech; indeed one of my favorite authors, Bill Shakespeare, had a brilliant potty mouth and implied every sort of profanity particularly in his comedies.  The best of my comrades, men and women, will tolerate nearly any vulgarity provided its presentation is well done and it’s funny enough.  Ribald humor is the sign of a well-balanced person, I’ve always thought.

Bill Shakespeare: “Pistol’s cock is up, and flashing fire will follow”. Har har har!

Indeed, there is good evidence to suggest that profanity and even vulgarity have been with us as long as language has.  Vulgar graffiti was already old by the time of Rome.
A Pissant Way of Being
“Did you ever take it into your head to make money?”  A common rude and friendly comment indicating that one’s chum might gratify another man orally for pay.
We all hear things we don’t like come out of other people’s mouths.  God knows I get tired of hearing people complain about my personal habits.  I get tired of listening to politicians bullshit me.  I get sick of hate speech from religious figures.  Still, in a nation that values free expression, there are going to be some ugly moments, and we need to learn to live and let live.
Instead, we reward whiners and complainers and try to curb the most gifted of our bullshit artists by hounding them in court and on the street.  Give me a filthy joke any day over the sniveling of people who don’t know how to simply listen to something else.
I don’t see much change coming; the world is thick with pissants but few are those to stand up for the vulgar and free.  Likely pissantry will continue in Downieville and Sierra County, and anywhere there’s a place to whine in public.  Watch what you say in front of anyone, even friends can use your words against you.  In this world, the most offended win.  Complaining about unrestrained speech  is shrill and pointless.  There really should be a law against that kind of speech.
“I’d rather have my balls in a bulldog’s mouth.”  A colorful way to decline something.



8/29/12 The Fringe appears to be on vacation, or working really hard, or very busy. I am sure there is a good reason he did not write anything this week. It is unlikely that he had nothing to say.


The Harm that Good can Do

Philosophizing from the Phringe

I was talking with an old boy that owns some land, and he mentioned a concern he had.  Ten years or so before spring run-off had plugged one end of a low swale.  In the intervening decade the swale had gathered water and become a low marshy area.  A neighbor spotted some kind of grass and announced that the low meadow had become a wetland.  The landowner was torn as to what to do.  He hadn’t minded that part of the low pasture had stayed flooded longer, and was actually pleased at the increase in frog and birds.  But, he got federal money for operations elsewhere on the property, and was concerned that a federal representative would spot the grass and make a note and the wetlands would essentially become federal property.  He was thinking of waiting for winter storms and taking the old tractor up to move the jumble of dead wood and duff that plugged the low gully.  He was happy to benefit the watershed, but wasn’t willing to pay taxes and insurance and upkeep on property that he couldn’t use.  When the meadow was drier it had produced a couple of acres of late season grass.  He was also worried that down the road a few years he was going to be required to keep cows and calves away from surface water, and didn’t want to have to fence the area.  It was a head-scratcher, but he figured he’d probably try to drain the area.  He could move the dirt as part of normal farming operations as long as there wasn’t water on it.

It’s an example of the unintended consequences of doing good.  The law intends to protect the remaining acres of wetlands; wetlands across the nation have been negatively impacted.  In addition to providing habitat for all kinds of critters large and microscopic, wetlands, even those of only a few acres, provide water storage and filtration.  The landowner was completely on board with the benefits of having the area develop into a small wetlands.  Our discussion on the matter included the future of the low area, which is certain to fill in as grasses filter out organic matter and eroded rock to create soil.  Eventually the low spot would become meadow again.

But the upshot of the law is to threaten the property rights and benefits of ownership of the landowner.  In the end, he was placed in the position of doing something in a gray area to prevent federal intrusion on his land.

Is there a realistic likelihood the feds would recognize the area as a wetland?  Maybe the neighbor was talking out his tailpipe, they often are.  Maybe the “wetland” grass was just grass and the landowner was over-reacting.  The problem is, who knows what crazy stuff the feds will do.  Average landowners have indeed been hamstrung by federal designation.

Besides, even if the area didn’t qualify as wetlands, the possibility that it might was enough to cause the landowner concern.

More and more people in California and the state live in cities, and own no land.  To them, all open land is parkland, put there for their benefit.  In their view landowners somehow have a responsibility to the larger society, one over and above the taxes they pay, and work they put in to their land, and the benefit they already provide of good stewardship.  The public wants a say in private land.  It’s rare the public opinion considers the possibility of over-all negative impacts.

I considered advice for the landowner.  There was a time I might have encouraged him to contact his local extension office, or even a local watershed council, to get some advice before making a decision, but I knew that was a bad idea.  The extension folks are duty bound to make certain recommendations, and while they are certainly knowledgeable, they probably couldn’t say, “get some stick and blow that damn dam before an endangered frog moves in there.”  The local watershed council is likely even more beholding to state and federal agencies, which look at the subject just one way, and it’s hard to fire a vested federal worker, but it’s easy to simply withhold precious grant dollars.  No doubt all these busy bureaucrats want to help the landowners, but none are going to stray too far from the zeitgeist

In the end, I told him “good luck with that”.  There’s a change in the wind, and the rancher, farmer or timber manager that used to get respect for his or her effort doesn’t any more.  Landowners are looked on as exploiters and despoilers, people who owe something to those who own no more land than it takes to put a house on.

The individual isn’t valued for what she knows of her land; only the government knows what’s best.





One Person’s Fear
A Consideration of Gun Violence
From the Fringe
The U.S. is a nation obsessed with violence.  We spend more of our income on war than anyone; we are the policeman and bully of the world.  Not only are we warlike as a nation, we are a violent people.  We might not enjoy attending a Roman circus to watch people being torn apart by lions, but we’re happy to watch murder and violence in our nightly entertainment, even if it is “simulated” death and mayhem.  We glorify war in our tradition, enjoy violent contest in our sports, and maim and dismember in our marvelous video games.  Our cops dress like combat troops; we’re an occupied nation.  Even so, regardless our culture of violence, the U.S. enjoys a relatively low homicide rate.  Indeed, we don’t even make the top 20 deadliest nations, and in fact we don’t even make the top 100 deadliest nations.
Not surprisingly in a nation of 340 million people, some guys went nuts and shot a bunch of people.  It happened twice in Aurora; the second when a student entered a movie theater and killed 12 and injured 58.  The U.S. isn’t the only place this happens, recently in Norway a guy blew a fuse and held an island captive for a while, setting off a bomb ashore while he held the people on the island, hunting them down.  Altogether, bomb and shooting killed 77 people and wounded hundreds more.  That far exceeds the nutcase death rate in the U.S., but no doubt someone here will top that number eventually. Big numbers rule the news, and public attention rules talking heads.
It’s also an opportunity for those who want to nullify our 2nd Amendment rights.  The momentary flash of public attention is a chance to drag out the scary language, to leave people with the idea that guns in private hands must result in death, and that America is a deadly place because of them.  Children are in danger and decent middle class liberals, too (perhaps a special kind of child).  Very often the appeals are emotional.
Two months before the Aurora theater massacre, also in Aurora, the mother of a pastor was killed when a disagreement from the road found itself played out in a church.  A gunman fired, killing the woman, who was an innocent by-stander, but before he could kill anyone else, he was shot by someone in the church carrying a gun. That barely made the news, and it has hardly entered the public squabble about gun control.
But, then, the debate over gun control is deadly ground for a fact.  Numbers are concocted and distorted by both sides of the debate.  Spurious causation is assigned to correlation and sometimes opposing sides use the same numbers to prove their points.  One the one hand, yes, more firearms related murders are committed in places with the most firearms, but on the other hand, no, outlawing firearms doesn’t really result in fewer murders or less crime.  You are more likely to be shot if you own a gun, but many people who are shot are criminals and know each other very well; outlawing guns wouldn’t impact these murders.  Opposing facts are easy to find, but in truth, real facts regarding the impact of private gun ownership on the U.S. are hard to come by.
The facts do tell us that relatively few of us are going to die from violence committed with a firearm.  Line up 250 corpses, and only one will be a homicide, most others will die of bad genes, tobacco, lousy food and sloth. Tobacco and fatty food and sloth totaled about 850,000 deaths between them.  Deaths involving firearms, including suicide, people cops shot, accidents, self-defense and murder totaled about 29,000.  Of every homicide (non-vehicular), two involved a firearm and one will be some other, perhaps more creative means, most often a knife or machete or a blunt instrument including the fist and the boot.   Clearly the Brady bunch needs to switch from being against guns to being against French fries, but they won’t.
The facts also tell us that a lot of people actually do use their guns to save their lives, even though they never thought they’d have to.  They tell us that young Black men are most likely to be killed with firearms, and decent White liberals almost never.  They also tell us that criminals fear a civilian with a gun more than they fear a cop, and that nearly half of career criminals have been fired at, hit, scared off or apprehended by a person with a firearm.
And, even though mass killings like Aurora and the Sikh Temple killings often prompt a frantic flurry from anti-firearm activists, it’s pretty clear that there are better ways to kill lots and lots of people without using a gun; indeed as the U.S. military has shown, guns are a labor intensive, inefficient way to kill and maim lots of people. We won’t go in to the kind of devices one can make using household items and hardware, but the information is out there and freely available: google “blow myself up”.  Suffice to say that eliminating guns altogether will not prevent mass human deaths.  Neither will it prevent one person from picking up the jawbone of an ass to strike another.
The “debate” over control of private gun ownership and use is a cultural debate, and it speaks to two different world views.  In one world view, the police are always good, and people with the ability to harm others are bad. This world view does not see the individual protecting themselves; we call cops, or we try to reason with the person.  In the extreme, this perspective requires one to die, and to watch one’s children die, rather than taking another human life.
A different view sees self-defense as possible and even desirable.  That perspective does not require the holder to sacrifice her or himself to a philosophy or an attacker. This view does not assume that policemen are always good, or that nations only act morally and in the best interest of their people.   It believes that little old ladies should have a way to protect themselves from young thugs.  Indeed, this perspective is historical, and shows how, in the long march of history, the ability to arm one’s self to fend off this or that government was critical. Despots always disarm the population; a defenseless population is placid in the way rabbits are placid.
Personally, your Fringe Editor maintains the same stand on gun control that I always have: I should be able to have guns, but no one else should.  If the anti-firearm movement could actually accomplish such a thing, I’d jump on their side in an instant.  Since they can’t, and since I want to be able to arm myself against any threat, and most of all, to enjoy shooting, my favorite sport, I’ll support private ownership of firearms.
In the meantime, if you own a gun, or think you might one day want to own a gun, you should we aware of the almost ceaseless erosion of the 2nd Amendment rights, particularly in California.  Find out more HERE 
This certainly is a very dangerous America, with the government prying into our lives at a level that would have been unconceivable a generation ago, and local cops dressed up like troops at war and funded by Fatherland Security.  Cops and criminals don’t really need help from anti-firearms groups, but likely they still appreciate it.
Good Luck!


8/8/12  Our Like it or Not Life: Part Five of a Four Part Series on Agenda 21

By the Fringe

Agenda 21 and Social Meaning

A “global” look at the global agenda for sustainable development reveals a complex social manifestation of a remarkably simple document.  The document was compiled by U.N. bureaucrats of various stripes including economists, climatologists, sociologists, biologists, political scientists, advocates; all career bureaucrats.  In turn, it has been interpreted by activists, lobbyists, industry attorneys, media talking heads, corporate lackeys and conspiracy buffs.  The document has meant something different to everyone, so it’s hard to say what it means to everyone, except to say that it makes a prophesy about the future of the planet, at least so far as the infection of humans goes.
It is also an acknowledgement of a couple of things; Earth is finite and humans impact the planet in unplanned and damaging ways; people owe each other a certain level of political and material fairness; wealth and power accrue unevenly across the globe and across social classes.  It also makes the presumption that such things can be mitigated and controlled.  In that way, Agenda 21 is completely a document of the Enlightenment, suffused in the belief that science and reason can solve all problems.

Agenda 21 as a Historical Point

For most environmental and social activists, the last 20 years have provided concrete proof of the need for the document.  There are fewer fish and millions of tons more plastic in the seas and they exhibit even more evidence of acidification due to increased levels of atmospheric CO2.  Even more land has been salted by over fertilization; deserts have grown.  Deforestation has been a strategy of agriculture for over 5,000 years, but as the population has increased exponentially the amount of forest destroyed irreparably for agriculture and timber harvest have reduced many of the planet’s forests to 10% of previous forest area.  Global climate change has become undeniable even to the most ardent diehards, and poverty and misery among the world’s poorest people hasn’t improved.  In the same 20 years, the population has increased by nearly 2,000,000,000 people.
Human population increase is a problem because as nations develop more people tend to live and to live longer.  These imply a larger population growth rate.  Though we have a number of great methods of birth control, some strict Muslims, and some strict Christians like that funny old Pope, insist that people continue to reproduce.  In many countries, men won’t use a condom and consider them to be less than manly.
Even so, even if voluntary contraception is discouraged, will the population really reach 9 billion by 2050?  Is there a limit to human reproduction?  As it happens, there are many.
Most developed nations already have their birthrates under control; indeed, some would be losing population if not for immigration.  In developing nations, it seems two factors encourage smaller families: first, if most children live to maturity, mothers tend to have fewer children over all; the second is money.  In rural farm families and in some cultures even in cities parents are supported in their old age by children.  The more children you have the more likely you are to live comfortably, should you live to old age.  More personal wealth, and in particular more wealth among women, tends to be correlated with lower birth rates partially because many children are not needed to insure grandchildren or old age support.  War is effective at killing reproductive age men, but it doesn’t actually reduce population for very long, as only a few men are really necessary.  Maybe, in the long run, the key to population control is responsible and intelligent use of birth control.  Key sections of Agenda 21, and the press for social change from those who seek a sustainable quality of life for all Earth’s children, will empower women to use birth control, which empowerments include allowing women to own property and wealth.
How we die: rich nations and poor

How We Die

Legacy of Agenda 21

Agenda 21 might seem moot, but, the last 20 years haven’t been completely fallow.  There has been an increasing awareness of ideas like “carbon footprint”.  More and more people are aware of the problem of plastic in the seas and are insisting on paper or cloth shopping bags and biodegradable corn and soy plastics.  The Military is experimenting with running biofuels instead of jet fuel which produces terribly carcinogenic pollution. Some corporations are boasting zero landfill production and others are completely energy self-reliant. The International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, now called ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability,
( is an international organization composed of local governments.  It’s seen by climate change deniers and others who cling to the petroleum age as the spawn of Soros, the mutant child of Agenda 21, but most people recognize it as a legitimate effort on the part of local governments worldwide to get corporations and national governments to contribute to the cost of sustainable communities.
Above all, we have the compact fluorescent light bulb, soon to give way to all Light Emitting Diode (LED) lighting, which produces very little heat and a great deal of light.  We have television sets which use only a few dollars of energy a year.
Those technological advances and many others will continue to make our energy use more efficient, and eventually solar, wind and biofuels will replace oil as renewable, and eventually an energy hungry world will pursue “free” electricity from nuclear plants.  Technology is neutral, it can help or it can harm, it simply depends on what market forces and those in control of capital determine.
Still, the burden of human inhabitation is getting worse, edging us toward the reality of global shortages of food, clean water, and energy.  A recent power outage in India left 600 million people- almost 10% of the world’s population- without electricity.  The cause: too many consumer products.   European nations including the U.S., set a standard of living, and produce the consumer goods for it, that the rest of the world envies.

How the Change will Come

It is simply impossible to overestimate the changes the struggle over the future will produce.  The harsh realities of resource and energy shortages curve the market one way; the influence of capitalists seeking to commodify what they have will curve it another; in between, the common person in Mumbai or Manila or Loyalton will struggle to match income to need.
We see the indications already.  Buy a power tool or a kitchen appliance and likely you’ll notice significant similarities between the different brands, perhaps more features on the high end brand, but essentially the same product.  All made in the same factory in China; all the result of painstaking engineering and market research. Increasingly, the products we purchase have components from around the globe, are assembled in places we’ve never heard of.  Oil is pumped from the ground, turned to plastic beads which are shipped to China to be molded into a million things useful to Americans, and oil is used to transport the products to the U.S., and when the plastic gewgaws are thrown away, increasingly they are being sent back to China for further added value.  In many instances, the consumer products we buy are out of the reach of the people who made them for us, but increasingly Americans and Europeans are being scaled down.  Increasingly, the things we buy are flashy but temporary; we don’t fix, we buy new, partially because the things we buy can’t be fixed, or even opened.  Look at the instructions that came with the product; some have six languages, and others have no languages at all, just pictures any intelligent human can understand.  More and more products are “greened” and things like toilet fixtures meet a standard accepted almost internationally for water use and recyclability.
We see the change coming in cultural ways, too.    Despite laws that prohibit talking bad about beef, there is an increasing awareness of the cost of beef, including environmental damage, threats to the efficiency of antibiotics, and outrageous water usage.  At one time, vegetarians were religious fanatics or people with weak constitutions; now there is an abundance of vegetarian products and even vegetarian restaurants.
The change tomorrow will look like the change today.

Driving force of tomorrow

If the ceaseless accumulation of capital has powered global change, it is the bureaucratic form that has structured it.  The bureaucratic form grew with trade; it created writing, mathematics, law.  There is no feature of our lives that haven’t been the meat of bureaucrats for thousands of years.  They bring order, assign value, assure quality.  When the East India Company hired soldiers and went to war it was not on the say-so of generals, but of bureaucrats and accountants.  Likewise, the war in Iraq.
The bureaucratic context includes the individual doing things they may not completely agree with, or even understand.  It is a hive-like intelligence that transcends the intellect of the individual, or feelings of the individual.  At the same time, it is only the individuals within it, their willingness to see things a certain way, their desire to protect their jobs, their agencies, their funding, which power the eyes and arms of the collective.  They attend meetings and trainings the primary purpose of which is to create a culture, a way of looking at things and a way of acting behind the desk or counter.  Bureaucrats live to create and interpret laws, statutes, codes, rules and policies, and there is literally nothing from our first screaming breath to our last fetid sigh that doesn’t come under their purview.
It is the bean counter that got us here, and it will be the bean counter who drives our future.  It isn’t certain exactly what kind of world Agenda 21 presages, but it is already very clear it will be an army of people acting within the rigid context of the bureaucracy which will define it.  Corporate bureaucrats; government bureaucrats; activist bureaucrats; everybody, as the song says, but thieves and prostitutes.
Agenda 21 Implementation.  Anything for a bureaucrat to do in there?

Fighting the Future

Who would fight the future?  If you believe that God gave Earth to mankind, and that after we’ve used it up He’s going to come and collect the good and leave the meek with what’s left, it’s hard to think sustainably.  After all, God’s providing, so the Earth can’t run out of resources.   If you think God loves you most and you deserve 50 times the oil someone in Nigeria gets every day, you might feel justified in hanging onto your own.   Otherwise, there’s little point in pretending tomorrow isn’t going to be different from yesterday.
At the same time, rural people have no choice but to fight.  The key is which battles to fight.  Some can’t be won; others will be worth winning by the time they’re over.  Only a handful of fights can be fought.  Property rights. Water rights.  Traditional land use rights.  The right to keep and bear arms.
Good luck with that!


8/1/12 Our Like It Or Not Life Part IV

Of the five sections of Agenda 21 the most difficult to absorb, and the most directly opposed to the concentration of wealth geographically and socially, is the fourth section, “Strengthening Major Groups”.

23. Preamble24. Global action for women towards sustainable and equitable development 25.Children and youth in sustainable development26. Recognizing and strengthening the role of indigenous people and their communities27. Strengthening the role of non-governmental organizations: partners for sustainable development28. Local authorities’ initiatives in support of Agenda 2129. Strengthening the role of workers and their trade unions30. Strengthening the role of business and industry31. Scientific and technological community32. Strengthening the role of farmers

Nine “major groups” are identified.  Some are recipients of the benefits of empowerment: women, children and youth, indigenous people, workers, and farmers.  Non-government organizations and local authorities are expected to benefit the first group.  “Business and industry” is particularly noteworthy.

In general, Agenda 21 isn’t seen as particularly “capitalist”.  It calls for more attention to the environment, less reliance on fossil fuels, increased compensation for the nations and peoples who provide our resources both material and in human labor.  It calls for increased voice for women, children and youth, currently the world’s poorest people.  It calls for more attention to the treatment of native people.  It recognizes small family agriculture and its link between the environment and the city. It calls for reduced consumption in the U.S. and Europe, and a more equitable worldwide standard of living.  In short, Agenda 21, if implemented as intended, would seek to reverse the exploitation of people and the environment of the last 600 years, from which capitalism and its followers have grown fat.

A farmer-centered approach is the key to the attainment of sustainability in both developed and developing countries and many of the programmed areas in Agenda 21 address this objective.

In the text, Agenda 21 says “Business and industry, including transnational corporations, play a crucial role in the social and economic development of a country…Business enterprises, large and small, formal and informal, provide major trading, employment and livelihood opportunities…  Business and industry, including transnational corporations, should recognize environmental management as among the highest corporate priorities and as a key determinant to sustainable development.” 

There is a clear recognition that the skills and networking abilities of business, “including transnational corporations” are necessary, and a realization that penetration of every market by multinational corporations is inevitable.  But, the focus is on sustainability, from the lowest levels of trade to the top.  This appreciation for small and medium business is clear:

“Entrepreneurship is one of the most important driving forces for innovations, increasing market efficiencies and responding to challenges and opportunities. Small and medium-sized entrepreneurs, in particular, play a very important role in the social and economic development of a country. Often, they are the major means for rural development, increasing off-farm employment and providing the transitional means for improving the livelihoods of women. Responsible entrepreneurship can play a major role in improving the efficiency of resource use, reducing risks and hazards, minimizing wastes and safeguarding environmental qualities.”

Agenda 21 recognizes that business will change if the environment for business changes.  Having laid the groundwork for fair trade instead of free trade and a value for products which are environmentally sustainable, Agenda 21 describes the kind of businesses which will profit, if relatively modestly: green, fair, sustainable.

It’s at this point we recall that, while the Tea Party considers Agenda 21 to be a blueprint for the end of the American Way of Life (and they’re obviously right) environmental and human rights activists fear that big business, in particular “transnational corporations” has already bought out the processes and means of Agenda 21.  That shouldn’t surprise us; even Agenda 21 itself recognizes the skill big corporations can hire to interpret public desires and then reinterpret them back to the public.  An example might be organic foods.

When organic food, mostly grown on small farms or coops, began to take a market share, big agribusiness went to work.  First, it attacked the term “organic” and found various ways to water the phrase down to allow for current practices to largely continue.  There have been attempts made to allow genetically modified plants and animals to be considered “organic”. Then, using an army of agricultural technologists, companies produce huge crops of monoculture organic hybrids.

The intention of organic food was that it was hand-raised food, and would provide a larger variety of cultivars, instead of relying on only a few strains.  It was intended to undo the damage caused to food by unsustainable agricultural practices, and instead, agribusiness learned to make organic food more cheaply.

Dole, for example, provides organic bananas and pineapples and strives for carbon neutrality.  But Dole setting up large farms to create organic products at a cheaper price negates or diminishes the ability of small independent farms to sell certified organic bananas.  It tends to discourage different varieties.  It’s a partial course correction, and it’s better than nothing.  If consumers are willing to pay a little more for organic bananas, then in the long run the price will come down.

Create a market niche, and corporations will come in, analyze the cost/benefit of everything from wooden coffee stirrers to customer reactions to packaging options and produce what consumers want at a lower price.  True, it will probably be more generic than locally produced alternatives, but it will also be more reliable.  It will also probably not be as cheap as possible; it is a science to determine what the market will bear.  For those who can’t afford what the market will bear, there are usually downscaled products, which are also priced at what that market niche will bear (go to the dollar store and get what you need for a buck).  There is much to be said for uniformity; some people eat at fast food places when they travel because, even though it often isn’t great, they know what it will be.  Agribusiness knows food.  Capitalists know how to read and shape market tastes.

 Agriculture in the world: women grow more than half the agricultural food grown in the world.  Photo Credit:, which brings us to the Tea Party mistrust of “sustainable development” and One World Government.  It’s pretty clear that an organization which has the whole world’s interest on its plate isn’t going to do everything the way the nationalists in each country want; clearly national interests differ.

Yet Tea Party advocates get a lot of their rhetoric and steam from the 1%; in general, the most conservative Americans are against green anything that isn’t money.  In general, the Tea Party has supported state and local “anti-Agenda 21” legislation.  TP supporters and other far right wing representatives tie Agenda 21 to Satan Himself, George Soros.  Soros is a Hungarian born multibillionaire who supports causes, which empower people.  Soros is against war, for example, the “war on drugs”.  Soros has identified the U.S. and policies of the U.S. government as a significant source of terrorism in the world.

In truth, there doesn’t seem to be much of an obvious connection between Agenda 21 and George Soros, except that Soros is liberal and supports things like the empowerment of women, and giving youth a voice in resource management. But that connection between Soros and Agenda 21 still works because, for many very conservative people, Soros and Agenda 21 both represent dramatic social change with a greater emphasis on global level agencies with oversight power.

George Soros

A different connection might be made which escapes some.  Soros is a billionaire, someone who makes money speculating on money.  If there were “One World Government” it would be in the club of billionaires, the World One Percent who know each other.  When the World Trade Towers were hit, the Bin Laden family was visiting the G.H.W. Bush family.  The extremely wealthy know each other, sometimes intimately.  Wealth is power, and while the very wealthy don’t always get their way with government, they do a disproportionate amount of time.  This is why Agenda 21 felt it important to name beneficiary groups, those people who don’t have massive wealth and entrenched networks to power.  In short, there is already one world government, the club of billionaires, who influence litigation and legislation from Sacramento to Mumbai.

There’s another reason to fear that Agenda 21 or its successor will one day supersede U.S. national law.  The U.N. is staffed with bureaucrats, and all bureaucrats can be counted on to persistently pursue their task.  Capitalism is the ceaseless accumulation of capital, and bureaucratism is the ceaseless accumulation of purview.  The new “international building code” which we all have to live under now is an example of bureaucrats making everything bigger.  There is no reason to believe that the good in Agenda21 won’t be turned to crap by bureaucrats at the U.N.

Agenda 21 is 20 years old, and though it is a mute document in many ways, in other ways it presaged a change in the way humans are going to live.  We are still a long way from achieving goals of sustainability, but it’s coming our way, if only because the U.S. can no longer afford to live like a nation of kings.  To that end, even if it is co-opted by corporations and toothless in its enforcement, Agenda 21 continues to be a map to the future.

Next Installment: Implementation of Agenda 21; how could this go wrong?


7/26/12 Our Like It Or Not Life Part III: Environment

Let me begin by assuring you that Earth will be fine.  It was fine when it had an atmosphere of burning ammonia and hot briny seas, and it will be fine no matter what.

On the other hand, we are all going to die horribly if we don’t change our ways.  Earth as an ever changing wad of ice and stone will be fine, but the extremely narrow range of environmental comfy cozy zone as we know it is probably going to change.  Earth has shaken off species that ruled for hundreds of millions of years with little more than a shudder, a subtle change in temperature, or oxygen saturation, or the amount of free water.

To understand the direness of our situation, it’s important to “calibrate” our view to the reality that all the things we think of as endless and boundless are actually quite fragile.

The atmosphere is not endless; it’s our view into space that makes it seem so.  The atmosphere is like a strip of gauze wrapping the Earth, yet is protects us from high energy particles, allows us to breath, creates weather and waves, transports tiny insects and microorganisms far and wide, and could power our homes.  We have loaded our atmosphere with carbon particles, making it heavier and more acid.  We’ve damaged the oxygen producing features such as rainforests and plankton flows.

The arable part of the landmass is, in most instances, only a few feet thick.  Arable land is less thick than the condensation of your breath on a mirror.  Fertile soil is tied to healthy air, clean water, and the food we eat.  Over grazing, over harvesting and bad land use practices cause loss of soil through wind and rain erosion, and over-use of pesticides and fertilizers cause saltation and degradation of soil.

The oceans, which seem so deep and consume so much of the planet, are actually very thin, about like the water on a wet basketball.  We have pumped sewage into the sea since the advent of cities on waterways; the amount of untreatable sewage entering the sea isn’t known, but it is likely in the billions of gallons a day.  Garbage enters the oceans in rivers, blown by wind, tossed from cruise ships or intentionally dumped.  The plastic from trash breaks up indefinitely, and there are huge columns of plastic in the sea.  It takes the place of food in many filter feeders, and causes death in animals who normally eat jellyfish.  Perhaps this is one reason jellyfish are swarming the seas.  In addition, increased carbon dioxide in the air has resulted in the ocean getting more acidic.  The shells of some sea critters are dissolved by the acidic water.  In many of the world’s most productive seas 90% of large fish are gone.

Over the last 2000 years we have turned temperate areas into deserts by over logging and over grazing, a phenomenon Plato remarked on.  In search of gold and timber and farmland we are depleting the land features which purify our water and oxygenate our air.

Coupled with degradation of soil and decreasing water, agricultural and rural areas have lost population to urban areas, and traditional cultures from the Amazon Basin to the Sierra Valley have lost traditional sustainable practices.

For a hundred and fifty years we simply buried toxic waste in the ground, spread carcinogenic chemicals on the landscape, dumped our sewage into rivers and bays and sealed nuclear waste into drums and dumped them into seas or buried them under dirt.  It’s worse in developing countries and even the old Soviet Union, where development and industry directly benefits the government, so there is very little regulation.

The intention of this section of Agenda 21 is to stop the environmental degradation which has been a hallmark of European colonialism and expansionism, and the Unites States is certainly part of that.  Exploiting natural resources at the rate of the First World for the last 150 years has left the seas depleted, the atmosphere damaged, the land salty.  The problem is a global one; shouldn’t a global effort be made?

9.         Protection of the atmosphere10.      Integrated approach to the planning and management of land resources11.     Combating deforestation12.      Managing fragile ecosystems: combating desertification and drought13.           Managing fragile ecosystems: sustainable mountain development14.      Promoting sustainable agriculture and rural development15.      Conservation of biological diversity16.             Environmentally sound management of biotechnology17.      Protection of the oceans, all kinds of seas, including enclosed and semi-enclosed seas, and coastal areas and the protection, rational use and development of their living resources18.             Protection of the quality and supply of freshwater resources: application of integrated approaches to the development, management and use of water resources19.             Environmentally sound management of toxic chemicals, including prevention of illegal international traffic in toxic and dangerous products20.      Environmentally Sound Management of Hazardous Wastes, Including Prevention of Illegal International Traffic in Hazardous Wastes21.      Environmentally sound management of solid wastes and sewage-related issues22.      Safe and environmentally sound management of radioactive wastesTwenty years ago Agenda 21 correctly identified key environmental problems; some progress has been made in each of these areas, but not enough to slow degradation.   



There are many areas of concern; the greatest currently is global climate change.

There is a great deal of information about global climate change and other large scale environmental degradation on the internet, and no point in simply quoting facts here.  Climate change deniers and believers all produce copious amounts of factoids.  At some point, the facts cease to impact us.


When they are assembled and weighed against each other, the facts tell us is this:  Unequivocally, global climate change is being caused by human activities including deforestation and unrestrained burning of fossil fuel.

There are many rational people who don’t believe that, but they are generally willing themselves not to believe it, a kind of “I’ll see it when I believe it” situation.

“Global climate change” is not “global warming.”  Not everywhere will enjoy warm weather, rather, we are looking at climate change, meaning the amount of energy in the weather will increase.  Further, “climate change” is not proven or disproven by a handful of unusually hot or unusually cold seasons.  Currently, most of the planet is hotter than average, but that, in and of itself, doesn’t prove that the climate is changing.  There are, however, other compelling, more long-term trends which do suggest we’re experiencing climate change.

Part of the reason people have trouble believing in global climate change is that they imagine it means bad weather, and they imagine the weather is pretty simple.  Instead of thinking of weather as something simple and linear, we should think of it as complex and ever-changing.  Indeed, it was experimentation with computer models for weather that gave us “complexity theory”, which says that even very small changes in existing conditions can make disproportionately large changes in the entire system, depending on where in the basin of stability the current configuration lies.  In addition, as a complex dynamic system, the weather influences itself.  Weather is more than the sun warming the air over the oceans.  It’s more like the patterns of color on the skin of a soap bubble.  They move around sometimes in a momentarily recognizable pattern, the suddenly slip into a new equilibrium.  Earth’s weather, warm and relatively calm during the last several hundred years, is in a momentary moderate period.  But clearly that is changing, and there is no way a thoughtful person can deny that taking carbon out of the ground and pumping it in to the atmosphere is going to change something.  The carbon doesn’t simply disappear, it mixes and changes and snowflakes grow from chunks of diesel soot, and rain drops contain radioactive particles of coal soot.  In a system as complicated and delicate as the skin of a bubble, we’re changing the composition and so the weight, transparency, acidity and reactivity of the primary constituents.  Yes, the climate might be changing because of other things, too, but can we really doubt that turning forests and meadows into asphalt isn’t going to heat things up?  We are like a mange growing on the planet, and everywhere we go we modify the environment both intentionally and most of all unintentionally.

Where people use energy: Earth at Night, thank you NASA.

In truth, “climate” is a definition humans give to describe the weather over time.  We tend to think the weather is something which is stable.  And, indeed, the weather has been more or less stable for periods of its history, though in some of those stable periods it wasn’t hospitable to life.  It has also abruptly changed.

Weather has driven human history.  If a period of cold occurs, people push south, giving us Huns and Mongols.  Weather brought people across the Bering Strait.  Some suggest changes in weather sent repeated waves of humans out of Africa to colonize the world.  Weather has always played an important part in human history, and not all of it has been nice.

The combination of changing weather, rampant biotechnology and mono crop agriculture, careless use of antibiotics, over fishing and polluting the sea, salting soil by over use of fertilizers, and all the excesses we’ve enjoyed for so long are putting us at significant risk.  But, we’re critters with a short vision, so we only know what we’re experiencing now.

In the mountains where most of us live, there is still space and clean water, and trees, maybe even too many trees.  It’s hard to believe, living in the Sierra, that the world is going to hell in a hurry, though even here it’s getting harder and harder to catch a fish you can eat and shoot a deer you don’t have to smuggle into the garage after dark.

But, if you want to get a sense of tomorrow, go to the large and growing cities of the world.  From our porch, the world seems endless and bountiful, but the reality lies in the demands of the cities.  There are many places in the world where all there is to see is hungry, eager, pollution producing humans.

1. Tokyo, Japan – 32,450,000

2. Seóul, South Korea – 20,550,000

3. Mexico City, Mexico – 20,450,000

4. New York City, USA – 19,750,000

5. Mumbai, India – 19,200,000

6. Jakarta, Indonesia – 18,900,000

7. Sáo Paulo, Brazil – 18,850,000

8. Delhi, India – 18,680,000

9. Õsaka/Kobe, Japan – 17,350,000

10. Shanghai, China – 16,650,000

11. Manila, Philippines – 16,300,000

12. Los Angeles, USA – 15,250,000

13. Calcutta, India – 15,100,000

14. Moscow, Russian Fed. – 15,000,000

15. Cairo, Egypt – 14,450,000

16. Lagos, Nigeria – 13,488,000

17. Buenos Aires, Argentina – 13,170,000

18. London, United Kingdom – 12,875,000

19. Beijing, China – 12,500,000

20. Karachi, Pakistan – 11,800,000

A million is a large number; it would take you nearly twelve days to count to 1,000,000, and it would take you nearly a year to count everyone in Tokyo, and that is a year of steady counting with no time off for food or sleep.  Cities are huge concentrations of humans, and of human waste.  It takes a correspondingly large amount of farmland for food, forest land for clean water and pulp and lumber, a great piece of the ocean and rainforest to clean the air, and oil wells to provide energy and plastic.  They also need a place to dispose of their poop and trash; often in the ocean.

Some pollution of cities is visible: filthy air, rats, garbage, sewage; but much of cities’ pollution is deferred to the country.  The land being used on their behalf.  The cities teem with people, many of whom would have starved to death or been eaten by something bigger in a more natural world.  The city allows the marginal to survive and reproduce, and consume, consume, consume, and the burden is spread throughout the region or wider.
Cities use their political and financial power to secure the cheapest water and electricity and staples possible.  Rural children leave for the city not exactly because there is greater opportunity there, but because, thanks to the poor compensation such areas receive, there are practically no opportunities in the boondocks.  Those that there are are mostly processing or producing products for sale in the cities.  Cities distribute their burdens on the lands which serve them.

But, as carbon footprint “environmentalists” will tell you, a person living in the city is cheaper to support and less damaging in other ways than Old Bert who lives five miles out on a dirt road and drives a smoking, leaking clunker that gets 8 miles to the gallon.  Cities tend to cultivate people with city culture.  You can spot them in rural areas because they buy the old Smith place and gut the house or tear it down and create a little piece of the city right in the bucolic beauty of the boonies.  Next, they call the sheriff because someone’s dog was running loose and barked at them and crapped on the newly installed sod.  It’s not surprising then that those who live and work in cities should find the city the ideal social form.  These people typically frame the political discussions, and they do so in a way that places the priorities of cities first.

As a result, we who already pay a higher price to live rurally are further burdened by regulation laid down by people who pass laws that fit and benefit cities.  We are often not properly compensated for our contribution to clean air and water, and our products are subject to unfair market conditions.  Squeezing the rural poor often has a terrible consequence on the environment, and it’s all done in the name of the market.

The next section of Agenda 21 is the scariest for lots of people.  It talks about correcting the power balance between what global sociologists call the “hegemonic core and the peripheral nations.”


Our Like It Or Not Life:  Part II


Social and Economic Dimensions

The first section of Agenda 21 is “Social and Economic Dimensions”.   In brief the section deals with poverty and the distribution of wealth.  The section seeks to describe how poverty can be alleviated.  No one really knows if the goals of the section are attainable or if the provisions would work.  On the other hand, they are founded on a thorough understanding of social, economic and environmental systems, and are likely the best options for alleviating poverty, illness and exploitation of people and the planet which are available.

3.1. Poverty is a complex multidimensional problem with origins in both the national and international domains. No uniform solution can be found for global application. Rather, country-specific programmes to tackle poverty and international efforts supporting national efforts, as well as the parallel process of creating a supportive international environment, are crucial for a solution to this problem. The eradication of poverty and hunger, greater equity in income distribution and human resource development remain major challenges everywhere. The struggle against poverty is the shared responsibility of all countries.  Agenda 21 Section 1

Rational Analysis of the Distribution of Wealth

A reasoned analysis of social stratification and wealth inequalities reveals that the extravagant wealth of the Roman emperors pales compared to standard of living of a middle class family in the United States, who may not have rooms of gold but do have cell phones and a car that will go 100 miles an hour.  These really are the good times, if one looks only at our material standard of living.

Neglect for a moment that our standard of living makes us slaves to our cars, our jobs, our credit cards, and consider only the amount of energy, and in particular oil it takes to sustain the world’s fourth highest standard of living for a family of 4.  A tremendous amount of energy is expended on our behalf so we can have sweet fruit from Mexico and South America, cheap computers from Asia, tons of plastic toys and utensils for a buck apiece from China, and all the other benefits of living in the empire that we enjoy.  But we use 50 times more energy per person in the U.S. than a person in Nigeria.  Indeed, the 5% of the world’s population that lives in the U.S. consumes nearly a quarter of the world’s energy and nearly a third of the plastic and paper.  We aren’t alone in our high consumption.

Nice to Live the High Life

About 30% of the world’s nations enjoy a “high” or “very high” rating on the Human Development Index (HDI).  Just over half enjoy a “moderate” HDI; 18% have a very low index.  A low index would include things like a low literacy rate, short life expectancy, high infant mortality, high child poverty, high incidence of disease, particularly AIDS.  This is not true of all of the 45 nations in the “low HDI” group, but in general, people in those nations live on only a few dollars a day.  Some sources, particularly those conservative organizations who create public reports, insist that the poverty comes from civil war, drought, misfortune.  But, while natural disasters in Africa and the World are increasing in number and intensity, much of the war and misfortune in Africa and South America are a direct result of colonialism, which chopped up past kingdoms, separated people from their homelands, placed power in the hands of local bandits and when the profits had drained from their colonies, Britain and Spain and Portugal and the Netherlands turned the keys over to their trained local underlings, “compradors”.  Many colonies were abandoned between centuries, with their traditional cultures and the resources they relied on destroyed, but not yet full members of the modern world community.  Lacking infrastructure or access to markets, many former colonies are forced to “license” or “lease” local resources to corporations from the First World nations who previously claimed them as colonies.  The world’s poorest countries often bear heavy burdens of interest from loans and schemes from the European Union and the World Bank.

Agenda 21 intends to level the playing field and give local people more profit from their resources including labor, and to reduce global market competition so local markets can thrive.  The key is “sustainable development”, a very scary phrase for some.  It means attaining a standard of living for every person at a rate the planet can afford.

Smells Like Socialism

But, there is more to correcting social and economic inequality than simply ensuring that developing nations get market value for their resources, or finding capital for development.  There is the issue of rates of consumption.

One thing is certain, though, lots and lots of people don’t like the idea of more equal distribution of wealth.  That smacks of socialism, and to many people who have wealth, “greater equity in income distribution” sounds like stealing.

4.1. This chapter contains the following program areas:(a)  Focusing on unsustainable patterns of production and consumption;(b)  Developing national policies and strategies to encourage changes in unsustainable consumption patterns.4.2. Since the issue of changing consumption patterns is very broad, it is addressed in several parts of Agenda 21, notably those dealing with energy, transportation and wastes, and in the chapters on economic instruments and the transfer of technology. The present chapter should also be read in conjunction with chapter 5 (Demographic dynamics and sustainability).  Agenda 21

The real problem with the rate of consumption of most of the high HDI nations is that they use far more resources per person than the planet can afford.  Depending on how you measure, per capita fossil fuel rate, per capita use of fresh water, or per capita automobile ownership, the first world nations are using an unsustainable amount of resources.  Get used to the idea of “carrying capacity.”  It is a key term in sustainability and it means the most likely sustainable load we can place on the environment.  The idea springs from the carrying capacity of meadows, which means how many of what kind of stock the meadow can sustain without being destroyed.

We are rapidly approaching Earth’s carrying capacity.  How many people we can sustain depends on what kind of life we want people to have. With that funny old Pope ranting about abortion and birth control, getting the global population under control is even more difficult.

A richer life means fewer people, or more people living in misery and a few living high on the hog.  For example, one estimate suggests that the average American uses 25 acres of land for food, mineral extraction, timber use and so on, per year.  But with the global population straining toward 9 billion people in the next four decades, it’s likely that each person on the planet will have to live on about 4 acres.  Freshwater, which is not salt but much of which is still not drinkable, is in very short supply, as we in the Sierra understand.

All the world’s water and freshwater, graphic from USGS Wood’s Hole and from

Changing patterns of consumption means some big changes for those of us enjoying 25 acres, and not surprisingly, many of us object to the cut in standard of living.  But, what choices do we have?

It’s nice when we share!

We might reasonably consider using less.  We could easily reduce our consumption by 20%, and many people have done that during this last period of economic “restructuring”.  But 20% isn’t nearly enough, our standard of living, to reach a more reasonable distribution of wealth and income, should drop by at least another 30%.  Most of us could no longer sustain our rural life if we had to reduce our energy use by half.

Not that it’s impossible, but it isn’t likely because currently we are in the paradigm of capitalism.  Capitalism is described as the “ceaseless accumulation of capital.”

Ceaseless Accumulation

Different perspectives conceptualize capitalism differently, and defining it differently changes the history of what we consider capitalism, but a historical view provides a glimpse of the accumulation of capital as something that happens in degrees.

It is very clear that trade likely provided even Middle Paleolithic age humans with the motivation to travel.  Trade goods and the desire to seek new markets and new commodities encouraged an exchange of ideas and customs which links cultures over great distances.  Our natural wanderlust and curiosity coupled with the desire to have new things and willingness to assign value to items for exchange helped spread humans across the globe.  The profit motive has powered many of our best technological and cultural ideas.

And worst.  It is exceedingly likely that no asteroid is needed to power the human extinction period; we are completely capable of manufacturing global disaster, and it needn’t be anything as dramatic as nuclear war.  The wonders of antibiotics of fifty years ago have turned into potential and even likely epidemics of antibiotic resistant pathogens.  The wide spread use of alcohol based hand sanitizers in the last few years has led to bacteria with thicker coatings.  Likewise, the burning of fossil fuels has resulted in undeniable changes in the thin layer of gas we call the “atmosphere”, and these changes have resulting in changes throughout the environment.

Thin layer of gas: our atmosphere from space, thanks NASA

There is no way to really make corporations responsible for the harm they do; if we did, they wouldn’t be able to give us our wonderful cheap life.  It is possible we could base our standard of living on other values and dramatically change our rate and means of consumption.

Of course, a hundred years of advertising and ever more skillful use of our psychology against us has resulted in people who judge the value of life by the dollar, and the pleasures of life by consumption.  Only modern neoliberal capitalism applies a commodity price to everything.  It provides the motive for slavery and war as well as medical advances.  Slavery and war have been with us at least since humans began farming, but in the 21st Century war itself has been capitalized.

The problem is, this kind of capitalism operates as though we lived in an open system, one where new energy and resources are always going to be available.  This belief persists in spite of the obvious modest size of our planet.  It is a combination of faith in every expanding technology and self-delusion.  The earth is not infinite, and there is not nearly enough planet for all the world’s people to have a standard of living anywhere near that of the conspicuously consumptive Americans.

How many Earths would we need?  Original photo paid for by your tax dollars by NASA

Instead of sharing: War

We might decide “to hell with little brown buggers in far away lands” and decide to go to war.  America is great at going to war.  To be clear, war and slavery have been present since the introduction of the city.  Somebody has something you want, you simply contrive a holy or cultural excuse and take your surplus males and give them a spear and go take what you want.  It worked for Rome, and it worked for the U.S. when we invaded Iraq. The city encouraged the accumulation of wealth, and necessitated the marginalization of resource producing areas.  This is not news to us in Sierra County.

Rome made war on Egypt for grain and cotton, and on the Island of Britain for wood.  The urban areas are places of power; in rural areas people are scattered and the more rigorous and time consuming life makes it difficult to amass the economic and social currency needed to become war-like.  Rural people make great guerrillas, but don’t often have the power or urge to consume like urban areas do.

The United States is the most powerful nation in the world, if you believe the rhetoric.  Put another way, we’re warlike and spend tremendous resources on the machinery and making of war.  But, in the 21st Century, war is different.  In this century, a few dedicated enemies can do major damage to a nation wedded to the military tactics of the past.

When Al Qaeda struck the twin towers, the impacts went far beyond the problematic and almost uninsurable towers themselves.  Suddenly we had new government spies protecting us, new shadowy laws, and new spy technology.  It became harder, and for some people impossible, to get on an airplane.  The pattern of our lives and the meaning of our democracy changed on that day with a destructive and disruptive power that must have thrilled our enemies.  The dark and scary places in our imagination, strangely vacant since the fall of the Soviet Union, were once again busy with fearful images, this time not bulky figures in Cossack hats, but scrawny figures in turbans.

But the attacks on 911 were clumsy efforts which could have been prevented with cockpit doors that locked securely.  American infrastructure is huge, richly interlinked, and a handful of very smart people who really hated us, bent over computers, could cripple that great and complicated infrastructure.

Worse, those who wish to bring the last boastful nation in the world down might only need a handful of dedicated volunteers carrying antibiotic resistant TB or another contagious, resistant killer.  Who knows how far such a plague could spread in an era of endless rapid travel.  The U.S. isn’t the only power to be able to fund drones, the pilotless, high flying killers.  Such devices are cheap and terrifyingly efficient, and even a small one can pack a precisely delivered explosive charge.

Our comfort is highly dependent on technology, but also on the labor of Third World people in Mexico, China, India and elsewhere.  The great Roman Empire itself was tumbled because it was too dependent on people from the colonies to keep the city going.  Treating those you depend on for your lifestyle badly turns out to be a poor long term strategy.

War, as those who remember WWII remember it, is a thing of the past.  A war over resources would take place much closer to home, it would be relentless, it would be the death of a thousand cuts.  The government could protect us until all our freedoms were gone, and we’d still be at risk because that kind of war is fought not on battlefields, but in everyday life.

War is not a solution for inequality.

Resistance!  Is futile!

Those alive in the U.S. now can resist, like the last Communists in Russia holding out for a return of the good old days, but the young already get the idea that the new world they live in will conserve things, will reuse things, will treat all people equally regardless of where they were born or what they look like, and share resources fairly.

Those who fear a “One World Government” simply haven’t been paying attention.  The world is one, the economy is global, politics are global, even North Korea isn’t immune to pressure from the rest of the world.  Our kind have been struggling to unite the world in one government since before Rome, and it’s being achieved not through the sword, though there is still plenty of that.  It is being achieved by a unity of thought, a secular approach to the religious values of fairness and generosity.  For a couple of thousand years before Christ to today there has been in addition to almost ceaseless war, a struggling toward a universal morality.

Even so, there is a lot of resistance left.  Much of it is powered by those who stand to lose the most: capitalists and others who reap the benefits of what others sow on their behalf.  But, while capitalism goes on, capitalists rise and fall, and if the market dictates green energy and sustainable, low tech solutions, the market will struggle at first to sell what it has, and eventually it will either replace the capitalists with new ones, or the capitalists will change, and make fuel efficient cars in waste free factories.  As the great engineer and social philosopher Vilfredo Pareto said, “history is a graveyard of elites”.

Currently, several cities and states have passed “anti-Agenda 21” laws.  The day will come, not far off, when these laws will be viewed by the general population as Jim Crow laws are viewed now: the last struggles of a dying way of life.

Yet, we should resist, somewhat.

Give a busy bureaucrat a hammer and everything looks like a nail

The power of money and the lure of retirement aren’t negated by doing good, and a bureaucrat is the same whatever the work.  As we’ve seen locally, sustainable development can easily be carried to terribly costly extremes.  Just because the happy urbanites want our water doesn’t mean they should get it, and just because they think God made the wilderness for them to enjoy (oh, for the days when “wilderness” meant “place where we are eaten”), doesn’t mean we should be displaced.

We should and even must discourage urban devils from coopting the last rural places in California, and, happily, Agenda 21 has a provision for that in Section III.

Most Important: How Your Fringe Editor Feels

It doesn’t make sense to complain about the end of the tungsten filament light bulb.

We in the Sierra are undergoing state response to shortages, particularly of water.  We are hearing words like “a new way of seeing water rights”.
I don’t like the idea of taking water away from rural users, of constraining our traditional use of our waters and watersheds.  I don’t like it when people who don’t own land want to have a big say in land they don’t own, as though it were everyone’s resource.  I pay plenty to own something, and people who don’t pay the cost of land ownership, and don’t pay the costs of living rurally, really should have very little claim to rural lands.

I like my big life, and don’t want to be relocated to a “community core area” like some latter day Native American being herded off to the reservation.  At the same time, I’m only slightly apologetic about living on land Native Americans once used; we bought it from a White Guy and besides, my people were still starving to death in the Old Country back then.

On the other hand, I totally understand the anger that many people feel against Europeans including Australians and North Americans.  We don’t play well with others.  We squander the Earth’s resources while others don’t have clean water or enough food.  It’s true that we’re just the most recent wave of invaders crisscrossing the globe, but there is a quantitative and therefore qualitative difference.  We put a price on everything, and our words, as has been noted by Native American treaty holders, twist on themselves and mean different things according to our current need, like the definition of “water rights”.  Besides, with each wave of invader, the globe has gotten smaller.  There is a practical end to our growth and progress, and short of some terrible event which greatly diminishes the global human population, we’re either going to have to share, or the unimaginable poverty in the Philippines, in Mexico City, in Bangladesh, in Nigeria, will spread, and eventually people will finally really eat the rich.  It might be easy, looking at some dust covered, skinny Third Worlder, to believe that they aren’t really as deserving as fat, White me, that somehow God thinks I’m special, but I know it isn’t true.  I know that if our places were switched that I would become skinny and dusty, too.

From Here

In the end, I know we have no choice but to conserve and share.  It seems like we’re already being squeezed, but morally we have to make room; besides we’ll either do it willingly, in our way, or it will be done for us by a dying Earth and hungry people.

From Here:

Them belly full, but we hungry;
A hungry mob is a angry mob.
A rain a-fall, but the dirt it tough;
A yot a-yook, but d’ yood no ‘nough.

Now the weak must get strong;

They say, “Oh, what a tribulation!”
Them belly full, but we hungry;
A hungry mob is a angry mob.
A rain a-fall, but the dirt it tough;
A pot a-yook, but d’ yood no ‘nough.

“Them Belly Full” by Bob Marley




Our Like-it-or-not Life: War. Famine, Disease and Agenda 21

A Fringe Editor analysis

Part 1 of a 4-part analysis of the period of social change:

The Age of Agenda 21

Twenty years ago in Rio de Janeiro a group of nations convened to discuss sustainable development.  A key result of that meeting is a United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division of Sustainable Development document entitled “Agenda 21”. The document, found at is divided into four main sections, which could be paraphrased as social and economic; environmental; political; and implementation.

Agenda 21 is founded on three strongly supported assumptions:

• The earth is small, and we are rapidly outgrowing it.

• All people of the earth deserve a share of the planet’s resources.

• Political power has accumulated disproportionately in the hands of a few.

The document is non-binding, has no force of law.

Agenda 21 is the subject of growing controversy, even though it is really little more than a laundry list of things we need to do if everyone on the planet is to enjoy a reasonable standard of living.

On one hand, sustainability and human rights advocates consider Agenda 21 to be a failed effort, with some claiming that the recent Rio+20 conference, far from adding 20 years of progress to the 1992 resolution, was subverted by corporate and hegemonic interests.  Greenpeace’s executive director Kumi Naidoo called the document produced by +20 “the longest suicide note in history”.  Even moderates agree the recent conference did not further the efforts of the 1992 conference, with some renaming the event the “Rio minus 20” conference.

But Agenda 21 is still big news to many, including the most conservative and nationalistic Americans.  Termed the “Tea Party Theory of Everything” by urban designer Lloyd Alter, Agenda 21, even though it is essentially a mute and dated document, defines the fears of those who love the past.  It summons the specter of three things:

• One world government

• The death of the rugged individual

• Socialism

Tea Party detractors often openly ridicule the wide-eyed terror and blind eyed ignorance of Agenda 21 detractors, but I disagree.  I believe that these people recognize the writing on the wall when they see it.  Agenda 21 itself might be moot, but the global trends, which spawned it, can’t be ignored, and they are very scary indeed, especially if you love your Cadillac and calling Black people “boy”.

Agenda 21 is against everything that made “America great”, if that’s what you want to call a nation with the 4th highest standard of living, the 38thfor life expectancy, and the highest per capita rate of incarceration of any nation.  The U.S. also enjoys third highest per capita rates of energy and oil use, behind oil rich Saudi Arabia and chilly Canada.  While dying young and putting each other in prison doesn’t hurt the rest of the planet too much, our use of energy and our rate of pollution does.

In our haste to carve a nation from the landmass and an empire from our resources, we’ve become too good at what we do.  The rest of the world can’t enjoy our energy use, there simply isn’t enough. The Earth would have to be 6-8 times bigger than it is to provide in a similar manner for all the world’s people, even at current population numbers.  It is abundantly clear that the U.S. is taking more than its fair share of resources, and people in the rest of the world are starting to resent that.

So, while Agenda 21 isn’t the demon document some fear, in another way, it’s exactly what they fear: an indication that times are changing.

How will they change?  What response might the nation have to environmental and social changes?  Are we willing to war against a host of 3rdworld nations to maintain our energy dominance (as has clearly been the case in the last 150 years)?

I hope to explore these themes more completely in subsequent articles, which will follow the plan of Agenda 21 in discussing the globe’s changing social and economic, environmental, and especially political worlds.


July 4, 2012

L.A. V. Med Can patients: another victory for medical cannabis patients
This week the 2nd District Court of Appeals, in hearing County of Los Angeles v. Alternative Medicinal Cannabis Collective (AMCC), determined that medical marijuana dispensaries are indeed legal in California, and like any other legal enterprise, local governments must provide a reason for excluding or prohibiting them.  Marijuana patients and their providers do have a right to do businesses in California.
The decision prevents blanket “nuisance” ordinances, often used by conservative local governments to attempt to short-circuit California
‘s voter approved medical marijuana laws.  Medical marijuana is generally not available through commercial pharmacies who trade almost exclusively in factory made chemicals.  California’s law makes it possible for medical cannabis patients to obtain safe, quality medicine.

The decision comes as the California Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments on several lower court decisions on medical cann

abis, and proponents of legalized marijuana and regulated medical marijuana prepare initiatives for the ballot.  Slowly and painfully America struggles to allow its citizens the rights the poorest people in India enjoy every day.
June 27, 2012  The Fringe will be back next Wednesday, he is still busy gnashing his teeth and sharpening quills.
This is the first edition of Sierra County Prospect which is not at Sierra County  It is also the first full edition which didn’t have the Fringe Editor at the helm; it was like pulling off a full body scab, but I’ve left the Prospect, and Liz Fisher is now fully in command.I was at the helm of the Prospect for 3 ½ years, about as long as I like to do anything.  We started with no readers, and when I handed the keys over to Liz, we had a couple of thousand.  OK, we aren’t any threat to WSJ, but for a county with less than a thousand home computers, that isn’t so bad.  We served the market we cared about.What’s ahead for the Prospect? I’m optimistic it will become all the things it hasn’t quite been in the past.  I expect it to be a quieter, gentler, more middle class Prospect.  No raving about how un-American a prohibition is; no raving at the funny old Pope, no weird and scary fringe opinion, but lots of words about local doin’s, stories about local people.  I hope there will be more letters to the editor.  Only Jerusha managed to maintain a steady flow of letters.  I hope local groups will take greater advantage of the Prospect’s readership.Not everything will change; many of the features of will remain.  Gabby will still write; Cooter will still appear.  I’ll write occasionally, just to keep my bile ducts flowing.  I certainly will maintain my interest in county affairs, and will pen a bitch piece as necessary.As I retire as Managing Editor, I leave my loyal readers, friends and foes alike, with some thoughts:

  1. Don’t believe the ecobullshit, our water is at risk.  We’re better off with head cuts and dry meadows than with bureaucrats and people who are paid to do “good” grabbing our watersheds.  A lot of public money is going in to “education” which is really just propaganda.  Trust me, if you wait long enough, the watersheds will restore themselves, naturally.
  2. The Board of Supervisors must cut wages.  They must reduce hours.  They must not cut wages to people who do not get general fund money, including but not limited to Social Services workers who get paid by state funds.  We need wage earners.  It’s unfortunate that some people will be cut and others won’t; if things continue to get worse, everyone will be cut.
  3. The East Sierra Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Committee and anyone else who has research and organizing skills should be working towards accomplishing new businesses at the Business park.  Yeah, I’ve scabbed on the business park before, like everyone has; but Plumas Rural Services has some big friends lined up.  It’s now or never; if the project goes well, in ten years Loyalton will be back on firm footing.  If enough people do nothing, nothing is what you’ll have.  Get to work!

I’ll have my finger on the pulse of the county, because I’ll read the Prospect.

Good luck!

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