From Arab Spring to American Fall

The Occupy Wall Street folks wear funny hats, brandish simplistic signs and offend regular people. Just like the Tea Party, only without the Koch Brothers' money. (Photo by David Shankbone/Flickr)

The leaves have come off the Arab Spring, and now we see, perhaps, the colors of an American Fall. The people of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria are still poor, still hungry, still imprisoned, tortured and dying despite their revolutions begun this spring. Now, in the fall, in numbers and diversity not seen since the Vietnam War era, American people are in the streets, railing against their economic overlords. Walking like Egyptians (in the phrase coined by supporters of Wisconsin public-employee unions). To what end?

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Omens of Collapse: A Stage and a Fence

The concert stage at the Indiana State Fair was built to impress, and to last a day or two longer than it did. Does anyone else see an omen here?

Things that are done for show don’t work well, don’t last long, and can hurt a lot of people when, inevitably,  they collapse. This lesson was demonstrated anew this past week in two widely separated — and wildly different — places: the Indiana State Fair and the Mexican border. Continue reading

Is This a Congress, or a Mob?

Is this what the Founders had in mind when they first assembled Congress?

The bus of state is speeding toward the edge of a very tall cliff  — the unnecessary and politically-motivated default of the US Treasury next Tuesday — and almost all of the people who are wrestling for control of the steering wheel a) do not believe in cliffs, b) do not believe in gravity, and c) would rather be the center of attention than anything. It’s bad enough to realize that these people, despite their ignorance of economics, history, political science and the English language, are strongly affecting the course of our government on behalf of the country’s richest and most powerful people and companies. What is truly terrifying is the fact that they have now slipped the leash of their masters, and are running riot. Continue reading

Go Toward the Light. Not the Bulb, the Light.

Endangered species? The incandescent light bulb is not only still here, but has become the latest side show in an increasingly demented national shriekfest. (Photo by James Bowe/Flickr)

The recent Congressional kerfuffle over light bulbs — please do not refer to it as a “debate” — would have been funny if Jon Stewart had staged it for The Daily Show (“For the latest, here is our Senior Light Bulb Correspondent…”). Instead it was a performance staged by the senior legislators of the United States, a country beset by multiple threats to its continued existence (it’s a long list, to be sure, but light bulbs are not on it), and as such it was simply terrifying. Continue reading

Gardening a Crime In Canada, Too

Growing vegetables in this yard, on Canada's Vancouver Island, could get its owners six months in jail. Note the unsightly piles of dirt, and the criminally edible produce.

A couple who live on Vancouver Island (off Canada’s western coast) has been threatened with six months in prison for growing food on their 2.5-acre lot in a semi–rural location. When Dirk Becker bought the property in 1999, the soil had been stripped down to bedrock and sold by the previous owner — that was perfectly legal. Since then, Becker has been slowly and laboriously building soil, in which to grow fruits and vegetables. That is illegal. Continue reading

Apocalypse Now? Not With a Bang, but a Blunder?

The US Capitol, becoming a beacon of stupidity, lighting the way down.

It is increasingly possible that the catastrophic unraveling of the Industrial Age may begin in two weeks, not because of global warming or oil shortages or water wars or natural disaster, but because of a stupid political ploy by the Know-Nothings who are now ascendant in the US Congress. Instead of “starving the beast” — by which they mean disabling government by preventing it from raising revenue — they have discovered that they can kill the beast by preventing it from borrowing revenue. Gleefully, they are threatening to refuse to raise the technical limit on US debt, by which means they may throw the government into default on or about August 2. Continue reading

Gardening a Crime in Oak Park MI

These raised beds for vegetables may put a Michigan mother of six in the slammer for 93 days.

Julie Bass of Oak Park, Michigan figured her lawn was gone anyway — it had been torn up for a sewer repair — so instead of going back to the water-hogging, fertilizer-leaching, pesticide-soaked obscenity that graces everybody’s front yard, she would do a far, far better thing. She put in five raised beds and started growing fresh, organic vegetables for her family. Smart, sustainable, nutritious, and illegal. The city code says if the ground is not paved, it has to be  covered with grass, shrubbery or “suitable” plants. Vegetables, says the city, are not “suitable.” The city prosecutor plans to take “all the way” prosecution of the mother of six children for crimes that could get her 93 days in jail. Seriously.

Reflection: Government by Witch Doctor

When the going gets tough, the tough call on witch doctors to run the country. (Photo by RobertandAmanda/Flickr)

People who find themselves in impossible situations often resort to magical thinking. Examples are all around us: the overweight person who becomes convinced that a pill or a supplement or a surgical procedure will melt the excess weight without effort; the flabby couch potato who believes he can tone his abs by wearing an electric belt — while reclining, of course; the serial adopter of any and every get-rich-quick scheme that comes along. When an impossible situation is heading for an outcome that is unacceptable, such as illness, death or poverty, and the remedies — such as discipline, self-denial or hard work — are also unacceptable, then magical thinking often ensues. And that is one reason the United States is descending rapidly to the status of failed state: its political leaders, in attempting to do the impossible, while refusing to face the inevitable, have resorted to magical thinking. Continue reading

Hot Air Power and Libya

This Aero L-39 Albatross once flew for Gadhafi's Libyan Air Foirce. The aircraft is long gone, thanks to western air power. Gadhafi isn't. Hmmm. (Photo by Tark Siala/Flickr)

[Editor’s Note: At first glance this would seem to be not our line of country, having little to do with food, water, pollution, energy or the like. On second thought, however, it has everything to do with the collapse of an imperial industrial power.]

Enthusiasm for war increases exponentially with distance from war, whether that distance be measured as time, space or knowledge. Similarly, the belief that war can be prosecuted rationally — “surgically” is a popular adverb these days — dies on contact with actual warfare. Yet somehow the US has been led for decades now by people who love war, seek every opportunity to launch it, and believe utterly that technology can do it surgically. Continue reading

The Empty American Street

The Arab Street (this one happens to be in Edinburgh, Scotland) is thriving. The American Street, a right-of-way for righting wrongs and warning of peril? Not so much. (Photo by baaker2009/Flickr)

The Arab Street — a slangy term for popular opinion and activism in that part of the world — is brimming with energy and resolve, it is, as they say, kicking ass and taking names in this amazing Arab spring. The American Street is empty, and it is still winter there. Continue reading