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

Poll Vaulting into the Abyss

According to a recent poll, most Americans believe in polls. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Part of the reason that America and the other western democracies are circling the drain with increasing downward velocity is the vicious cycle that has been set up between polls and policy. Aided and abetted by industrial money, this process has done more than any other technique to dumb down the country’s policy discussions and cripple the government’s power to reign in corporate power. Continue reading

From China’s Leaders, Intimations of Mortality

A typical scene along the banks of the Yangtze River as China's growth engine redlines. (Photo by eutrophication&hypoxia/Flickr)

Which prominent American government official said the following this week?

  • “The conflict between humankind and nature has never been as serious as it is today.”
  • “The depletion, deterioration and exhaustion of resources and the worsening environment have become grave impediments to the nation’s economic and social development.”
  • “We must not any longer sacrifice the environment for the sake of rapid growth and reckless roll-outs, as that would result in unsustainable growth featuring industrial overcapacity and intensive resource consumption.” Continue reading

A Tale of Two Meetings

US Capitol dome

As night gathers in Washngton, the Capitol dome shines a beacon of total ignorance over the nation. (Photo by David Iliff/wikimedia)

In the past week, two organizations convened in Washington DC to discuss their view of the world. One, comprising some of the world’s most knowledgeable scientists, was the American Association for the Advancement of Science, holding its annual meeting. The other, made up of some of the world’s most powerful politicians, was the US Congress, assembled. They seemed to be discussing two widely separated, and wildly different, planets. Continue reading

Reflection: Word Pollution Rots Brains

A word cloud (the more often used, the larger) generated from a speech by Governor Bobby Jindal in 2009. (Photo by Jason-Morrison/Flickr)

While the problems caused by industrial-scale pollution of air, water and land rise inexorably to nostril level, any and all efforts to deal with them are hampered by the deliberate release of toxic words into our language. Like poisons and endocrine-disruptors, toxic words cloud our intentions, weaken our will and muddle our efforts. If we can’t talk clearly about where we want to go and why, we can’t get there. Continue reading

The People, Sir, are a Great Beast

The Prince and the Princess discover what royalty has oft learned before: if people are miserable enough, they will intrude on your life of privilege. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Modern political leaders focussed on polling, partisan doctrine and the next election forget at their peril that there is an ancient and non-revokable contract between leaders and followers: give us followers good times and security and we will allow you leaders your power and wealth; fail to protect us from grievous harm and we will erase you. Retribution for mass suffering has fallen brutally on high priests, pharoahs, kings, czars and presidents throughout history. And the laws of history have in no way and in no place been revoked. (To listen to the audio version, click here:  0104 The People are a Beast) Continue reading

Money Beats Brains Again: EPA Gives Up on Smog

smokestack in Chicago

The EPA was thinking of restraining air pollution such as this, into Chicago's air in January. But it has thought twice. (Photo by Andrew Ciscel/Flickr)

Since industrial America lost its grip on the White House, when its first wholly-owned and -operated president, George W. Bush, was replaced by the upstart Barack Obama, it has been pouring money into reasserting its grip on the Congress in order to prevent governmental interference with the making of profits. And Wednesday was payoff day. The Environmental Protection Agency surrendered. Continue reading