1. Eat (and Produce) Good Food

So, I just moved to the Austin area and finally have my garden started. Well, sort of. I could, no should, have planned it better, but I found myself in a $#¡+ or get off the pot situation. That tends to happen, probably because I am a perfectionist. More probably because I tend to swim in abstraction to the exclusion of the concrete. When I try to plan these things out I will easily spend months or years reading and watching videos to learn about my interests (theoretically) and never really get around to doing anything since I am not perfectly prepared.

I am also very uncomfortable in situations where I am not an expert. I know everything, you see, but I can’t seem to remember things I’ve never done before, like investing in gardening capital. Realizing that if I did not throw myself out of the comfort zone of books, the internet and daydreams and into action now, I may never do so, we hit the road.

Now, the The Natural Gardener in Austin is a slice of paradise blossoming on the border of the Texas Hill Country. We first went on Pi Day, but we spent so much time marveling at the gardens, guests and animals that we ran out of time to actually buy anything. We had to get the kids fed before an aprandial breakdown. We came back the next cool, foggy, lightly drizzled morning. We found the  employees to be pleasantly engaging, knowledgeable and glad to be of service. They would have been much more helpful had I been prepared to ask the right questions. The wife and I went hog-wild buying plants, but had no idea what to do as far as containers and soil. To say I had no idea regarding containers is a misstatement. I was totally excited about doing this recessed hurricane lamp style self-watering planter. While this will probably be a great idea sometime, it neither addressed nor considered the more practical concern of what volume of soil placed in what apportionment of planters do I need? We picked up a bunch of plants and not nearly enough soil then headed off to a big box home improvement retailer for containers.

I grabbed a couple of homer buckets and was demonstrating to my wife how the recessed hurricane lamp style self-watering planter works, but all she saw was a tacky orange bucket on the balcony. So we picked up some more stylish planters instead, cheap plastic with a weathered bronze appearance. We grabbed three fairly large ones that could be nested into the smaller ones to create the self-watering effect. We also got a couple of English horse trough planters that can hang on the rail of the patio; they are metal frames with coir liner. Finally  we got a hanging planter from which I was considering to plant a tomato upside-down.

Once I got home and was faced with actually transferring soil and plants into containers, it quickly became apparent that I was unprepared. I dug out my documentation and started assessing what size these plants may hope to attain and put a pen to paper to see which plants I’d put together in which containers. I did not have enough containers The recessed hurricane lamp style self-watering planter concept was going to consume two planters for each application, making matters worse.

I started with two Gorizia rosemary plants in a large container. Then I placed two Italian spice oregano in another. That used up about 3/4 of a bag. I put the three Nelly onion chives in half of an English horse trough and ran out of soil. That hardly put a dent in the queue waiting to be potted, and I may need to re-pot some of these when they grow to full size. I watered them all in and gave a quick shot to all the other little startlings, being careful not to get water on the leaves of the garden sage.

Total plant inventory:

  • 3 Italian spice oregano
  • 3 Sweet Basil
  • 2 Garden sage
  • 2 Gorizia rosemary
  • 2 Cilantro
  • 1 Plain Parsley
  • 1 Spearmint mint
  • 1 Lost the Label oregano
  • 3 Nelly onion chives
  • 3 Sweet 100 tomatoes
  • 1 Big Beef tomato (grafted for improved performance)
  • 2 Garden Salsa peppers
  • 2 Purple Bell peppers
  • 2 Jalapeño ‘M’ peppers
  • 1 Serrano pepper

Once I get some more containers and soil and get everything planted, I’ll post some pictures. I claim victory not on account of preparedness, but on execution. The execution was far from flawless, but I have moved beyond reading, watching and dreaming. Commence phase one of my one man (and a woman and three boys) revolution in America: Eat and produce good food!

It has to start somewhere

It has to start sometime

What better place than here

What better time than now

All hell can’t stop us now

 Guerilla Radio, Rage Against the Machine

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The War on Terror: an Itch We Need Not Scratch

The War on Terror is like poison ivy, an itch one needs not to scratch. Now, that is not to say “an itch one doesn’t need to scratch”, but “one needs not to scratch”. Don’t scratch it!

Generally, you get poison ivy by going someplace you don’t really belong and getting mixed up in stuff you don’t really understand. Anything that makes contact with the plant picks up the irritant, urushiol, light, clear oil that you are unlikely notice at all. That is, you don’t notice it until the inflammation starts. It often starts small, just a little itch and maybe a small bump.

You scratch it reflexively. You don’t realize that the oil is on your clothing, your shoes. Then it’s on your hands and furniture. You inadvertently spread it over more of your skin. It seeps into your lymphatic system and travels around causing outbreaks in new places. Now you know you have a poison ivy rash, but it’s too late. The itching is intense. Your skin boils and blisters. Scratching causes the blisters to burst adding the risk of infection. If the reaction is strong enough, compounds in the pus oozing from the wound will spread the reaction.

The US and other western powers got involved in places and business deals the people did not understand. American foreign policy and business have spread an irritant all over the world, at home and abroad. The reaction started with small itches: Iran, the Middle East, Central and South America to name a few. The US scratched: the Shah and Iraq, the Contras, Panama… Then the festering came: the first war in Iraq, embassy bombings, and the blisters burst on 9/11.

The US refuses to stop scratching; scratching names off the president’s hit-list; scratching more names onto the list. We fail to see that by doing this we’re spreading the irritant more and more. We’re opening wounds and risking infection.

Once you’ve had poison ivy, you learn fast how to handle it. You learn where it grows and what it looks like. You learn to recognize the symptoms earlier after you may have been exposed. After exposure, you thoroughly wash everything that might be contaminated. You learn how to treat the itching without scratching.

This is exactly what we need to do with our foreign (and domestic) policy. We need to recognize what we are doing as a nation to radicalize people against us and stop doing those things. We need to thoroughly clean up everything that has been contaminated by this exposure: the military, government agencies, and private corporations. We need to treat the itching with restraint and a soothing balm.

Conscience and Capitalism, too

There is an important social dialogue taking place throughout the developed world concerning the problems of capitalism. Unfortunately, two factors are severely hampering the discussion: the tendency to speak in shorthand, and the narrow polarity of the dominant paradigm.

The English language is filled with words that have many and/or broad definitions. The “-isms” tend to belong to this group of words. In the interest of time and not boring people to distraction before making a point, we tend to toss these words around lightly without taking the care to define exactly what we mean by them. We speak in shorthand, but we are not always speaking the same shorthand.

The narrow polarity of the dominant paradigm is a significant issue which deserves adequate treatment. However this is not the post for it. For now, in this context, let it suffice to say that the polarity is defined by capitalism vs. socialism. Rarely does one encounter another position, such as distributism or mutualism. That said, let us return to addressing the shorthand plaguing “-isms”.

It is important to recognize a distinction between respectable capitalist ideals and the bastard capitalism which is enslaving the world. Appendix Zain to “The Illuminatus! Trilogy” begins with four quotes:

Property is theft.” – P.J. Proudhon

Property is liberty.” – P.J. Proudhon

“Property is impossible.” – P.J. Proudhon

“Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The appendix goes on to discuss property1, property2, and property3. In short, property1 (= theft) is established by “artificial laws of feudal, capitalist and other authoritarian societies” and therefore requires “the armed might of a State to force people to honor it”. Property2 (=liberty), in contrast, would “be honored in a free society of rationalists”. Finally, the struggle between property2+1 (= property3 [taking some license with this elaboration]) creates so much conflict that society consumes itself and all property, making property impossible, at least insofar as property1 is present. The mistake of Objectivists is two-fold: to assume that property1 = property2; and Objectivism is Satanism. These mistakes are closely related.

A common mistake in diabolical thought is to focus on one truth to the exclusion of all other truth. Ayn Rand makes many excellent points about the virtue of applying one’s skills and efforts to create value. That value is then traded for value to mutual benefit. Money stands as a symbol and vehicle of that value. These are all admirable and true values. Unfortunately, her experiences of persecution by the Bolsheviks seem to have pushed her beyond the middle way, and in reaction to the collectivist, communist evils seen in her youth she pushes hard into the equally dangerous territory of pure self-interest.

Along the same line of thought, I propose:

Capitalism1 is theft.

Capitalism2 is liberty.

Capitalism* is impossible.

Capitalism1 exalts wealth above all other values, moral, social, ecological or otherwise. Defining monetary wealth as the highest good justifies whatever means to the end of acquiring more wealth. This is the capitalism of the corporatocratic empire that has purchased the mainstream media (left and right, don’t forget about the narrow polarity) and much of the government. At the present moment it appears that capitalism1 has won.

But there is capitalism2, too. Socialism, and certainly not communism, is not the only alternative to capitalism1. Skilled and diligent work should reward both the entrepreneur and the laborer with its fruit. The capitalist2 is free to value morals, society, and the world outside of the “market”. The people are free to patronize commercial institutions that uphold their common values. This freedom is an opportunity to shift the values of our society in a positive direction.

Capitalists1 have purchased immense political power with the money the people gave them. As a result, the people’s votes at the polls are of little value. The votes that have value now are the votes that capitalists1 value, your money. If you want to encourage values beyond money, the current subjective reality demands that you invest money in those values. Capitalism with a conscience is capitalism2.

Related:

Reclaiming the Commons Appalachia

‘Social Streets’ and the mutual aid economy

Pope Francis, Does an Anti-Capitalist = a Socialist?

Do Distributists dream of electronic cryptocurrencies?

Dear Wall Street

End the War on Poverty!

I actually drafted this 2 nights ago and was thinking to hold onto it for a dry spell. Then I saw the Daily Prompt: Groupthink, and thought, “Sure, why not?”

We have a problem with poverty in the world: there are too many poor people. When we have a problem, what do we do? Wage war on it! War on Poverty! Don’t poor people have enough problems without having war waged on them?

The left says…

L: The problem with poor people is they ain’t got no money. We need to do something about this before they rise up and take us out of power.

R: You’re right, but we can’t just give them money.

L: We could loan it to them…

R: They can’t pay back the loans – that’s just giving it away.

L: Ahhh… We’ll loan the money to the government! The government will spend the money on social programs and entitlements and levy taxes to pay back the loans.

R: Now you’re talking. But about these social programs – they are not gonna work. We can make them look great and all, but if they do work then the programs will end and we won’t be lending money to the government anymore.

L: Sure, fine! We just need to pass some legislation with neat acronyms and big dollar signs. It’ll be fine.

R: Of course it’ll be fine. The government can’t pay back the loans either, but when they default we will own everything! Mwaa ha ha ha haaa!

L: Right on! But hey, the folks are getting restless again. Maybe we could pay them some more, tax them some more, and spend some more borrowed money, huh?!

R: I like the cut of your gib. However, to raise minimum wages, we’ll need to raise prices to cover the costs.

L: Whatever you need, man! Just raise the prices slowly, after the minimum wage legislation takes effect, and they’ll barely notice.

R: I’m getting bored. Let’s build something. How about a stadium? Or we could tear down someone’s country and re-build that…

L: That sounds great! We’ll build a temple to the goddess Nike who will bless us our plan for victory over the world! Or at least distract these poor bastards a little longer.

R: Yeah… whatever. Ummm… we could save some money by building it where all those poor folks live.

L: Perfect! That’ll increase tax revenues so the government can keep paying on that interest. Of course the folks living there now can’t really afford to move, so they’ll need government assistance. That means more loans.

R: I’m tired of making loans and collecting interest. I want everything now! The government has borrowed enough!

L: If you don’t loan more to the government so they can pay on the other loans and we, or they… whatever… default, the markets will crash and lots of money will simply vanish.

R: Good point. We’ll crash the market, then loan the government a bunch of money to bail us out. Plus, I can look more conservative by railing against government debt, spending and all that.

L: Brilliant!

The Kingdom of Heaven is like…

A growing number of persons are coming to realize that human societies and economic modalities are on the verge of radical, fundamental change. This change will occur with or without the consent or intention of anybody. On the one hand, if the dominant economic paradigm persists on its current course, the resources fueling the economic engine will be so depleted and the planetary biosphere will become so poisoned as to trigger a shocking “correction”. On the other hand, a slim probability exists that people may change their individual and corporate behaviors so as to mitigate the inevitable damage.

Faced with this grim realization, various individuals and groups are endeavoring to develop strategies and tactics to either avert this disaster or prepare for it. Others accept, even champion, the idea that the human race is, and even should be, doomed. I am not so optimistic that the disaster can be totally prevented. Nor am I so pessimistic as to accept that the human race will be annihilated in the absence of any effective effort to change course. I am of the opinion that the changes necessary to achieve sustainability are so incompatible with the existing societal and economic structures and the time to implement such changes before the cataclysm is so short, that the reforms themselves would be catastrophic.

The notion of a top-down solution has been championed by many. This is a delusion. The entities in power at the top depend on the status quo as the foundation of their power. If world leaders betray their real constituents, the corporations and investors perpetuating the problematic economic modalities, they will be removed from power by any means necessary. If a concerned party were to attempt to seize power by force, they will be met with unimaginable resistance which all but guarantees a swift defeat or protracted, devastating bloodshed and destruction. The so-called “War on Terror” has excused our leaders to terrorize their subjects into accepting a legislative-judicial-executive complex capable of suspending due process to quickly and quietly halt any such activity.

Even if an organized revolution were successfully carried out, history teaches us that the new powers will serve their own interests over and against those of many, even those who supported their rise. Besides, our social and economic systems are so bewilderingly complex no person, group or machine can possibly fathom the myriad effects of any singular policy, directive or restructuring much less a comprehensive program for change.

Our singular, collective hope for positive, meaningful change rests on a critical mass of individuals independently exercising their liberty to disengage from the dominant economic paradigm and dynamically engage society. Several seemingly insuperable challenges are immediately apparent. First, a great many people will have to break their addiction to consumerist candy. The very act of abstaining from the consumer culture isolates a person from society-at-large. In response to this isolation and societal pressure, participants will desire to gather together for mutual support. This assembly would attract the attention of powerful adversaries. The powers will exert their influence to infiltrate, disintegrate and marginalize the newly-formed community. Any resistance by the community to these efforts will be used by the powers as evidence of their dangerous and potentially “terroristic” character.

How do we disengage from the dominant economic paradigm? Grow and eat good food. Go on a media diet. Perform a consumerism cleanse. These activities are mutually re-inforcing. The effort and expense of producing or otherwise acquiring local, organic produce will make it more difficult to have time to watch mainstream media garbage. The time and expense of good food and the break from advertising will promote better purchasing habits. How do we dynamically engage society? Raise awareness of the corporatocracy. Have fun! All the doom and gloom of the challenges we collectively face can be a real downer. Learn to take seriousness humorously; sometimes take humorousness seriously. Laugh, learn and love!

Persons interested in disengaging from the dominant economic paradigm and dynamically engaging their society must remain geographically dispersed. They must seek support from those of like mind through media such as the internet and independent press, through horizontal networks, and small gatherings. They must seek to educate and raise awareness among their friends, neighbors, co-workers and the public without raising flags of any color. They must be like “a little leaven hidden in three pecks of flour.”