Blog Archive

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

on Relocalisation.

It seems like every week , or so, there’s a new, improved Bogeyman that we should all be terrified of….an Existential Threat to Mom and Apple Pie and all things American. These new “threats” send us caterwauling blindly into inaction, or worse, counterproductive action…action that actually makes things worse, mostly in quiet, unnoticed ways.

The recent spat over the “Islamic Threat” is case in point…Tea People get worked up over a threat that does not exist, and the handful of Democrats feel strongly enough about it to speak up…and around we go!

Meanwhile, electric bills are high, gas is high, propane is high, meat is high and even the crappy produce we get around here is high. Water is scarcer than ever. There’s lots of problems, right here….and with DC and Austin stuck in Ideological Amber, it’s foolish to wait for help from that quarter.

What can we do?

Several years ago, when Hurricane Rita blew through Houston, we had an opportunity to see just how thin the Patina of Civilization is…the trucks stopped running…our supply line was all but cut. Gas ran out, first Regular, then the next grade up, till all that was left was the “Premium”, high dollar stuff. The grocery store , without regular trucks, began to run out of the things we need, want and rely on.

I have news for you. Oil is getting scarce….at least the “low hanging fruit”…The oil that’s left is hard to get at, due to geology, geography and quality. Heavy oil, as opposed to “Light,Sweet Crude” is hard to get out of the ground, and even harder to refine.(there is currently One (1) refinery in the US that can handle the heavy stuff, and last I looked, it was owned by Venezuela). Things like Tar Sands, Oil Shale, and the like are even worse…not only environmentally, but economically,. EROEI, energy return, on energy invested, is a concept that must enter common parlance. If it costs more energy to get a barrel of oil than is contained in that barrel of oil, then getting that barrel doesn’t make sense.That’s why there are so many idle pump jacks in West Texas…the field is played out…Texas(and the USA, in general, save Alaska) reached Peak Oil in 1971. This situation is also why the rigs, offshore, are getting deeper and deeper. The Easy Oil has already been sucked out and used up.

I could go on, but you get the picture. Further information can be had with a google search of “Peak Oil”…or you can ask me.

The rub is that we will have to do more things for ourselves, in much different ways than we are used to. There is simply no “Replacement” for Cheap Oil. A Relocalization of Everything is in order, if we want to salvage a modicum of Civilization. Mason , without Cheap, Easy Oil, is a Wilderness Outpost.

I note that while the drought has all our Ranchers scrambling to get rid of their herds, the price of meat actually goes up. Thousands of Cattle pass through Mason, every week…hardly a pound of hamburger stays here.Too, when I drive to Fredericksburg to get Lamb Chops, they are expensive, and come from Australia…after I drive past 1000 sheep on the way there! We need a local processing/slaughtering facility. Sadly, the Giant Meat Packers (all 4 of them!) have succeeded in jiggering the Regs to all but prevent Local Meat Processing. A Coop is probably the only way around this, but it needs to be done.

I also note that while, as mentioned above, we get pretty crappy produce around here(due to business practices, and the nature of the Factory Farm Model), it’s very difficult for any local gardener to sell produce, locally. Corporate Grocers require enormous Liability Insurance, and have quite silly policies regarding the sourcing of produce…again, the Regs are partly to blame, as they were written by the Big boys. This, unlike the Meat situation, is easy to fix. The city should make available space for a Farmer’s Market, or two….without the usual fees and unnecessary rules.

These two things, alone, would do wonders for Mason, in my opinion….not the least of which is a little income for all the poor people around here.

Hand in hand with these is so called Value Added Foodstuffs. One is required to make jelly, salsa, and whatnot( everything that is not fresh and raw, basically) in a “Code Kitchen”. These are expensive to build and maintain, and there’s not a lot of opportunity for profit making to justify such endeavors under the conventional model. The City could facilitate this by, at the very least, easing up on some of the taxes and codes for such a place…perhaps to be run as a “nonprofit”. Again, a source of income for all our poor folks, as well as an alternative to the boring, homogenous corporate controlled fare, available now.

On Energy, there is an enormous resource currently being vented to the atmosphere…and for which the city and county have been fined; Methane. Methane is “Natural Gas”, and is produced by every living thing. Our sewer system, and landfill and the feedlots, produce gobs of this stuff. All that is needed is to capture it, run it through charcoal, and burn it…to produce heat, electricity…to cook with. The septic tanks, out in the country are already(somewhat inefficient) methane digesters. My napkin calculations indicate that my little bunch, chickens included, produced enough Methane to negate our need for Propane, in an average Winter. Perhaps a tax incentive to our local Propane companies is in order to ease the pain of a transition.

Wind, too, is a viable alternative. I understand that no one really likes the idea of gigantic turbines on the hills, but wouldn’t it be great to have cheap power, for us? The recent flap over powerlines is a direct effect of the Centralization of Power Generation. As much as 40% of what is generated is lost in Transmission. I reckon the Power generated Here, should stay Here

The difficulty of doing all these things is why I’m a Democrat. Who, but Government, has the resources to undertake such large, but arguably essential, endeavors?

Most of these things require a large initial investment…and unless there’s a Bill Gates lurking in our hills, with an overriding concern for the welfare of Mason County, I don’t know where else to look. We can consider it “Creeping Socialism”, “Big Government” and all manner of other Evils…or we can look at it like a WPA, a CCC, for the 21st Century….an Investment in Us, for Us and by Us.

Just food for thought.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A kerfuffel has erupted in sleepy Mason Texas...due to this ...and the letters that followed(scroll down):

Here is my response...

I do not Fear Muslims.

At least, not just because they’re Muslim.

Similarly, I do not Fear Christians, Commies, Mexicans, Black People, Union Organizers, or Various Evil Spirits.

What I do Fear, is Ignorance…especially the Willful Kind.

Ignorance often has a corollary…Certainty.

I Fear this, as well, for it so often leads to Stupidity.

I did not attend the little exposition this past week.

I didn’t feel the need to…the organization has a website, after all…and a pretty comprehensive one, at that. Lots of links…

It was through perusing this site, and those links, that I could determine that this woman, Ms. O’Brien…who could very well be well meaning and sincere, was nevertheless…Wrong.

I have read the Koran, as well as large swaths of the Hadith…which is kind of the Islamic analog to the Jewish Mishnah…a commentary on the respective Holy Book.

I find no more Violence in these passages than I do in the Bible…or any other Sacred Text. We are a somewhat Violent Species.

I found the Web site of this organization Specious and Self Referential…filled with errors and misconceptions…most of which were easily dispelled with a simple google search.

What I found most disturbing, is the rhetoric, and the pseudoarguments, used by this organization, and those it has linked itself to. History Rhymes, as someone once said….and the language used, against Muslims, has been used before…against many others. In the USA, it has been used against “Reds”, Brown People, Black People, Red People…and , recently, Teachers. Imagery of “Cancer”, or “Vermin”(see Glenn Beck,et al.)…. Of some nefarious group, lurking in the shadows, eating out our substance…admonitions to “Be Vigilant”…to “Wake Up!”.

At the risk of violating Godwin’s Law, the rhetoric Rhymes with that of the Nazis, and Stalin, Pol Pot…well , the list is pretty extensive…

Some, if not most, of the regular folks who believed this stuff were, indeed, well meaning and sincere,(look up “Good German”,or see Milton Mayer’s “They thought they were Free”) but the facts remain.

Power sometimes needs to convince the People that there is an Existential Threat, in order to gain, or maintain, support. Scapegoats are sought out and held up…here is the Problem…here is your Enemy.

When times are hard, we must be especially vigilant that we do not fall prey to these machinations.

Guard against Gullibility.

Ms O’Brien , the original announcement states, “… graduated in 2010 from the invitation-only, prestigious Strategic Engagement Group for the Study of Islamic Doctrine in Washington, DC.” A web search reveals that, just for starters, this group received high praise from the likes of Lt Gen. Jerry Boykin…who, if you remember, tried to turn our current wars into a Crusade against Islam…and was called to the carpet for his trouble. A cursory search on one of the principals in this organization reveals that he, John Guandolo, is a former disgraced FBI Agent…who has ties to such luminaries as Pseudohistorian David Barton, and the Rifqa Bary “Controversy”. Another, Steven Emerson, while lauded by Neoconservative Elements, is considered a hystericist by many.

On ACT’s own site, the founder and apparent head person, Brigitte Gabriel, aka Nour Saman, makes numerous errors and utilizes many Logical Fallacies to convince folks to Fear Islam…according to her Wiki page, she rubs elbows with the likes of Pat Robertson, David Horowitz, John Hagee, and Pam Gellar…all well known for their rabid Islamophobia. .Hardly credible, in my opinion.

These folks peddle Hysteria, Fear and Loathing.

What we need is, rather, Understanding.

Instead of getting all one’s information , regarding Islam, from such one sided purveyors of Hatred, one should seek out “the rest of the story”, a la Paul Harvey. That’s what the Web is for.

Fear and hatred only lead to Violence and War, and I reckon that we have enough of those, already. Read the Koran, for starters…if you’re interested in knowing what it says…Visit a Mosque…there’s a few in Dallas, and I’m sure that more can be found.

The intelligent person sees with the heart
the result from the beginning;
the one lacking in knowledge
only discovers it at the end.”

And,” In the sight of Love, fear isn't even as great as a single hair”

_Rumi,( Jalāl ad-Dīn Muammad Rūmī) , an 8th century Persian Sufi Mystic)

....I don't know whether to expect cross-burnings, or what, from the pitch-forks and torches crowd. I drove by the meeting in question, and saw that the attendees were mostly old men, veterans and their wives. Figuring my attendance would be disruptive and counterproductive, I drove on.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ab Irato

As I’ve been out on the road for a week, I’ve noticed things…

Between Mason and Galveston, there has been a proliferation of Evangelical-Style Churches…But, leaving at 7 am Sunday morning, I saw empty church parking lots, of all types, the whole 350 miles. Perhaps there was a ball game…

One has to pay extra to get so called “Liberal” news coverage…MSNBC is not on ANY Basic Package, that I’ve found…but Fox, and CNN(fox-lite), sure are…Fox is on every public television I encountered….and every Radio station, save one 90.1 KPFT, that I listened to.

There will soon be ample available retail space along my route.

Every third house is for sale.

Every fourth business is closing, or looking run down…Corporate Outlets (franchises, and the like, are the exception)

That last, the everywhere one looks Corporate homoginisation of America, is all the evidence one needs that this isn’t Papaw’s America.

When I looked around , at an intersection on 61st street, looking for the coup de grace for an argument I had been making, I saw not one non-chain, non-franchise, non- corporate business…save for the numerous nail and hair salons and a mechanic’s shop.

I hear “Conservative” memes and themes and word constructions from even obvious Liberals…we habitually encounter the world, using “their” filters and frames.

Polls show that the US is at least Half Non “Conservative”…and that at best the ‘Religious Right” make up a mere 15%. One would never know this from direct observation.

Too, hardly anybody, “conservative”, Liberal or “Independent” actually Votes….only 91 million, out of 218 million eligible voters, voted in the 2010 elections. This was the so-called- Tea Party “Revolution”…leading to their “Mandate”…and obstructionism, etc 42%, give or take.

2008,out of 213 million eligible, 132 million voted…this was Obama’s “Mandate”….a little more believable, imo. 61%

Both of these were anomalous, given recent history…turnouts were much lower before the Bush “Administration”….

Tea People talk as though the whole country were theirs and theirs alone…as if all the rest of us are interlopers, insufficiently American to bother counting, let alone paying attention to. Mainstream Media encourages and promotes this delusion, and foists it on our collective mind(that twisted and starved thing…)Everything lurches rightward…and what Liberals there are, or even non Right Wingers, hide…and avoid eye-contact.


Galveston, for a week…

…with my mom, my brother, and his brood, and my bunch.

Beach-house, not 200 feet from the surf.

Fish! Elijah caught a 4# Redfish, Brother, some rather large Specs…me, a mess of smaller fish.

Saw a Shark, on the grass flats in the Bay…Bay was too hot for fish…all the action was in the surf.Top and bottom, live and dead bait.

Me and wife walked/hobbled to the beach at 10 one night, and the water’s edge had gone! Extremely low tide…new moon, I surmise. Bait flopping around everywhere, and a few fat, unpleasant people catching crabs and such.

Next night, a less spectacular low tide, but me and Kurt and Eli caught mullet in a cast net…the unpleasant ones were, apparently, unable to arise from the couch, that night.

Moody Gardens, the Aquarium, while neat, as all such things are, was entirely overpriced…my 5 year old was an “adult”, under the pricing scheme,…and there were very few places for a cripple, or one of the myriad old folks , to sit….except for the many benches out in the sun, in 99 degree, 90% humidity. They did let me borrow a wheelchair(ugh!). Smokers are required to Broil, as well.

Ghost Tour, on the Strand was cool as hell, and well worth the cost…

The Bolivar Ferry was free, as ever, and neat…the boys really dug it. Captain floored it, and the breeze was much welcomed.

There are Democrats…and Hippies…in abundance on the Island.

I did not expect this.

There’s even a Democratic Club…that meets regularly! In Public!...they even advertise!

If I had the wherewithal, I’d consider emigration…felt like a chunk of South Austin washed up on the beach.

Legs, to varying degrees, hurt the whole time(house had a ramp, tho it was pretty steep)…but I muddled through.

On the last morning, I managed to limp down to the water’s edge, at 4;30 am, and go skinny-dipping. My hip cut it short…but it was cool, nonetheless.

Back in the Broiler of Mason, now.106. 8% humidity.

Reading the local paper, Tea People on the front page, having a meeting about Sharia Law, etc.


Add another entry to the very short list of possible places to be a refugee, of sorts…if money falls from heaven.

Politics plays no small role in this…for once, I felt no undue scrutiny, from Cops, or anyone else…my hair was wilder than usual, too…salt/wind/sun…

How refreshing.

I can envision a shack on a ziggurat, somewhat inland…coupled with a school bus on the beach, or at an rv park, near the beach. Fishing can be super cheap, if one applies oneself….

It rains there.

Only drawbacks are hurricanes(hence, a ziggurat) and ordinances(since we’re not yet god’s, but cumbersome, all the same) and economic considerations(everything’s expensive).

There are workarounds, however….I could make more $$$ jerking around on the guitar, on a streetcorner(protected, 1st amendment activity(see wiki;”Busking”), than I can possibly make in Mason. Gardening has actual potential,(it rains, sometimes!) if one can undercut the competition(which, at first glance, seems simple)…I could charge more for a tomato than I do here, and still be competitive,,,and there’s at least 2 “farmer’s markets”…all manner of opportunity for entrepreneurship… I observed that there is a shortage of folks willing to mow, for instance..or paint houses…prolly the weather, and homeowners tiring of the all too soon necessity…

This is my first, real (nonworking) Vacation since I was a kid.