Sunday, May 29, 2011

Legion: Working on telling you about my Family of Demons

I'm going to have to do this backwards. I actually prayed first, and often, before typing the initial sentences; perhaps that's the only reason you should even entertain serious engagement with what I'm about to say:

I think I know what's wrong with Democracy, or at least American Democracy: Demons.

OK, the 80% of you who didn't just click off are the ones I need, because the argument that follows is entirely Christian. It will take years to translate the ethics to humanism, and I don't have that kind of time.

I started with a thought experiment while talking with Abbey Grace, who had called in to arrange a volunteer experience for six of her bible study compatriots at UCI.

I was trying to explain normal American preoccupation versus demonic "possession" and I had begun to focus upon the energy involved, about the inhuman quality of it's intensity.

When I was slightly older than Abbey, I had styled myself the King of Sandpaper. Not surprisingly, others had as well, including the 3M Company, which makes just over half the sandpaper in the world. When I was 31, I was selling more sandpaper for a higher margin than anyone else at 3M. Even now I find it hard to get over myself.

And therein we find the problem with Demons.

A multi-billion dollar organization was lauding me for moving their most profitable product - paper with dirt glued on it! Even now I cannot help but spin the story to allude to my greatness. Knowing I'll die here wrestling with this beast - I must digress:

Starting over after revealing myself to be all too human...

I need to find some lynchpins of sanity. Something to explain why Jesus installed the legion of demons into a herd of swine and drove them into the sea.

The incarnation provides the most important guideline, and our first clue. Demons are not human, but they pretend to be. This is the blasphemy at the core of both our existence and Satan's greatest advantage in dealing with us: Familiarity breeds contempt, and there is nothing more familiar than humans. Even the name bears inspection.

Recently the S.C. Johnson Corporation has been going to great lengths to insist that it is a "family" company. Fiske Johnson tells us he's "working" on telling us what's in his bottles and boxes, while all the while hoping we don't notice the present perfect tense. "Working" on telling someone sounds like the protestations of a guilty child, or an addict. Obviously production knows exactly what's in those containers - that's how they fill them. Since Fiske Johnson is going to spend about one million times more energy telling us about how he's working on telling us than it would take to merely release the ingredient list in a press release, we now have some modern day definitions of the word used by Christ to name the demons: Legion.

In this case they represent the supernumerary quantity and quality of Fiske Johnson's obvious mis-directions; the numerous ways he strays from the straightahead truth. How like a family, Fiske. Only it's the kind of dysfunctional, meretricious family we Irish Catholic Alcoholics are all too used to.

Again, this isn't God's family, like the real Johnson's, born of flesh and blood. This is the unholy creation of Fiske Johnson, and his staff of professional liars and spinners, his risk-averse brood of corporate lawyers and risk managers, his murder of management crows all screeching about secret formulas and long-term health risks.

We've seen this play before, for much higher stakes, and the outcome, although attenuated, is predictable as hell, because there are no real human souls involved, only the shadows they cast upon the walls of our cave. Like the cigarette companies preceding him, Fiske is "working" at hiding the evidence. He might have a staff far more articulate than the poor author of the foul screed before you, but then, I'm not "working" on anything. I'm just saying that the list of what the production people put in the bottles last shift is evidence, and Fiske Johnson is hiding it.

And I can know the plain truth because I know Fiske Johnson. Now it is true that I cannot know, really know another human being, but the Fiske Johnson before us is merely a shadow. That which was born of woman and raised by our American village has been reduced to a risk averse pitchman who wishes to reveal almost nothing of himself, and certainly nothing that could help us critically assess our need for his lies. They're not going into the bottle, are they Fiske? Of course not. Having reached the far-flung edges of everything NASA science and the quest for the human genome could bring to window cleaning, Fiske's family has run out of ways to make ammonia somehow more special than it was 100 years ago. He's reduced to implying that Windex and Glade will have children that, unlike real children, will always tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, just like PaterFiske and his brood, captured in disingenuous snapshots, warts and all, alongside an splay of product shots arrayed like just another family, just another commodity.

Two Demon rules thus far uncovered: They're not human, and they lie, even when they're telling the truth, because they're "working" on telling the truth. Like a broken clock, they are associated with a factually accurate display of the time twice each day, but that is far from the truth. Fiske is right in saying the truth is something we need to "work" on, but quite unlike the broken clock, waiting for the precise instant to take the snapshot we'll use to hock the wreck on Ebay is a far piece from telling the truth.

So another rule about Demons: since no other inhuman thing is more ubiquitous, it could be said that nothing could teach us more about God and humans than the actions of demons.

They have been hidden among us for a longtime, and they only reveal themselves infrequently, perhaps only twice a day, and then only for an infinitesimal Zeno's paradoxical fraction of a second. It is only when they are cast out that their span is revealed, and God shows us their broad reach, their legion.

The one they were "working" on telling us about.

How like a family.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Santa Ana, runoff, the Homeless, and you.

Years ago, Congress passed the Federal Clean Water Act, and it cleverly states "the discharge of any pollutant by any person shall be unlawful" without a permit. Then Congress further instructed the States, including Georgia, to issue such permits. Generally speaking, Georgia declined, and a fellow there was charged with pollution because rainwater coursed off his property, along with the dirt it picked up along the way, becoming runoff, and then entered a Federal waterway, becoming pollution. He fought back, saying it was impossible to get the permit, and reminded the Court that, "the law cannot depend upon the performance of an impossibility."
In response, the Supreme Court said something which used to be oxymoronic: "Congress is presumed not to have intended absurd (impossible) results."
Lacking the integrity and education of even our poor Congress, Santa's Ana City Council lies to us about the poorest among us - with tricks and sleight of hand unbecoming a circus geek.
My contention today is the opposite:
That the City Council of Santa Ana did, in law and in fact, intend absurd and impossible results. They passed a law that mimics a well-defended Federal law, which reasonably intends to ration prized spots at popular parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite. At those destinations, permits are both needed and issued - people cannot be allowed to drive halfway across the country on their children's landmark vacation, only to be turned away at the last minute by the local homeless, or ill-prepared scofflaws who would steal another's moment in the Sun.
Our foul Mayor Pulido and the City, however, intended precisely the impossible.
Knowing it is unconstitutional to make homelessness illegal, he and the Council adopted the subterfuge, and please remember here that 30% of the homeless are veterans, while another third are children, of insisting that the homeless apply for a permit, which Santa Ana has never sold, issued or even printed, rendering possession impossible. Making homelessness illegal is unconstitutional, but making a needed permit unavailable almost does the trick; the only thing left to enact this selfish sin is to prohibit a specific act to complete the vicious fiction upon which local justice is done, or rather done-for. The City requires that a person intending to camp unfurl a blanket, or untie their shoes, and these innocent acts then trigger the banal legality of Santa Ana's horrific fiction. Far fewer than one third of the council-members ever defended anything with their lives; perhaps that is why they have the temerity to tell veterans not to spoil their view. But then, it has ever been thus...
In our case, the scofflaws are Mayor Pulido and the 1993 City Council, and others of their ilk who steal from a growing part of the public their ancient right to repose upon the commons.
Better circumstances built by honest governments temporarily forged a century in which public land could be left largely for public ceremony - the groomed lawns of courthouses and council chambers lent themselves to silent (the best kind) testimony that the local burghers had the situation well in hand, that everyone was at least doing well enough under their leadership to have a hovel. Well, those times are gone for good, the 10 year plan to eliminate the homeless notwithstanding.
Our bleak future has arrived early in Santa Ana. Most of the children graduating from our public schools will never achieve a level of employment commensurate with local rents, largely because 10 years of low-income housing funds were squandered on the Jail. Emigrants, they must join the march of other failed nation-states in a quest for greener pastures. Since we can no longer hold onto our own children, why should we permit the local Council their falsehood: their crowing grassland of civic pride. There is no reason to be proud of total failure.
Once local government has failed, there is only the solace of charity. As fails man, so succeeds God. As the hubris of local despots is swept away, perhaps our murdered saviour can again become rampant over the green crowing of City crows, feeding upon the corpse of an undeserved past. Perhaps the poor can again bed down upon that which God, in his mercy, has provided for them, and which the City first squandered, and then cut, and then forbade, in a blasphemous effort to be like God.
Like all governments intended to feather the nests of a few carrion birds, they have failed.
Perhaps it is time that the homeless of Santa Ana are treated better than runoff in Georgia.
Either issue camping permits or stop ticketing the homeless for not having them.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


21,000 is a special, but not quite magical number this month.

Dan Akroyd lost 21,000 bottles of vodka. He released a statement to TMZ -- claiming, he is both "distressed and elated" after hearing that several hundred thousand dollars worth of his vodka was hijacked within the last few days. The statement continues, "My partners and I are sorry to lose this much vodka to theft and do not condone criminal activity in any fashion, but we are happy that some consumers will be afforded the opportunity of tasting Crystal Skull at significantly lower than retail price."

The Keystone tar sands pipeline spilled approximately 21,000 gallons of crude in North Dakota. This is its eleventh and most significant spill. Considering that Keystone has been in operation for less than a year and it was predicted to spill no more than once every seven years, this is yet another troubling indicator that U.S. safety regulations intended for pipelines moving conventional oil may not be sufficient for pipelines moving diluted bitumen.

A minor in England invited 21,000 guests to her 15th birthday. The girl, a pupil at Sir John Lawes School, had meant to invite only 15 friends to her 15th birthday party, but within hours of appearing online the event escalated out of control as her mistake was subjected to online ridicule. At one stage, 21,000 Facebook users had clicked the RSVP button signaling they would attend the party, including fake celebrity accounts in the name of Justin Bieber, Professor Stephen Hawking, Stevie Wonder, Susan Boyle and Rick Astley.

This month also marks the beginning of the OC Partnership’s machinations to convince the voters, the Funder’s Roundtable, and assorted 2020 Plan dignitaries that 21,000, the current number of homeless, is somehow a magical number, exempt from the laws of physics, to wit:

21,000 times $100 still equals $2,100,000

21,000 times $1000 still equals $21,000,000

21,000 times $2156 still equals $45,276,000

21,000 times $12,000 still equals $252,000,000

Clearly there is some secret dividing going on; the OC Partnership cannot really believe, that we believe they are going to treat each of the OC’s 21,000 homeless people with equanimity. And they won’t. As always, the real plan is not to end homelessness, which would, of course, require dealing with every last person. No, the real plan is precisely the same as their current plan. Neither Larry Haynes nor Jim Palmer is clever enough or honest enough to have attracted their current million dollar bundles of voter and donor support without a plan. Their current plan is to help a few folks, talk about it every chance they get, and to try not to explain that neither one of them has ever, in any given year, helped anywhere near even 1000 people become less homeless, so that leaves 19,000, or pretty much everyone, homeless, and completely un-helped.

Now when I bail a swamp, my first inclination is to choose someone who has a plan for the alligators, so I have absolutely nothing but respect for the 2020 Plan committee in choosing the OC Partnership, which I’ll take the candid liberty of calling the Jim and Larry Plan. Now, Jim and Larry are both old hands at choosing which alligators can be made into purses. Given that both are still both deserving of and nearly free from nasty bites, what else could you do? This time, however, the Federal Government has committed to draining the swamp, and these two purse-snatchers know little or nothing about that.

Eliminating homelessness is going to involve considerably more than lining up new donors who are again willing to completely ignore the bottom line: Neither Jim nor Larry has any expertise at caring for homeless people for anything nearly as economical as $1000 per month. Jim has a $30,000,000 palace that houses 150 people, graduating a little over one a week, and Mercy house has a $12,000,000 palace that houses a mere 25 people, some of whom will likely die before they ever “graduate.” Taking them at their word, we’ll need just over a quarter billion dollars to get the job done the first year alone! So any talk of ending homelessness might have to be put to rest, at least with these two spenders.

I think it’s time we invite both of them to get their hands out of our purse, and admit that never once in their lives have they ever held the honest end of a shovel. Bailing the swamp will require an entirely new way of doing business.

The best first step is to fire the guys that were in charge of the old way.

After all, its how we got here.