Free the Free Market

submitted by Joe Detelj

Enter any institutional media outlet and you will be offered, gratis, a wealth of information engineered in private think tanks supporting the self-evident value of the free market and the evils of regulation. Common sense dictating my self interest and the pressure not to be isolated as an outcast, I have given studious consideration to the superiority of free market driven behavior over a collective regulatory environment and concluded that it is obvious that individuals and their parent corporations are not going to engage in a manner that is inconsistent with the public welfare because, quite simply, they are the public! This is axiomatic, logic only an ideologue would question.

 

Deregulating the undertakers of risk frees them up to create the wealth that precipitates the rolling tides that lift all the boats, yachts, and inner tubes in society at bay. Only the redundant, used up, and obsolete are washed away in the breath of fresh air that follows this tide. The latest, sexiest, and hippest survive and thrive. There is no more efficient organizational model this side of Utopia. Once the full import of this natural law becomes fully implanted in our brains it is outrageous that the policy implications are not are not more widely put into effect Just off the top of my head I can offer several modest proposals that would lead to a freer and therefore a more conducive economic development policy agenda.

 

Starting at the local level, it would be more than responsible to remove all traffic lights, stop signs, and speed limits. We ought to recognize them for the impediments to fast track progress that they inherently are. Once the pedestrian public becomes accustomed to their newfound freedom we can dispense with judges, lawyers, and police as the self-regulating invisible hand of self-interest guides us. For a moment, consider the enormous savings incurred as a result of the jettisoned penal colonies and their burdensome bureaucracies – abandoned to the junk heap of history. We would no longer be constrained by their non-productive hidden tax imposed on the undertakers of wealth creation and the liberated underlying population. We could expect to finally achieve a virtual free for all, and we can only imagine the vast potential for self-improvement that may be accomplished.

 

I cannot understate how overwhelmed I personally became once the full impact of this economic science became set in stone in my consciousness. I quickly realized the lost opportunities that I suffered as a consequence of misguided interference by misinformed cement heads. My life as a case study illustrates the folly of our ways. I am very handy with power tools. I own a Makita cordless drill and a full set of diamond tipped bits. Why, other than blind devotion to restrictive regulation, am I prohibited from setting up a dentistry practice? If a willing seller, myself, finds a willing buyer, an unfortunate patient in need of affordable care, and we come together, where does the government get off dictating prohibitive restrictions that curb our freedom to mutually satisfy each other?                                                                                                    Anyone can see the job creation potential here. With some imagination, astute vertical integration, and a loaded compliment of power tools I could easily operate a production line performing amputations  and minor organ removals. A Drill Baby Drill chain, and a Cut And Paste subsidiary are real possibilities if I were only able to liberate my capitalistic proclivities. As is readily apparent, there is no limit to the improvements and possibilities that await us once we end the class warfare obstructing our undertaking bent.

 

I am certain my readers  could easily come up with dozens of their own examples of government interference with the free market that defies common sense. No aircraft pilot wants a catastrophe so why waste our hard earned money on air traffic controllers? Enough of these union mandated make work schemes. The childish requirement for curbs, sidewalks, and cross walks are just the ego driven handiwork of bureaucrats who can’t find a job in the private sector. If an occasional frog or mouse turns up in your prepackaged salad, isn’t that a really small price to pay in lieu of FDA intrusions. Worms and maggots in your soup can would be a treat for the famine stricken people in North Africa. They would welcome the protein and thank God for it, and so should we for our rich blessings. We are not nearly thankful enough for the freedom we own and those brave souls who maintain it for us. It is my fondest wish that after considering these modest proposals, which incidentally barely scratch the surface mind you, that you will be motivated to engage in the current battle valiantly being waged by our job creators to free the market and liberate our full potential as human beings.

Advertisements

THE PR MAN EXPLAINS

thanks to Kurt Tucholsky

 

 

Good evening, gentlemen, how are you?

I’m the PR man from Kokostech.

 

Kokostech has no harmful side-effects,

Since it has no effects at all.

 

We are only manufacturing it in order

To cover the high advertising costs,

 

And we advertise it in order

To be able to manufacture it.

 

In this way we symbolize what lies

Closest to our hearts – capital.

 

*

 

Questions? Capital? Gross accumulation,

Money begets money, ask your banker.

 

Lacking that we couldn’t be Kokostech.

No effects at all?  Of course not,

 

Because it we had effects, we’d have causes,

And nobody wants causes, right?  That’s

 

Logic.  Causes are dangerous, cause

Effects, side-, inside-, outside-, ugly.

 

We want beauty, henceforth Kokostech,

That miracle of manufacture plus

 

Advertising, all up the spout, friends,

Trusting trusses, our only support.

 

Karl Patten

 

Comment:  When writing “thanks” to Kurt Tucholsky, I am very direct.  I was reading a book on the Weimar Republic, which dealt primarily with the arts, and I came across a prose passage, lacking a context, from Kurt Tucholsky.  It was a parody of advertising and said that whatever “has no harmful side-effects since it has no effects at all.”  Immediately, I knew there was a satirical poem there and set off writing this poem.  The first half went very well, but when I read it to my Spilling Ink colleagues they quickly saw that I had failed to follow it up in the second half.  I listened to their criticisms carefully and went home and rewrote, thoroughly, that second half.  At least according to them I succeeded, and you now have the completed poem.

 

I had to give a voice to Tucholsky’s prose and invented a PR man speaking to a group of shareholders about his product, for which I invented Kokostech.  Ko- is a favored bit of sound for products of all kinds, and I liked it for this one, whatever it is, I don’t know, although it suggests to me something to pull off a pharmacy shelf and ingest for better health.

 

Tucholsky was a satirical poet, and, I believe, suffered and died under the Nazis.  He is little-known in this country, unfortunately.

Beltway Fantasies – Part 1

Corporate control of the media undermines democracy by displacing reasoned consideration of opposing points of view to the margins of public discourse.  In place of considered arguments, the corporate media simply repeats and amplifies the fallacious and self-serving fantasies of the corporate elites and their representatives in Washington.  As a result we base our economic and social policies on Beltway fantasies that succeed in garnering (bare) majority support but that bear almost no relation to reality or good sense.  These fantasies promote the short-term corporate bottom line at our considerable expense, threaten the viability of our ecosystem and make a mockery of the ideals of democracy for which our fore-bearers organized, fought and often died.  This article, written by the members of the Spilling Ink writers’ collective, is the first in a series of articles written to throw some needed cold water on beltway fantasies.  Comments or suggestions are welcome at http://www.SpillingInk.net.

Fantasy #1:  Regulation is bad – it burdens business, kills jobs, and hurts the economy. (Chris Schell)

Non-existent, poorly designed, weakly administered, under funded and intentionally ignored regulations have killed more jobs, bankrupted more businesses and done more damage to the economy than any over-regulation has ever done.  And that’s just the business and financial regulations.  Most Superfund sites (scenes of environmental destruction) were caused by regulation lapses of one kind or another.  The gulf oil spill – lack of regulation.  And the number of lives saved by regulation of cars, highways, medicines, hospitals, nursing homes, food supply, workplace safety?   Countless.  Someone is always willing to make money by endangering other peoples lives and homes.

Lack of financial regulation, deregulation, or unenforced regulation (through greed or ideological blindness) has been at the root of nearly every major economic disaster of my lifetime.  The Savings and Loan scandal, the buying and dismantling of businesses to raid workers pension funds, the recent housing and financial collapse all resulted in what can only be termed obscene wealth being reaped by bankers, Wall Street financiers and corporate CEOs.  All of these scandals resulted in devastation for working Americans.  This is true class warfare.   Alan Greenspan could have stopped this last collapse but he believed in the free market.  He believed regulation was not needed because Wall Street would not be so blind and greedy to risk economic destruction for short-term greed.  He really nailed that one didn’t he?

Today microsecond trading which makes huge profits for a few while adding value to absolutely nothing could easily be taxed or regulated out of existence but the SEC does nothing.  Today grain and oil prices spike without regard to supply because the Bush administration removed limits on the futures commodity market.  These limits could easily be replaced but Republican appointees on the Federal Trade Commission do not believe it is necessary.  People around the world are starving because of our ideological blindness, including in the Middle East, contributing to the current turmoil there.

Deregulation has consequences.

Fantasy #2. All tax cuts are good all the time. (David Kristjanson-Gural)

This belief follows from the following claims:

i)               that government run services are inefficient and should be replaced by privately run services which are efficient;

ii)             that providing money and assistance to people in need causes them harm because it undermines their initiative and causes them to become more dependent;

iii)            that tax cuts provide an incentive to businesses to increase production and create jobs;

iv)            that wealth and income distribution results from fairly rewarding individual effort so redistributing income through taxation is unjustified.

In fact:

i)               Many government run services are highly efficient and many privately run services are inefficient.  Monopolies, in particular, maximize profits by restricting supply and charging high prices and they lack competitive incentives to innovate.   Adam Smith advocated the regulation or elimination of monopolies because they impose “an absurd tax” in the form of monopoly prices.  Most mature industries – drugs, agriculture, insurance, banking to name a few – are dominated by monopoly.

ii)             Providing money and assistance to people in need most often allows them to regain self-reliance and contribute to their families and communities.  Incidents of welfare fraud or recidivism are very low.  Crime and health costs are higher when we fail to provide assistance to people in need.

iii)            Tax cuts are not associated with greater business investment.  Business investment is governed primarily by the expected future rate of return, which depends highly on the business cycle and consumer confidence.  Cutting taxes simply allows corporations and wealthy individuals to free ride on the social investments taxpayers finance including education, infrastructure, and research and development without which corporations would be less profitable.

iv)            Wealth and income distribution is not the result of individual effort and innovation but largely results from ownership and control of productive or financial assets.  These assets “produce wealth” only because they allow owners to lay claim to the value created by the workers they employ.  Furthermore, social investments in education, research and development, common property in the form of raw materials, the legal and political system – all publicly financed – form a collective basis for the privately acquired wealth.  Taxing income and wealth is a means of ensuring individuals pay their fair share of the social investment.

The belief that cutting taxes is good rests on self-serving beliefs concerning fairness and the role of government.  Many working class people, whose pay has been squeezed by private corporations for 30 years, have been hoodwinked into believing these false claims because taxes are one thing they can affect.  Instead of focusing on cutting taxes, it is time to focus on raising wages, breaking up monopolies and calling into question the legitimacy of corporate profits.

Fantasy #3.  Government should be run like a business.  (Joe Detelj)

This bit of corporate propaganda is actually based on a false equivalency.

A business is chartered for the express purpose of generating profits for the owners. A business offers products and charges what the market will bear in order to maximize these profits.  Any activity that generates revenue, no matter the social costs, is an institutional imperative.

Governments impose taxes in order to generate revenue for investments in infrastructure, human capital and public safety.  Governments are elected to promote the general welfare and are to function with the consent of the governed.  This arrangement was designed to provide a system of checks and balances.

Inadequate revenue is a prescription for bankruptcy for both entities.  The irony of the false equivalency is that were it to be implemented, taxes would be levied on the governments most lucrative market, our wealthiest citizens and businesses and increased substantially.  We would have ideological consistency – government run like a business – but I imagine, public policy that would drive the advocates of business-government equivalency insane with rage.

Fantasy #4: The Tea Party and the Founding Fathers have similar beliefs. (Chris Schell)

Most of the Founders were personally tolerant of others’ religious beliefs. A few were atheists; several were Deists, cafeteria Christians in today’s negative terminology. Most believed in religious tolerance because they had seen the result of religious hatred.   The Founding Fathers were freethinkers, scientists and lawyers – the educated elite of their day. They were at the forefront of scientific discovery and invention and of legal and political thought. Elite, educated, thoughtful, progressive, devoted to knowledge, tolerant.  They were also willing to negotiate and compromise for the sake of political progress. Does this sound like the Tea Party?

Naturally the Founders did not always live up to their ideals. They tolerated racism and bigotry for political success or financial advantage.  They thought land ownership was a requirement for political participation and that wealth should provide a path to political power. They particularly were interested in the rights of white males.  Some – but not all – of these belief dovetail nicely with those of the Tea Party.

But even if you disagree with these judgments, do you really think that Washington, Hamilton, Paine, Adams, Jefferson or Franklin would have any respect for Glen Beck?

Fantasy #5: Republicans Support our Troops. (Charles Sackrey)

Starting in 2003, George W. Bush and the Republicans used a witches’ brew of fraudulent evidence to justify sending over 1,000,000 military personnel to war in Iraq.  Of these, 4,440 died, and 30,000 were wounded.  About one third of the survivors have suffered mental illnesses since their return.  These facts alone dispel the myth that the Republicans support our troops: they sent them to war and to their fate on false pretenses.  (It always needs mentioning that, along with U.S. military losses, at least 125,000 Iraqis have so far died and 2.5 million have been displaced.)

Once the U.S. troops came home, the Republicans’ assault on some of them continued.  In 2005 Salon.com, and in 2007 the Washington Post, brought national attention to complaints from war-wounded patients at D.C.’s Walter Reed Army Hospital about treatment there.  The complaints were about understaffing, and about rats, roaches, black mold, cheap mattresses, and a lack of heat and hot water in some rooms. Investigations led to the sacking of the hospital’s head and to its overhaul.  Thus, during much of the Iraq War, the hospital was in a steady decline.

More recent examples are easy to come by.  In their war on spending, Congressional Republicans are now trying to eliminate $75 million from the budget of the Veterans Administration to be allocated to housing vouchers for at least some of the 76,000 veterans who are now homeless. And, Congresswoman Michele Bachman, a Tea Party fan from Minnesota, has proposed lopping $4.5 billion from the overall VA’s budget.

While they try to limit housing vouchers for Iraq veterans, the Republicans are working just as hard to retain the Bush tax cuts which each year provide about $40 billion of extra income to the nation’s richest 1%.

What do the veterans think?  Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) recently evaluated the Congress on the basis of support for the interests of U.S. war veterans. These grades were awarded strictly on performance rather than on party affiliation.

Here are the results:

The IAVA gave out 154 D and F grades. 142 of those went to Republicans and 12 to Democrats — meaning that 92 percent of the D and F grades went to members of the GOP.

Of the 94 congressmen that received A or A+ grades, 91 are Democrats and three are Republicans.

Fantasy #6: Cold Winters in the Eastern USA prove Global Warming is a myth. – Karl Patten

Snowstorms or colder weather do not prove much about global warming.  These events are simply weather experienced in a specific location at a specific time.  Climate, however, refers to the prevailing weather conditions – such as average temperature, precipitation, wind, humidity, and atmospheric pressure – observed over decades.

Climate data show that global warming is already having profound effects on precipitation patterns, intensifying rain or snowfall in places accustomed to such precipitation while decreasing precipitation in areas or times of the year that typically receive little.  These impacts are likely to become even more pronounced in the decades ahead if heat-trapping emissions continue unabated.  (See Union of Concerned Scientists – www.ucsusa.org/blueprint)

Fantasy #7:  Evolution is just a theory.  (Joe Detelj)

Actually this is true.  Evolution shares elegant company with the theory of gravity, electro magnetism, relativity and photosynthesis.  Just to name a few.

Corporations Are Killing Us

submitted by Joe Detelj

I am of the firm conviction that proper and sufficient health care is a citizen’s absolute right in a civilized society. The notion that every man, woman, and child should provide the means or else be denied access to what is essentially life is as primitive as human sacrifice. Life in the twenty-first century, or more precisely, in the ten thousandth year of settled civilization, is not possible without the collective responsibility, cooperation, and contribution of the society at large. Consider that every physician, nurse, and medical technician was born into a household, constructed by others, provided with clean water and sanitation. The children were protected in a home with safe streets and public utilities. The vast majority attended public schools, instructed by teachers with an identical foundation. At every point they were nurtured and protected, directly or indirectly by an institution funded or subsidized with taxes supplied by various levels of government. And ultimately, all the useful knowledge and experience accumulated within their profession was supplied by the contributions of untold numbers of our predecessors over the past one hundred or so centuries.

The arguments offered in opposition to universal health care are essentially a defense of a corporate world-view that is a phantasm. The corporation, an idea, a mental construct, a Frankenstein monster out of control on a rampage through the countryside, devoid of any human compassion, designed with the singular purpose of gorging ever vaster sums of money with no capacity for satisfaction has been relegated as the instrument for decision making for this most vital of human requirement. The defense is couched in terms of libertarian rhetoric and individual sovereignty by modern sophists in corporate employment. We are assured this is the best of all possible worlds.

This flat earth mentality does not correspond to the reality of the physical realm. Self-sufficiency is not of this world. A human being alone and adrift from society has no meaning, has no relationships, has no way to come into being or to pass on any trace of his being. Physicists, since Albert Einstein recognize relativity as the order of the universe. The relationship of event A to event B determines the material reality we experience. This is not an extraneous thought. When we drill down to the smallest particles of matter, we find the essential organizing principle of relativity to govern. An electron can vary in size and weight but exists in time and space as an event relative to another event termed a proton thus forming the atom. Atoms join to form elements and on and on until, in greater complexity, we find ourselves literally integral to and very much in communion with the universe, a communion more profound than what is commonly understood.

That noted, as fundamental as health care is to life, liberty, and happiness, and as grounded as it is in our physical connection to each other, it ultimately diverts our attention from focusing on the more basic issue which is the present state of our collective health. It is appropriate to ask with some sense of urgency why our need for medical intervention is growing at alarming rates.  Why are we getting sicker as a community and not healthier? The rising trend is shocking when we examine childhood diabetes, immune deficiencies, allergies, cancer, obesity, and the entire range of degenerative diseases. The CDC has projected shorter life spans for this generation relative to their parents, reversing the positive trend that we had previously enjoyed. That portion of our lives when we are the most productive – “the picture of health” and vitality – appears to be contracting for many. As each year passes life support in the form of drugs, surgeries, implants, and properly prescribed mood altering stimulants are the fabric that binds us over until ultimately we are set aside in isolated confinement left to fade away in a nursing home.

Exploring the margins of the available literature, one can find some reasonable explanation for this situation that finds fault rooted in our industrial food system. Again, the same corporate structure that dominates the health industry, dominates the food industry. The pastoral image of the family farmer tending the back forty is a memory for most and Madison Avenue trickery for all. The close alignment of the food and health industries has perpetuated a self-serving endless loop that enhances GDP to the detriment of the general welfare. Profits rise for the undertakers of these institutions and we the less fortunate receive the garbage, toxins, poisoned air, water and soil to assimilate, consume, and mitigate to the best of our abilities. A reckless abandon is at the core of industrial agriculture with its emphasis on factory farms, concentrated animal facilities, massive pesticide and herbicide use, genetic engineering, and a monopolized, vertically integrated distribution network.

There is a wealth of independent data to support the contention that wholesome, nutrient rich, toxin free food is essential to good health. Healthy soils tended by mindful farmers produce healthy food – food that in turn produces healthy eaters. A fundamentally different view of the state of things in sync with the harmony expressed in physical and natural law is the ultimate solution that will allow remediation for the intolerable situation we find ourselves in at this time. We have at our disposal all the tools we need to commence a journey toward a healthier and sustainable climate in which we can express our potential to the fullest. The symptoms of insufficient health care, a malnourished population, and a polluted environment are the fantastic imposition of social structures whose foundation is set on medieval folk-law.

The False Ideology of a Neutral Center

Note: This is cross-posted on The Nets We Weave.  Though not the usual form of writing here, it grew beyond a simple comment to become a budding column or essay.

I took the plunge and posted this on facebook:

I am irked by “centrists” like Matt miller on KCRW’s Left Right and Center who think center ALWAYS means that left and right are equivalent in their commitment to ideology over good ideas and therefore the only possible solutions to economy, politics, and government is some sort of “third way.” And they think non-choice is non-ideological.

On a side note, I never know how much politics or “political economy” (the broader interrelated questions of fairness, governance, philosophy, and values) to put on FB. I have often said, and should write more about the double-edged sword of FB- it is based on network growth and inter-connectivity, but the broader a network becomes, the more limited it’s uses. At the extreme, FB will become an on-line version of Lake Wobegone nomrs: to avoid unsettling anyone, only discuss the weather in polite company.

Anyway, Matt Miller, the host and apparent “arbiter” on Left, Right and Center (a great show even if it is made by the communists socialists Nazis at NPR,was on a tear about the need for a new label for “radical centrists.” He made his version of a passionate plea for now being the time for a brave new “third way” politics (was he around during the 1990s when Blair and Giddens did this? and, um, that US president, named, um, Clinton?)

Matt Miller makes some good points, sometimes. But I find he often starts where much of the “mainstream”media seem to: that the excesses of left and right are always there, always misguided, always driven by ideology over facts and therefore the only hope for progress comes in some third way. Even as his OWN SHOW has left and right weaving in and out of agreement on issues like the Fed, China, and Afghanistan, he cannot let go of the animating narrative of his life.

Sometimes the “very” left is simply correct. For example, there is growing wealth and wage inequality in the US, and tax policies have much to do with it. Or, the distortions in health care of the US compared to other comparable societies is due to all the money that flows to the various sectors of the Health-industrial complex. No amount of compromise with the right can make those critiques go away.

Rarely, the “right” is correct. Ron Paul wants to audit the Fed. I am with Bob Scheer on this one. The Fed as it has become run is a distortion of democracy in our economy. I can agree with some critiques of changing or weakening values in US society, although I won’t agree with solutions or causes, probably.

So, I would rather Miller’s idea of a radical center be more of arbiter between right and left than always elevate its (false) sense of being above the messy fray by being aghast at the ideology around it. There is no non-ideological center…

UNFURLED

In corridor and street
they stalk me
Oblongs, oblongs, oblongs
everywhere.
In no place can I walk safe
from their flat boldness.
If I stand on the corner
of 3rd and Market
They fly, they wave,
they rattle on posts.
Oblong spirits, but tangible
spirits of man textures,
Paper, cotton, plastic, the junk
of sweatshops oceans away.

They never speak, can only honk.
Crippled, they are deaf and blind.

And, they would muffle me,
enshroud me, wrap
Their oblong selves around me,
silence me
With their stripes, stuff stars
down my throat,
Deny me breath to call them
what they are—
Emblems, something cheap and easy
to wave or sport
On breasts, suits, hats, SUVs—
to call them
Nothing but rags covering
a continental emptiness,
Nothing but flags,
red, white, and blue.

I thought it was a dream, a nightmare,
And, then I awoke, and it was true.
December 2001

HERE’S THE COMMENTARY

As the date December 2001 indicates, this poem was written not too long after 9/11/01, the day that saved Bush from being a one-term president and from which one can date the beginning of the ending of our country as a democracy of responsible citizens.  And it has a particular place as an origin, the corner of 3rd and Market in Lewisburg, Pa.  That is where the Federal building stands, and for many years peace-loving people have held a vigil against war there, where the large flag rattles loudly against the metal flagpole whenever wind is blowing–which it always is.

Bush ruled by fear and flag, and the latter was everywhere that fall, as it still tends to be.  Our local Fourth of July parade is a massive display of militarism and “patriotism.”  A few years ago, the director of this obscene rite wrote to me and others, asking us to show flags.  I wrote back, saying that I could not wrap myself in the flag, which was a phony patriotism, cheap and easy.  I told him that I would agree to read the Declaration of Independence, which the day should celebrate, at the end of the parade, but he declined my offer.  Small flags are planted on the sidewalks for the parade, and when it was over I went out to pluck the one from my sidewalk and was struck to see that it was made from flimsy stuff made in China–cheap and easy.

This poem speaks for itself, but I must pay one debt.  On the day in 1967 when the people of peace marched on the Pentagon I had the good luck to pass by Dick Gregory, standing on a car, and chanting, “The flag is a rag.”  Unforgettable and true, and it found its way into this poem.  I present this to the Spilling Ink Co-op for David Hafer, who has an excellent, genuine sense of what patriotism really is.

Karl Patten
from Spaces and Lines

Bach, Butterflies and a Rooster

Submitted by Joe Detelj

This past winter was not particularly severe, yet I could see it take its toll on our old rooster. Incredibly the old geezer has been with us for well over a decade which is really ancient for a chicken. He happened to be one of our many fortunate accidents. Ordinarily I buy replacement chicks that are sexed. Females, or pullets, lay eggs after approximately twenty weeks from hatching which was my intended purpose. Males, or cockerels, do not lay eggs at maturity, they fertilize them, a better deal it seems to me from a biased perspective. Chickens do not form bonded pairs. If there are several adult males they will fight relentlessly until a dominant rooster prevails and reigns over his hareem. The lesser males lead a beleaguered existence . Nature is generous  but not kind,  unless we humans are included in the mix and that can be an iffy proposition.                                                                                                                                 

As there is no functional purpose for squabbling male redundancy, few cockerels can look forward to a leisurely life as the cock of the walk. Sunday diner is the more likely destiny for most. So, as this relates to our flock, it happened that I purchased a late bloomer, or the sexer had an off day as this is apparently not a zero defect process though remarkably accurate most of the time based on my  past experiences. After several weeks there was no mistaking the fact that there was an odd fellow in the flock. Intention  went out the window because I was now faced with reality and not perceived purpose. We kept this guy even though our Rhode Island Reds were not good setters and we would not be hatching their eggs. Bacon, sausage, and pancakes were to be the eggs future mates.                                                                                                                        

Clearly, our boy had won the chicken lottery big time. He kept the hens content and maintained order in the court yard. He was vigilant and warned of any passing change. A sound remarkably like ours for hawk, though extremely drawn out would upon an aerial inspection reveal a circling red tail. A comical Chinese fire drill followed with mad dashes for the safety of the coop, and akin to the lore of the captain and his ship, the rooster was always last critter in, and with a strut that oozed defiance for the hawk.                                                                                           

 Over time the rooster gained squatter’s rights and just belonged . He took his place along with the other creatures who have found a haven at Dreamcatcher Farm.  Not unexpectedly, I found him hunched over in the corner of the coop at the beginning of our crazy summer-fall-spring. His job was finished, he was now going to be placed under a bush, undisturbed where no hawk was going to chase him again. This passing poses a question in regard to his replacement. Conventional Ag economic thought as advocated in the Ag colleges and through their extension agents holds that if the animal does not return an income above its cost of production then it should not be on the farm. If the return is a penny or two, then add thousands. .To my mind this is a calloused calculus that favors maximized commodity production above any other consideration. It is the rationale behind the removal of tree lines and the consequent pheasant habitat destruction and a host of equally mindless economic enhancements.                                                                                                                                                       

This all brought to mind a feature I had recently seen about a biologist who was heroically working to preserve the Mexican forests that serve as the migratory home for the Monarch butterfly. The cash calculus is operative there also as logging is threatening these miraculous creatures existence. When questioned about the superior human requirement for the timber resources, the biologist gave a provocative response.. He said, in effect, we could survive without Monarchs, and we could survive without Bach, Beethoven, or Shakespear, but we would be much less human without them. I also believe we could exist without Smokey Robinson, Bob Dylan, or Patsy Cline . We could maximize production without any need for e.e. cummings, John Steinbach or Barbara Kingsolver. You could easily name your own choices to make my point and change it frequently. Our capacity for choice is guided by many considerations and that quality that moderates economic maximization is what separates us from bees, locusts, and a pack of jackals.                                                                                                                                                   

So in the end, the choice is no choice at all. I could enable the production of more stuff, future land fill if you will, or get a replacement rooster whose contribution to the farm has no economic value, and is therefore priceless.

Simple Poem

Sometimes the unbelievable happens.

As when a butterfly (Monarch, I think)

Lit on the back of my right hand,

Remained there for five minutes.

I looked directly into his eyes,

Down the furry thorax, watched

His inch-long tongue, a soft wire, work

Away on my skin, felt it. I saw how

His wings are in two parts, larger

And smaller, moving back and forth

Regularly, as if he were breathing

With them.  He showed no fear of me,

Even when I spoke to him.  Slowly

He grazed my hand, a cow chomping about

A pasture.  Leaving, he flew crazily.

Drunk? From me? And now the what

You will not believe: he came back,

Licking away again, but for longer. I

Was transfixed – that royal butterfly

Thralled my hand into a rock, twice,

Made the whole mountain move.

                                                (7/11/95)

Karl Patten

from Touch: Poems