Walmgate Stray

cow on public path


Texas’ Anti-Abortion Law Is a Tax on Being a Woman (I’m looking in your direction, libertarians)

Here’s a fun little game: go on the USDA cost of raising a child calculator, and find out how much it costs to raise a child each year in your home state. Here in Texas, you’ll shell out $10,588 each year for your kid, and that’s only counting basic needs like food, shelter, transportation, and health care (even with an “other” category at $375, the calculation can’t possibly factor in all the extracurricular activities, like soccer leagues and dance recitals). The U.S. News and World Report cites even more hidden costs: “According to the most recent numbers from the Agriculture Department, children born in 2011 will cost their parents a whopping $234,900 before they turn 18 – a 3.5 percent increase over those born 2010.”

And that’s after the kid has popped out; according to WebMD, you’ll shell out at least $2,000 in hospital costs and $450 for prepatory items like cribs and blankets, and that’s for a totally normal, healthy, no-glitch pregnancy and delivery. It’s probably safe to assume that all the numbers quoted by the above links are conservative. Now, considering Texas ranks dead last in health care coverage in the nation, and access to health care, especially for women, is continually limited, one is forced to ask if the recent legislation passed by the state’s oligarchy isn’t simply a tax on being a woman: an arbitrary and repressive punishment, aimed simply at keeping one class of citizens in its economic place (poverty).

With that in mind, a question has arisen among those organizing for reproductive rights, at least here in Austin: Where are all the libertarians? Of course, a better question might be Where were all the libertarians, when Bush, following Clinton’s lead, ran up the national debt, allowed banks to play with Monopoly money, and exhausted the country’s assets (and good will) on foreign wars–er, liberations. But that’s water under the collapsing bridge; Tea Partiers should be all over a backhanded attempt to tax an activity that only one class of people can perform, let alone an activity that only one class of people is now forced to perform, against their will, against sound medical advice, and against the interest of the average taxpayer, who will inevitably fit some of the bill for a society with 30 kids in classrooms of 25 chairs. If ever there was a task for serious readers of Orwell, one might think, it’s highlighting the hypocracy and capricious meanness of the “Pro-Life” movement, which might as well be carrying around signs that read “war is peace.” …Right?

So, libertarians, the question stands. Will you stand up against Big Brother’s attempt to save women from themselves? Will you act on your supposed commital to bodily sovereignty? Will you join the growing coalition of people who are tired of being forced to spend money they don’t have, a form of–dare I say–taxation without representation? (Eight out of 31 Texas State Senators are women.)

I for one am not holding my breath, but a pleasant surprise would be warmly welcomed.

Here’s an Idea: Drone Hunting

Deer Trail, Colorado is considering passing an ordinance that will encourage people to shoot down drones, according to this report (which I first read yesterday morning in the Austin American-Statesman). The title of the first article I read was, in complete Orwellian splendor: “FAA warns people against firing weapons at drones.”

The Statesman article begins, “People who fire guns at drones are endangering the public and property and could be prosecuted or fined, the Federal Aviation Administration warned Friday.”

The suggested ordinance would allow Deer Trail to grant hunting permits to shoot drones, and would encourage drone hunting with a $100 award to anyone with a valid license who proves to have shot one down. The citizen who authored the proposal and got the necessary petition signatures commented: “I don’t want to live in a surveillance society. I don’t feel like being in a virtual prison. This is a pre-emptive strike.”

While filing the petition, which forces the town council to consider a bill, is mostly a performance piece aimed at highlighting the hierarchy, getting such an overblown and hypocritical reaction from a federal agency must surely be counted as a success (the introduction of the phrase “drone hunting” alone is something of a victory). This little episode is happening against the backdrop of Obama administration lawyers claiming that US courts can’t second-guess drone strikes carried out on US citizens in foreign countries. Violence can travel down the hierarchy, but never up it.

On Walking in Circles

I made it a point to walk the same path every day for thirty days, and while I didn’t do them consecutively, I did accomplish the goal, making my thirtieth trip around the path yesterday.

Here are my past reflections on the path, to catch you up:

Passer-by on a Path

I Plan on Walking in Circles

Path, Day 2

Path, Day 3

Path, Day 4

Path, Day 5

The heron

Path, Day 10

Path, Day 15

Path, Day 20

Path, Day 25

Path, Day 30

Of course everyone expects a neat little wrap-up, a “lessons learned from this experiment” type of post. But I’m not the sort of person to write what doesn’t need to be written. You can see from the pictures and writing that I came to know the path intimately, and that life teems even in small places if they’re just left alone, i.e. not “developed.”

The creek I circled, called Boggy Creek,  joins other creeks, including Walnut Creek, before eventually emptying into the Colorado River and then the Gulf of Mexico and then the Atlantic Ocean–on the way passing farms and houses and going under bridges and train tracks and highways and baseball fields, but it isn’t on google maps, or most maps I’ve seen.

I saw cardinals, bluejays, grackles, a heron (who I only saw twice and still think about often), lizards, cockroaches, snakes, bees, wasps, dogs, butterflies, dragonflies, moths, squirrels, tadpoles, minnows, and many other living beings on the path. Often I entered the path angry and came out on the other side calmed and pensive, and often I listened to birds chirp and sing and play out entire lives that most people ignore or deny even happens.

To write “and therefore, find your own path” would be cliché, but…

Reading Nietzsche: A Strange Nihilism

From Twilight of the Idols – or – how one philosophizes with a hammer:

Concerning life, the wisest men of all ages have judged alike: it is no good. Always and everywhere one has heard the same sound from their mouths–a sound full of doubt, full of melancholy, full of weariness of life, full of resistence to life. Even Socrates said, as he died: “To live—that means to be sick a long time: I owe Asclepius the Savior a rooster.” Even Socrates was tired of it. What does that evidence? What does that evince? Formerly one would have said (—oh, it has been said, and loud enough, and especially by our pessimists): “At least something of all this must be true! The consensus of the ages evidences the truth.” Shall we still talk like today? May we? “At least something must be sick here,” we retort.

Some people consider Nietzsche to be the first, or first modern, or even best existentialist in history. Others, too—especially those who haven’t read his work—assume that he, like the other existentialists, offered a dark, cold, mechanical view of human nature and of the universe: he was (gasp!) a nihilist. But to the contrary, this loathing (and self-loathing) was precisely Nietzsche’s critique of most philosophy and of all religion, especially Christianity. “Do not believe those who speak to you of otherworldly hopes,” he wrote in Zarathustra, “Poison-mixers are they, whether they know it or not. Despisers of life are they, decaying and poisoned themselves, of whom the earth is weary: so let them go.”

Derrick Jensen’s 14th premise sounds similar:

From birth on—and probably from conception, but I’m not sure how I’d make the case—we are individually and collectively enculturated to hate life, hate the natural world, hate the wild, hate wild animals, hate women, hate children, hate our bodies, hate and fear our emotions, hate ourselves. If we did not hate the world, we could not allow it to be destroyed before our eyes. If we did not hate ourselves, we could not allow our homes—and our bodies—to be poisoned.

Ask yourself what kind of worldview starts with the idea that humans are evil, or fatally flawed, or sinful or selfish on their own, without influence from an external authority to correct them, by a weird paternalistically euphemized judgment and punishment. Would this kind of worldview lead to a healthy interaction between humans, or any interaction at all between humans and other species, or between humans and rivers?

I submit, like Nietzsche did, that all notions of other worlds are necessarily harmful to this, material one we live on/in/with. The “logical” conclusion of a denial of humanity, a denial of ecosystems, is religion: another, ethereal place—an escape pod from reality. I for one wouldn’t want to escape Earth even if it were possible, bodily or mentally. But of course it isn’t, so that should leave all ethical and moral questions to deal only with the material planet.

The Kingfishers

Excerpt of a poem by Charles Olson: 


                      I am no Greek, hath not th’advantage.

                      And of course, no Roman:
                      he can take no risk that matters,
                      the risk of beauty least of all.
                      But I have my kin, if for no other reason than
                      (as he said, next of kin) I commit myself, and,
                      given my freedom, I’d be a cad
                      if I didn’t. Which is most true.
                      It works out this way, despite the disadvantage.
                      I offer, in explanation, a quote:
                      si j’ai du goût, ce n’est guères
                      que pour la terre et les pierres.
                      Despite the discrepancy (an ocean    courage    age)
                      this is also true: if I have any taste
                      it is only because I have interested myself
                      in what was slain in the sun
                              I pose you your question:
                      shall you uncover honey / where maggots are?
                              I hunt among stones
Here’s a great analysis of this poem: from Sibila. The resounding question of the poem is, according to the linked explanation: Is our Western heritage salvageable?
The answer, or at least the quest for an answer, lies in returning to what’s real: the material earth. So Olson hunts among stones.

Members of Ecosystems that Have Evolved for Millions of Years–Who Needs ‘Em?

This article from 2010 in nature sums up everything wrong with industrialized humans.

In “Ecology: A world without mosquitoes,” scientists argue that driving all species of the insect to extinction on purpose would be no big deal, really, because humans would benefit and besides, “it’s difficult to see what the downside would be to removal, except for collateral damage”, says insect ecologist Steven Juliano, of Illinois State University in Normal. Ah, yes–collateral damage, that wonderful phrase we use as code to signify that the lives of beings in our particular subgroup are more important than the lives of any other, in indeed than all of the other lives put together, since completely destroying an ecoystem is a risk we’re willing to take.

According to the article: “A world without mosquitoes would be ‘more secure for us’, says medical entomologist Carlos Brisola Marcondes from the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Brazil. ‘The elimination of Anopheles would be very significant for mankind.'” The latter statement is surely true, since the cataclysmic chain of events that would occur from removing entire species (the loss of prey, the loss of pollinators, the spraying of chemicals like they’re birdshot, etc.) would undoubtedly be “significant,” to say the least. The former statement is not as insidious as it is mendacious; after all, humans don’t know what we don’t know about ecosystems, and an attempt to alter them so radically would almost assuredly make us less secure, even if we only count the rise in population and no other environmental consequence. Does reading the details of the “war against the winged,” for example, make you feel safer?

Yes, mosquitoes carry diseases and we should attempt to take safe precautions and use safe technologies to try to mitigate their negative impact on humans. But I just read an article with “serious” (i.e. pro-industrial civilization) scientists, debating the pros and cons of eradicating every member of a group of species once and for all, and ending on the side of going ahead with it, because, “Given the huge humanitarian and economic consequences of mosquito-spread disease, few scientists would suggest that the costs of an increased human population would outweigh the benefits of a healthier one.” That conclusion scares the shit out of me.