Civil Service, Prison and a way to Pay

cost of prison, state prisonThe current prison population of the US is estimated to be nearly 3,000,000.The associated direct costs of incarceration in the United States, rate nearly ten times greater than England, and the highest in the world is estimated to be $100,000,000,000. The indirect costs, though nearly incalculable are clearly some multiple of this One Hundred Billion Dollars. Many of the families related to those incarcerated have no other sources of income but government subsidy, assistance and aid.Few if any currently incarcerated can or do make a significant contribution to themselves or their families; so along with the 100 Billion of direct costs, the several hundred billion of indirect costs associated with all of the ancillary support, families of prisoners need, there is an additional few hundred billion dollars of lost income, wages, work, products and goods, were this population engaged in some constructive undertaking for their families or the commonwealth.

If we add all of the sums and costs, there is more than a half trillion dollars lost on the care, feeding and related losses associated with the populations of prisoners  in the US, and none of this accounts for the costs and downstream hardships of the victims, families and businesses.

Like many of the bureaucratic systems in the US, there is a redundancy of service and effort which causes incredible waste and prevents long term allocation of scarce resources to long term good. Continue reading

Stirring

The crack of the Sitka weighted by boughs unnaturally laden with snow over shadowed the small caliber report of the handgun the soldier used to shoot the frozen worker.

Fiction Novel, Mystery NovelAppearing ready to operate the chain link that hauled the Sitka logs off the ground and up onto the conveyor, the soldier cajoled him to continue his toil, unaware he was already dead.

His face was blackened by frost. His hands and arms were rigored by mortis and the implacable cold invading the small mammalian and once human form.

The man he shot, like the Sitka weighted by tons of freshly fallen snow, was lifeless and stiffly frozen.

 

In sleep the children stir each distinctly and as notably different as their words, spoken in wakefulness.

The knots on the plank above me, the beautiful amber and gold of the Sitka spruce, are punctuated by the board with eyes, moons of purple, red or near black.

Here are limbs or branches, arms which had met the blade of the millers saw, each board, each tree as unique and distinct as the stories of the children, the accents of their speech, language of their tongue, the stirrings of their dreams.

With sleepy eyes, their visions are filled with phantasms of their evening travels, journeys whose incalculable distance I would like to see, but whose ephemeral nature and the complexity in the telling or competition with cereal and buttered toast, leaves me behind.

“Pa,” little sister croaks, her voice deep from its night of inactivity, her breathing slowed by somnolence, her words the careless choice of those taken from dream, others snatched from her daytime lexicon, employed in waking intercourse.

“Umm,” I intone, wanting to signify I hear, but not so loudly as to disturb her dream like state.

“Do you think I might really get a horse.”

I smile and struggle to control laughter.

I grin widely, fearing the movement of my face and ears will betray my smile and work to not burst into laughter.

“Umm,” I say, an answer sufficient to keep her engaged in the monologue, to allow her, in this sleepy state, to continue speaking.

In quiet, I hope to allow some of the pictures, pieces of whatever is the constitution of her thoughts, so different from sugar plums or purple fields I imagine to people her dreams, to rise and take shape from the subterranean depths of her unconsciousness.

Nighttime stories drift off into an oblivion where they are never lost, I believe, but like the gene pool, resurface in years or times and ways none of us can distinguish as related to this night.

“Hey Pa,” she murmurs, rubbing sleep from her eyes, taking the measure of the sun outside, the time of day, the geography around her.

‘Where have you been,’ I want to ask, but know she is still in transition from one world to this other, still taken with the fantastic and elusive images of the night.

Were I to speak, I know, I would intrude on her moment, scuttle whatever recollections were still afloat.

Words, I fear, might engender some unpleasantness for their unwitting disturbance of a time otherwise needing the quiet and solitude regular animals enjoy when there are no hominids to question or impose their ceaseless wonder, contrivances of thought into the still quiet world of gossamer threads and make believe.

“Did you sleep well,” I ask, knowing the best I can expect is a nod or, with luck a small smile acknowledging my presence, yet not so intrusive as to chase away the phantasms or incur any ill will.

But for an occasional crow, one, then another, then sporadic cries of one here or there, separated by what must be their own roosts in the forest, the morning is still.

I have a cup of coffee whose heat warms the glass mug that in turn I press against my cheek.

By rote or luck, mime or genetic imprinting, the sleepy eyed sweet smelling girl moves across the room to sit next to me. She takes my hand, lacing her arm in mine, and closing her eyes, allows her head to rest upon my shoulder.

For more than a few moments we sit, exactly as she has come to be next to me.

In another moment I fear moving for her breathing has changed and I wonder if she isn’t again asleep.

“Pa,” she whispers, no other movement or sounds tell me she is in fact awake.

“But I’m serious pa,” she says, still without movement or other audible sounds, having somehow detected my less than enthusiastic support for the proposition.

“I am too,” I say, leaning back on the couch, letting her head fall to my chest, taking the weight of her head and long mane of hair, the sweet aroma of her scents and smells all about me.

“Today,” she said, after some moments of very slow very regular breathing.

“Today,” she repeated, turning now and taking my gaze, peering into my eyes with her soft but focused and resolute eye.

“Well, we could look for a horse,” I begin, “and I suppose you could buy one,” I answer, thinking to speak slowly for every word I say she will remember exactly and to each of which she will hold me accountable.

“But we would have to build a house for him to live in.”

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“Move along,” the soldier shouted.

The workers rested momentarily, a breath from demanding exertion.

“Move along,” he repeated, his tone harsh and unforgiving.

The men took a moment to rub their hands, wipe frost and ice from their beards, shake warmth and blood back into their nearly frozen limbs.

“Get going,” he shouted again, knowing he too had a quota, he too was slave, that there were as many conscripts as trees, and that, under the proper conditions, humans proved once and again they were capable of surviving the most extreme and inhuman suffering.

“Better than barnyard animals,” the soldier thought.

“Thank god for the nation of hope.”

At the rail station there were watchmen, rail workers, yardmen, soldiers, clerks and the bosses ever-present.

“No shipments today,” a soldier said. He spoke under his breath, standing along side a miller, separating a load delivered the day before.

“Eh,” he whispered again, a modicum of jocularity in his voice mimicking the lightness any worker would have right to feel for this day’s respite, the surcease of a days hard labor for a problem up the line.

“There must have been a broken rail, an accident, a frozen locomotive or better yet,” he thought, “a strike.”

“I think it’s the end of the line,” the miller answered, his eyes never leaving the flash of board whistling past him on the conveyor, planks which moved so quickly they would easily dismember a hand, a leg, the private and most precious parts of a man’s jewels.

“Murmansk,” the soldier replied, “What do you mean. What has Murmansk got to do with this?” In the soldiers voice was a genuine question.

“Not Murmansk, you fool,” the laborer grunted, lifting his eyes momentarily to scold the Russian soldier.

“The other end.”

The soldier looked bewildered.

“Vladivostock,” he said, his word more question than rejoinder.

“Are you drinking already,” the other inquired, his words, mocking but lighthearted. He waited for the roar of the machinery, as was its custom when grinding to a halt.

It screeched its disdain and unwillingness to continue, growling it’s determined, and implacable discontent.

“In the woods,” the miller said, looking now at the soldier allowing themselves the luxury of eye contact for the proximity of trouble, the incessant and twenty four hour monster whose care, his job, had died in its tracks.

“I heard they had a terrific storm.”

The worker looked along the rows of machinery checking to see if he was expected to do anything, if there were strong men or soldiers whose attitudes and interests were different than the likes of his comrade, here, who was willing to stand and talk a minute while someone else came to fix the problem.

“I heard they had a ferocious storm in the north.”

The soldier raised his eyebrows, wanting to hear more, a question and an acknowledgment of his lack of knowledge.

“They had eight or ten feet of snow.”

“Everything is buried.”

The soldier looked awed, struck by the harshness of a land that might even stop the forces of communism and the dictatorial hands of the oligarchs.

“A lot of men died,” the miller man continued.

He looked past the soldier, past the line of machinery watching, to see no one was watching him, that he wouldn’t get into trouble for having a conversation with a military man, that some goon or gun man wouldn’t find neither of them posted as was their jobs, not working as the state demanded and send them packing or to the commanders office for reprimand or confinement depending upon his mood, how bad were the terms of his own confinement, the harshness of his own imprisonment in this universal system of eternal, unmitigated penal servitude.

The moment he spoke, there was a loud hoot from a locomotive, a whistle and the deep grumbling of a train moving, shunting in the rail yard.

It’s movement and sounds were familiar but unexpected as there was no freight, to their knowledge, no loaded trains, as the worker had just explained, and a bad storm causing everything in the north to freeze in a seizing halt.

 

“There’s some Sitka spruce,” the old man at the lumberyard said, “that’s come from Russia.”

We had driven our regular and religious journey to the lumberyard looking for timber and board, some of which was to make the floor of the loft of our mountain eerie.

“Sitka,” one of the children says, “that’s the tree wooden ships use for their masts.”

“Yup,” the ancient logger repeats, “and it’s from Russia. A pretty good price too. And it’ll do you just fine.”

We collect nails, two by fours, steel for the roof repair and stop, fully loaded but happy to stand in the sun smelling the intoxicating scents of the lumberyard.

“Let’s see,” I say and we amble along the rows of neatly piled timber to the shed covering the famed spruce.

“Over there,” the old man pointed, he some distance off, sitting on the steps of the small shed where there is a telephone. Here they collect money from locals who buy material, load their pick ups and stop nearby, to pay.

We move over an aisle to where he had directed us and see, under the polyurethane a squared truck sized lot of lumber that we realize, by his direction, is the Sitka.

“Oh look,” one of the children says pulling up the edge of the tarp, seeing beneath, now open to the bright July sun, the golden yellow evenly cut, flawless lengths of board that are indeed Sitka.

Dimly I recollected this spruce came from the wilds of British Columbia, Alaska or, if the story is true, from the northern steppe of Russia.

“My parents came from Russia,” I think and move to more closely inspect the alleged treasure, a troff which, if true, must have been stolen from unpaid workers at the gulag, shipped from the arctic, fifteen thousand miles away. It must have changed hands five hundred times to land here in the woods of the North Country two oceans and seven lifetimes away.

The children watch the Sitka story unfold.

Little by little they see the nylon tarp come up and over the edges revealing the beautifully golden colored spruce.

“Yup,” the old man said, ambling now towards us, taking a liking to these ragamuffin children and their peculiar father.

“I don’t know if it’s true, but I’ve been in this business since I learned to feed and water my father’s horses, and I’ve never seen anything like it.”

His eyes glanced back and forth to the children and the spruce, but counter pointing the meaning of his words and the significance of his speaking, he closed off, gazing directly at me.

He stopped speaking leaving the faint suggestion their was, in some curious way, a relation between this spruce, of such apparent beauty, and these beautiful and self possessed children of mine, gawking at the Sitka, and the toothless old man speaking so seriously to their father.

He winked, saying again with nary a word, to regard all the wonder and beauty of being in this lumberyard. A space of land filled with trees in whose presence we lived, whose sugar we ate on pancakes, and whose live logs we sold at the market for furniture and fancy cars, was all around us.


  I am given to wonder if the sounds of my keyboard will wake the children, if the sounds of my writing will intrude in their sleep, color their dreams like the entrails of a jet, air sifted and swayed into unrecognizable forms by the passage in and around other clouds.

The children sigh as I imagine the Sitka does after its protracted winter night.

Sometimes they shake and shudder in sleep passing some phantasm as I imagine man must feel, trekking along the taiga, hearing the freight train of wind howling, screaming, clawing at the bottoms of their souls, shuddering with the nightmare which, being lost in the arctic night, he must always endure.

How curious the Sitka and the children, the woodsman and the tree all sigh, boughs filled with snow, tussled heads cradled in sleep.

There is, in everything we do, in all the creatures of the planet an odd, but not unlikely similarity.

The children and I have few possessions.

In part for the demands they place upon the spirit, the demands for being well kept, the cost, in human capital of maintenance and care, and the freedom, alternatively of being without responsibility. Except to ourselves, for pleasure, for the attempt to gain peace and contentment from the moments in time through which we pass, there seemed little reason to own anything but our pride.

There is no easy way to learn the lessons all around us. We look up to the underbelly of the loft and see the beauty of the Sitka, the floor of the space where we sleep, rest from the sun, conceive children, play, laugh and wonder at the enormity of change, the magnitude of difference between the simple luck of being able to lie here, beneath the Sitka and not be laborers forced into a lifetime of suffering.

We can hardly conceive that luck of not being the miller or logger, the timber or sawyer who, at gun point, deprived of food or warmth the immediate consequence of failure was death; a freezing, starving privation, an emaciating, numbing and hypothermic death.

The miller looked to the soldier and felt the anxiety of uncertainty overcome his face.

“What is it,” he asked, a serious man whose only interest was to get a good meal, be warm at night, stay out of the gulag.

“Listen,” the mill worker answered, cocking an ear to the direction of Murmansk, the direction in which all timber traveled, the direction from which occasionally there was food or other meager provisions, but mostly trouble in return.

“Maybe it’s food and supplies,” the goodhearted soldier said.

“Maybe it’s troops and there has been a rebellion in the North Country.”

The soldier sobered suddenly despite the unexpected break in his regular activity and stood at attention. He stood, acting out the only command he knew when all else failed, when there was no one to command him, nothing better to do.

The laborer lowered his head, a poor attempt to be engaged, a reflex from the superstition that if one looked at trouble one would inevitably become part of it.

The rails shook.

The earth vibrated.

The ground between the laborer and soldier trembled, articulating the certainty that change of an unwelcome nature was immanent.

“Oh God,” the laborer whispered, his hat drawn tightly to his chin,

“Oh God,” he whispered again, seeing, on the leading edge of the rail car, the unmistakable star and crescent, the red hammer and sickle, an otherwise benign insignia which here, clearly spelled trouble of a most unfortunate kind.

 

At the rail station, where before the horse-less carriage, ox carts and horse drawn buggies were the only means of locomotion, the children and I walk and play.

There are old wooden warehouses edging the tracks, old buildings like ships, which lay nestled next to the wharves.

These I think must have taken freight from the city, handled and manufactured by hands to the farms, quarried stone, fallen timber cut and hauled by factories whose stores were long since exhausted.

There are trophies to be found and an ice cream store nearby.

We seek the quarry of an old iron spike, a scrap of metal from one of the ancient cars, a squashed or flattened coin some other child carefully placed and left, lost or chased away by the station master, spooked by the locals boarding or debarking and arriving home.

Like the Sitka, in trains there is something of a time gone by.

The old timber man tells us there was a time when squirrels could walk by treetop from the coast of Maine to the Mississippi.

There are stories of the past which, too simple to be anything but true, too complex in their simplicity, are like the Sitka. I yearn, in more ways than I am able to speak, for the wherewithal to give this knowledge, these understandings to these children so they, like the Sitka, will grow straight and tall.

Along the tracks, along the dry dust creek bed where tracks once lay, there are piles of iron, old tracks taken up by crane, old planks, and ties which held the iron rails in place.

Like a graveyard, the children walk amongst these old leviathans.

They rummage up and down, casting quick steps across the surface of metals and woods which, in it’s current form, is more than a hundred years old. Before this, I know it lived as a tree, a deposit of ore before even the country was formed, before a flag of these thirteen colonies was contemplated to fly.

What is in the meaning of iron rails which used to be stone and from which the foundry crushed, heated and pulverized some essential stuff to make this sleek and man smoothed steel.

Is it, like forms of dissimilar origins, that so strikes me. Is it in the essential likeness of being, all elements, however touched by man, and all lives possess.

And what of the square logs. Railroad ties that bind steel rails, allow transport of the iron horse across their perfectly engineered abyss, to cross the continent, to discover and open the new land, to pass troops or goods, manufactured stores or foods, wool or grain, blue jeans and pallets of Sitka, home.

What is the irony of wood carrying wood, wooden ties transport for wooden timber, iron horses the transport for iron cars.

There is something so simple in this it eludes me, but is, nevertheless, a relationship I want to explain to the children even as I watch them clamor over its midst, up it’s steep walls and along its shiny piled high length.

 

The soldier waited attentively. The laborer knew, too well, something terrible was about to happen.

They stood stiffly.

There was suddenly nothing more either wanted to say.

The surge of nausea, panic and the unpleasant but familiar companion of adrenaline preparing them for fight or flight churned their stomachs.

The train approached.

It’s locomotive, a military green was indistinguishable from the forest of trees through which it moved but for the ever looming size of the crescent moon and bright yellow sickle.

“Shut down your equipment,” the militiaman shouted.

He jumped from the freight car behind the locomotive before there was even a hint the great train would slow.

“Shut down your equipment and prepare to leave,” the soldier shouted. He held up his rifle as if he were speaking to men from a different country, citizens of a foreign flag, foreigners whose interests didn’t ultimately coincide with his own.

The soldier stared at the messenger and saluted, acknowledging his understanding and the preeminence of the newly arrived garrison.

“You,” the militiaman shouted to the laborer.

“There is no more lumber to work on, nothing else for your machines.”

He paused, seeming to raise the barrel of his rifle, not a threat pointing it to the laborer’s head, rather a simple statement making clear the insinuation of the consequence of his orders not being followed.

“Do you hear me.” His stance, aggressive and pugnacious, ready to engage in hand to hand combat made the issues abundantly clear.

The miller man looked up. He allowed the soldier to take his gaze and steeled his self-control.

“Get all of your comrades. We are leaving. We are going to the camps.”

An afterthought almost, the slightest acknowledgment the he too, was uncertain, muttered, “there is trouble.”

The words were scarcely recognizable.

“Go ahead,” he repeated, turning backwards, shaking his rifle by the stalk, admonishing the soldier and the miller not to stand still and watch, but rather to carry out his commands, obedient workers readied for their immanent departure.

 

“Let’s go,” one of the elder children says to the gathering.

Though three are present, there are only two of age, two who are allowed by cultural law to go forward on the expedition of which the elder speaks.

“Lets go,” he says again, rousing himself, looking after the younger, the juniors of the hunting party, the siblings who, separated by only a few years are still old enough to be comrades but not so young as the youngest to be separated and left off.

“I want to go too,” the younger demands petulantly. “I want to go too papa,” the younger insists, but he can’t and in his heart, he knows I will decline.

“We’ll be back by dark,” the eldest says.

He looks at me confidently, surveys his troop and, setting his rifle snug to his back looks again and one last time over the equipment, the gear they will carry, and his own pack.

“Papa,” the younger insists again, “I want to go. Nothing will happen to me.” You let her go and she can’t shoot any better than him.”

The young one thinks that just because the older sister is closer to the elder brother’s age, they have no more competence with a gun than he. If there is trouble, he thinks, if there is a bear who grows angry, who turns on the rag tag group, who, rather than suffer the arrows of the hunting party turns and malls one or the other of his attackers, they, the girl especially, will be in as much trouble as any, including himself.

“Papa,” the little one says, “at least I am afraid. At least I know what to do. I won’t walk in to the face of trouble.”

The elder watches the story unfold. He knows there is some truth to the facts as the little one asserts them but too there are issues of pride, issues that tell him, as the eldest child of the hunting party, the closest to me of the young children, he should go about this passage with none of the encumbrances of family that impugn his integrity, that might make him be less than the skillful and competent hunter we have tried to become, I have taught him to be.

“It’s not safe,” he says, his only comment to the issue between us all of the possibility of his younger brother attending.

“You know it’s not safe,” he repeats, shouldering his rifle, looking at the others to tell them they are ready to move out and that his serious intent, the admonition of this alpha male must be heeded, immediately.

Hundreds of workers from the mill were herded onto the train.

Hundreds of workers on whose skills and brute labor rested the whole of this manufacturing operation taking thousands of trees from the north and turning them, by slices, into the millions of board feet that will rebuild the empire, were herded into the freight car.

Carcasses of meat, provisions to feed troops, stores of flour or vodka to feed a northern garrison, the Sitka filled freight cars from ceiling to floor.

Nobody spoke.

Nobody knew what next to expect.

The miller surveyed the assemblage. He recalled his parent’s stories of the Jews and concentration camps. He remembered, in his own lifetime, images of Russians going off to the labor camps, thinking Stalin was a savior.

He knew Russians went off to the front fighting a war with Hitler whose outcome forever changed the landscape and like the growing arctic ice cap, the oceans would decline and nothing of the former world would be recognizable.

“This is terrible,” the miller thought.

He had little notion what next to expect but knew it would be months before he would see his sister again, before he would sit at his grandmothers side, take tea and bread, feel the reassurance that what happened now had happened before and life would triumph, hardships notwithstanding.

“Sit down,” another soldier blared through a megaphone at the train car full of refugees.

“Sit down,” he repeated, “and you’ll be given instructions.”

Like children in a catholic nursery, children who had already been scolded more than once by the nuns, the mill men and laborers sat.

Some grumbled, some stood stiffly for a moment but in the end but for one, they all sat, young men, bearded workers, and Turks.

“What,” the militiaman said, “what don’t you understand.”

He stood, balancing his body against the edge of the door, balancing his rifle on the sling across his shoulder and nestled comfortably upon his belly.

Beside the roar of the locomotive fifteen cars ahead and the clacking of the train wheels upon the iron rails, there was suddenly no sound in the freight car filled with human cargo.

The conversations, monotones of noise, hushed wondering, anxious quickly spoken phrases ceased precipitously.

“I was a factory worker,” the young rebel began. His voice was shaken but his eyes were the color of blue, hot fired steel.

“I was a factory worker and you took me from the city. You brought me to this mill.” His hand pointed to the direction from which this crescent headed train had just come.

Half of the men in the car looked at their comrade, half averted their gaze knowing full well the outcome of conflict with authority, questioning a man with a gun.

“So I will be a mill worker,” the man’s voice started to raise.

“I will be a mill worker and cut the timbers and plane the boards,” he continued, his voice a near frantic piercing but still throttled scream.

“But I am not a conscript,” he exploded.

“I will not be a slave and you can kill me before you will steal my dignity.”

Beside the rocking movements of the train, the possession of souls in its berth, there was no sound, not even the whisper of eyes blinking, small muscles moving to enlarge or change the image in focus or a neck craning to see, turning to hide or struck in awe, twitching to look away.

The militiaman’s rifle rose from its sling to a point perpendicular to him. From its rest upon his belly, hung from the strap upon his shoulder to a line of sight, aimed perfectly to the point between the steel blue eyes of the rail worker, the leaden missile pierced the skull of the diffident objector, haplessly.

Despite my protest, all the children have set out upon the mountain to find a bear.

Though its meat is undeniably good, more in their hearts, more of the bloodlust in their palate is the unspoken right of passage, the passage of the eldest from his adolescence, the eldest child of a powerful and persuasive man to become a young man in his own right.

“Papa,” the eldest says, his tone subdued, his questions parced, his wonderment articulating only a fraction of the questions for his pride and the appearance of confidence he thinks he ought to portray.

“Do you want us to bring you back any meat.”

I put my arm to his head, draw his neck to my lips and kiss his sweet smelling scruff.

“I want you to come back safely, that is all.”

“But you’re not afraid,” he asks, his voice low, his quaking, anxious, adrenaline voice stifled asking as would one elder to another, one veteran to another.

“I am always afraid for my children, son,” I answer easily, truthfully, “but I am certain you will be fine and I know you will be careful.”

He nods, checking again and again the gear in his pack, the ammo on his belt, the mechanical workings of the bolt in his rifle, the scope attached to its blue barrel.

“But you know I will be,” he says, smiling broadly.

Speaking as much to reassure himself as me, speaking as much to say out the incantation, the hopeful prayer for a safe journey, to reassure me of his sagacity in leading this pack of ragamuffins through the woods, to the high mountain passes where he hopes to stalk and overcome the old man bruin, the great and wily, unchallenged beast of the wilderness with no natural predators but man, he sets his jaw.

We look into each-others eyes.

Whatever we see, I think, ‘how crazy to want to kill the most powerful creature of the wild, the magnificent and dreaded bear who lives without man and had no reason, given his distance, to die by his sword.’

“We’ll be fine Pa,” the boy says again, and I remember the Sitka who, despite the trials of unimaginable horror, the hardship of unimaginable trial traveled around the world and was, for this last night comforted by and pallet for the sweet sleeping sighs of these children. The same children, I have to remind myself, setting off now to make their own fortune, cut their own boughs of the wilderness and make their mark as adults.

“I worry,” And I hope time will allow them to grow in peace, to know solitude and stillness like the Sitka, to grow without the need to capture and kill, to vanquish and victor, to assert rather than becoming a part.

‘I hope,’ I think and pray the children will grow like the Sitka who, for all its journeys lives comfortably resting in the loft, a floor for the gentle sleep of the little ones in their night long dreams and the fantasies of their unconscious lives.

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Wall Street & adaptation: Propagation or Extinction

A Case for National Service  © Guy Herman All Rights Reserved

The constitution of evolution has long settled the issue of the origination of variables which contribute to the adaptation or extinction of any given species.

Even with our limited understanding of the workings of the unconscious mind of man and our concomitant inability to understand the incredibly complex bio-chemistry of our make-up, we do see and know empirically that evolution and adaptation or it’s counterpart, extinction, include some like element of both the outcome of pure biological selection, (for traits, strengths, adaptabilities, etc) as well as the taint and effect of cultural evolution, (learnings, social structure, familial bonds) and their subsequent selection and evolution into the gene pool and ultimately our DNA.

So, if all of life has essentially the singular imprimatur to extend, preserve and replace itself, always with smarter and more capable reproductions (the panda with an extra thumb, the homo sapien with a larger brain) and this is the ultimate reason, code, cause and outcome for underpinning all of life, then must we not wonder at the efficacy of behavior which is, by it’s very nature self destructive, inherently, or by it’s proximate relation and effect, teaches or leads to outcomes which prejudice the strength or adaptability of the species. There is no lack of examples of civilizations which have flourished and disappeared, and there is no lack of examples of phyla who have been around for three billion years and continue to succeed. In trying to understand a working model of ‘thinking’ and its opposite, ‘intuiting’ for lack of a more complex formulation, we should be able to define the outcomes of each, at least from a behaviorists standpoint to get to the beginning of a reasonably thorough description.

At the end of the day, we are really only trying to answer one question: is ‘thinking’, as 21st century man understands it, a fundamentally smarter (possessing greater evolutionary gain) act, than the act of ‘intuiting’ ( being instinctive).

Again, following A. O. Wilson’s observation, ‘Altruism appears to diminish the higher one travels in the sophistication of the Phyla of species’ (families of animals). We are reminded the simple conclusion of this statement is, the less thought utilized by a species, the more they apparently care for (or exhibit altruism) each other.

For all of the complex formulations describing or proscribing the organization and structure of man’s endeavor, from ancient Babylonia through the Gods of Baal, Hindu, Budha, Capitalist or Communist of today and all of the  in betweens, each, beside the deification of our timid and temporal souls, set out to formulate the ‘rules’ by which one or all should or needed (to not be cast out) to live.

How interesting that the ‘Higher’ or more developed species would need to articulate and codify such social predicates of behavior while other highly developed top of their food chain vertebrates, wolves, lions, falcons, whales and tarantulas could all, with little communal and codified constitution, pee on a trap line, sing and snort at ocean depths, hiss like the rattlesnake or screech like the peregrine and all, with incredible complexity and nuance, effect the same or better outcome.

The simple truth of evolution, despite the incredible complexity in all of it’s billions of twists and turns, is that success is no more or less than the furtherance of propagation (having babies) with a higher and higher likelihood of life, seeking always better and better ways to mitigate the hardships, maximize the potential of the next generations ensuing success and with the least pain and most comfort possible. The simple case for national service is survival. The evidence of the success of the ‘lesser species’ success, who have imprinted in their DNA the tools and mechanism to ‘take care of’ each other is legion and only those with no view of history can not see the absolute success of Ants, bees, Walrus and Canadian Geese who all, by one construct or another work together to ensure the ultimate outcome of their progeny and the success of propagation.

National Service, because of our overwrought, convoluted ways of thinking, and the undermining consequence of having to ‘hate’ others to help define our own fractured or immature selves, parcing and separating all facts and constructs into the differential of ‘WIIFM’….’what’s in it for me’ discounting summarily and increasingly our cultural teachings, may be dooming even the super rich as well as those without to an early extinction of a culture and species which cannot maintain a self sustaining life-style, for rich and poor, smart and dumb, black and white, who can eventually and always effect successful propagation, and the ever increasing adaptation of our collective species.

Infrastructure For Free

Is $3.7 Trillion Dollars Enough to Repair Infrastructure If

Government Does not Spend an Another Dime.

© Guy Herman All Rights Reserved

In United States of America v. Carollo, Goldberg and Grimm, a New York Court delivered a guilty verdict against much of Wall Street and many of the largest money center banks regarding their corrupt and illegal practices of bond trading and warehousing public, state, municipal and NGO funds.

In it’s simplest reconstruction, A New York Court found many of the Wall Street banks guilty for price fixing, and bid rigging, a monopolistic practice as illegal and contrary to the ‘rule of law’ as any of the old and still prevalent practices of mobs and the mafia in strong-arming business and labor into paying dirty money for protection, safety and the furtherance of their own contracts or ‘family’ winning bids.

With Wall Street and big banks, as Matt Taibbi reported, rather than labor or garbage contracts, and violence resulting for those who would not ‘pay to play’ the banks, utilizing residual and unconsumed funds from bonds whose related expenses had not yet matured, rigged the bids and accordingly the prices, less than competitively, costing the recipients an estimated $3.7 Trillion dollars in lost revenue from interest bearing balances left, presumably for their benefit, in the Wall Street Mafia’s banks.

In the US criminal system, restitution, short of jail time, has always been a reasonable and universally acceptable tool to allow wrong doers an opportunity to repay their societal mistake.

Apart from the efficacy of all the arguments of those who would jail the bankers and traders for such enormous malfeasance, in the least harsh resolution, all would agree that repatriation of the monies, repayment of the stolen funds would at least go a significant way to right the wrong and make those with losses, whole again.

In this construction, if one was to allocate the repayment to all of the 50 states, the math would allow a repayment of $740,000,000 to each, or with a more complex pro-ration by population or density, there is obviously an enormous pool of funds, owned and theoretically to be repatriated, by some formula, to the institutions and municipalities from where they originated and where they now belong.

What impact might an army of National Civil Workers have who are now unemployed, whose skills match exactly the needs of our crumbling infrastructure including roads,  hospitals, bridges, schools with such a cornucopia of funding, more fivefold, than all of the troubled asset relief program, (TARP) from 2008.

One of the primary complaints of the universal recognition of rebuilding our infrastructure and the ever pervasive and persistent unemployment is the question of deficit and payment.

At least half the country does not want government to pay any more, irrespective of need, for any of the essential needs, particularly if it benefits further the lower 80% of the socio-economic demographic as the upper 80% believes, correctly or not they are already paying their due.

There is no hesitance in paying for a bloated Military Industrial Complex budgets, however this is backed largely by those whose political fortunes and longevity are inextricably related to the institutionalized profit these large defense firms make.

And the success of government involvement in loans or funding of infrastructure development which would significantly impact the economic and social realm, would score points in Obama’s favor and regardless of the outcome and inherent benefit, is thereby disqualified as a source of, or an organizing principal for, its promulgation and deployment of a successful program.

With ill gotten gains seized or ordered by the court repaid, and with sufficient funds to pay for even the court ordered supervision and distribution, these monies owed to the very cities, towns and municipalities who are screaming for funds and withering from unemployment, will, in a fell swoop provide greater access to jobs and monies than contemplated in any of the republican or democratic plans or whitepapers for relief and rebuilding.

The only question for this windfall of funds and the staggering downstream effects for our unemployed, the schools, hospitals, water projects, electrical grid, highways, sustainable energy research and it’s factual implementation is, will the criminal behavior of the banks be repudiated by a population that customarily makes restitution a uniquely American way to get back to even, or; bullied by the system and the complexity and power of the lobbyists, will we again walk away from a solution which is available, a fact of law and one  which, with no cost to the budget or further stress on the debt, solve a plethora of problems, in a single fell swoop.

If a common burglar steals $1000 from a home or snatches the purse of an old woman walking in the mall, caught, booked, tried and convicted the outcome in the most lenient of situations is repayment, restitution, and often some community service, a way for the malfeasant to relearn some social or moral aptitude.

For the banks, there is now no question of the felony and certainly a mechanism to account for which dollars came from which state, municipality or governmental organization, and, with the accounting properly done, it is an easy and in fact quite lenient punishment to simply allow the banks to pay back the monies, and certainly easier than prosecuting the ‘criminal’ aspect.

With such a outcome, an enormous pool of ill gotten gains are repatriated and the work force of some millions suddenly is funded, returned to work and the beginning of a solution with do downside is available, workable, executable and ready to be begun, tomorrow.

 

National Civil Service, an Anti-dote to Infanticide

Why Rattle Snakes don’t Eat Each other, but Gorillas Eat Their Young

© Guy Herman All Rights Reserved

We know males of many species eat their young, and we know there are as many examples of species at the top of their food chain, rattle snakes, elephants and peregrines, who do not.

A quick look at the history of income inequality and the growing disparity between rich and poor, is, on closer inspection, the same behavior, evidenced in lesser species and likely borne of a pathology which may, in the end, prejudice the whole of the species.

The suspected mechanism triggering infanticide is essentially competition for status in the group, status with a particular female or a whole harem and the obvious evolutionary gain for an alpha male being ‘leader of the pack’. There is good empirical research documenting the acceleration of female estrus in the wake of infanticide, and the accompanying change in status of the killer of young, would be contender for the throne, becoming, with his batch of new progeny now the de-facto chief.

Rattlesnakes, however live in a society with larger ranges, less susceptible to scarcity of resource and in general a historical preference for the balance which inures to those who can make and keep their own ranges and spaces for food and recreation.

With these simple extremes as bookends to human and organic behavior, the examination of current trends in human endeavor seem to suggest there is behavior mimicking each of those other species whose regular practice, borne of their learning and the evolution of instinctual advantage, results in infanticide being a successful mechanism to insure the survival and it’s polar opposite, homeostasis and balance.

What possible threat or knowledge would both encourage or allow an individual to purposefully promote infanticide, rather than the flock, herd and ‘balance’ method adopted so successfully by so many other species and is this unique to species other than humans and if so, is it a choice.

From a distance, if 70% of the GDP of America is consumer spending, and the bulk of consumer spending arises from a well educated robust middle class, and the income disparity is accelerated such that, what was forty years ago a ratio of 10:1 of CEO to worker pay and today it approaches 247:1, CEO/workers pay, then factually, intended or otherwise, one outcome, not unlike infanticide is the ever increasing death of a middle class which largely and for more than five decades was the engine which spawned the consumption that fueled the growth of the upper and now oligarchical elite  or what is euphemistically called the ‘1%’.

What possible motive could persuade someone to gain wealth in such a disproportionate amount that it would kill off the very consumers who would and will buy the goods and services that make for the wealth thereby created.

One of the many unique and universally beneficial gains of National Civil Service is the absolute co-varying growth of a highly productive, income earning, consumer spending emerging middle class.

The numbers of dollars spent by the millions so employed, building bridges, repairing housing stocks, educating young and repairing crumbling infrastructure is staggering, and the benefits to the society at large is nearly incalculable. An unintended consequence, making the rich richer is a benefit which, in a society of scarcity obviates the inclination of alpha males, Wall Street Tycoons, wealthy and the excessively affluent, from worrying about status and thereby free to encourage the growth of the young and would be pretenders and competitors as their growth and success actually insures their own.

National Civil Service, in fact creates great wealth for the wealthy, great works and benefits for the culture and great and lasting life styles for the participants who learn the art of responsibility and gain the factual history of making a difference, a life changing experience which, at once, will further the strength and security of the whole of the commonwealth.