Trump and Climate Change

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So the Donald has pulled out of the Paris agreement and the world is doomed. At least that’s the initial reaction I see from many. If you believe in science — how anyone can not believe in science baffles me — then you already realize this hardly makes any difference. Climate change will happen regardless of how we try to stall it. Say goodbye to the east coast of North America.

Before we all drown, we will become poorer. At least Americans will, the populace anyway. The rich will keep on getting richer. I am talking about oil. Trump is committed to maintaining fossil fuels as America’s fuel: oil, coal, and gas. No need for all these windmills and solar farms. No need for more dams. No need for new alternative fuels like algae oil. No need for clean, safe nuclear power.

The world is moving to new fuels. I now see wind farms in my remote corner of the continent, and “net-zero” solar homes are making the news here. Some countries, like Germany, are targeting 60% of their energy from renewables in the very near future. One day in 2016 they achieved 95% and even hit a point of negative cost where they paid people to use electricity. Current estimates have the USA meeting their energy demands from only 19% renewable energy sources.

What’s amazing is that the economics are so clear. It costs a hell of a lot of money to extract fossil fuels, and it’s only going to get more expensive. New coal is deeper than old coal was, and new oil is in more hostile environments. Can you imagine drilling in the arctic where the oil runs as thick as tar? Can you imagine American workers revelling in -40c conditions to ensure their muscle cars run cheaply? While the rest of the world moves to alternative fuels, the economies of scale will make it cheaper. In summary, economic growth is in renewable fuels, whether America gets on board or not. I can see a future in the not too distant where the only major oil production is in the middle east and the American arctic. And of course Russia. They sail the same model of idiot boat that America’s alt-right does.

But corporations understand this. Oil companies are all engaged in algae research: algae oil can theoretically plug into much existing infrastructure like pipelines and refineries. It is a direct replacement for fossil fuels, a renewable fossil fuel. We are all moving forward to combat climate change anyway, regardless of anything President Trump does. And it’s because that is where the money is now focused.

So why all the opposition to the new money-making machine? Can the alt-right not bear to engage in change? Change is what made America supposedly great. My answer is, in part, American exceptionalism. I fight for tax freedom from American extra-territorial taxation, a practice completely at odds with its raison d’être — taxation without representation. But there are other areas America refuses to change. It sticks to its backward imperial measurement system; because, you know, it was devised by Americans. The USA refuses to consider changes to food guidance, despite the overwhelming evidence that sugar kills, not fat; because, you know, that will mean less money in their pockets. The country refuses to control guns, yet every other advanced country does. It refuses to supply universal healthcare, despite it making economic sense; because, well, it’s socialist, and we can’t have socialism. Fascism is fine, but fuck socialism.

What this decision comes down to, in my opinion, is power. The religious, alternative right thrive on slanting reality, and the only purpose is to achieve and maintain power. The attacks against the press, against the judiciary, the dismantling of institutions (like education), is nothing but megalomania. And this walking away from the Paris Agreement feeds into the alt-right propaganda machine. All the little Trumpian rednecks out there are ejaculating wildly over this victory, over the proof they are right and the lowly libtards are once again proven wrong. It’s a propaganda dance, and it’s dangerous. The danger here is not the planet being wiped out by the climate but being wiped out by our loss of freedoms. Donald Trump, the alt-right, the religious right, and any group who tries to impose their ideals on humanity is our real enemy. Anyone who cannot think, assess alternatives, and make decisions based on fact rather than stupid ideals (and yes, this includes much of the left wing, but they don’t hold the dice right now) is our real enemy.

Wake up and smell the real threats.

 

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The SAD month of MAY

April was poetry month, and now May is short story month. That’s a short story a day, every day, for 31 days. I’ve done seven NaNoWriMos and eight NaPoWriMos or equivalents. I don’t want to try to name this month. NaSsWriMo?

I sat at my desk on Monday, May 1, 2017, having written 54 poems and a blog post about it, wondering what to write next. Do I pull out 2012 and commit three or four months to fixing it? Do I continue salvaging parts of 2016 to make a short story collection? Maybe I should pull out 2010 or 2014 and have a second go at those unfinished novels. 2016 called the hardest and I’d all but settled on it. That would mean skimming the 50,000 words looking for nuggets. I have pulled the first three scenes as stories already, but where to next? Always the question.

So I did what any good writer would do: I opened Facebook. Almost immediately I found a post by my friend Andrea about a contest in May to write a short story a day. We talked about this in the past on our Sunday morning write-ins, I’ve participated in 15 other x-a-day events, so I didn’t need to think about the implications very much. I went to the Story-A-Day site, signed up, took the first prompt, and wrote a 1489 word story.

Bang. #1 done. It felt great.

\The story had nothing to do with anything I’ve written before, but it was based on reality. For that reason alone, I will not share it. Especially where fiction is weaved in, and some of that fiction is not nice. Sorry I had to kill you off, X.

May 2’s prompt fit almost perfectly a scene/story for 2016 I had been pondering. I sat and wrote. I took a break at 500 words to think, ponder, and write nasty political tweets — Even though I gave up my U.S. Citizenship, I still fight for Americans living abroad. And I’ve been quite acerbic lately towards the liberal shills out there supporting #FATCA and calling people like me tax cheaters.

I could not fit today’s prompt into any existing project, which is no concern, but I could fit it into a potential 2017 NaNoWriMo story. I’ve been pondering writing Science Fiction instead of my social conscious urban literary stuff.  I only invested 313 words in it, but I think it is full of theme, conflict, and potential. The conflict is implied: we’re all becoming the same, and what does that mean for humanity. Could be my backbone theme for my seen-book series *grin* It is a very thin piece, trite, but I actually love it. I will try to write more around this piece and other ideas this month and through the busy summer ahead of me. NaSsWriMo might just make NaNoWriMo very productive.

Enjoy

Prompt: People called him The Doll Maker. Nobody ever wondered aloud why every doll had the same face.

“Did you guys see Doctor Davis’ new robots?”

The lunch table paid no attention to him. Jared set down his tray and pulled in his chair.

“He can choose any face he wants with a few clicks but he picks the same face, the same physical features for every one of them. You guys don’t find that odd?”

“Jarrod,” Emily says. “You had a busy morning? You’re late.” She stuffs a roll of California Gold into her mouth.

“You haven’t heard a word I said.”

“Sorry,” she says as she crunches on the crusty, green roll of processed unknowns the government has certified as optimally nutritious for young scientists. She chases it with a glass of fortified water the color of the noon sky as displayed in the wall monitors. “We were just discussing Doc Davis’ new robots. Did you know he ordered them to all look identical? Why would he do that?”

Jarrod picked the gray New Jersey Jets roll up from his gray plate. “It makes no sense. You’d think he was building an army or something.”

Emily inspects her mint-green plate for crumbs but finds none. “I know. It’s so creepy. We’re not going to be able to tell which is which.”

“They’re all fucking robots,” William chimes in with his usual cheer. “Who cares what they look like? You ask for a Solar Coffee, they get you a Solar Coffee. It’s not like you’d have sex with one of them.”

“Speak for yourself,” Emily says.

“They’re all male,” Jarrod says.

“So?” says William.

“They’re all so…unremarkable,” Emily says and smiles.

“He could have selected at least some variety,” Jarrod says.

“They’re robots,” William says.

“What does he have planned?” they all say simultaneously. They stop but don’t laugh.

William picks up his blue Florida Fish Roll from his light-blue plate and looks at it. “Why are they all the same?”

 

2017 Poem A Day (PAD)

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This post is about my experiences at the Writer’s Digest blog Poetic Asides; where each April Robert Lee Brewer runs a poem a day (PAD) event. In 2016 I posted every day with my poem and thoughts. It was too much, and I didn’t want to invest that effort this time. It becomes pretty dull after only a few days of mediocre poetry. Sorry bloggers, but reading our unedited, off-the-cuff poetry is too often a painful exercise.

This season I want to write about what I have learned, with examples. I don’t know how many of the 54 poems I wrote this month I will post, but it will not be double digits.

April is National Poetry Month, and for me, it has become a month to focus on poetry. Not entirely. I met with an editor this month about my novel. In my mind it is finished and ready to go, but what does ready to go mean? I am not sending it off in queries, yet, as the forces are telling me to self-publish, and do it NOW! Including my wife who has finally read my work. More on that later.

I read one complete book of poetry this month and about 30 pages of another. I picked up a copy of Alden Nowlan’s Early Poems for $8. A steal as other shops are charging $30-$40 for this 1983, posthumous publication by UNB’s Fiddlehead Press.

Nowlan writes earthy poems of simple life-events and often adds a dramatic twist. His rhyming can be forced, and he willingly strays into the dirty areas of life. You will not find a light, airy, emotional Alden Nowlan poem. I sympathize with the style and it has influenced my poetry this month. Here is one example of his work.

Down River by Alden Nowlan

In cities the embittered ones are cunning;
anguish sharpens their wits, I’ve seen the eye
glint in whoresons and beggars, its approach
quick and malicious as a common fly.

But here persistent misery endures;
growing thick-headed like a cow, it chews
thistles in mute protest against the rain
of innocence it cannot lose or use.

This poem I wrote is about a man in a funeral procession carrying a casket, upset at others, his tailor who screwed up his pants is sitting in the back of the church and the guy in front of him wearing jeans, yet he cannot see the irony of himself wearing boots. Most definitely Nowlan-influenced.

Untitled

It is so disappointing when people don’t show respect,
forty dollar dress pants too long, and the haberdasher knew Tom;
he sits at the back of the church, head bowed, embarrassed
as I step on the cuffs with the heels of my boots
afraid I’ll fall while hauling this casket
the weight of Tom’s miserable life on my shoulder,
and the guy in front of me who pretended to cry
while buddy spoke of friendship and sadness and told lies
is only wearing jeans.

Nowlan uses simple rhyming but more complex and subtle alliteration: In, cities, embittered, wits, glint in, its, quick, malicious, persistent, misery, thick, it, thistles in mute, innocence, it, cannot. Fantastic when you look for it and read it a few times. And as I sit in this down-river city with the painting of Nowlan on a brick wall along Canterbury St., look at the persistent fog and drizzle outside my office window, and walk among the thick-headed denizens, oh, do I feel this Nowlan poem beating!

I attribute the following to Nowlan Influence, especially the simple rhyming scheme.

Platinum 3776 Century SF

The sound of this fine gold nib
an this smooth, heavy paper
is the sound of a clean sheet of ice
being etched by a smooth figure skater

It traces ornate twirls as it glides
through the jungle of imagined words
jumps and spins as it writes attacking
the loudest clashing of swords

The following is in many ways concrete and earthy but the conceit is abstract: sitting in a coffee shop wondering if you fit in.

The Sound of Youth

I try to sit in silence
sip my coffee
read my book
the pages won’t lay flat
but keep closing
my eyes wander the rows
tables full of chatter
incessant social banter
not looking at faces
straining to decipher
the deafening sound of youth

I also worked through In The Palm of your Hand by the late Steve Kowit out of San Diego. I read this with some trepidation as Steve called a friend of mine illiterate after she submitted poetry using Canadian spelling. American exceptionalism? Myopia? I can’t comment, but she was not pleased. Anyway, while this book has issues with generalization, examples you have to track down in back pages, and editing snafus, this is actually a stunning read. I highly recommend it.

I am also working through the book Studying Poetry by Matterson and Jones. This is another stunning book. It is advanced and assumes you understand the basics of poetry. These authors dig deeper and discuss how poetry actually works. This month, some of this text has led me into exploring alliteration and forms of metaphor deeper, such as in the following poems.

Haiku 17417

Clothes hang from the line
strung-out lives, histories dancing
in the cold, spring wind

And this poem combines Nowlan subject matter and twist with alliteration.

Untitled

Their 54 Plymouth, festooned
with Green Giant corn cans
and full Cracker Jack boxes
rambled down county road one
scaring the deer and raccoons.

I tried not to, but I also strayed into politics again. I have often made statements such as, “America will never be able to change its ways; it can’t even adopt the metric system.” And when Robert gave a prompt of ‘metric’, I knew what I had to write.

Untitled

When hicks talk in klicks
you can bet they’ll accuse
the country of Bolshevik
influence and interference
calling the president a lunatic
and march on Capital Hill
with night sticks and booze.

The following poem hurt to write. When you write a poem, the emotional impact is many times that when you read it. I spent half a day reading about Syria; because I didn’t understand it. I stumble across this article in Al Jazeera and decide I needed to write a poem about it. It put me in the darkest mood I have ever been in. Ever! After dinner my wife and son went out and I was home alone. I couldn’t take it, so I went to my favorite pub and played trivia a night early with friends. Oh the beer went down fast!

Hamza al-Khateeb

You loved it when the rains came
filled a simple irrigation ditch
a makeshift swimming hole; you weren’t to blame
for giving your family’s money to a boy without a stitch

The Arab spring promised freedom
a loner, you joined the protest
an easy target, young and without wisdom
al’aman, security; we all assume it protects

They whipped you with steel cable
shocked your knees, elbows, hands, and face
left your tortured body on a table
a bullet in your belly, they cut off your penis

Hamza al-Khateeb, what have you seen?
you were an innocent boy; you were only thirteen

Yeah, a tough one.

Of course I also had some fun this month. Some of my poetry was light and airy and even made me smile 😉

This aphoristic poem in response to ‘in <blank> of love’

Laws of Love

There are no laws of love
no rules or conditions.
There is no bad love
to avoid
and there is no good love
to prefer,
no rolling of the dice
no depending on tossed rice.
The only love that matters
is the love you live to make.

And another metric poem.

Untitled

I waited for you
until the parking meter
ate all of my coins

It was a very good month for me. I wrote 54 poems in 30 days, learned a lot, and I explored much. I took another baby step towards learning my poetic voice and becoming a confident poet, if there even is such an animal.

#FATCA Hearings (4/26/2017) – a very brief introduction

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The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (#FATCA) is a law requiring all foreign financial institutions (FFI) to provide the United States’ Internal Revenue Service (IRS) with financial account details of any American Persons who has accounts with it. If a FFI does not comply, then it is subject to a 30% withholding tax on all its American transactions.

There are arguments for and against #FATCA, and even though I am fully against it, I will try to present both arguments.

Argument For

  • The United States has suffered from tax evasion where its citizens and residents park their nest eggs abroad tax free. FATCA forces other countries to report these monies to the IRS. Estimates of taxes that will be recovered vary from $250 million a year to $792 million per year. The actual amounts received in taxes to date is only about $400 million.
  • Since implementation in 2010, the Treasury Department has received about $8 billion from FBAR penalties — fines for not reporting overseas accounts; which are not tax revenues but reporting violations.
  • More American Persons living abroad have become tax compliant. I cannot find figures on this, but I know it is true because it is true for me and many I know (online).
  • There is no cost to American taxpayers. *At least this is argued. There is an indirect cost via increased compliance costs of US banks and the associated lost tax revenue.
  • FATCA adds a layer of transparency — money cannot be squirrelled away anonymously.

Summary: the positives are compelling. FATCA is bringing home lost tax dollars, is preventing at least some tax evasion, and this is the argument commonly made.

Argument Against

  • FATCA infringes on the right to be free of unwarranted searches as described in the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:

    4thamendment

  • It imposes costs on foreign financial institutions whose only ties are American customers. #CBT
  • It imposes burdens on non-American persons. #FATCA & #CBT
  • It infringes on the sovereignty of foreign nations (by applying American tax law on foreign soil). #FATCA & #CBT
  • It helps capital from foreign economies into the American economy. #FATCA & #CBT
  • Americans are being denied basic banking services.
  • American small businesses abroad are less competitive through higher taxes and compliance costs. #CBT
  • Threatens $2.2 trillion in American exports.
  • Increases the impetus for the world to move away from the U.S. dollar as the global reserve currency.
  • American livelihoods are impacted and threatened. #CBT
  • In some cases violates attorney client privilege (when an attorney living abroad has foreign clients whom he or she has authority over their financial accounts).
  • Exposes personal financial information to hacking.
  • American citizens are renouncing their citizenship in record numbers.
  • Americans living abroad are becoming disenfranchised and may be acting as a negative force on the global opinion of the USA.
  • It exacerbates the world’s existing image of America as a bully.
  • The US refuses to comply with its promise of reciprocity.
  • There is no tax revenue gain.

Summary:

Most of these negatives are real. Others such as loss of trade are as yet undocumented. I take the individual citizen living abroad as the canary in the coal mine. Americans have lost all financial accounts and have even had mortgages cancelled, small businesses have suffered through loss of financing, and some individuals have lost jobs (existing and potential) due to their signing authority on foreign commercial accounts. And over 4,000 of us are now renouncing annually with no signs of letup.

Discussion

Some of these negatives are inextricably linked with citizen-based taxation (CBT). CBT was not as much an issue before FATCA as most Americans ignored their American income tax obligations. Actually most did not know they had tax obligations, and many today still don’t know they do. Others simply refuse to comply, and while I don’t know the compliance rates, all discussion I’ve seen says they are still far below 50%.

Most of us who live abroad think CBT should be abolished and replaced with residence-based taxation. This is how the majority of the world taxes its citizens: you are taxed if you live in a country, but if you move away, you are not. Why the US continues with this practice boggles our minds. It is virtually the same practice King George imposed on American colonists which is commonly known as taxation without representation. We get zero American services, so why should we be taxed?

One way to look at these issues is to reverse the roles. Suppose all other countries taxed their citizens in the US. Some 40 million foreign nationals would then have to file taxes abroad, and because of all the flimsy tax treaties the US has, the estimated $400 per head would leave the US ($16 billion annually versus the $3.6 billion the US extracts from foreign lands.) Plus, every American bank would have to supply financial information on every foreign person they had as a customer; which would mean verifying each customer’s nationality. The American financial services industry would not go for it; the American people would not go for it; and the American government would not go for it (as evidenced by the existing refusal to comply with its own law).

This is a bi-partisan issue. CBT was first created by President Lincoln, a Republican, and these laws have been supported and added to by both parties. Many of the Republicans are now understanding the complete immorality of CBT and FATCA, but most Democrats are clinging to their need to control.

There are better ways to catch tax cheaters. Recruit some business schools. Consult countries like Canada who have logical processes to protect taxes. tax money as it leaves, not the people. But Americans don’t want to do things the best way; they have to do things their way; because American way is always the best.

 

 

Citizenship-based Taxation is Absurd

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A Stupid Story

Larry worked for a great company, Universal Solution Associates. He worked on the highest end projects, led his industry in quality and quantity of projects completed. He was a shining star for this industry leader.

Larry was required to submit timesheets. His time was billed, and the company needed to know how many hours he worked on each project. It was a condition of employment. Larry could have refused to submit timesheets, but he would be fired. It was also a requirement to receive overtime. The company rightly paid Larry for every hour he worked, but they would not pay undocumented overtime; because they could not bill customers for it.

Larry was happy, USA was happy, and much money was made.

One day Larry met Lucy at a café. She was eating a foreign looking dish; while he munched a cheeseburger. He asked her what she was eating, and before long, he was in love with her dishes. Lucy worked for a competitor of USA, Enriched Universal.

EU successfully recruited Larry to work for them. Larry gave his two-week notice, got thoroughly drunk at his going away party, and left on friendly terms with all his coworkers. Larry loved USA but EU offered extra benefits such as wine instead of beer, food he couldn’t pronounce that tasted awesome on Friday mornings instead of donuts, and he did not have to submit timesheets, that pain-in-the-ass, no value-add inconvenience.

Life was good for Larry. He grew to love Lucy, the new foods he couldn’t pronounce, and the freedom of working on whatever he wished to work on. But there was one problem. EU would not pay him any overtime. It did not matter if he worked thirty or eighty hours a week, his pay was always the same. Before too long, his love of Lucy waned, and he began to crave cheeseburgers and beer. He decided to return to USA.

USA was grateful to have Larry back. Their business was not the same without him. They even gave him a raise. But there was one problem.

“Larry, you have not completed your timesheets for the last year.”

“I worked for EU.”

“Because you are delinquent, we will be taking the money that would have been paid to you off your future earnings.”

“I didn’t work for USA, I worked for EU.”

“Because of the administrative burden on us, we are also imposing a fine of 50% of those earnings you didn’t submit timesheets for.”

“What are you talking about? I didn’t work for you. I had no employment contract.”

“But you did, Larry. The original contract you signed was for life, and you agreed to all of these terms.”

That’s crazy. You can’t do this.”

“We can Larry. The courts have already backed us in other cases. Lew went to work for United Kickassers and he never reported his time. We just sold his house last week.”

“His house?”

“Your house too, Larry. We’ve put a lien on it, and if you do not come clean within the year, your house is ours.”

“Everything I own is in that house. I have no retirement funds. You can’t do this. This is stupid.”

“This is the way USA works, Larry”

“Well I am leaving USA!”

“You can leave, Larry, but every competitor will garnish your wages for us.”


Discussion

Of course this is a stupid story. Anybody reading this can plainly see the injustice of this situation. In fact, it is completely implausible. This is not a scenario any person smarter than a grapefruit would even consider as realistic.

Yet.

Yet this is how the United States treats its citizens living outside the country. Once we leave the country, we are still obliged to fill in our timesheets (taxes, FBAR reports, and loads more paperwork) or be penalized, even though we live in, physically and under the laws of, foreign nations. All I did was replace the word country with company and tax with timesheet.

Yet.

Yet because President Lincoln first created this practice in 1861, all Americans think it is legal and just. Because the Supreme Court backed these laws in 1924, our elected representatives think it is just. Modern day taxation gurus and champions go to war defending these laws and accuse those of us who don’t believe in them as tax cheaters.

What Americans cannot do with these laws is think about them logically. They cannot sit back and examine how the rest of the world taxes citizens and fights tax cheating. Americans, even though this is supposedly what makes American great, cannot find an better (at least acceptable by all) way of doing things. Americans cannot even understand that this situation is taxation without representation (we get zero American services) and is the reason colonists went to war with Britain. Only when Americans decide to move abroad — which by the way is a universal right of all people of this world — do they come to realize the absurdity of these laws.

I don’t care who you are (@POTUS, Obama, or Rand Paul) or what you believe (Left, Right, or anywhere in between, religious or secular), the bottom line is, if you think the existing citizenship taxation laws are just, then frankly, you are an idiot.

Think America. Please think!

Blizzard

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I write this from the middle of a blizzard, our second in four days. I don’t use the term blizzard lightly, but I live in a winter storm belt and 30 plus centimeter (1ft) snowfalls are common. The National Weather Service defines a blizzard as a storm which contains large amounts of snow OR blowing snow, with winds in excess of 35 mph and visibilities of less than 1/4 mile for an extended period of time (at least 3 hours). Being unable to see the road from a sidewalk is not unheard of. The image below is from two years ago.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

My life the past few months has been blizzardy. In August 2016 I somehow partially tore a tendon in my shoulder. I’ve lived with nearly constant pain since then. It is not intense pain but it wears on you. The worst part is trying to sleep. An arm hangs straight when I sit or stand, and the tendon likes that. But lie down and the arm wants to move sideways or backwards. Ouch. Most of my sleeps have been two-hour sessions, and I wake in stiffness and pain. I stay up for a couple of hours, try to write, let the pain dissipate, and go back to bed for hopefully two more hours sleep. I’ve slept six hours maybe three times in the last six months.

Lack of sleep is an insidious condition. It slows your thinking, your memory, and your concentration. Writing, editing, thinking, learning, exploring a poem, whatever I try to do is impacted negatively. Yet somehow I finished NaNoWriMo, Robert Brewer’s November Chapbook Challenge, have written at least a poem a week, have studied poetry, and have edited some of my novel. Short sessions. Even now my mind drifts back to my throbbing shoulder.

Then there was the election. The election affects my novel as my story is set in Canada’s political environment. It is a trip across the nation and explores various protests, the divide between left and right. It is not so much a political book, but it is. It was written when this extremist divide was more or less defined in my head. left likes this; right likes that. But now President Trump has thrown a bag of hammers into the political machinery. I struggle with trying to understand him, people who support him, and people who defend him. I struggle with the left too but on a more purely ideological scale. The question of whether my story is relevant haunts me, and it has hobbled my progress.

I think it is still valid, and in many ways I think my message is more relevant than ever. I’ve been through reader feedback and am now reading to myself aloud.  I am up to page 65 of 303 in my Word document, and I hope today I might knock off a hundred more pages.

Anyway, I wrote a poem this week after the last blizzard ravaged us. I had originally written it with longer lines, but it didn’t work very well. Too much wallowing image and emotion and not enough tension, so I busted it into short, tight lines. I had it all in one stanza, but I do have some logical breaks in scenery. I don’t know if it will speak to you, but it speaks to me. I have lived through at least one blizzard a year for the last 46 years.

Oh, and the shoulder is slowly improving. Motion is up, MRI was definite, and back to physio today if the storm lets me.

Blizzard

a biblical plague
snowballs from
the fists of God
smack you in the face
the wind sucks
the breath from your lungs
a frozen sneeze
spraying your world
the howling ghosts
of dead trains

slippery footing
hobbling
plunging bodies
shoulders lean into
conflicted heat differentials
slams you hard
into the boards
grabs your collar
throws straight punches
tight knuckles

a father and son
killed
the New Jersey Turnpike
doesn’t care
if you are hunkered and afraid
the raid comes
brave cower
the regretfully stupid
quantum motion
of infinite chaos

the day before
calm
wet and clammy
you could smell it
coming up the coast
throbbing temples
filled with supplicants
refugees
nobody lays claim to
a blizzard

dsc_14951

The front window view at 6:20AM

Where are you Mainstream Media?

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I watched Smerconish last night on CNN. And before you label me a Libtard  or a liberal lackey, and yes, I despise Fox News and the alt right, I am quite disgusted with mainstream media’s filtering the real Obama stories. I rarely watch any news on television anymore, and when I do, it’s usually Canadian CBC, CTV, or BNN. I like my news to be about the news. Stations like Fox and CNN should have the word News stricken from their titles.

Anyway, I like Smerconish. He tends to speak his mind, and his mind is very much in line with my own leanings: centrist, questioning all, and searching for the best. I know you righties cannot comprehend these concepts, so please stop reading before your brains explode. Except I am done with left-right bullshit in this post.

At one point he interviewed Mark Wrighton, chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis. He was a spokesman for 48 university heads who oppose the seven-nation ban. When Smerconish made the following statement, my hackles raised.

Who would we rather Iranians get their news and information about the United States from, their Supreme Leader or the twelve thousand who come here to study and go home to spread the word about the United States?

It is a valid point. It is a point I can relate to; because it is a point I have been making for years. People are the front line of foreign relations. If you can sway the people, you sway the government. You cannot sway the people by swaying the government first. This ban cuts off the cultural exchanges, it is a virtual wall that ensures prejudice on both sides will fester and metastasize.  Such a ban not only shuts off all grass roots reconciling but also spurs anti-American sentiment and terrorist recruitment. That this and other bans are bad is a no-brainer to a thinker and someone who wants a peaceful world.

I have been making this point not about students or immigrants but about emigrants. The United States has some 40 million foreign nationals (people with foreign citizenships), but it also has some 9 million citizens living abroad. I am one of these people, or I was. We live in foreign countries, live foreign lives, speak foreign languages, immerse ourselves in their cultures, collaborate with them in all facets of life, and if we stay long enough, we become one of them. We are the front line of spreading the ways of America to the rest of the world. We are plenipotentiaries with boots on the ground.

We should be treasured assets of freedom, democracy, and world peace, yet we are treated as criminals and called traitors by the Treasury Department, former President Obama, the dipshit lefties (sorry, but the idiot and his ilk infuriate me) like Chuck Schumer, and we are ignored by all mainstream media, like Smerconish who can rail about 12,000 foreigners but ignore 9 million Americans.

Under this latest lashing against refugees, we the 9 million are calling ourselves refugees. Some 20,000 of us handed in our citizenships under Obama and the floodgates are still open. The GOP has an anti-FATCA and pro-RBT platform, we think, but nobody has acted yet. There are also lawsuits, but unlike foreigners, we Americans cannot yet prove irreparable harm. Apparently higher standards are at play when the American government defends its money.

Our money.

Our fight is about fair taxation. We who live abroad pay taxes abroad. We pay taxes for services we receive. We pay income taxes, value-added taxes, and a host of miscellaneous taxes, depending on where we live. Through taxes we pay for every service we receive; except when we pay US taxes, we pay for zero services, because we do not receive any services from the US. We expats receive exactly zero services for our compliance. None. Zilch. Voting is a right that nobody should have to pay for (though I am not opposed to requiring residence), armed forces protection (lefties often claim I need to help pay for aircraft carriers, an for some reason they ban me from their closed forums when I tell them they are full of shit) is a nation-protection service, not an individual one. You help protect Canada, and I pay for that through my Canadian taxes. You may not be happy with the reciprocal services, but take that up with Justin. My roads, schools, retirement, protection, social services, military, health, and whatever else our government tries to do for us is provided by my Canadian system of government. And no, if the US Army comes to rescue us, that’s a separate, very expensive charge not covered by our taxes.

Taxation of its citizens living abroad by the USA, this citizenship-based taxation now enforced by #FATCA, is taxation without representation. America, have you fallen asleep at the wheel? Please wake up and think about this. You revolted from Great Britain because it treated you as tributary slaves, and now you do worse to your own? This is why we’re upset; this is why we’re handing in our citizenships; this is why Obama’s legacy on foreign relations and world peace is a sham.

boston_tea_party_currier_colored

So what?

  • 160,000 coerced into spending billions to comply with FATCA.
    • $2 trillion in American exports at risk because now doing any business with Americans is toxic
  • Americans abroad
    • denied bank accounts and mortgages
    • cannot save for retirement
    • cannot save for child education
    • cannot invest in mutual funds abroad
    • cannot invest in anything at home
    • cannot own foreign private pension which severely limit employment opportunities
    • cannot buy an expensive private home
    • have to supply Treasury with all their (local to them) financial account details, including accounts of non-American family members, businesses, and NGOs they may have signing authority with.
    • are subject to outrageous penalties ($10k minimum) for non-compliance
    • have to pay exorbitant fees to comply with the incomprehensibly complex filing requirements (one million businesses have excessive compliance costs and makes competitiveness problematic)
    • [businesses] have to file social security taxes even though employees can never receive said benefits

Basically these 9 million, should they attempt to comply, cannot live as Americans at home and cannot live as foreigners abroad. As the US pushes harder to get the estimated 8 million to comply, this 20,000 is expected to grow exponentially.

And like most Americans,  many of us are vocal. We use our free speech to tell our neighbours how nefarious the US government is. We advise them against becoming Americans,  especially if they ever want to return home. Once you adopt the label, it becomes a ball and chain you cant easily unshackle. The US by treating us as criminals is hurting it’s own image.

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So where are you Mr. Smerconish? Where are you Bill O’Reilly, Anderson Cooper, Chuck Todd, Wolf Blitzer, that mouthy woman on MSNBC, anybody at ABC, CBS, or NBC; where is mainstream media when it comes to helping this nefarious problem affecting 9 million Americans? Where are the university chancellors? Where is the GOP? Where is President Trump?

20,001 … 20,002 … 20,003 …

 

 

Can we stop trying to grow our population?

Once again I read a Facebook plea from my mayor Don Darling that, “Growing our population in Saint John,” is a key success factor for our future.” It is a rather ubiquitous political stance. Former NB premier Frank McKenna wrote in the Globe and Mail a year ago, “…parts of Canada are dying for lack of population growth.” In Ottawa, a 14-member council formed to advise the Trudeau government on economic growth recommends tripling the Canadian population to 100 million people.

I am not against immigration; I am an immigrant. My wife is on a team helping a refugee family, and I help out. I am all for open borders, globalization, and economic well-being for all. But I am tired of us killing our planet.

Have you ever thought about the finiteness of our planet?  We have water shortages worldwide; we are very close to killing our oceans to the point of the only fishes it will support are jellyfish (enjoy your jellyfish casserole!); our air literally stinks; global warming is a fact; animal extinction is accelerating; and I could run on and on and on. The cause, while seemingly complex, stems from one simple fact — we are growing the human population base unfettered.

Did you know we cannot make iron ore? We can make oil, but we don’t want to yet. We can desalinate water. We cannot make rare metals. We can grow more trees, but we keep cutting them down faster than we plant them. We can probably grow more food in the ground, keep adding fertilizers, and … no, before much longer all our food will be hydroponically grown as all our topsoil will be dead. What is, what isn’t, what can this planet sustain, have we passed its limits: these are arguments that meet resistance. People oppose the thoughts we need to cut back; because we like our elite lifestyles and want to defend them. We want our children and our descendants to live in an advanced society where they can flourish. It is a noble goal, but can the planet support us?

Let me ask you resisters a simple question: how big is too big? We have 7.5 billion people now. What’s your cap? 20 billion? 40 billion? A trillion? An alt-right man argued to me once that we could fit the world population in the state of Texas; therefore we are not even close to maxing out this planet. In my opinion, 7.5 billion is way too many people, yet at the rate we are growing, in 100 years it will top 22 billion. Enjoy wearing your life-support suits.

In the 1950’s, geophysicist M. King Hubbert realized that Earth’s resources were finite and devised his peak theory to predict the lifetimes of its resources. Primarily applied to oil, it has been expanded to other natural and renewable resources. We will at some point exceed the earth’s capacity for human demand in many if not all categories: oil, iron, copper, food, air, water, minerals, etc. At some point, humans will stop growing because they cannot grow anymore, and at that point, it is more than likely that great reductions in human populations will occur. Laws of nature. Foxes and rabbits.

It might take decades, centuries, or even millennia to prove the finiteness of this planet, but we will discover that population growth is not sustainable, so why do we push it? Short term gain? Let our kids worry about how to feed themselves?

Saying we need to grow through population growth is lazy. Think about what you are really saying when you say Saint John, NB, or any other jurisdiction, needs more people for its economic well-being. Its area population base is about 100,000 people. You are basically saying any city with such a population base is too small to sustain itself. Sussex at about 5,000 cannot possibly survive. Bathurst at 12,275 people is a hopeless cause. Every other community around the world less than what, a million people maybe, is pointless. If population is so vital to economic well-being, then let’s merge Canada’s population into one single city: Toronto.

These are stupid assertions, but that is what you are implying when you say we are too small. We are not too small, we are too lazy. If it’s good enough for much of the world to live in small communities, then why can’t it be good for us? Let’s get innovative. Let’s put our heads together and find ways to be prosperous. But let’s not keep expanding our footprint on this beautiful planet; because it just cannot sustain us that much longer.

NaNoWriMo 2016 Aftermath – the novel

I wrote 50,091 words. It might be telling that as soon as I noticed I had reached the mark, I stopped writing mid-sentence. It’s not that I don’t believe in this story, but at 11:30 pm after playing trivia at the pub and drinking three 25 ounce beers, after being awake since 3 am and writing regularly throughout the day (5,109 for the day), including a poem, I was a bit tired.

My approach to this novel was entirely exploratory. I wrote three characters I could not normally relate to about subjects literally outside of my experiential scope. I am a 55 year old white male and I wrote about women’s rights; I wrote about a white, privileged, authoritarian, right-winged, American male and I consider myself a white, lower-middle-class, introverted, centrist truth-seeker; I wrote about a woman, a mother, who had sacrificed her career for money, who had sacrificed her dignity for her husband’s empire. for her family’s standing, but who worked through the years to escape the binds; I wrote a high school senior, a girl, who preparing to enter the adult world learns there are adult issues and that being a woman is in no way equal to being a man nor is it fair, but she does not see any reason it cannot be. I knew these people as well as I knew people on the news.

I know them better now, but I don’t honestly know them. I am happiest with my father and daughter stories. I am not so happy with mom’s. I won’t detail the issues or the stories, but Mom’s is rather hyperbolic. Her story pushes my boundaries, and my boundaries are quite malleable.

It is a story told from the three perspectives. Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible are both on my near-term reading list, both because of they follow similar structures. One of my issues is the interaction. Each character has their own story instead of being a single story. Dad and daughter interact closely, and Mom and Dad do as well, but Mom and the daughter not so much. I expect a lot of pondering, reflective writing (which this blog is), and planning over the next few months. I hope to attack it again in February, but I may never revisit this story.

The writing is mostly active. It is not particularly literary or deep; though at times I dig into more imagery and reflective prose. It borders more on YA than it does adult literary. It’s another decision I have to make: who is its audience? All of the above?

Anyway, here’s a fairly innocent example of Dad (and a conflict already raises its ugly head: he knows from experience he has to walk alone, yet he has rarely done so¿).

Why can’t that woman make a decent pot of coffee? Made fresh and tastes a week old. All you need to do is pour in the pre-packaged grounds and flip the water switch. Does she not clean the pot first? The regular coffee brewers are all in training, and Carl knows from too much experience with difficult clients that he needs to get away from his desk and think, get away from the office and let the insane outside world temper his disdain.

Carl wonders how his city looks so strange in the mid-morning, and thinking back over his career at Harris and Saunders he cannot recall simply walking the streets alone if it was not lunch time or dinner time. He has always been accompanied by his mentor Keith Saunders, his current aging partner, Keith’s brother Peter Saunders, a senior manager, or a client.

He feels lost. He knows the streetlights but only from the view from behind his windshield, raised, perpendicular and parallel, not these angular perspectives. The shops are strange. A Subway shop. How long has that been there? A foreign restaurant. Indian? Egyptian? Turkish? Its letters remind him of when he tried to teach his young kids how to write. Lauren caught on pretty quickly, but Michael took a few years. Boys and girls, they are so different. Carl looks for a coffee shop but can’t find any. Where do all these young hotshots go on their break? He comes to an intersection, looks left, and sees a large, brown coffee cup swinging in the warm breeze.

NaNoWriMo 2016 Aftermath – the poetry

Aftermath has been one of my favorite words ever since I purchased the Rolling Stones album Aftermath in the mid-1970’s. But as I write these words, I realize I may never have used it before; though I must have, somewhere.

November was a busy month. Not only did I start my seventh novel, but I also wrote 33 poems in Robert Lee Brewer’s Chapbook Challenge 2016. I remind myself that such events at not about quality; that quality writing is achieved by much rework. I know from experience that creating a good novel takes at least two years of steady work. I am also learning that published poets can take as long or longer to become satisfied with their poems. I am trying to feel neither good nor bad about either. Simply watching a local MFA poet work and rework her poems every Sunday morning and never seeming to see lights in her tunnels tells me I have to rethink my poetry writing processes.

I usually write my poems very quickly: take the prompt, try writing some lines until one sticks, build on it, and then make a few passes at it. This month as I wrote every morning I felt the urge to develop a poem-writing process. I have prose-writing processes, somewhat, and I will blog about them someday, but my poetry writing routine was too thin.

My searching first brought me to this interesting video. Some guy named Spectre walks us through his writing steps. He writes simple, straightforward lines. His first example is

My Video Games

 

It’s fun

I can beat it

Lt’s like a friend to me

It never refuses my progress

It’s not a poem but random thoughts, a random outline for a poem. He then beefs up each line:

Excitement for me

I triumph at it

It’s like a friend to me

That’s always prepare to go

And a bell went off in my head. This was around the middle of November, and since then, I’ve written such outlines for most of my poems and I am sold on this technique.

I was not pleased with Spectre’s randomness, though. If I take any subject and write lines as they come to me, I know very well I am going to miss things. I am only going to write what my active brain has access to. I have learned that prompting the brain can trigger ideas that such a focused exercise would never dream up. I searched for guidance and found it at this site. It is not so much poetry guidance a it is description guidance: a checklist for describing objects. I won’t go into detail here, but I began taking my chosen subjects: objects, ideas, situations, etc., and applied this checklist too them and wrote as simple sentences as I could.

One of the interesting side effects was that poetic lines would pop into my head. There is one truth I know about prose I did not freely acknowledge in poetry, and it is something I have already stated: the more you write about something, the more ideas flow on to the page, about the subject and about other subjects. I don’t know which poems they were, but on some days I’d end up writing about something completely different than my initial title. And it may not be a direct offshoot. Sometimes writing one thing triggers a second thing which triggers a third thing and so on, very similar to lateral brainstorming. And there is a host of brainstorming techniques that can probably all be applied to poetry writing.

I also read a now favorite poet I did not expect to become a favorite poet: Anne Compton. I read her Governor General Award winning Processional, and I loved it. I found her words and her style spoke to me, and I think some of my poems this month emulated her style. I can’t say much about her writing except that my enjoyment and sympathy came at the exact best time, as I was making forward progress in my own writing. Her book was gas on the fire. And I found myself exploring writing advice and processes online. A discovered a particularly important tidbit at Philosophy and Nonsense where the author suggests, begin and end each line with a strong word. I highlight his line because I think it is so true.

So I left November feeling much better about writing poetry: that I was finally starting to understand what I was doing and had created paths for getting there. I was largely happy with my poems for the month, and have been working at assembling a Chapbook to submit to Robert for his adjudication.

Here are a couple of poems I wrote which I used these new techniques to write.

Sin

It’s mine and will be, until I decide it isn’t. Regardless of what I say
I know you still love me. It’s what you do.

I didn’t join the club. I was a charter member.
We all join, sooner or later. He gave us all free passes.

It’s bound to happen. You don’t fold your hands.
You withhold your grace. Did you ever think of what I might have said?

Your wife is innocent. Be grateful for your love.
The girl is untarnished, so far. So much faith in righteousness.

The Sound of Money

He burlesques my musical ear
with his dollar store recorder
a pet rat under his hat
gives accusatory stares

You’re just a cheap bastard, but
I will play a song for you
I’ll pray a prayer, for us
for the offspring this world doesn’t need

He learned a new note
and it’s confused his song
can only play in tune on Saturdays
when the children are about

Here’s a free God Bless You
on your morning walk
salvation thrown away
halleluiahs donated

He’s almost the Jay-suhs prototype:
blessed are the destitute
ye who inherit
the inability to clean

I feel sorry for you in your suit
I’ve never worn shoes that would polish
Could you survive my grave and
play the sounds of money?

 

Next post: the novel.