The view from the dumpster–Don’t kick the pastor, that’s what politicians are for

It’s time for me to climb on my soapbox, which of course will be recycled after I’m done, unless it’s used to add fuel while I’m burnt at the stake. I have a lot of friends, I have to count Facebook and LinkedIn connections as friends, or otherwise the number would be so low not even a presidential pollster could do anything with them. Many of these friends are responsible for shaping our lives and our futures with the rest functioning as supporting cast. For now, for this discussion, I’ll divide them into two primary groups, religious leaders and political leaders. I think it’s fair to say that I have been inclusive in adding people who represent a diverse selection of opinions, thoughts and beliefs.

On the religious front I have representation from a variety of Christian and non-Christian beliefs with a few atheists sprinkled in to keep things lively and real. There are many ministers, pastors, rabbis as well as members of groups whose leadership for now will simply fall in to the category of minister or rabbi since I can’t remember all of the correct terms. Each of these as a man or woman of God (or their version of god) and each operate from a book of guidance. Each of them represents their individual faith and their interpretations of books written by men years ago who had no way to recognize what the needs of the 21st century would be. But each of them does their best to serve their “flock”, within those confines, and many of them graciously respect and honor the other. It is rare that one would throw shade or attack the follower of another faith, another belief. They usually comment with “we don’t agree with all that they believe in, but recognize that they are all God’s children”. There are of course times when religious leaders step outside the bounds of their oaths to their Gods and prefer instead to serve the coin of the realm, or those who would trade upon the name of their parent to further an agenda that doesn’t meet any covenant with any supreme being. These, the unctuous ones are normally just ignored, they aren’t called names, they aren’t berated, and they are given their due, which is nothing. When you look at spiritual and religious beliefs, they are high on our lists of needs, they are critical to the well being of many of us, and yet those who represent the opposing viewpoints rarely step out of character and attack the other, choosing instead to simply do their jobs and leave others to do theirs. This group more than any other should be raising hell and fighting for our souls, denouncing all that does not satisfy their gods, this group who depends on capturing hearts and souls, this group acts in an appropriate manner, for the benefit of all creation.

Never would we dare come out and say that the pastor is a commie, or that the rabbi is a fool, or the imam is deranged, it’s simply not done. There is a quiet peace, a quiet right of enjoyment, a quiet acquiescence, a quiet expression of respect, followed by an extended hand of friendship.
In the political arena we don’t have that peace. We are taught by our leaders that Democrats and Republicans are mortal enemies and that libertarians are just weird. We are taught by our own parties that we have to be true and loyal only to our parties because only they know the right way, only they have the access to the path of enlightenment and only they know what’s best for our people. What an absolutely wrong way to achieve anything other than business as usual, higher bills for less service and total discord where nothing truly beneficial gets accomplished.

Let me tell you, my friend Haven Shoemaker is a great fan of McRibs, there is no way in hell I’m eating them, but he is also a great fan of fiscal responsibility, so I do listen to him. At the same time, my buddy David Moon, the D20 wild child is apparently not a fan of Old Bay, but he hooks me up when I’m low, he also looks at many things where his constituents are low, and I listen to him. There is nobody wilder in Maryland politics than Robin Ficker, he’s a wild man, usually out of control and every once in a while, like the blind pig, he finds an acorn. Sorry, it is actually a close contest between Robin Ficker and William Newton. But in both cases, I have to listen, they have ideas, they have thoughts and concerns. And all of these divergent I have to honestly say are Marylanders, representing other Marylanders, none are for sale, none are doing anything more than expressing opinions based on what their constituents have to say. I would gladly sit down with any of them and have a beer, have a conversation, glean from them what there is to be learned, but I would never, ever deny them the right to their opinion or question their loyalty to those they serve.

E pluribus Unum applies not only to our confederation but to the thoughts and concepts of our leaders, all of which are worthy of listening to despite their dietary peculiarities. All of which, not just the ones that I have mentioned are talented, creative and caring individuals who deserve respect, who have earned a position to be able to present their case free of adjectives and expletives. All of whom should be given the courtesy of allowing them to exercise their first amendment rights without infringement of their need to represent the viewpoints of their constituents and their conscience. If we truly are that state that represents a microcosm of America then it is incumbent on us to show the other 49 states and the various territories how this can be done.

The view from the dumpster–Seeing the future

Once, when I was dumpster diving, I found a couple of crystal balls. They were used but seemed to be intact and hopefully functioning. I shook them up to see if they had any predictions left and all they would let me know about was that it was going to snow. I guess you shouldn’t expect too much from a used crystal ball that was made in China. Ok, they were snow globes, but I was hoping for something more. Not that I really needed a crystal ball to see the future, but a little reassurance would be nice. But I have seen the future, in fact I see it every day, and I hear it, loudly professing rights and obligations, attempting to claim some unseen obligations and demanding fairness.

I, with a little help from my wife brought forth the future, it was certainly a tale of trials and tribulations but they are a strong bunch, worthy contenders for the role of caretaker, strong and fearless leaders of the tomorrow that is happening now, they are assuming their positions. But to ensure their success in controlling and shaping a future world they brought forth their own cadets, to be trained in the way. So I really don’t need a crystal ball to see the future, I see them every day, the crystal ball might have reassured me that I would survive their efforts to take control.

None of them (the grandchildren) can drive but they have no problems telling me where I need to go and how to get there. All of them are well educated not just by multiple school systems, but by their parents and community with a lot of input from their grandmother, and on occasion me. And every one of them will stand up and argue, they will defy, they will fight and they will not back down. They’ll do all of that over the simple concept of “what’s for dinner”. They are opinionated and argumentative and care not who they are facing, they know how to display courage and the strength of their convictions. They sharpen their claws and practice their mental pugilism with their mentors, their parents and their grandparents. Like lion cubs playing with their mother, learning the necessary skills.

And they all have learned skills, they have learned how to negotiate, how to express themselves, how to assess the potential pain of their actions, how to stand up and fight, how to ignore personal consequences, and they all have learned some level of finesse, except the youngest, he’s a ginger and a terrorist. But this same group of kids are the ones that carry snacks and sanitary supplies in their backpacks for their friends in need, the ones that volunteer to help with the younger kids in church, the ones that will march for a cause, the ones that will fight for their friends for what’s right, the ones that sit with the “special” kids at lunch because they know that special needs love too, these are the kids that quietly support others while they fight amongst themselves. These are the promise of the future, which will take over and take charge as soon as they get out of the corner.

Now I want to be clear, I’m not their drill instructor; I just provide backup for the DI and on occasion offer advice or guidance to keep them from running afoul of an angry mother or grandmother. Really most of the time, I stand clear so as to avoid personal injury. But what I have done and will continue to do is to provide them an operations manual, a place to go to find guidance on a variety of subjects, daily I write a blog post which hopefully someday will help them and others like them, and there are lots of them.

The view from the dumpster–Define quality

Have you ever seen the magazine or ezine headlines touting the top 10 cities with the highest quality of life? Of course you went in immediately to see what cities are on the list and to get bombarded with ads for hearing aids and vacuum cleaners. Did you find your city on the list? Did you really know what you were looking for? Somewhere in the beginning of the article they specified the parameters that they used to make those determinations. A list of various demographics and statistics that we all love like crime rate, housing affordability, school quality, etc. with each of these articles choosing the ones that they believe are truly important to them and maybe the readers, although it’s more about their opinion than the readers, they would prefer that you adjust to their arbitrary standards and buy a vacuum cleaner.

When we try and define the standards for quality of life in a community, we really have to define first what that concept means. And deal with the fact that for each of us, it means different things. We have to root out the real basics, the real standards that would make all of us happy, and meet our concepts. Living here in the DC area, it is easy enough to say that we have great cultural and multi-cultural opportunities before us. Yes, the opportunities are there but are they affordable for everyone? I can’t afford to take my tribe into town to partake in the Smithsonian opportunity. Parking in town is out of the question and the sheer cost of taking public transportation into town for that many people is really not doable. You can tell me about the Opera and that makes me happy, but I prefer Country music and plays in English.

The diversity of the community is very important to me, and in my area we have achieved that, unfortunately because of the high cost of living here, most of these wonderful folks have to work constantly and I rarely get to meet them because they are too busy trying to survive a high quality of life. And some I get to meet because they approach me, trying to find a meal or a place to stay or sometimes just a drink to endure another day, their quality standard is different, measured in a different set of parameters which of course is an interesting conundrum because these people are written out of the standards of those whose view of quality doesn’t include them. When I was living in Guatemala there was an indigenous community that lived on a stretch of land parallel to the runways of the international airport. It was a tarpaper and salvaged materials kind of community of houses. They were happy, there was a bus line to take them wherever they need to go, they had no rent payments, they had easy access to the central market and in some cases their children had access to schools. There was ample land over an embankment that they could farm, in that zone nobody cared and for them; life was good, quality that exceeded their standards. But the community was visible from the airplanes coming into that airport, and it did not represent the quality of life standards that the government was trying to show the rest of the world. When the President of the United States was coming for a visit, it became necessary to clean up the neighborhood, lest it be an embarrassment. Before the President arrived, the Guatemalan Army’s version of the Corps of Engineers bulldozed the entire community, pushing the houses and the bodies over the embankment and down the cliffs never to be seen again.

When I look at the values and standards of a community trying to identify whether or not it is a quality community I ignore the public relations rhetoric and the chest pounding and wallet slapping noise of a set of standards set by those who created the community in their own image, looking instead at how a community is poised to deal with those, all of those who will come, seeking a better life. I look at whether the animal shelter is a “no kill” shelter, I look at where and how the diverse members of the community are housed, if together or in separate parts of town, I look at the other side of the tracks. I look to see if I can raise chickens in my backyard to share the eggs with my neighbors. I look to see if my neighbors who are in need have support, if my neighbors are welcomed and accepted as they are. I look to see if the community encourages life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, to see if the community recognizes quiet enjoyment as a lifestyle not as an excuse to excise unmet strangers. I look for a community that allows me to be me, them to be them and encourages the opportunity to learn and share. A community where all members are supported and protected by the other members, where no one stands alone and where violence is the last resort of the incompetent who are not accepted in the community.

A community where all can achieve their own individual standards of quality of life and happiness without interference but support from all of their neighbors

The view from the dumpster–Connor’s Courage

It was a cold and dreary day, and I was feeling a ‘mite puny’ so I decided that I would just fix some chicken noodle soup for lunch. Boil some water and throw in a pouch of dry soup mix, let simmer. Well even though I’m lazy, I can get a little creative and turned it into egg drop soup. I did have to check the package to see how much water to use and that’s when I found it—the caution label—the warning that the soup may be hot. I find it truly amazing that after you boil the water it turns out to be hot. This has always been a problem for me because I hate waiting for it to cool down to a reasonable temperature. I’ve tried cooking with cold water but that didn’t make things any better. Now I don’t know why the good folks at Lipton found it necessary to put that on the package, but they probably needed to add some more language to it. If you’re a person that needed a note on the package to tell you that boiled water is hot, you need to step away from the stove and let others take care of this for you.

We’ve all seen the warning labels; my favorites include the label on a chainsaw advising the user not to stop the chainsaw with their genitals. Or the label on children’s pajamas with washing instructions that include removing the children from the pajamas before washing. But you really have to wonder about the reasons these labels came about and question the intelligence of the people that were the cause. It’s really a sad statement about the people around us and their abilities to cope with the world. I will confess to having washed at least one child with her pajamas still on her, it was necessary to hose her off after a major diaper blowout, put I didn’t put her in the washing machine or the dryer. I guess, in a litigious society these labels are necessary, but it certainly takes something very simple and just needlessly complicates it. Sometimes it takes longer to read the warnings than it does to read the actual instructions or use the product.

We have a habit of taking simple common sense basics and turning them into a complex quagmire. We actually have specialists that help us do that, we call them the legislature, aided and abetted by lobbyists and lawyers. There is a set of bills in the Maryland General Assembly that has caught my attention, and captured my heart, and I’m not alone in that. The bills are for Connor’s Courage. To put it simply, Connor and approximately 200 other children in MD is ill and no conventional medications were working. These children are receiving micro-doses of medical cannabis and it is working, it’s helping them live a normal life, it’s helping them make it through the day. The cannabis is prescribed by Doctor’s, licensed by the State, the cannabis prescription is filled by dispensaries licensed and controlled by the State and likely grown in facilities also licensed and controlled by the State, the State has recognized this product as a medicine. Here’s the rub, school nurses, who are educated, trained professionals licensed by the State can’t administer the medicine on school grounds. This means that a parent or caregiver has to come pick up the child in the middle of the day, remove them from school property, dose them and return them to school. These schools of course are controlled by the several counties and the City of Baltimore as well as the State.

This really seems like an easy problem to fix, I wonder if it could have been done with an Executive Order. But it is now in the hands of the General Assembly grinding its way through a system. It’s a simple easy concept, but it doesn’t need attachments or riders or bargains. It simply needs to pass both houses quickly.
I also think that it should have been an emergency bill so that it becomes effective immediately not in October, why make these kids wait any longer? I also wonder if anyone has consulted the Governor’s office on this, the last thing we need is a veto, which would certainly crush the hopes and spirits of this kids while they wait to see if an override can happen next year. This is a group of bills that every member of the Assembly should be able to proudly move out of committee, on to the floor and out to the Governor. In fact I would hope that our Governor is sending his minions over to help push it along.

Prioritizing the health and well being of the children of Maryland is a no brainer; it should be a no politics zone, especially since there is no impact on the State, only on the children. Doctors and medical advances gave them hope, gave them possibility and gave them courage. It’s time for the adults in Annapolis to show their courage and stand behind these children.

The view from the dumpster–There is but one

No, I’m not writing another love story, I did that the other day. But I guess this could have and should have been one, but this is more of a story of a broken love, a love that was mired with selfishness, trampled on by greed, ruined by vanity and false glory, destroyed by arrogance and ignored by the simplicity of truth, the inconvenience of truth. A broken covenant, a forgotten covenant, a covenant pushed aside because it’s inconvenient and doesn’t serve the worshippers of the golden idols, the believers of the dollar, the Pound, the Euro or any other sovereign coin of the realm, cold hard metal.

But, we stood our ground, in fact we demanded protection for our ground, our air and our water, for the wild animals and the forests, for the rivers and creeks and the oceans, we demanded protection for all of life and those things that give life and those that sustain life, all of the things in creation that are necessary and must function in balance and harmony. For years, we fought for a change. We fought for protection and we won. Our air got cleaner, our waterways improved and we started to get a handle on wasting resources. We were winners at least so it seemed. The glow of that victory was certainly short-lived. Goliath was defeated, but not dead, when he got up he was pissed and promptly shoved that slingshot up David’s ass.

All of the focus on recycling ended up being on each of us individually; we all got our little blue bins to put out on the curb. Which of course is somewhat of a good thing because it gave us the opportunity to participate, and we do. And all of the bean counters and number counters look at what we do and tell us how great it is. While at the same time, one sloppily run grocery store can waste more in a day than the community that surrounds it. We the consumers, the individuals, the average Joe are carrying the burden of our demands so that our government can tell us that they have met our demands. And we go blithely along saying how great this is. While we fight about paper or plastic, about straws and balloons, keeping them out of the waterways, electric generating stations can dump their coal ash waste wherever they want, with impunity.

While we worry about our lawn clippings and coffee grounds, there are frozen food companies that waste tractor trailer loads per day of food which goes to the landfill, and it’s ok. While we worry about what to do with our leftover paint or pesticides, fracking companies are dumping their waste into our streams and the ocean. While we constantly do all that we can, we are the smallest portion of the waste stream and the smallest voice in the legislative and regulatory stream. We got what we asked for; we got the burden while others run free. It’s the usual story of the 1% versus the 99%. We have recycling programs because we demanded them, but what we did not get was a fair and equitable distribution of responsibility, which seems to be the norm.

We fought to get an agency to protect our environment and to provide leadership and guidance. What we got is an agency that justifies its budget with punitive actions imposing fines and fees that do nothing to support the mission of protecting and preserving our environment, while ignoring the need to provide guidance and support. When it comes to recycling and minimizing waste and preserving resources, we won, we won the burden to do it; we won the impact when the real major sources of the waste won’t do it. We won a no-win scenario disguised as a solution, but serving solely to silence us and allowing business as usual.

The view from the dumpster–Recycling the National Sword

No sermons tonight, no preaching, I talked to Pastor and he said that he would take care of the preaching and I can go back to talking trash. So tonight, I’ll talk about trash and sex, or at least point out that we’re screwing ourselves again. Apparently as a nation it does seem to be something we are fond of, and when it comes to taking care of our own discards we seem to prefer to bypass the possibility of treasure and instead opt to prostrate ourselves, gladly assuming the position in order to rid ourselves of a problem. It’s a shortsighted view ignoring our responsibilities for our own actions and showing our willing disdain for dealing with the opportunities that are less glamorous. Preferring instead to simply outsource our resource recovery to those who would ultimately use their national sword to chop away at our stability, our manufacturing and our economic strength.

In 2018, the Chinese government came out with their National Sword initiative, as a replacement for their green fence efforts in previous years. The purpose of this was in part for the government to work to clean up their own environmental problems. In order to do this, it was thought best that they not import garbage from other countries, most notable being the U.S. In this version there is a long and specific list of what will and will not be accepted, including various recyclates and contamination levels. This includes unwashed or unclean containers (milk jugs, soda bottles, etc.), which of course hurts the U.S., since we don’t have the capacity to clean all of that material, we never built it, because we could always ship it overseas, as is. I have to say that I understand China’s position on this; I’ve seen some of the loads being sent to them. Bales of low grade paper, with used dirty diapers inside of them, Bales of plastics from electronics with mercury containing devices still attached or mixed in, bales of household garbage still in the bags put in the front of the containers with bales of low grade mixed 1-7 plastics on the back end (the inspected end), bales of agricultural plastics with dirt and stones and plants still in the pots (because they help make the weight on the bale). This was the normal practice that we abused. This was the arrogance that caused the problem. In the recycling industry it was the common joke that if you had 20 tons of anything a Chinese buyer would take it. Well that joke is on us.

The impact of the National Sword was that we had to actually act honorably in our sales of recyclates but it also meant that many of the common products that we put out on the curb or deliver to municipal recycling programs have little to no value. The most notable drop is in paper products. With cardboard down around $50 per ton and mixed papers at zero or less the impact is felt in every community trying to maintain a recycling program, but now having to look at covering the costs because there is little to no revenue. These are self-inflicted wounds and the Chinese now are rubbing Yuan into our wounds. With the blessing and support of the Chinese government there are a number of companies that are buying U.S. paper mills, among those are Shanying International, ND Paper or Nine Dragons Paper Holdings, and there may be more that are less direct.

Think about what they are doing, they are buying up paper mills who failed to adjust to the market needs, which in part was driven by the Chinese government, they use Chinese government money to buy the mills, and they use government money to refurbish the mills to do what we failed to do. And then, they of course produce pulp and brown paper that is not included in the National Sword, while leaving the trash and detritus here. As a national company of course they get preferential treatment in pricing and entry efficiency, and they still control the market price of the paper since they control the mills that could use it. Rumor has it, that the same thing is also happening in other industry sectors, such as the scrap metal markets which impact your local scrap yard, setting the prices and the demand, while they buy up various regional processors. The last time this happened, all of that scrap metal was cheerfully returned to us by the Empire of the Rising Sun, delivered free of charge to Pearl Harbor. It is unlikely that China would take such an action, it is their preferred policy to wait us out and let us choke on our own failures, as they gradually buy up our failing industries.

While we are all busy worrying about windmill cancer or trying to outlaw plastic bags, and straws and balloons we are losing sight of the bigger opportunities. We have the technology and the supply of raw materials to turn our waste into an enhancement for our gross domestic product, we have the resources necessary to turn waste into new industry or expanded industry, we can utilize what we have to produce positive results in terms of manufacturing, job creation and independence from foreign control. But it requires a major re-assessment of our priorities. It requires a commitment to do what is right and necessary for our own country. Certainly the Chinese have provided evidence that it can be done on our soil. What they have is a commitment and the financial backing. Where we have failed is to look at resources as an asset regardless of form, we have failed to remove the stick from the banker’s asses, we have failed to have a Federal agency responsible for the well being of our environment to do anything more than punitive actions when they should be an inspiration towards solving problems, we have failed because it was far too easy to surrender.

It is time that we create the necessary channels for environmental economic development. We created wonderful phrases like “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” as we gleefully give away the treasure to those willing to put forth an effort and allow us to keep our hands clean. We have proven over and over again that we are our own worst enemy, without ever putting forth the effort to protect ourselves and in the end, surrendering all to those who are waiting for us to fail.

The view from the dumpster–The whisperers

They do exist, in fact they’re everywhere, but they don’t advertise. For the most part, they prefer to stay invisible, away from the light but they do eat garlic. We are surrounded by them but wouldn’t know it if we bumped into them. They’re disguised as regular, ordinary humans. If you go to any civic event, they’re there, quietly listening but rarely speaking, they’re the ones in the back of the room or in the middle rows of chairs, never in the front row. When the guest speakers or elected officials arrive they may acknowledge the presence of a whisperer or several. Usually just a quick hello, a wave a nod of the head, there doesn’t appear to be a secret handshake or a special ornament in the lapel, just a quiet acknowledgement.

In our state, we love our crabs and most of us like Old Bay, the Orioles are our team but our favorite year round past time is still politics. We love to watch, we love to participate, and we know how things get done. We have choices, we can buy children’s books, we can go to crab and oyster roasts, or in most cases we know a guy who knows a guy, for us the degrees of separation are reduced to 2 or 3. All we have to do is identify a whisperer and let them know what we need. It’s not always easy to get the message directly to an elected official, because there are gatekeepers, because the ratio of us versus them is so great. Our County council members all have to deal with their portion of 1.1 million people, all of them with an opinion. So we go to the next level, the ones that have the privilege of being able to whisper into an elected official’s ear and be heard.

Whisperers come in a variety of categories but in all cases, they have the ear of one or more elected. They can be old school friends or spouses, they can be precinct workers or former co-workers, they can be spouses or staff members, they can be neighbors or relatives or even friends, or friends of a friend. But if your message is important and bigger than your ego, the whisperers will carry your message. They’ll do it free of charge, because it’s needed, they are actually the peoples lobbyists. If you have a message, a concern or a need, a belief or an observation, an idea or a proposal, put it out there to everyone, one of them is a whisperer, and they know what to do. If you want something done then put it out there, you don’t need a selfie you need action.

Rely on the whisperers, they are the ones who will help you, based on their station or their situation, they have the ability to whisper in to the ear and be heard, for you.