Archive for November 2013

Gratitude   Leave a comment

It’s Thanksgiving and for me it’s more than a holiday for getting fat and watching football and parades on television. It’s a season of gratitude. It’s actually my favorite holiday. I love fall colors, so it is fun to decorate for it. Turkeys are easy to roast. The craziness that Christmas has become has not yet started — so long as I ignore the “holiday” decorations that went up the day after Halloween.

We started a tradition a long time ago. We list some of the things for which we are grateful. We start on Thanksgiving, but we try to revisit it several times through the New Year.

There are years when it’s hard to be thankful. Times haven’t’ always been easy or plentiful. This year has been a mixed bag, some good, some bad, a lot that could have been better. It would be easy to focus on what has not been good, but I prefer to focus on what God has done for us through the difficult times as well as the easier ones. And, as I consider those times, I realize that the difficult times are the most blessed times, because it is during those times that I rely more on God … I talk more with Him too. Maybe I listen more also . Difficult times pull the layer of cushion back from my comfort zones, so that I am nearer to my Savior.

What’s not to be grateful for when you draw closer to God?

“And we know that all things work together  for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, …” Romans 8:28

Posted November 28, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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Common Problems with the Commons   Leave a comment

From the previously posted article —

“The old world is one of concentrated economic power that hoards wealth; that creates corrupted and hierarchical governance to serve and further concentrate wealth through exploitation of people and the planet. People are experiencing the ravages of this global neoliberal economy in which the market reigns supreme and everything is a profit center, no matter the human and environmental costs.

We are at a crossroads in the global economic order. If not stopped, the two massive “trade” agreements under negotiation at present, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (known as TAFTA), will cement this globalized neoliberal market economy through greater deregulation, profit protection and an extra-judicial trade tribunal in which corporations can sue sovereign nations if their laws interfere with profits.”

Even a broken watch is right twice a day and the writer of this article makes certain points that are worth looking at and even agreeing with them … while at the same time jumping to conclusions that leave holes you could fly a C130 through.

The world as we live in it today does “concentrate economic power through hoarding wealth and does create corrupted and hierarchical governance to serve and further concentrate wealth through exploitation of people and the planet.”

The market does not reign supreme, however. Most of the world has some form of mixed economy where government picks favorites among companies and reaps the benefits of cozying up to some capitalists at the expense of other capitalists. In socialist countries, companies that can afford to do business with politicians are even more blessed than in countries with a more capitalistic bent. You can tell the countries where a “profit center” no longer exists because that country’s capitalists are looking for markets and basing operations in other countries. Hence the current sorry state of the United States’ economy.

I agree we’re “at a crossroads in the global economic order” and that the two “trade” agreements are a danger to all of us – not through greater deregulation, but definitely through the trade tribunal and increasing regulation from outside sovereign borders.

If you want to see what the global economy might look like under this scheme, take a look at Alaska. Yes, we have great mineral and petroleum wealth, held in common for the people of Alaska. Most of it is untapped and attempts to tap it more often end in either disappointment or windfall profit taxes to the federal government than in benefit to the Alaska people.  In the 50 years of Alaska Statehood, the federal government has been the recipient of nearly half of all revenues generated through the sale of our oil wealth. Petroleum companies pay taxes on their profits and Alaskans pay income tax not only on what we earn at our jobs (which are oil-dependent), but on the Permanent Fund Dividend. Our 21-year-old daughter and our 14-year-old son have owed income tax every year of their lives since they were born.

I’m going to explore what the common “ownership” of land means to Alaskans and try to guess at what private ownership might mean, both positive and negative. As the world rushes headlong toward this socialist utopia, it behooves us to look at where it actually exists in a democratic republic and to ask ourselves — is this a good idea or a very bad idea or … hey, here’s a thought — maybe it’s a well-intended idea that has a lot of unintended consequences.

Are the Commons an Antidote to Predatory Market Economy?   Leave a comment

I ran across this article and thought it especially disingenuous to use Alaska’s Permanent Fund as an example when the commentators have no freaking idea about the PFD and its genesis and evolution. It sort of heads in a direction that I was planning on going – talking about Alaska land issues and Wally Hickel. So I’m going to post this article in its entirety and I’d like some comments on it.

Building the Commons as an Antidote to the Predatory Market Economy

Wednesday, 04 September 2013 00:00 By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Truthout | Opinion

(Photo: danny O. / Flickr)These are times of radical change. We are in the midst of an evolution. As David Bollier writes, “We are poised between an old world that no longer works and a new one struggling to be born. Surrounded by centralized hierarchies on the one hand and predatory markets on the other, people around the world are searching for alternatives.”

The old world is one of concentrated economic power that hoards wealth; that creates corrupted and hierarchical governance to serve and further concentrate wealth through exploitation of people and the planet. People are experiencing the ravages of this global neoliberal economy in which the market reigns supreme and everything is a profit center, no matter the human and environmental costs.

We are at a crossroads in the global economic order. If not stopped, the two massive “trade” agreements under negotiation at present, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (known as TAFTA), will cement this globalized neoliberal market economy through greater deregulation, profit protection and an extra-judicial trade tribunal in which corporations can sue sovereign nations if their laws interfere with profits.


There is another way. We’ve reached a tipping point in awareness of the effects of the current global economy that has erupted in a worldwide revolt as we can see in the Occupy, Arab Spring, Idle No More and Indignado movements. People are searching for alternative ways of structuring the economy and society that are empowering and more just and sustainable. Part of this work includes understanding and building the “commons,” which is the opposite of the predatory market economy.

As we will describe below, concentrated wealth is derived by taking from the commons for personal gain in an undemocratic way. We can reverse the current trend toward privatization and wealth inequality by claiming the commons and using it for mutual prosperity. The commons cannot exist without a participatory governance structure. Therefore, building the commons is a fundamental step toward real democracy.

Bollier, author of The Wealth of the Commons, makes the case that there is “enormous potential of the commons in conceptualizing and building a better future.” Understanding the commons gives us a vocabulary, vision and practical opportunities to create a new world in which governance builds from the bottom up and connects us from the local to the global level.

What is the commons?

What is considered a commons is defined by a particular community and includes more than the physical spaces we usually think of. A commons is something that is a community’s entitlement and for which the community shares responsibility to protect, sustain and grow. A commons cannot exist without human involvement through a participatory governance structure.

As David Bollier says, “a commons arises whenever a community wants to manage a resource in a collective manner, with a special regard for equitable access, use and sustainability. It is a social form that has long lived in the shadows, but which is now on the rise.”

Roman law actually declared certain things intrinsically common property, notably air, wildlife and navigable waters. The term “commons” dates back to medieval England, where it referred to certain rights that everyone had, even on land owned by the aristocracy, for example, to graze their animals.

When we declare something a commons, it gives us a new understanding and new vocabulary to reclaim it. For example, the initial view of the broadcast media was that they aired on “public airwaves.” The airwaves were something we all shared and were a resource for the public good. However, public airwaves were gradually transformed into “commercial airwaves,” in which content is controlled by advertisers and wealth owners. They do not have a public responsibility to share information but are viewed as a private opportunity to build wealth. When we see the airwaves as a public commons, they can be transformed to serve the public, e.g. requiring free air time for candidates to reduce the influence of money in elections.

In this era of transformation we are seeing the concept of the commons rising up, often without much attention by the media or government. People are developing tools to create commons. One of the most underappreciated parts of the commons is our collective knowledge. People are building on this collective knowledge with new tools like open-source software, which can be shared without the monopolistic practices of corporations such as Microsoft, or the sharing of information through Creative Commons copyrights rather than restrictive for-profit copyrights. People also are working to build information through wikis that allow crowd sourcing of information to create a shared, deep pool of knowledge. Indeed, the Internet has created a momentum for commons-culture because it has made incredible amounts of information widely available for free.

Political economist GarAlperovitz writes about the commons in Unjust Deserts: How the Rich Are Taking Our Common Inheritance and Why We Should Take it Back. He describes how “Every new breakthrough starts from a plateau of knowledge created by others and preserved and passed on by society.” The wealthiest people in the world today would not have attained their wealth without the “plateau” of knowledge created by the many generations that came before them. Often this knowledge is paid for out of our commonwealth, i.e. taxes paid by everyone to provide funds for research like pharmaceuticals or to create the Internet; or by using public land to provide the space to build railroads and roads or to acquire minerals and other natural resources.

Alperovitz points out that Bill Gates, who made his fortune from computers, software and the Internet, could not have been a multibillionaire if it had not been for the commonwealth that created all of the infrastructure and knowledge on which he built his fortune. Or, as Warren Buffett said, “Take me as an example. I happen to have a talent for allocating capital. But my ability to use that talent is completely dependent on the society I was born into. If I’d been born into a tribe of hunters, this talent of mine would be pretty worthless. I can’t run very fast. I’m not particularly strong. I’d probably end up as some wild animal’s dinner.”

These are realities for everyone who has gained tremendous wealth, because as Alperovitz points out, “Wealth is built on inherited knowledge, a generous gift from the past.” In other words, it is the commons – our common knowledge, infrastructure and technology – that allows people to advance and create individual wealth. Once this is understood, it allows for new thinking about equitable allocation of wealth and replenishment of our commons through progressive taxation and provides a moral foundation for shared prosperity. It also raises questions and moral doubts about the siphoning off of the commons, depleting it rather than enriching it for all and sustaining it for future generations.

There can be a very positive role for government in legally recognizing and structuring the commons to share the wealth that comes from it. One example is the Alaska Permanent Fund, which was created to more equitably share the wealth created from public lands. When oil is taken from public lands, a percentage of the profit goes into the Alaska Permanent Fund, which manages the money and then distributes a yearly check to every person in Alaska from birth to death. These checks, usually range from $1,000 to $2,000 per person and can provide a family with income of $5,000 to $10,000 every year.

What would have happened if the investment we all made by providing lands for railroads and highways or inventing the Internet or pharmaceuticals or investing in a new clean energy economy had been put into a national permanent trust and distributed to all Americans each year rather than being given to corporations to create profits? The United States would have a guaranteed national income for everyone from our shared commonwealth and would have eliminated poverty. With the transformation to a new energy economy, the need to upgrade transit and rebuild infrastructure, we have another opportunity to share wealth by treating taxpayer investment as a commonwealth in which we all should share.

Tension between the market and the commons

There is a conflict between market culture and the commons. Market culture believes in privatizing as much as possible and taking from the commons – whether it is research, access to cheap loans, tax breaks, public land, infrastructure or resources –to make a profit for their owners and investors. The market takes from the commons for free, and whatever liabilities it incurs or whatever it cannot make a profit from, it dumps back into the commons. Some call it privatizing the profits and socializing the risks.

People who believe in the commons recognize the importance of building communities that we all benefit from – protecting, sustaining and expanding the commons. They recognize that the commons should be used in an equitable way so everyone benefits.

Market culture has colluded with government, sometimes so closely that big business and government seem like a hand in a glove. They work together as partners to expand the market’s power over all aspects of our lives. As David Bollier says, “The state provides a useful fig leaf of legitimacy and due process for the market’s agenda, but there is little doubt that private capital has overwhelmed democratic, non-market interests except at the margins.”

Often the result seems like legalizing what should be illegal or unethical practices, whether it is massive campaign donations to dominate elections with money, or exempting the oil and gas industry from clean air and water laws so they are not responsible for pollution, or the leasing of public lands at very low rates with no royalty payments for the profits from public lands.

The pressure to privatize the commons is immense. Today, we are seeing efforts to privatize even the most basic of entities, e.g. water. Aquifers are being drained by private companies such as Nestle to sell as bottled water or by farmers in drought-stricken areas to sell to oil and gas companies for fracking. The two trade agreements under negotiation, the TPP and TAFTA, are trying to put in place laws that would severely weaken public enterprises and open the floodgates to privatization.

People who believe in the commons seek to get outside of the narrow political discourse authorized by the corporate political duopoly, which does not allow us to systematically examine the abuses of the market and the corruption of the two-party, mirage democracy. Commons advocates seek to open the possibilities of political movements developing around the commons, creating new governance structures and challenging market dominance.

This will require a culture shift. Economics and political science students are taught from the beginning that treating entities as commons will lead to certain ruin. Advocates of markets have taken a 1968 essay by Garret Hardin, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” and used it to make a false case for market ideology. In the essay, Hardin argues that when something is treated as a commons, it will be overused and destroyed by personal interests. He describes a pasture on common land where all those who graze their animals on the land seek individual profit without regard for others. They add more and more animals to make a larger profit and ultimately destroy the land held in common for grazing. The metaphor illustrates the argument that free access and unrestricted demand for a finite resource ultimately reduce the resource to depletion.

In recent years, the case for “The Tragedy” has been rebutted by Nobel Prize-winning economist Elinor Ostrum, who wrote “Beyond the Tragedy of the Commons.” Ostrum examined how commons were actually used. She found that the so-called tragedy of the commons was not prevalent, nor was it difficult to solve. Indeed, people from local communities routinely develop controls over the commons to protect it from “the tragedy.” In 1990, she wrote, “Governing the Commons,” which examined the governance of natural resources. She found that neither state control nor privatization of resources was the appropriate answer and that commons are sometimes governed by voluntary organizations. She developed eight “design principles” of stable local management of commons. These are:

  1. Clearly defined boundaries.
  2. Rules regarding the appropriation and provision of common resources that are adapted to local conditions.
  3. Collective-choice arrangements that allow most resource appropriators to participate in the decision-making process.
  4. Effective monitoring by those who are part of or accountable to the appropriators.
  5. A scale of graduated sanctions for those who violate community rules.
  6. Mechanisms of conflict resolution that are cheap and of easy access.
  7. Self-determination of the community recognized by higher-level authorities.
  8. In the case of larger commons resources, organization in the form of multiple layers situated inside one another, like Russian nesting dolls.

These have been refined to include additional principles, e.g. effective communication, internal trust and reciprocity, and making connections between the various parts of the resource system as a whole.

Evolving governance of the commons

These principles are applied in the real world to govern the commons. In fact, Bollier argues that using these principles of the commons is the natural default action of people, pointing out that 2 billion people depend on commons of forest, fisheries, water and wild game. There are an enormous number of functional, successful commons around the world that mainstream economics does not acknowledge. These commons cultures often develop organically and are based in a particular community where they can adapt as conditions change. Compare this set-up to trade agreements such as the TPP and TAFTA, which are not connected to local communities but come from hierarchical structures dictating from above.

When we look at the commons, we begin to understand that there is a long history of communal work and of people building together to benefit everyone, not just a few. In some societies, this was manifested through barn-raisings, and in others it was creating a cooperative market or an educational collective.

Public utilities that provide electricity are a commons of energy. FDR created public utilities as part of the New Deal to supply electricity to rural areas that did not have any. A similar battle today is whether or not cities will provide public access to the Internet for everyone.

To develop governance for the commons, people first need to be able to conceptualize it and understand the ways we can legally recognize the commons. One important concept is that responsibility for managing a commons should go to the lowest practical level, so governance is as close to the people using the commons as possible, thereby allowing local cultures and traditions to be incorporated into it. This is a change from traditional hierarchical political institutions to a new bottom-up, networked-based culture of the commons.

Interesting experiments in governance are happening all over the world. There is a huge international interest in developing the commons. One idea from Italy is to take the private-public partnership model that benefits private businesses with tax dollars and apply it to the commons, creating public-commons partnerships so that the commons can be used and developed for the public benefit. People are also chartering a commons just as one would charter a corporation. This provides a legal structure and ensures the commons is used for public benefit.

In many respects, protecting, sustaining and developing the commons brings us back full circle, as Jonathan Rowe, author of Our Common Wealth: The Hidden Economy That Makes Everything Else Work, wrote:

“Life was once rich in occasions for spontaneous interaction. People shopped on Main Streets, visited on front porches, attended political events in public venues. Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas had their famous debates in county fairgrounds and town squares all over Illinois, and farmers and townspeople sat for hours in the heat and dust to hear.”

But the commons is not looking back to an idealized past; it is looking forward to a vision of an economy of new values, people building community and working together to solve common problems; to a time when all people have access to the information shared on the Internet, and are assured of the most basic of our commons – clean air and clean water. Johnathan Rowe, who also co-founded the website On The Commons, wrote:

“The commons is real, huge, and invaluable, and it belongs to all of us. It’s also being destroyed – not by itself, but by too much privatization. The possibility part is, We have the capacity to save the commons, though time is short. The moral part is, It’s our right and duty to save the commons.”

We are at an important juncture. The TPP and TAFTA are being negotiated in secret to complete the World Trade Organization agenda of nearly complete privatization. If we believe in a more just, sustainable and democratic world, a world based on the common good, then we must mobilize to stop them. In saving the commons, we are actually building the foundation for the new economy. We are building a world in which people work together to solve common problems and create a more equitable economy and better lives for all of us.


More reading:

Lifting the Veil of Mirage Democracy in the United States

Cooperatives and Community Work Are Part of American DNA 

Trans-Pacific Partnership Will Undermine Democracy, Empower Transnational Corporations

Remaking the Federal Reserve, Building Public Banks and Opting Out of Wall Street 

You can hear our interview Taking Back the Commons with David Bollier on Clearing the FOG here.

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.


Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese

Kevin Zeese JD and Margaret Flowers MD co-host on We Act Radio 1480 AM Washington, DC and on Economic Democracy Media, co-direct It’s Our Economy and are organizers of the Occupation of Washington, DC. Their twitters are @KBZeese and @MFlowers8.

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For the record, I have not drank the koolade (so to speak), but I am an Alaskan, which means I live with the reality of the commons far more than residents of most other states or most other countries. I plan to refute many of the assumptions in this article, but don’t be surprised if there are a few I agree with.


Posted November 25, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska, Common sense, economics

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“A Well in Emmaus” Chapter One   Leave a comment

All Rights Reserved to the Author 11/23/2013

Chapter One

Kingdom Come

She stood before the safe, one hand beckoning, the other holding the cloth-wrapped bundle. Her face hid behind the veil, but her large dark eyes were sad and angry. Shane slid up the wall, bracing himself in the corner, scrubbing tears from his stinging eyes with the heels of his hands. Time had come.

It had been years since he’d thought about God, let alone prayed. His heart had been certain that there was no god. Yet a verse floated up from some long-forgotten Sunday School. “… your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

“This is my kingdom come,” Shane whispered. “What I earned on earth and in heaven.”

Her eyes demanded his obedience and his legs complied. The safe was locked, but no matter; he knew the combination. The interior was dark, but he knew the contents. Four handguns rested on the main shelf. Guns on the right, clips on the left. Shane picked up the largest caliber, the 44 semi-auto. It was light. Unloaded! He always unloaded when he came home from a trip. His left hand moved automatically to a matching clip while his right thumb popped the release in the handle. The clip slid easily home and the gun felt right. Heavy. Final.

She stood to his left as she had that night, clutching the bundle to her chest. Shane raised the gun as if to fire at her, but then turned it, put the barrel up under his chin, deep in the curve of his jaw and pulled the trigger.

CLICK! The sound echoed through the room like a shot, but far quieter.

Not bang? Shane felt the blood coating his hands as he stared at the gun, bewildered why his life hadn’t just ended. The safety was still on, he hadn’t primed the first round. He thumbed the safety off and worked the slide, hearing the round slip into the chamber.

“If you’re going to do it, do it right? Don’t risk flinching, blowing your face off and living.”

Not his voice or hers, but it had a point. Shane stared at the barrel, tongue working at the thought of putting it in his mouth. Her eyes bore into his soul while blood stuck his fingers together. She wanted this.

“This is my kingdom come,” Shane whispered again. When you serve Satan, you reap the whirlwind. He raised the gun and opened his mouth to receive the barrel, ignoring the taste of carbon and gun oil, and pulled the trigger.

CLICK! The sound deafened him and yet he breathed. What the hell?

“We are … we are … the youth of the nation! We are … we are … the youth of the nation!”

The cell phone echoed out of the safe, the long unheard ring tone jarring Shane from head to toe. He flinched, dropped the gun, covered his head as he watched it drop. It hit the threadbare carpet, bounced then slid toward the bed.

Shane stared at the cell phone – a cheap LG that he hadn’t touched, hadn’t powered up, in years. After the ring tone (not of his choosing) cycled three times, the phone went silent. With shaking hands, Shane picked the distracting cell up. Jacob. A moment later the cell vibrated to say a text was coming through. Shane stared at it.

I’m praying for you! GPJ

The screen went black, like you’d expect from a discharged cell. What the hell? Somewhere on the other side of the house, someone began banging on the front door. Shane looked down at his hands. The blood was gone. He stared around his bedroom, recognized it as his bedroom. Not Ramah. She was gone. She’d never been here. I’m freaking losing my mind!

The banging continued and became more insistent. Shane swept up the gun, strode through the living room to approach the door with the gun behind his back.

“Who is it?” he called out and then ducked sideways in case they were not friendlies. You could come back from Mirastan, but you brought it with you.

“Abri la puerta, amigo!” Mike demanded.

Shane let out a pent-up breath and eased the door open to make sure Mike was alone before he released the security slide. He put the gun down on the battered coffee table while Mike closed and restrained the door. Shane dropped onto the sofa.

“What’s up with you, Ric?” Mike asked. “You look like crap.”

Mike wasn’t an introspective guy, but you could count on him for honesty and to cut right to the point. Shane dropped his head onto the back of the couch and sighed.

“Nothing’s changed,” he admitted.

“Nothing? You mean what we’re not talking about?”

Shane glared at him. Mike dragged one of the kitchen chairs onto the carpet and straddled it.

“It wasn’t your fault,” he began. He’d said that before. Shane’s answer retrod old ground.

“It was. What we did … what I did … you know it was my fault, as much as it was anyone else’s.”

“And, so you’re …???”

“Not sleeping, barely eating. It’s why I turned down the job. I can barely sign my name, much less fly an airplane, drive a truck and return enemy fire.”

Mike’s gaze settled on the 44. Shane watched as Mike picked up the gun, thumbed on the safety and ejected the clip. When he cleared the slide, a round popped out. Shane’s heart began to pound hard. He knew that gun. It had never misfired. Mike continued, dismantling the gun, looking over the pieces. While he worked, he talked.

“Maybe I’m insensitive, but they were shooting at us.”

“Not all,” Shane croaked.

“No, not all, but how were we supposed to tell friendlies from bad guys? When you’re in the storm, you deal with what comes flying your way and if people get in the way ….” He shook his head. “You sound like a man who might eat this,” he said, gesturing to the parts lined up on the edge of the coffee table. Shane flinched. Mike grew very still. “That bad, huh?”

“I just want to sleep without nightmares,” Shane whispered.

“Killing yourself seems like a treatment for that?” he asked, softly, like he was channeling Alicia, his wife of less than two weeks. Shane stared at the ceiling. Mike sighed. “Look, we both know you’re not Eric Faraday. Somewhere there’s a family. You used to talk about them. If you eat this gun, do they send your remains home in a box or do you just disappear off the face of the earth?” Shane turned his head to stare open-mouthed at his friend. Mike’s tough-guy attitude dissolved like sugar in the rain. “Yeah, that’s what I thought. Eric Faraday ain’t that other guy. You have a mom, a grandfather … people who care about you who get hurt either way, but if you just disappear ….”

Shane sat up, put his elbows on his knees and pointed to the gun.

“I had that in my mouth when you started knocking,” he admitted. “You think I should just go home and invade their white-picket-fence existence with my demons?”

Mike looked like he might shrug, but then he nodded firmly.

“Yeah. Mi espousa – she knows what I do, sort of, for a living. When I wake up at night slicked with sweat, she doesn’t ask. She knows. She just puts her head on my chest and breaths slowly and I go back to sleep.”

“You have nightmares too?”

“A few.” Mike shrugged like it was no big deal. “You should go home to that farm town in Iowa and let them help you.”

Mike didn’t know, couldn’t know, how complicated that plan was.

“You don’t know I’m even welcome there.”

“Why wouldn’t they? Familia – it’s always embrazo, even when you screw up, they love you. Es tu familia.”

Shane rubbed a hand over his hair. It was longer than it had been in years, starting to curl, to catch at his fingers.

“Tu es mi familia!” Shane reminded Mike.

“Yeah, we’re hermanos. That’s why I asked you to be my best man. But I’m war and you’re burned out. And friends don’t let friends eat guns when they can see the way forward for them.”

“If I go … you may never hear from me again.”

Mike scoffed.

“Like I’d hear from you again if you blew your brains out.” He made a “you’re kidding me, right?” face.  “There’s email, protected cell phones. And Eric Faraday will ride again, cause you ain’t even 30.”

Mike stood up.

“I’m making you some food and you’re taking a shower and then we’ll figure this out.”

Shane got up off the couch slowly, like pulling free of molasses. He took a step toward the bedroom and then looked back at the dismantled 44.

“I …,” he croaked.

“Right.” Mike swept up the parts to the 44 and preceded Shane into the bedroom. “You go take that shower. I’ll change the combination and then – well, you’re just going to have decide you aren’t killing yourself this week.”

“You make it sound so easy,” Shane said, anxiety clutching his chest as Mike put the 44 away and slid the security panel open to change the combination.

“It is,” Mike insisted. “It’s easier than dying and facing God with your suicide.”

Shane stared at him. Mike’s religious beliefs were shallow and ill-formed. He admitted once that he went to confession occasionally, but mainly to talk. He didn’t do penance and didn’t think he needed to. It was cheap therapy, in his opinion.

“Seriously?” Mike shrugged this time.

“I don’t know why I’m saying any of this. I sound like my abuela.” He thought a moment, running a hand over his close-shaven head, then nodded firmly. “I believe it.”

What if I don’t? Shane thought.

“And, you know, even if you think you don’t,” Mike continued as if reading Shane’s mind. “My abuela would say it doesn’t matter if we believe in God, because he believes in us.” He set the uncharged cell down on the dresser. “Anyone so screwed up that they’d leave their cell phone in a locked safe is too screwed up to be making big decisions like whether to commit suicide. Go take that shower while I reset the combination. Nobody’s dying here today.”

copy write reserved Laurel Sliney aka Lela Markham “A Well in Emmaus” 11/23/13

Posted November 24, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized, Writing

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Pitch for “A Well in Emmaus”   1 comment

What happens to us when the world as we know it spins out of control?

Emmaus is a typical small town in the center of the very blessed nation of the United States filled with ordinary people who live simple lives in the relative liberty of a prosperous nation. To Shane Delaney, a burned-out mercenary with a troubled past, it’s a safe place to heal his scars and quiet his demons before escaping once more to the real world beyond the corn fields and smiling people who would reject who he has become.

When life as they know it ends abruptly, Emmaus finds itself in a desperate struggle to survive, challenging the town folks to question who they once were and who they must be. With dwindling resources and encroaching winter, questions of value and community, right and wrong, and practicality versus principle all take on new perspectives. The assumptions formed in prosperity and freedom may not hold true in starvation and danger.

We learn who we truly are in times of crisis.

Posted November 24, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Writing

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Introducing “A Well in Emmaus”   Leave a comment

When I originally started blogging, my intention was to make contact with other writers — hence following other writers. I planned to use the blog as an opportunity to showcase some of my fiction. But as I went along, my political, spiritual, philosophical thoughts found fertile ground here. I’m not giving that up.

Writing about preparedness and economic collapse has emboldened me to post some chapters of an end-of-the-world-as-we-knew-it story that has been rattling around in my cupboard for a long time. In it, I hope to explore some of the themes I’ve been posting on — liberty, tyranny, survival, faith and human frailty. It’s meant to entertain, but it is also “raw” fiction. It hasn’t been through a dozen alpha readers and I’m not seeking to make money from it … yet. If readers really like it, it may show up on Amazon.

This is serialized fiction. A chapter will show up every 2-4 weeks amid other posts. Feedback is gratefully accepted.


Posted November 24, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Writing

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Great Depression   Leave a comment

My parents lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s. Use your imagination a little bit. Imagine your town in that era. Call up every movie you’ve seen about that era and ask yourself what it would be like to live through that time, now.

Do you think it could not happen again?

Of course it could. It almost happened again in 2008.

Do you think we’re safe today? Of course we aren’t. Our national government was about $6 trillion in debt when it started and is now $17 trillion in debt and borrowing $1 for every $3 it spends. If Barack Obama stays his course, he’ll leave office with a $22 trillion national debt. Some of that is owed to American investors who will wait on their money, but the majority is now owned by Europe, China and Japan, who may not. We could default on those loans, but not without severe consequences to the worldwide economy that would affect us every bit as much as it affects other nations.

We’re in trouble, folks! There is no easy solution to what ails us. Sooner or later, we’re going to have to face the consequences of our national profligacy. If we’d allowed it to happen in 2008 when our national debt was $6 trillion owed mostly to Americans, it would have been a tough 1-3 year correction that might have returned us to economic health by now. We padded our national corners with massive deficit spending and so when the inevitable comes that correction is going to be much deeper and much longer.

The Great Depression is something you and I can know in our lifetime and it’s almost certain that our children will know a time of great economic downturn. Maybe a technological miracle will prevent it, but that’s counting chickens that are not only unhatched, but that haven’t been laid yet. In fact, regulation seems to be killing the hens.

When I talk about preparedness, I have to include an economic disaster like the Great Depression. My parents lived through it. My mother’s folks insisted that the family survived it not because of what the government did to help, but in spire of what the government did to help.

There’s been a lot of scholarship over the last decade showing that the policies of both the Republicans and the Democrats during the 1930s were the cause of the Depression continuing for 12 long years. I know that’s contrary to what they teach in public school, but it’s worth a look to see if there are parallels to our times.

An economic depression is coming our way. The only questions are:

  • When?
  • How long will it last?
  • Will it be a “great” depression or just a normal market-correcting “depression”?
  • Do we have what our grandparents had to survive it?

The Death of Liberalism on College Campuses   Leave a comment

Free speech is not free unless the guy whose opinion you LOATH has the same right to state his opinion as you do.

pundit from another planet

Robby Soave writes:  At universities across the country, liberalism is going extinct. I know what you’re thinking: Surely, he’s joking. Or even, good riddance!

No, I’m not joking. Campus liberalism really is in a death spiral — and this is not happy news.

I witnessed firsthand what passes for “liberal” discourse these days at a guest lecture at the University of Michigan last month. A libertarian student group invited anti-affirmative action activist Jennifer Gratz to give a speech to students about her issue and its recent history at the Supreme Court.

Radical activists — many who weren’t even U-M students — repeatedly attempted to hijack the event, talking over and shouting down Gratz at every opportunity. Never mind that that the event was organized exclusively by members of a libertarian club who wanted to hear from a libertarian-aligned speaker; the mob was not going to let anyone express ideas they didn’t…

View original post 696 more words

Posted November 23, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Energy Logic   Leave a comment

Here’s a logic problem for you presented to me by an economist.

Most of us think electric cars are greener than gasoline-powered cars. They don’t have a tailpipe, so they’re ”clean”.

Are they?

Roughly half of all the electricity generated in the United States is produced from coal. Research shows that all-electric cars that charge their batteries off coal-fired generator cause electric power plants to emit 6.5 ounces of carbon per mile – about half the emissions of gasoline-powered car.

Whew!!! See, we knew they were a greener choice! Er ….

Not exactly!

Considerable emissions are produced in the manufacture of an electric car – the equivalent of 80,000 miles of travel in the vehicle. Given the huge initial emissions from its manufacture, if a typical electric car is driven 50,000 miles over its operational lifetime, it will actually put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than a similar-size gasoline-powered car driven the same number of miles. In fact, a typical electric car must be driven 50,000 miles before carbon output savings begins to offset the added emissions from the car’s manufacture. Because electric cars have limited driving ranges, accomplishing that feat is a lengthy process. I average about 10,000 miles a year on my cars, which means I would need to own an electric car for at least six years before I would begin to offset the carbon, but  I don’t know any with an all-electric car in Fairbanks who puts that many miles on it because they can’t even drive to Delta Junction and back on a single overnight recharge. This is because all-electric cars usually only have a range of about 100 miles per recharge. I’d guess it would take at least eight years to truly off-set the carbon emissions from the manufacturer. Do all electric cars really last that long before the main battery needs replacement?

Sometimes it pays to question our assumptions!

How to Get What You Need   Leave a comment

Now that you’ve established that the stuff you own is yours by right and by might (if necessary), you may discover you need other things. For example — I can definitely see wanting a supply of chocolate and, if a crisis lasted more than a couple of months, wanting to replenish it. Chocolate is my big vice.

So, how do you get what you want without sticking a gun in the faces of passing strangers or storming the neighboring community?


Barter is a lost art in much of the United States. We’re so conditioned to exchange plastic money for goods in stores or on line these days that most of us have never considered what might be of value during a time of disaster.

This is where it pays to know a little bit about history. What items did the settlers of the North American West take with them and go back for when they ran out?

Beans, flour, sugar, salt and coffee were musts. Alcohol was high on the list too. Those that had these items held an important sort of wealth. Trading posts, such as the one operated by my great-grandfather, were revered and made their owners rich by the standards of the day.

Let’s talk about just one of those staples and its importance in history. Salt has a powerful history. We eat too much of it in the 21st century, mainly in processed foods, so we’ve been conditioned to fear salt, but it’s actually essential to life. It helps fight depression,  anxiety, cancer, osteoporosis, muscle spasms and many other health problems. It also contains many essential trace minerals such as calcium,  iron, iodine, potassium, sulfur and zinc. The daily intake requirement ranges between 1500 to 2400 mg a day, which is about 1 teaspoon.

As I said, we use too much of it in our era, but salt used to be hard to obtain and so valuable that the Romans used it as currency and actually paid soldiers a “salary” in salt. Salt is a preservative, but it’s also a disinfectant. It can be used to clean water, though you have to be careful not to overdose on sodium. In a pinch (yeah, a pun!), you can use it to brush your teeth and wash your body and clothes.

So, if you had a supply of salt and you wanted, say, firewood, you’d could find someone who was willing to trade.

Do you have any idea where salt comes from?

Yeah, I didn’t either.

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