Rainy Weather

The rainy weather is back.  It was a very rainy and cool summer for Vermont, and although it only nudged a record or two, still it was a noticeable phenomenon which was commented on by many people again and again.  It was difficult to not see some form of impact via climate instability, better and more inaccurately known as ‘Global Warming.’  The hay farmers were particularly hard-hit as hay needs several days of dry weather to harvest.  It was also rather unpleasant for those with outdoor lifestyles.  One would check the weekly forecast and see day after day after day of rain scheduled and, unfortunately, the forecasts were all too often right on the mark.

But then, finally, in the period around Labor Day, we got our ‘summer,’ as good weather lasted for periods of a full week at a time, which, due to what had come before, was very noticeable.  Alas, that seems to have passed now.  We’ve had rain for two days now, and the forecast for the next ten days shows rain occurring in eight of them.  I get my weather data from www.intellicast.com.  Intellicast also has a neat Global weather page thanks to the wonders of modern satellite technology.  So, we’re back to the summer pattern of rain, rain, rain.  And this time around, we also have to deal with the lower temperatures of Autumn.  It’s 45*F this morning (feels like 42*F), with a high temperature forecast for today of only 47*F.  From here on in, it will be a rare day that we see a day in the 60’s, although I’m sure we’ll have a few more.

This makes the homeless experience more difficult as all the park benches and other outdoor resting places are wet and unsuitable for spending periods of time.  You look at rainy (and, soon, snowy) weather differently when you are unhomed and are trying to pass the time in your day without passing all your money away [yes, I know what I almost, but not quite, said].  So it’s back to the public library.  I am fortunate in that I like to read whereas many of the other people at the shelter do not.  They often doze off in the library and must face the increasing ire of the librarians, who, though they are gentle folk and do not want to push people out into the rain, nevertheless, will not put up with snoring or sleeping patrons.

This type of weather also leads to increasing depression among the more indigent of society, which is perhaps somewhat reflected in the tone of this post.  It is difficult enough to be dispossessed in good weather, but when you feel that even the weather has turned against you, emotions run high and oftentimes tempers flare.  Thus there is always greater drama in the shelter in periods of poor weather.  This was true over the summer and is already raising its ugly head again.  It is almost (but not quite) humorous that people with so many challenges in front of them invest their energy on arguing about what is showing on the television.  During such times, it is simply best to keep to oneself and just go to bed early.

The shelter is always full these days, with the economy being so bad, and the crowding of 22 people into a two story house designed for a large single family does not help matters as there is nowhere to escape and find peace and silence.  But, at the same time, one is grateful for the roof over one’s head and the nightly meal, although I am hearing more and more complaints from some of the guests about hot dogs and mac and cheese, which, when they appear on the table twice or more weekly begins to become tedious, even if one is hungry.  This type of reaction most often comes from those who are refusing or unable to deal with their ‘situation,’ and are still looking for some event to come along and ‘rescue’ them from the trials of having to learn to make your own future.  It also seems to come more from younger people than from middle-aged or older ones, though not entirely.  At 61, I am the oldest guest in the shelter, and try to offer what encouragement and advice as I am able, but some do not want to hear anything which might cause them to think of a long struggle.  They want a quick and concrete answer to their problems, and, clearly, no such answer exists for them.

It is somewhat unfair to characterize these people poorly as there really is a great challenge in finding ANY kind of work at all.  I have already noted in a prior post that there are now 6 applicants for every available job on average in the U.S today.  Competition is high and any kind of disadvantage weighs heavily against the applicant for a position.  And, again, as previously noted, things are only going to worsen for the next several years at least. So, when you look up from the bottom at the situation in America, it is a very scary affair.  And most people, who are cruising along in their life, only confront this from the occasional news headline or sometimes in hearing about a fellow co-worker who has fallen on hard times.  Still, for more and more people, this type of awareness will be coming soon to lives all around you.

First Color

I thought I saw it yesterday, but I wasn’t really sure.  “Maybe just some dryness affected that one there or that one over there,” I told myself.  But, no, this morning it was quite clear.  It’s only in occasional spots so far, just here and there, however, it’s clear that it’s real.  I saw yellows and oranges and even a few reds.  The trees are starting to turn color.

The weather that we’ve had may make for a brilliant display this year.  Much of the summer was rainy and the recurrent wetness caused many a grumble among those of us with an ‘outdoor lifestyle’ [read: homeless].  But in the week before Labor Day, the weather turned to gloriously sunny days and cool crisp dry evenings.  This continued through the first and second weeks of September as well, although it started to cool, and we have just recently had out first bit of rain.  So it should be a vibrant foliage season this year, with the only question being as to when it will start in earnest and then peak.

Personally, it is time to start thinking about winter clothing.  A sweater, a pair of boots, a set of thermal underwear, and perhaps a second pair of jeans would be good to acquire to ward against the immanent colder weather.  And to get anything of lasting quality will be pricey.  There has been little in the ‘free boxes’ and other places of donated clothing this year, or perhaps it just gets snapped up faster.  I’m glad I have this part-time job, although saving money for rent so that I may leave the homeless shelter must remain my highest financial priority.  I fear it will be a long and cold and stormy winter due to the incessant climate instability that we have been seeing, but the weather will be what it will be.

9/11 – Eighth Anniversary

Today marks the eighth anniversary of 9/11, an event that “changed everything.”  And although, for the vast majority of Americans, little has changed, enough time has gone by so that we have had a change in the Federal government, seemingly to no effect, as well as a financial collapse, which is not yet over by far.

The financial collapse centered around the real-estate market, with sub-prime loans being targeted as the cause of the collapse.  And there is much truth to this but it is not the whole story, for the real-estate market was making broad loans across the entire spectra of American consumers.  Aside from the sub-prime loans, there was also a wide distribution of Alt-A loans and option ARMS loans (Adjustable Rate Mortgages).  These two classes of loans both had a much longer ‘grace period’ before they began to reset, and thus, until recently, they have mostly been ignored.  However, the reset date (when the interest rate goes up) is now fast approaching for many of these loans, and analysts, concerned that the ‘recovery’ is still mired down in high unemployment and slow consumer spending, are beginning to put out the word that greater hard times still lie ahead of us.  A recent report on the CBS show “60 Minutes” which has been posted to Youtube.com details this: A second wave of mortgage defaults is about to come.

Note the graph shown about halfway through this report, which details the next several years.  It is clear that a large amount of compost is about to hit the windmill.   With unemployment already high (averaging 6 applicants for every available position), it is doubtful that the American consumer engine, which drives the economy, will be able to pass through this period with impunity.  In fact, it is hard to imagine the consequences of a further turn-down in the national economy, as most State governments are already nearly broke and are cutting back on all forms of social services and income compensation to the needy.

Behind all of this economic pain is the specter of 9/11, which thrust most of our financial reserves and economic strength into the promulgated “War on Terror.”  That 9/11 was an ‘inside job’ has been repeatedly stated by many scientists, bloggers, and websites, and there has been a slow growth among the number of Americans who have come to believe that point of view.  Unfortunately, this has not been reflected in the policies of the American government, who are still wasting American lives in futile Asian wars, and vesting the Defense Department with a budget that reckons the doom of America as a free nation.

The evidence has been slowly mounting that the collapses of the World Trade Center buildings was an engineered feat, and not the result of a terrorist action.  The collapse of WTC 7 was not explained until 2008, seven years after the events, long after all the rubble was destroyed. NIST claims WTC 7 collapsed due to “normal office fires” which created a “new phenomenon” in high-rise catastrophes: collapse caused by thermal expansion of beams. NIST claims this caused the failure of a single column,  the rest just followed.  For a relatively recent summary of the evidence see: Richard Gage article on 9/11 WTC contolled demolitions appears in WorldArchitectureNews.com.

In November of 2008, New Footage of WTC 7 and North Tower Collapse  surfaced on the file-sharing network Veoh.com.  This footage has since been posted on youTube.com.  Of note in the footage is the simultaneous vertical explosions occurring on the right side of the north face of WTC 7.  Also of note in the footage is the sight of the interior structural beams of the North Tower, which are clearly visible after the collapse of the infrastructure around them.  The origin of this footage remains unclear, but it is a valuable addition to the evidence.  A good comprehensive summary of the multiple strands of the evidence involving the many aspects of the conspiracy remains at Michael Rivero’s 9/11 Basic Questions page at What Really Happened. Another recent and noteworthy site is Fire Fighters for 9/11 Truth.

As of March 24, 2008, the U.S. Death Toll due to the conflict in Iraq hit 4,000 and still the deaths mount.  Now, there are plans to increase the number of deployed servicemen in Afghanistan as well.  These Imperialist wars will bring no lasting benefit to America,  and serve only to increase the hatred of Asian peoples toward us.  It is not inconceivable that the rich natural gas resources in Turkmenistan are being strategically considered and may contribute to the basis for the sustained conflict, but with both Russia and China exhibiting strong spheres of influence in this area of the world, this seems to be very ill-considered.

The shadow of 9/11, which, ultimately, has caused a world economic crisis which is not yet over, engendered two wars which cannot be won, and has destroyed the Constitutional liberties of the citizenry of the United States, has stretched very far indeed.

Autumn

It was a beautiful Labor Day weekend in Montpelier.  Sunny with dry air, cool in the mornings and warm in the afternoons.  On several occasions, one could look at the sky and not see a single cloud in it.  The sort of Holiday weekend that a 9-to-5’er dreams of.  The town was very quiet, even the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market was a subdued affair.

On Sunday, I went down to the State House lawn as it is a very pleasant place to read, and I had a book that was keeping me occupied.  I had spent the morning in a coffee shop, but the day had warmed and it was too beautiful to stay inside.  There were only a few people about on the spacious lawn and it promised to be a delightful spot to while away some time.

But as I was walking in the shade under some trees, I noticed something which gave me pause.  My footsteps were making a crunching noise as I walked along.  I was walking upon dry, dead leaves that had fallen from the trees.  As I looked down, I realized that here was the first touch of Autumn.  Although the air was warm and the sky a beautiful summer cobalt, nonetheless I was treading upon the evidence of the change of the season.  The trees knew what was coming and were sharing that knowledge with any who chose to notice.  Autumn is already upon us.

Demonstrators in the Streets

Yesterday, the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) of Topeka, Kansas came to Montpelier in response to recent legislation allowing same-sex marriage in Vermont.  The legislation took effect on September 1, which is why they timed their visit to that day.  They are actually picketing in several cities in Vermont, but they came to Montpelier, the state capital, yesterday morning, protesting at Montpelier High School, the State House and at City Hall.  Although the Church is led by Fred Phelps, recent picket actions have been led by Shirley Phelps-Roper.  This organization became infamous in 1998 for their picketing actions at the funeral of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming, who was beaten to death because of his homosexuality.  They enraged even more people when, in 2005, they started picketing the funerals of fallen American soldiers.  They have also picketed at the funerals of Coretta Scott King, Fred Rogers and Jerry Falwell.  It should be noted that the WBC is not affiliated with any Baptist organizations or associations.

The local community in Montpelier responded with a counter-protest of about 50 to 75 people, overwhelming the 4 adults and 1 child from the WBC.  Both the protest and the counter-protest were well-behaved, with little to no profanity on either side and no violence between the groups, although the signs of the WBC, such as “God Hates Fags” certainly attempted to evoke moral or emotional violence.  In response to this, students at Montpelier High School organized an on-line donation page on Facebook, suggesting that a donation of $1 be given for each minute that the WBC picketed, donations going to GLAD (the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders).  The duration of the WBC’s picketing at the high school ended up at 27 minutes.  So far the group has raised in excess of $5,000.

The counter-protest was well attended by local gays and lesbians as well as by many Vermonters who value freedom of choice.  There was some street theater with costumed individuals; there was chanting, “Take your hate out of our state;” occasional bouts of singing, and all-in-all a rather festive response to the hate-mongering of the WBC.  The picketing action and the counter-protest started at the high school between 7:30 and 8:00 AM, timed to coincide with the arrival of the students, and then moved to the State House and City Hall, ending by 10:00 AM.  The Montpelier City Police handled the situation with restraint, keeping a presence near-by but not interfering in anything and on the whole acted quite admirably, as one might hope for and expect. Footage of the event was captured by ORCA Media, the community access public TV network where I am currently employed. The footage has been posted to Youtube.

It is likely that the picket and the counter-protest led to some lively discussion yesterday evening at the dinner tables and in the living rooms of the community.  Perhaps husbands and wives or parents and children were motivated to discuss their feelings on the subject of same-sex marriage or freedom of speech.  This is the true value of allowing such hate-mongering speech into a community; to make aware the inner feelings of individuals about such things, and to foster new understandings through discussion and reflection.  It is doubtful whether the members of the WBC, with their antithetical approach to such issues, understand the positive influence that they may have on the consciousness and liberality of the communities which they visit.