Aahz

Apr 212017
 
Any act of self-sufficiency in common with community is an act of rebellion.” – Drew Philp

I’m sure Drew Philp self-identifies as a liberal, a Democrat, a progressive, or some combination of the three.  But, in my mind, he’s clearly a Libertarian, if not an outright anarchist.  I first read Mr. Philp’s story back in 2014 when BuzzFeed ran his feature article “Why I Bought A House In Detroit For $500.”  At 23, in his final year of college at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, disenchanted with the path he saw America following, Mr. Philp moved into the Poletown neighborhood of Detroit and started to build a life of meaning for himself.

“It would be only one house out of thousands, but I wanted to prove it could be done, prove that this American vision of torment could be built back into a home. I also decided I would do it the old-fashioned way, without grants or loans or the foundation money pouring into the city. I would work for everything that went into the house, because not everyone has access to those resources. I also wanted to prove to myself and my family I was a man.”

Mr Philp’s article was an inspiration and a source of renewed hope that there were still people in the United States who understood the road to both personal happiness and a healthier society was not being built by politicians or government programs, but by individuals – one day at a time.

Over the last couple of years Mr. Philp expanded that article into a book, A $500 House In Detroit: Rebuilding an Abandoned Home and an American City, which I just finished reading.  The conversational writing makes for easy reading and I finished its 300 pages in about 8 hours.  Along with the heart-warming (and occasionally heart-wrenching) tales of living in poverty while struggling to rebuild a devastated (and literally trashed) house into a home once again he shares numerous first hand accounts of government harming individuals in the name of helping “progress”.

From the folly of eminent domain-

“In the early ’80s, the entire north half of the neighborhood was demolished to make way for a 362-acre auto plant, heavily subsidized by the city, state, and federal governments. More than 4,000 residents were eminent-domained from their property; 1,400 homes, several churches, and 140 businesses were razed to make way for the promise of three shifts of work a day. 

“Approximately 6,500 jobs were promised at the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant plant in exchange for demolishing half the neighborhood. At its peak employment, roughly 3,500 people worked there, less than the number of people kicked out of their homes to build it. Fewer than 1,500 people work there today.”

To the literal disenfranchisement of everyone living in America’s 18th largest city-

“The governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, appointed Detroit an emergency financial manager with autocratic control over the city’s finances and major decisions. In the United States of America, I am not, nor are any of my neighbors, able to select who will lead us locally. We have a mayor, but he can’t do anything aside from what the emergency manager tells him he can.”

But it’s not just the failures of government that have become evident to this young man trying to build his own American dream.  Social Justice Warriors made their impotence just as visible-

“That summer, 2010, the United States Social Forum, a sort of ideological precursor to Occupy Wall Street, was held for a week in Detroit. More than 20,000 people came into the city from around the world, slept in tents, went to classes and discussions, drank and partied, networked. I would have liked to see more of the Social Forum, but I was working on my house and cooking at a French restaurant.

“One of the events I did see was a march staged by professional protest coordinators who had come in from California opposing Detroit’s trash incinerator, the largest in the United States.  We have an asthma hospitalization rate three times the national average.  The protest would march down Detroit’s main thoroughfare and past the incinerator with hundreds of spray-painted sunflower pickets, miniature incinerators, and signs, presumably raising holy hell and sticking it to the man.

“I guess no one saw the irony in cutting down real pine trees to make fake sunflowers. Or that a protest to demand clean air would use so much aerosol spray paint. But the real irony came when the Social Forum was over and it was time for the out-of-towners to leave for the next protest.

What are you going to do with all this stuff?” we asked.

Why don’t you just recycle it?” they said.

Where?

“They left it all [behind] and split, leaving it for us to deal with. Now we had another pile of trash to clean up and nowhere for it to go. So while they were gallivanting off to the next good deed, that shit went into the incinerator and into our lungs.”

And then there’s the story of a group of art students who set up camp on Mr. Philp’s lawn while he’s at work one day.  When his neighbors inform them that they are trespassing their response is “you don’t understand. We’re helping.” By setting up easels and painting pictures of his house being rehabbed?  Upon his return from work he asks them to leave and the teacher refuses, yelling at him: “But I taught at Harvard.”  There is no thought to calling the police, of course, and no need as his neighbors came out en masse to help him defend his property. Luckily, he was able to diffuse the situation before the neighborhood residents and the invading art students came to blows – but just barely.

Near the end of his book Mr. Philp points out that, despite living “in Detroit’s east side, which reporters describe as ‘bombed out’ and like ‘Mogadishu,’” a place that “even the police say is ‘war-like… unsafe for visitors,’” he’s only had a gun pointed at his face three times in is life.  All three times by police officers.

“But there’s another Detroit, too, of which I am but a small part. It’s been happening quietly and for some time, between transplants and natives, black and white and Latino, city and country — tiny acts of kindness repeated thousands of times over, little gardens and lots of space, long meetings and mowing grass that isn’t yours. It’s the Detroit that’s saving itself. The Detroit that’s building something brand-new out of the cinders of consumerism and racism and escape.”

They key thing about that “other Detroit”, the one in which Mr. Philp and his neighbors live, is that it’s the Detroit of the people.  And they’re accomplishing those things despite the government, not because of it.  Which is what truly makes this story so powerful.  These people have changed the world, and are continuing to do so, not by asking other people to change anything, not by using the force of government to change anything, but by changing themselves and their environment each and every day.  Their lives are a shining example to all and the living embodiment of being the change they want to see in the world.

If you have friends or relatives who just can’t wrap their brains around the concept of healthy society without government I highly recommend you give them a copy of this book.  Whether they’re liberals like the author or conservatives who profess ideals of self-reliance this tale of functioning anarchy is one that simply can’t be denied.

Sep 142016
 

One of the great things about buying and selling vintage items for a living is that I get to read all kinds of old magazines and newspapers.  I find it fascinating how much American life has changed, and even more how it’s stayed the same, through the decades.  This evening I came across this fascinating article about credit card fraud in a 1964 issue of the American Legion Magazine.  It’s chock full of intriguing tidbits, IMO.

creditcardthief

The American Legion Magazine Volume 76 Number 5 May 1964

Don’t Lose Your Credit Cards! by Robert Angus

When the black market gets its hands on them, guess who’s stuck?

June 29, 1963, was an unlucky day for the nation’s more than 18 million holders of credit cards.  On that day, the New York Supreme Court decided in favor of Texaco, Inc., in a test case against real estate broker Bernhard Goldstein of the Bronx, N.Y.  According to the New York Times of June 19, 1962, Goldstein’s troubles began when he pulled into a gas station in the Bronx and charged a tank of gas.  The station attendant failed to return his credit card.  Some months later, Goldstein received bills run up with the card which ultimatelytotaled $569.88 – a charge he refused to pay.  The court held that Goldstein was liable – because he had failed to notify the company of his loss.  The case is being hailed by oil companies, hotel chains and the credit card industry generally as a precedent for future cases involving card holders whose cards fall into other hands.

In some instances, credit card holders are released from further liability as soon as they drop a letter notifying the issuing company of a card loss into the mail.  In others, liability ends when the company receives the letter.  In still others, it ends five or ten days after receipt of notification.  Conflicting state laws and company policies keep the matter of notification in a somewhat gray area, however – with some states and companies insisting on compliance with the letter of the contract, and others giving the cardholder the benefit of the doubt. So many people’s credit score got hit hard due to this during this time.

Each year, according to American Oil Company’s Central Credit Office manager L.C. Goodlander, some 1 1/2 million Americans report lost or stolen cards.  Of these, some 60,000 fall into the stolen category.  But each stolen card, according to Goodlander and his opposite number at Pure Oil, Robert Walerius, represents an average of $3,500 in charges, some of which are charged back to the legitimate card holder.  So big is the busines in stolen cards that a black market has developed in them.  Comments Walerius, “A pickpocket in New York, rather than using the cards he lifts himself, sells them to a broker (going price: from $10 to $50), who in turn sends them to Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami or elsewhere, where they’re priced at $100 and up, and used.  In Chicago, yet another ring member will begin running up bills or forging checks using a credit card stolen only hours before in New York.  That’s the reason we consider the prompt reporting of lost or stolen cards so important.”

The theory of the underworld seems to be that credit cards are at least as good as money.  One professional bad check casher even had his own plastic embossing kit for counterfeiting credit cards when he was arrested two years ago.  Another man, a convicted forger, bought an American Express credit card in New York’s black market several years ago and proceeded to run up a substantial bill for liquor and clothes before he was arrested.  (But few “cardsharps” have been able to top the four-months-long, $15,000 spree of a 25-year-old Michigan man.  In June of 1963, he was handed six credit cards by a companion who had found them in a purse he picked up on the street.  In spite of the stop orders issued by the card companies, the man managed to run through an average of $200 a day.  He had stayed in the finest hotels, had his car painted four times and had gone on a $125-a-day fishing expedition in Florida.)

Actually, the three principal general-purpose credit card companies – Diner’s Club, American Express and Carte Blanche – and most of the major oil companies spend time and money tracking down credit card frauds and abuses to protect themselves and their card holders.  And, for additional protection, all companies have tightened credit requirements and they keep in closer contact with active card users.  American Express, for example, boasts it can often detect a credit card abuse before the owner reports his card lost.  The general purpose companies today have their own detective bureaus, generally staffed by ex-FBI men.

One protection which many card holders feel they have is their signature on their cards.  Not so, say the issuing companies.  “We can’t ask every gas station attendant, waitress and store clerk to be a handwriting expert,” Goodlander comments.  “The purpose of the signature is mainly to deter amateurs, since professionals generally come up with a pretty acceptable forgery.”

What happens when the credit card company catches a crook?  Until recently, the main aim of every company was to get its card back.  Companies considered themselves lucky if they could obtain reimbursement from the offender,; but rarely did they prosecute.  In the past 12 months, all of this has changed.  Notes one New York hotelman, “Time was when the credit card companies actually supported some clip joints – removing a spot from their listnot after repeated complaints of overcharging, pickpocketing, and so on, but only after customers refused to pay padded bills.  Now they’ll knock a place off the list at the first complaint from members of any management irregularity.  Credit cards have grown up in the past year.”

The companies generally offer a reward of $25 for each stolen card picked up by a waiter, serviceman or store clerk.  “All that this did was to put a floor under the black-market price for stolen cards,” a New York Police Department member grumbles.

When you lose your wallet containing $100 cash, you’ve lost $100, points out Pure Oil’s Walerius.  But if it also contains half a dozen credit cards, you could take years to pay off all the bills that the finder could run up.

What can a card holder do to protect himself?  Walerius offers the following pointers:

1.  When you receive an unsolicited card in the mail, return it or destroy it if you don’t plan to use it.  Retention of the card may imply a contract to honor any charges made with it.

2. Treat your credit cards as you would cash.  Don’t carry them loose in pockets, leave them in car glove compartments and so on.

3. Each time you use your card, be sure you get it back.

4. Don’t lend your card to anybody unless you’re prepared to assume full responsibility for any purchases made while it’s out of your hands.

5. Save your receipts and compare them with your statement at the end of the month.  It’s possible for unscrupulous salespersons to add charges to a sales ticket after the customer has signed it.

6. Report lost or stolen cards immediately – preferably in writing – to the issuing company.

May 092015
 

ManMicrophoneThe first time I saw her she was sitting cross-legged on the hood of a police car in the parking lot of the county jail.
Indian style we would have called it when I was a kid, back before using group descriptors as the adjectives they are was considered taboo.
I considered asking which term she preferred.
Unable to decide if that sounded like the worst pick-up line in history or exactly the type of insightful query that would pique her interest I moved on.

The second time I saw her she was trudging through three feet of still falling snow.
Only her eyes were visible. Peeking out from the layers of cloth she had swaddled herself in to hold off the freezing winter.
I considered offering her a ride.
Unable to decide if that sounded like a serial killer seeking his next victim or exactly the hero she was hoping for in her hour of need I moved on.

The third time I saw her I was so overcome with relief that I remember almost nothing else about our environment.
Simply knowing that she had survived the maelstrom was enough to erode all other items of importance into mere pebbles that turned the world to static.
I considered introducing myself.
Unable to move, much less speak, I instead bathed in the warmth of knowing she continued to exist long after she had moved on.

The fourth time I saw her I was standing on a stage behind a microphone, having just forgotten every word of the poem I was about to recite for the crowd.
She entered the bar like a whirlwind, last to arrive, but immediately the only audience that mattered to my long-shattered mind.
I didn’t consider at all, but instead merely spoke.
We’re all hearing these words and thoughts for the very first time,
here,
together,
in this moment.
Perhaps tonight is the night we shall finally move on together.

Apr 272015
 
Part of the Ask An Anarchist Series - Previous in series         
Button to End Government

The Happiness of Society Is the End of Government

Q) If there were a button you could press that would immediately end government would you do so?

A) This is a fairly common thought experiment amongst anarchists, voluntaryists, libertarians, and freedom lovers in general. Literally hundreds of hours a year are spent debating and discussing the wisdom of this question, with (as usual) as many viewpoints as there are participants in the discussion (if not more). But I’ve yet to hear such a discussion that really addresses the issue in a rational or “realistic” manner (with realistic in quotes simply because one has to accept the reality of such a button in the first place).

What’s missing from these discussions is the specifics of what the button would actually do. Because my answer (and many others I believe) will vary greatly based on the definition of terms. There are two terms in particular that need to be pinned down in this case: “government” and “end”.
Continue reading »

Part of the Ask An Anarchist Series - Previous in series        
Mar 292015
 

This is a “Guest Post” of sorts.  Everything below this italicized paragraph was written by Daniel Bane Cooper.  He wanted to share his story and was having difficulty finding a venue to do so.  He finally posted it to Facebook only to have it deleted, so I volunteered to post it here.  I am doing so, completely unedited, without comment and haven’t even read the story myself at this point.  I take no sides, take no vouch for the tale’s truth, and have never even met Daniel or anyone else mentioned in the story itself.  I’m just providing a venue.  Comments of any sort are welcome and will not be moderated (beyond spam control).  I do not know if Daniel will choose to come to this post to answer any questions, but if any are left for him I’ll be sure to let him know.

This is not an easy story to tell. There are a lot of reasons I am telling it and a lot of why it has taken me so much time to decide to do it. I am very far from a perfect person. There is not one part of me that doesn’t recognize a big part of this whole thing could have been avoided had I made better decisions. Part of it was also inevitable. This is nowhere close to how I wanted my time in NH to be, but at the end of the day it is the truth and hopefully someone can not have to learn the lessons the way I did. People also have a right to know the people they are around, good and bad.

Continue reading »