The Imaginary Revolution and Student Loans

Call me coyote, I am a fictional character. I am not real. I am fake news. Do not believe me when I tell you about the revolution. It is an imaginary revolution, it is not real.

Free speech and student loans. If you think about it, it is perfectly obvious. But it takes a while for the concept to seep in and take hold in the brain. Someone out there in the land of law and order should learn to weaponize student loans as a form of political speech. With a little enthusiasm and organization, it should be possible to unify a constituency and it would be a very effective way to protest.

The argument is a winner. Student loan payments are not freely agreed to contractual responsibilities based upon a legitimate contract wherein two equal parties decided upon mutually agreeable terms. They are a tax imposed on citizens by the “corporate state” to fund the “educational system.” In legal terms, there is a nexus of operations between the corporate financial institutions and the federal government such that the financing of education and the collecting of payments afterwards constitute a federal government activity. Accordingly, the US constitution, including the First Amendment, applies to the activity of processing student loans and collecting student loans even if the collector agency is a nominally independent corporation. Furthermore, the Supreme Court has clearly stated that the payment of money is a form of speech…. especially political speech… that is protected by the First Amendment (Buckley v. Vallejo; Abood; Citizen’s United). Therefore, if you want to withhold payment of student loans to protest some particular nefarious activity of the federal government, The First Amendment of the Constitution protects your right to do so. Indeed, if you withheld payment of student loans for clearly stated political reasons and a collection agency harassed you with phone calls or letters you could theoretically sue that collection agency for punitive damages under the Federal Civil Rights Code.

Continue reading

Backpacker Madness

Hummingbird continues…

I saw the guy with backpacker madness in Managua, Nicaragua. He was pacing back and forth on the street in front of the guesthouse shaking his fist and shouting at the full moon that was high up in the sky…. “Homeless and broke on the streets of Managua. YES!! The perfect backpacker experience. He kicked me out. I can’t believe he kicked me out. The money is coming. I swear it is. He will get his money. All of it. Every penny. I can’t believe he kicked me out…. Ha ha ha ha ha! What an experience! Totally broke and homeless in Managua. I can’t believe this is happening to me!”….

I didn’t stop to talk to him. He had the moon for company already. I had met him a couple times before inside the guesthouse and I didn’t really like him. He was a talented artist, but he was also strange and not very nice. Now he seemed totally insane. I tippy-toed on past his rantings and ravings and slipped in the front door of the guesthouse.

The trail of privilege stretches all around and through the many different countries that make up Central and South America. It is a network of guesthouses, hostels, bars, restaurants and cafes that are all very Gringo friendly. Travelers of the lighter shade who usually speak some version of English (Europeans, North Americans and Australians) are always graciously welcomed at such places and are made to feel safe. Accordingly, such places always have an abundance of lighter skinned, English speaking travelers thereby making them even more inviting to other such travelers. Attempting to be as non-racist as possible in describing this phenomena, I would say that strangers in a foreign land are naturally drawn to other strangers who look and act like them. Some of the bigger cities even have a whole street or a particular plaza that such travelers tend to cluster around. Before I went traveling, I had no real conception of this phenomena at all. I first experienced it personally over a few months of Central America travel in 1992 and I have since seen it at different levels of intensity in every one of the fifty or so countries I have traveled in world-wide. I am not trying to say that these clusters of familiarity, these simulacrums of home culture are a good thing or a bad thing. I merely point them out as a true phenomena that does indeed exist. If you are a Gringo (white westerner), No matter where you go in the world, a psychological safety zone is always somewhere nearby. There’s a signpost up ahead… next left… the gringo trail… This simple fact makes international travel a heck of a lot easier.

In the Fall of 1992, the Gringo Trail in Central America was a very social route. There was no internet then but I had my “shoestring guidebook,” to show me the way. As I made my way from town to town and tourist attraction to tourist attraction, I also went from guesthouse to backpacker hostel to pension to hospedaje to guesthouse. Everywhere I went, I always encountered small groups of white westerners (gringos) who were easy for me to socialize with. Frequently, it was the same small groups over and over in different cities and countries because we were all traveling with the same shoe-string guidebook. We all hung out together. It was a little like a traveling circus or a caravan. There was no internet in those days, so no one ever had a reservation. The public bus would pull into a station and we would all jump off and spontaneously huddle together on the platform and compare guidebook reviews of places to stay. The local “scoundrels” would surround us trying to sell us on some “new” place while we would discuss back and forth the shoestring options. “I’m gonna try this one.” “I think we will check out this one.” “I’m gonna have a look at this one first, it looks cool.” “And look here, there is a bar called ‘Che’s Lounge,’ it is supposed to be a good travelers’ hub for information.” All right team backpacker… let’s break. Everybody dashed off into the streets to find their accommodation. It was a little like an Easter Egg hunt for grown-ups. A friendly competition to see who could find the coolest and cheapest place to crash for a while…

Continue reading

Universal Basic Income and the Imaginary Revolution

Call me Coyote… I am a fictional character. I am not real. I am fake news. Do not believe me when I tell you about the revolution. It is an imaginary revolution. It is not real.

There has been much talk of basic income in the alternative press lately. Some of that talk has even slipped into the mainstream press (usually accompanied by a guffaw). Indeed, there are even now some very wealthy and famous liberal capitalists who support the idea. Unfortunately, the “basic income” under discussion usually misrepresents reality and fucks up the revolutionary metaphor. “Basic Income” as a concept is characterized or framed as a handout from Capitalism. The narrative must be changed to capture the economic transformation that the imaginary revolution envisions. It is not a question of handouts and charity for the unfortunate losers in an otherwise functioning system. It is an issue of basic economic rights and a revolutionary transformation of the economic system. All humans have a natural moral right to interact with their environment and use the resources available in their communities. Currency or money is the tool or mechanism that governments use to regulate and control human interaction with the environment. In the present economic system, currency is used undemocratically. Oligarchic currency, quite literally, trickles down from the top in order to re-enforce the hierarchical superstructure. The imaginary revolution would replace the oligarchic currency system with a democratic currency system that bubbles up from the bottom and thereby transform the economic system from a linear hierarchical system into a dynamic/organic system. Continue reading

Discovering the Gringo Trail

Hummingbird continues…

I first discovered the Gringo Trail on Caye Caulker Island in Belize, Central America in early October of 1992. But I found the golden ticket that showed me the way there several months before in June of 1992. Was it destiny… Or free will… that brought me there? Or an odd combination of both? Is there a script writer or director of this crazy play?  So many things happened by coincidence and serendipity that it doesn’t even seem possible. How did I transform from a lawyer into a stone mason? When I look back on the incredible sequence of events that unfolded in 1992-93; it really seems like a work of fiction. Nevertheless, I believe the story is true…

I remember now… It was during my last week of work before I finished my appointed position as an attorney for the State of New York in Albany. I had already turned down several job offers with corporate law firms because I wanted to take time off to travel. I had no specific travel plan but I had almost 15 thousand dollars in my savings account and I imagined I could live frugally for at least six months and maybe even a whole year with such a budget before I would have to go back to work. True, I did have a $400 a month student loan bill to pay and that would eat away at my savings over time, but I also had my own pick-up truck and a backpack with good camping gear so I figured I could avoid paying rent for the foreseeable journey. My immediate plan was to travel around the US and visit national parks. I was an overly enthusiastic hiker and camper and I wanted use that passion to explore the whole country. I also had a long-standing dream to visit the Amazon jungle in South America. But I had no idea how to organize such a trip and was not sure if it would be possible with my budget. There was no internet then and the only guidebook I had heard of was Frommer’s. My vague plan was to travel around the US and then maybe fly to Brazil in South America. I would have to find a reliable tour agent to set up some kind of tour. Or maybe I could somehow research a plan for visiting the Amazon jungle at the local library.

So, there I was, June of 92… playing pool at a bar called “Iffy’s” on Central Avenue in Albany, New York. Around the corner on Lark Street were all the yuppie/state-worker bars. But I worked with those people during daylight hours and I preferred a different sort of scene at night. Iffy’s was more of a working-class bar with very drunk people and a regular clientele of local weirdos. I wasn’t quite a “regular” myself but I was more of a “semi-regular ” because I liked to play pool and they had a decent table. Iffy, the Indian bartender, knew my face but not my name. It must have been around midnight when I lost my game, found a barstool, and sat down to order a final drink. That’s when I  met the strange character on the barstool next to me. I can’t remember his name of course, but I do remember what he looked like because his appearance alone made me laugh. He was a clean- shaven, tall and skinny white dude but he had a big fluffy afro that was so wild it could have been a wig. He was older than me but not old… probably late thirties or early forties. Most significantly, he had a crazy almost demonic grin on his face and sparkling, light-filled eyes. At first glance, I thought he might be tripping on lsd or just plain mad but when he turned and started talking he seemed perfectly sane.  He had been watching me play pool and he said something about how I was a very skilled player until my skills deteriorated as the evening wore on.

“No kidding,” I responded, “the more whiskey I drink, the less skill I have. It’s like a mathematical relationship. Inverse proportionality.” At that moment, Iffy came by and I ordered another whiskey on the rocks. After the drink transaction, my conversation with the strange dude continued and he asked what I did for a living. I told him I was an attorney who worked for the state of New York but my two year appointment was up in a week and I was planning to take some time off to travel.

“Oh really,” he said, “that’s interesting. Where are you planning to travel? I, myself, have just returned from a trip around the world.”

“A trip around the world?” I said. I almost spit out my ice cubes with disbelief. Continue reading

The Imaginary Revolution and the First Amendment

Call me Coyote… I am a fictional character. I am not real. I am fake news. Do not believe me when I tell you about the revolution. It is an imaginary revolution. It is not real.

Believe it or not, when I first began my imaginary revolution way back in December of 1994, I wanted to get arrested as a tax protester. I was… hoping to get arrested as a tax protester. I was a more enthusiastic revolutionary then and I had (and still have) a very strong constitutional case based on the First Amendment that I wanted to bring all the way to the Supreme Court in order to shake the foundations of the economic system. I would only have legal standing to bring such a case if I was arrested or otherwise harassed by the government for non-payment of taxes so that was what I wanted to happen. Indeed, now that the Supreme Court has passed “Citizens United,” my case is even stronger. But I really don’t want to get arrested anymore. It would be annoying. Jail would not be pleasant. Freedom is fun and I have a family to support now. I would hate to have to go through the steps of filling out the paperwork and filing it all in federal court. I still think the case is a winner. I still think I’m right. They can’t logically say yes to “Citizen’s United” and no to my valid legal constitutional claim. But I can’t be bothered to get involved so I hope they continue to leave me alone. I don’t want to return to the practice of law. I just want to build stone walls.

The legal argument is a simple one. What you spend money on is a form of free expression or free speech (Citizens United; Abood; Buckley v. Vallejo). The First Amendment prohibits the government from passing laws that inhibit free speech. Therefore, whenever the government collects a tax from you and spends it on something that you are morally or spiritually or ethically opposed to… something that violates your conscience…. the government violates your First Amendment rights. Since the US tax code does not specify the services provided for the payment collected, the entire tax code violates the First Amendment. Continue reading

Escaping the Bubble

Hummingbird continues… (the story of why I quit the legal profession to become a world-wandering stone mason instead).

Escaping the Bubble

So, here I am, sitting in a small cafe in Bogota, Columbia in December of 1992. I am attempting to read a local newspaper with the help of my Spanish/English dictionary… Holy smokes. If I understand this article correctly, there was bombing last night in Cucuta. I was in Cucuta just four days ago. Some of the pictures accompanying the article look rather gruesome. Did the FARC do that or some paramilitary group? On another page there is a photo of Pablo Escobar riding a horse through the central square of a town. He is surrounded by what seems to be a cheering crowd. I wonder if the authorities caught him yet… As I flip through my dictionary to figure out some words in the first paragraph, I hear a voice. “Hello Mister. Where you from? Can I practice English with you?” I look up from my newspaper and see a very beautiful young lady. “Sure thing,” I say, “have a seat. My name is Patrick.” She pulls out a chair and sits. “My name Angela,” she says, “nice to meet you.”

Perception management. Manufacturing Consent. Brain washing. Propaganda. Reality control. Why do we believe what the media teaches us? Is it even possible to get beyond the illusion? Where does truth end and illusion begin? Here in the US that question is especially perplexing because over 90% of all media outlets (television, movies, newspapers, magazines) are owned by one of the same five corporations. And all five of those corporations are heavily invested in (intertwined with) the military industrial complex. If you live inside the US, it is very hard to escape the bubble. No doubt the different outlets provide thematic variations and they sometimes seem in complete opposition to each other on superficial topics like “politics” (Fox News vs. MSNBC) but the underlying dominant narrative of them all is the same and that narrative is American Exceptionalism… which is a slight modification of the concept of manifest destiny. The story goes like this: USA is the leader of the “free world.” We are the “good guys”. We are spreading the goodness of democracy and freedom and economic development to all other countries who are suffering under various types of dictatorships and bad economic systems. All other countries and people should look up to us and admire us. They all want and need to have governments and economic systems that work as well as ours. Most people on the planet earth really just want to leave their miserable undeveloped countries and move to the USA where they can live free in a developed modern democracy. But we can’t realistically take everyone into the USA so instead we use various types of aid (military and financial) to help other nations develop strong free market democracies for themselves…

When I began my very first journey to Central and South America in 1992, I didn’t speak any Spanish. I had taken a couple of Spanish classes in college but that was in the mid 1980s and barely a word had stuck in my brain. (Me llamo Patrick. Donde esta el bano?). But as I made my way South through foreign territory, I made a significant effort to learn the language. The method I employed to learn Spanish was fairly simple and straightforward. Every single day, wherever I was, I bought a local newspaper and did my best to translate it using my Spanish/English dictionary. I must say that my technique worked fairly well. Immersed in a Spanish speaking world all day long and slowly building my vocabulary with my daily lessons, by the end of my seven month journey, I could speak and understand a fair amount of the language. I certainly wasn’t fluent, but I could have real conversations and make myself be understood. Continue reading

Call me Coyote…

Call me Coyote….

I am a fictional character. I am not real. I am fake news. Do not believe me when I tell you about the revolution. It is an imaginary revolution. It is not real.

I first began to howl in December of 1994. That was the moment when I divested from the Empire. I cashed out my few “financial investments” and stopped “investing” any money in “corporations.” I stopped voting. I stopped paying taxes. I stopped filling out any and all paperwork relating to the US government except for the bare minimum necessary to renew my passport for international travel. I stopped believing that the US corporatocracy was a legitimate government and no longer recognized its authority. I live and work within the boundaries of the US but my way of life and my own personal economics are completely independent from those psychopaths in Washington, D.C.. and New York who claim to be my rulers. Fuck them. I don’t want to fight them. I don’t want to take over. I just want to ignore them. And really, for 24 years now it has been fairly easy to do that.

Remember, this is fiction, I am not real.

I am also not an anarchist philosophically. I believe that human beings have a social instinct and a natural tendency to come together in groups. The creation of government or law is the real world application of that natural instinct. Nevertheless, I am a practicing political and economic anarchist because I oppose the present ruling oligarchy/corporatocracy that calls itself the US government. Elections are a carnival act and so called “leaders” are clowns. Power structures need to be decentralized and democracy needs to be more direct. The war against the world must come to an end. I believe the practice of non-violent political and economic anarchy are the most effective means to assist the inevitable collapse of the present broken system and help humans through the transition to a saner way of living and societal organizing. Ignore and avoid the federal government as much as possible, that is what the imaginary revolution is all about. Create a beautiful new world in the midst of the shitty one collapsing all around us. Continue reading