Originally published at The Benfell Blog. Please leave any comments there.

I’m presently at the intensive for my Ph.D. program at at California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, in the Transformative Studies program. The intensives themselves are held at the beginning of each semester at the Best Western Lighthouse Hotel at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, a suburb on the Pacific coast, just a bit south of San Francisco.

Though it is nice to spend time close to the Pacific Ocean, the hotel rooms are very nice, and it is nice to meet my fellow students, these intensives are not easy for me. They mean a week away from my cat, which she doesn’t understand; a week of enduring a roommate (both of whom so far have snored loudly, piercing even the better earplugs) when I’m used to privacy; and a week of trying to sustain myself on hotel-catered buffets which, as a vegan, I find completely inadequate.

This morning, I awoke early, realizing that my dreaming consisted of attempts to understand my roommate’s snoring as language. And as I recognized the futility of that, I turned to other seemingly futile questions: What will my area of inquiry be? What will be the topic of my dissertation?

I have recently been struck by a severe discrepancy between policymaking and what might be called a common reality, the latter being that which we share with each other and forms a common ground for interaction. And I have been struck by the unwillingness of our governing structures to respond to that reality rather than to a prevailing ideology which serves elite interests in the short term but apparently dooms all of humanity to extinction within 100 years.

As an anarchist, I should advocate that more ordinary humans should take matters into their own hands, but apathy and acquiescence seem to be our only answers to criminal regimes determined to retain power.

And so, as I contemplate that remaining 100 or so years, my thoughts turn to Easter Island and, if I remember correctly, the Mayans, societies which failed to respond to crises of unsustainability. As my roommate (who, for all I know, might care deeply about these issues) goes on snoring, I am wondering if there are any societies in human history that have responded adequately in the face of impending doom. And how we might extrapolate upwards from these examples to our entire species.

I am told that esotericists argue that the disconnect between reality and policy is in fact endemic to the human condition. If that’s the case, one might wonder if our species is even capable of responding to an existential threat.

At least this roommate shares my love of the ocean and an appreciation for cooler temperatures; he actually prefers leaving open the sliding glass door that overlooks the ocean. This beautiful earth which, for the moment and despite the abuses we have heaped upon it, continues to sustain us might indeed be better off without us. But my cat reminds me that humans have taken a lot of other life forms along for this ride; they too will pay a heavy penalty as the factors which now combine for our benefit recombine to produce a new order.

In a better species, that might be cause for reflection.

Complexity Theory and Respect for Trees

Originally published at The Benfell Blog. Please leave any comments there.

The loss of two trees this morning does little to improve my mood.

One of the trees was one of two birches my mother had planted, and gotten about the expected lifespan out of despite it being in, for it, a less than ideal climate. The other was a large tree that a branch broke from earlier this week. The tree surgeon came this morning and cut them both down.

My cat, who ignores much human foolishness, seemed clearly annoyed.

I have long sensed a sentience in trees that deserves a more respectful treatment than the cavalier attitude with which we so readily cut them down in so many cases. On the streets of San Francisco, it is hard to find even a medium-aged tree; they seem to be pulled out and replaced with younger ones long before they can ever attain any sort of majesty, let alone break the wind that funnels down the straight streets of San Francisco’s grid system.

Likewise, around office buildings, it seems that the architectural conceptions of trees of a particular size must prevail, and as soon as any tree outgrows the drawing, it too must be replaced. In my last quarter at California State University, East Bay, in Hayward, they tore down some buildings to make way for a new physical fitness facility; here, they couldn’t even be bothered to cut a big old tree down, but tore it in half before ripping it out.

Close to where I now live, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has approved a plan to rip out an apple orchard, replacing it with a winery, so the Best family can make more money.

I am wounded and angered even when I will benefit from the trees’ removal, as with the redwood trees at the junction of U.S. 101 and Highway 116 in Cotati for a freeway widening I accept as necessary. And even when, as at my mother’s house, the trees are diseased and rotting, and undoubtedly a hazard.

It’s possible to dismiss my feelings about trees as superstition, perhaps even as a throwback to the Druids. But in reading Joanna Macy, Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory: The Dharma of Natural Systems (Delhi: Sri Satguru, 1995), and Edgar Morin, On Complexity (Creskill, N.J.: Hampton, 2008), I am compelled to another view.

Macy, I think, does a better job of the two in presenting an ontology of interrelationship that casts a new light on the mind-body relationship not as body producing mind or even the other way around, but as mind and body arising in a mutually dependent relationship. In her view, cause and effect take not a linear form of A causes B, but that of mutual conditioning where A affects B and, crucially, vice versa.

In such a view, mind is not the product of a whole lot of neurons assembled in a brain, but in fact intrinsic to existence. Macy writes that “no intrinsic reason exists for denying subjectivity to animals, plants or even suborganic systems” (p. 150). This also works upwards to “collective forms of consciousness, ‘group heads’ in a family, sect or society” (p. 151).

The reason this makes sense is that self-organization is an essential characteristic for any system, be it that of atoms with particular arrangements of protons, neutrons, electrons, and other subatomic particles; be it that of molecules assembled with particular structures of atoms; be it that of life or of other organizations. All these are structures that arose from and in fact depend upon the dissipation we associate with entropy. And yes, we are to understand thus that order and disorder exist in such a relationship of dependent co-arising, as self-organization channels the disorder into the order we find even on a grander scale with planetary systems and galaxies.

As for trees, Morin writes:

It has recently been discovered that there is communication between trees of the same species. The discovery followed the experiment of a group of sadistic scientists (as they must sometimes be to do experimental work!) who removed all the leaves from a tree to see how it would behave. The tree reacted as expected, that is by increasing its secretion of sap in order to replace the leaves that had been removed. The tree also secreted a certain substance which protects it from parasites. . . . What’s interesting, however is that the neighboring trees of the same species started secreting the same antiparasitic substance as the tree that had been attacked. (p. 77)

Trees have mind and they communicate, perhaps even to us if we listen in the right way, and as I believe I have sensed in the past. By their nature, they are present for decades or centuries.

I remember a profound sense of gratitude I felt for a marijuana plant I grew many years ago that produced three crops, including one after someone broke into my space and terribly damaged it. Against such an experience, a traditional Western view of nature consisting of distinct objects to be exploited without corresponding effects upon ourselves is simply untenable. It was under the influence of that weed that I once perceived trees to speak to me, “We are here.”

Indeed they are.

A rift from reality

Originally published at The Benfell Blog. Please leave any comments there.

At least I’m not alone. About a month ago, I wrote about the pervasive deception in this society that certainly includes economic statistics (which is why I no longer publish my own analysis of unemployment statistics). About the same time, Eugene Robinson wrote,

The good news is that unemployment has fallen to "only" 9.5 percent. The bad news is that the jobless rate is down only because so many people have given up hope of finding work. Perversely, the jobless who aren’t actively looking for jobs are not counted as "unemployed." Perhaps there should be a new category: "mired in existential despair." If anyone in Washington wants to know why people in the hinterlands are angry, one simple answer is that our political leaders seem to be so calculating and unmoved about the parlous state of the economy.

Bob Herbert, who has stridently and consistently written about the plight of the unemployed in his Op-Ed columns for the New York Times, argues that the unemployment situation is worse than the statistics reveal because of discouraged workers and because the headline unemployment rate, bad as it is, masks the phenomenon of long-term unemployment. He writes,

At some point we’re going to have to claw our way out of this denial. With 14.6 million people officially jobless, and 5.9 million who have stopped looking but say they want a job, and 8.5 million who are working part time but would like to work full time, you end up with nearly 30 million Americans who cannot find the work they want and desperately need.

But it is even worse, still. Because none of those numbers reflect people who are working part time, but would prefer to work full time, or those who are working low wage jobs that often don’t pay rent but are qualified for and need higher paying jobs. Leo Hindery, Jr., pointing out that we need 22 million jobs to reach “full employment” (meaning 5 percent unemployment), sneers at the idea that boosting small business will create those jobs:

Twenty-two million new jobs is the almost incomprehensible equivalent of having to create 140 new Boeing Companies or 90 new General Motors. And the simple truth is that there is no way on God’s green earth to create them without the massive – and primary – involvement of ‘big business’, especially ‘big manufacturing business’. The administration’s alternative of emphasizing small business has the medium-term potential to create only several million jobs in the medium term.

The other day, the national newspaper of record published an editorial referring to a “rift between policy making and reality.” This rift extends well beyond the unemployment crisis, most notably to Afghanistan–where the Obama administration would like us to settle for a withdrawal from Iraq (never mind the contractors and absolutely, pay no mind to the ongoing insurgency and political instability). And it certainly appears in White House press secretary Robert Gibbs’ hissy fit about the “professional left” that has in fact all too slowly come to recognize the breadth and depth of Obama’s betrayal. But as brutal as Obama’s perpetuation and extension of Bush policies has been, unemployment stands out as an issue important to and affecting large numbers of people inside the United States (and thus, easily covered by mainstream news media). And on this, over the course of the last month, the Obama administration has lost all credibility.

White House officials insist that unemployment would be worse if not for policies adopted late in the Bush administration and early in the Obama administration, as if that excuses the insufficiency of the stimulus and an abject lack of action since. Even this doesn’t cut it. We don’t have an alternative universe available where the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) and the stimulus didn’t happen to show us what would have happened. And Dean Baker points out that the analysis that shows all those “saved” jobs assumes that nothing would have been done if not for the stimulus. I’ll let him explain:

The study found that without the bailout, GDP would have declined by another 6.5 percent and the economy would have lost another 8.5 million jobs. In other words, things might be bad now, but if we didn’t shovel trillions in loans and loan guarantees to Goldman Sachs and the rest of the Wall Street gang, they would be even worse.

Before we start thanking Goldman for taking our money, it is worth taking a closer look at the study. The big story here is the counterfactual. What does the study assume the Fed and Treasury would have done if we had not passed the TARP and the Fed had not come through with its vast array of emergency loan and loan guarantee programs?

The answer is that the study assumes that they would have done nothing. In other words, the question asked by the study is “what would the world look like if the federal government had done absolutely nothing to counter the economic and financial downturn resulting from collapse of the housing bubble?”

This counterfactual seems more than a bit unrealistic. Suppose we had let the market work its magic and put Goldman, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley into bankruptcy. Suppose that once these firms were in receivership and their bank units were in the hands of the FDIC, the Fed flooded the system with liquidity. How would this situation compare with the situation where trillions of taxpayer dollars were put at the discretion of Goldman and the rest through TARP and the Fed’s special facilities?

The Blinder-Zandi study tells us absolutely nothing about this scenario. In other words, Blinder and Zandi have constructed an absurdly unrealistic counterfactual and told us that the TARP was much better than this absurd scenario.

And yet, the Obama administration and the Democrats expect voters to judge them on unreality. I’m an anarchist. I will hasten to point out a great many pitfalls in our so-called democracy (it’s actually a republic and the difference, as James Madison demonstrated in the Federalist No. 10, is important). After all, voters have largely supported Bush administration policies, being discouraged by wars only when it has become amply evident over a long period of time that the United States cannot prevail. The passage of Proposition 8, banning gay marriage, in California showed yet again that a majority vote cannot be counted on to protect minority rights (except those of the rich).

It is as if Democrats expect the invisibility of the unemployed on Wall Street and inside the Beltway to extend inside voters’ living rooms. If that’s hard to imagine, consider that our national policymaking apparatus seems captive to Israeli chauvinists (which is why we threaten Iran with yet another unwinnable war and support Israel even at the expense of endless war, to Cuban emigrés (which is why we sustain a crippling economic embargo against Cuba even after over fifty years of failure), to the military-industrial complex (which insists on spending inconceivable amounts of money on wars we can’t win), to anti-abortion zealots (who have won a prohibition of abortion coverage in the temporary health-insurance pools that are an intermediate step in the implementation of the health care plan and who also want to ban birth control), and to Wall Street. No significant legislation moves through this apparatus unless it is compatible with their interests. And legislation or regulation that advances their interests can take effect even against popular disapproval.

And against those voices, the unemployed hear only empty platitudes. It is a sad irony that Obama, to whose watch we may attribute the culmination of a transition to a fascist police state, which is increasingly intrusive on privacy, effectively embodies a traditional conservative argument against big government precisely through what blogger Digby calls a Goldilocks triangulation manifest in repeated capitulation to conservatives.

The argument for smaller, more local government is that it will be more responsive to constituents. And if big government means what we now have in Washington, D.C., this is a government which, as seen with unemployment and the failure to get out of Iraq following the 2006 elections, is not merely stupid, but entirely unresponsive to ordinary people.

Though I did not vote for Obama, I certainly share the fury of progressives who did. Though I knew he would betray progressives, I never imagined he would go so far. In The Lucifer Effect (New York: Random House, 2007), Philip Zimbardo makes a powerful case for attributing evil to the power of situations. I can’t help but suspect that the political environment emanating from Washington, D.C., is such a situation that through brute force of sheer numbers overwhelms any individual initiative to do good (which Zimbardo also advocates). And if that’s the case, the only hope for progressives lies in the fall of the empire and, as I have previously advocated, the break-up of the United States.

Calvinism, feedback and the Third Depression: Why the elite are both clueless and malevolent

Originally published at The Benfell Blog. Please leave any comments there.

In trying to understand the abject failure of the power elite in the United States to properly respond to the crisis of unemployment, I can conceive of two possible explanations:

  1. The elite are preoccupied with success as defined on Wall Street and are not merely disinterested in the problems of the unemployed but in fact bear us ill will. In this understanding, the problems of small business become practically irrelevant. Evidence for this explanation includes Diane Feinstein’s opposition to an extension of unemployment benefits for the long term unemployed even when there are five job seekers for every job opening:

    “We have 99 weeks of unemployment insurance,” Feinstein said. “The question comes, how long do you continue before people just don’t want to go back to work at all?”

    It also appears in Obama’s statement which I find unforgivable, that after having bailed out the banks, “We all know there are limits to what government can and should do [for the unemployed] even during such difficult times.” And it appears in an elite preference for reducing the deficit over a serious jobs program that could restore economic growth that would raise revenue to pay down the federal debt and reduce real suffering.

    It even appears in the Federalist Papers, particularly No. 10, by James Madison, who makes clear his disdain for the masses, whom he thinks would, if empowered, deprive property owners of their property. His view of minority rights functions to preserve social inequality and it is for this reason that he prefers a republic to a democracy.

  2. The alternative view seems to amount to naïvete, that the elite are unable to apprehend the reality of life for the unemployed.

  3. Before you laugh off that second explanation, owing to my own unemployability, I have the summer off and I have been trying to get a head start on the readings for my classes this Fall in the Transformative Studies Ph.D. program at California Institute of Integral Studies.

    One of the books I’m reading is by Joanna Macy, Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory: The Dharma of Natural Systems (Delhi, India: Sri Satguru, 1995). Among other things, Macy describes systems theory in the way I have come to understand complexity theory, and while I understand that there is a difference between the two theories, at this point, I do not know what it is.

    This book is proving extremely useful, catching me up on concepts I didn’t get (but should have) the first time around. What systems theory and complexity theory have in common is an image of systems wherein the whole is not merely greater than the sum of the parts but possesses emergent properties which cannot be adduced by analysis of those parts. Such systems can be that of atoms, or of living cells, or of solar systems, or of galaxies, or of living beings, or of societies, or of lots of other things. One of those properties is homeostasis, a functioning that seeks to preserve the status quo. Homeostasis relies on feedback, of which there are two kinds. Quoting Macy,

    Negative feedback loops stabilize the system within its current trajectory. They reduce deviation between goal and performance, producing “homing-in” behavior and reestablishing the status quo. Positive feedback loops reinforce or amplify the deviations, each change adding to the next. Producing both novelty and instability, they can generate runaway growth or collapse unless stabilized anew within more inclusive negative feedback loops. (p. 75)

    Macy believes that systems theory can apply to economic systems. She quotes Kenneth Boulding:

    If one is looking for an explanation of economic cycles, or fluctuations, either of particular speculative markets, such as the stock market, or in the economy in general, the feedback model is extremely useful. It is capable of explaining not only regular fluctuations, in the case of equilibrating (negative) feedback, but is also capable of explaining disequilibrium processes, as in the case of destabilizing (positive) feedback. Yet there has been astonishingly little use of this model. . . perhaps as a result of the failure to take a significant intellectual tool simply because economists have not made it themselves. (quoted, pp. 79-80)

    A number of people have perceived economics as not merely the dismal science, but as the most ideological. Economists generally treat a peculiar notion of free trade, which is in fact only free for the elite, as gospel. It is rare to see an economist who will take seriously any other means of ordering an economy besides capitalism. And economists generally do not challenge notions of efficiency that disproportionately burden workers and of property and exchange that enhance gaps between rich and poor.

    Here, Boulding criticizes economists for failing to employ the feedback model. In fact, I’d argue that in a sense they do use it, but only consider negative rather than positive feedback. Negative feedback, which seeks to preserve the system, appears in the economic notion of efficiency, in which laid off workers and the proprietors of folded businesses will invest their energies and resources in other, more profitable enterprises. If this re-purposing happens reasonably quickly (though the notion glosses over training and education time), suffering is minimal and no one is hurt too badly. Economists thus consider recessions as essential to preserving a vibrant economic system.

    If, however, economists considered positive feedback, they might recognize the destabilizing effects of deindustrialization, of increasing corporate profits, of declining wages, and of a growing gap between rich and poor. I see no evidence that, on the whole, they or the elite do. Hence, explanation number 2, above.

    My own inclination, then, is to attribute our present political failure to respond with alacrity to what Paul Krugman has labeled a Third Depression to both explanations. Certainly it is possible to derive the malice in the first explanation from Calvinism which Richard Tarnas, in The Passion of the Western Mind (New York: Harmony, 1991) explains:

    The Protestant affirmation of moral discipline and the holy dignity of one’s work in the world seems to have combined with a peculiarity in the Calvinist belief in predestination, whereby the striving (and anxious) Christian, deprived of the Catholic’s recourse to sacramental justification, could find signs of his being among the elect if he could successfully and unceasingly apply himself to disciplined work and his worldly calling. Material productivity was often the fruit of such effort, which, compounded by the Puritan demand for ascetic renunciation of selfish pleasure and frivolous spending, readily lent itself to the accumulation of capital. . . .

    Within a few generations, the Protestant work ethic, along with a continued emergence of an assertive and mobile individualism, had played a major role in encouraging the growth of an economically flourishing middle class tied to the rise of capitalism. (pp. 245-246)

    This is a more nuanced explanation than the one that most often gets transmitted, specifically that the god of Abraham rewards the combination of hard work and active religious faith. And in a secular society, a concept of merit–never mind that merit in a vast majority of cases refers to inheritance rather than talent–substitutes for or supplements religious faith. And the corollary to this received view is that anyone who is poor has not worked hard or lacks merit (or active faith) and therefore deserves neither aid nor sympathy but rather suffering. Certainly when politicians expect the unemployed to find jobs which do not exist, they are expressing a moral rather than a rational view–a moral view which derives from received Calvinism.

    So it isn’t just malice that casts the unemployed off on an iceberg to die but a vicious and self-serving naïvete which treats corporate profits as an unquestioned good. Those profits, however, form their own kind of negative feedback. For the elite, they appear to preserve the social order with its privileges for the powerful.

    One might expect the unemployed to protest this treatment en masse. I no longer believe that will happen in any positive way. Glenn Greenwald asks “whether the American public is too apathetic and trained into submission for [too-large riots] to ever happen.” Firedoglake’s CarolynC sees an uprising as in fact occurring but against so-called illegal immigrants. She’s right, which means migrants are being exploited yet again to divert the ire of the unemployed away from the elite who have exported jobs and effectively written off the United States.

    And to the extent that Greenwald is right, I have explained the apathy and submission in terms of football. Charles Reich, in The Greening of America (New York: Crown, 1970), explained it another way:

    The process by which man is deprived of his self begins with his institutionalized training in public school for a place in the machinery of the State. The object of the training is not merely to teach him how to perform some specific function, it is to make him become that function; to see and judge himself and others in terms of functions, and to abandon any aspect of self, thinking, questioning, feeling, loving, that has no utility for either production or consumption in the Corporate State. The training for the role of consumer is just as important as the training for a job, and at least equally significant for loss of self. (pp. 141-142)

    Since the unemployed have no function, and have internalized the training Reich writes of, they judge themselves harshly. They internalize the stigma which the elite express, leading to the psychological distress which many report. A quest for self-validation can too easily be expressed against those who are even more vulnerable, like so-called illegal immigrants. Firedoglake’s CarolynC wrote from observation but what we are seeing is a manifestation of a fascist state, in which the dispossessed are turned against an easily stigmatized “other.”

    I’m probably not going to sleep well tonight. I’m feeling ill.

Cats and the crushing of dreams

Originally published at The Benfell Blog. Please leave any comments there.

A bird died outside my window while I lay awake in bed in the wee hours this morning. A cat snarled, startling the bird. The bird’s shrieks of surprise became cries of agony as the cat made the kill. My own cat, Admiral Janeway, was intrigued and went to the cat door in my bedroom window to see what she could see.

I would have preferred that Admiral Janeway had remained with me. When small creatures are dying, I want her to be safe and I want to know she is safe. And somehow, seeing that she is safe is not the same as when I can hold her.

I wondered why the cat–I’m only guessing it was Montgomery, from a couple doors down–warned the bird with that snarl. Perhaps it was that in order to move, the bird would have to extend itself, giving the cat something more easily within reach to pounce upon. Perhaps it was from delight. Perhaps both.

While I was sleeping, I had dreamt that I, along with many of my belongings, were on an embankment along the side of a road. I was in the middle of moving my stuff from one side of the road to the other. A grey pickup truck turned around on the embankment on the opposite side of the road where some stuff I hadn’t moved yet remained. Including, oddly, a toy dump truck (I don’t even remember if I had such a toy as a child). I was, in the meantime, desperately trying to figure out how to make a credit card charge from a command line on a computer, befuddled by the twin complications of making the command work and of finding a credit card with available credit (a completely senseless scenario).

As that grey pickup truck turned around on that embankment, the gravel slid and I watched impassively as my partially buried toy dump truck was pushed down.

Lying awake, I was conscious of a smell from my humidifier. I have lacked the ambition recently to refill its reservoirs and when it runs dry, it keeps running the fan to dry the filter (I assume to discourage mildew). But the water here is very hard, and the smell of minerals, including sulfur, that the filter had caught filled my bedroom. It wasn’t a pleasant smell.

Admiral Janeway found one of her favorite spots on top of me and I held and caressed her paw, hoping to encourage a gentleness I have seen in her more and more as she has gotten older.

When she stirred to get something to eat, I got up, filled the reservoirs in the humidifier, and sat down to try to make sense of it all.

Later this month, I’ll begin my second year in the Transformative Studies Ph.D. program at California Institute of Integral Studies. My first year has been a crushing of dreams.

I am realizing that humans have little hope of surviving the effects of the climate change we have wrought–at least in any significant numbers, that humans are substantially unwilling to shift to a harmonious way of living that might improve our odds of survival, and that we will not even challenge a profound meanness in the political and economic systems of the United States. And I am realizing that this meanness will destroy the economy not as a path to a more cooperative society, but rather the opposite, to ensure that the wealthy are paid off and out of a sheer spite for everyone else. And I am realizing that the outcome of all this is that I am extremely unlikely ever to be employed again, even if I finish the Ph.D.

I had returned to school because I realized that what I was doing wasn’t working, that I was unable to support myself on the abusive, low wage jobs I was finding, even when I was able to find them. Returning to school meant financial aid, including student loans, that would sustain me in the short term; and I thought it would enhance my qualifications for a decent job down the road.

But an anti-intellectualism which I attribute in part to compulsory education and which has long been a force in this society prevails. Budget impacts for aid to the unemployed and poor and to keep schools and universities running must be balanced with cuts elsewhere, but the costs of war and of tax cuts for the rich face no such challenge.

Even as this adversely affects millions of people, it’s hard not to take this personally. I’d swear the elite will destroy an economy, destroy a society, and destroy a country, just to keep me from ever being self-supporting. That has, after all, been what they’ve been doing since I came of age, just as Ronald Reagan was about to be elected president in 1980.

But I’ll continue on. Why? I honestly don’t know. Someone I spoke with yesterday remarked on an optimism of human beings that even after they’ve been kicked in the teeth eighteen times, they’ll keep on trying. And, I replied, if they don’t, they’re considered to suffer from depression.

Admiral Janeway has returned to the cat door in my bedroom window. She is hissing and snarling at Montgomery, the neighbor cat whom I suspect of killing that bird this morning. I walk over, push the cat door open and put my face to it, looking at Montgomery, who is hissing back, now right in the face. I am civil, but inform him of my displeasure. He scampers away, but my stern words will do little good. He’ll be back.