I Covet My Brother’s Toxic Stink Pool For Its Local Color


2015. Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 24″

One morning these unlucky animals ventured near the frack pool for a drink. Raccoon knew something was wrong when he peered across the liquid stink and saw rabbit turning pink. Moments later the three were asphyxiated and fell into the pool, dead.

Now I don’t know about you reader, but I am bowled over with envy at the man who can get ahead by leasing land that will remain his until it gets sold, or as long as legacy can hold out. Property rights once temporarily shared for hunting, or leasing fields to a farmer to grow experimental soy and corn, now can provide a potent chemical pool to all and sundry. A good neighbor won’t be so greedy. Maybe he’ll invite the local children over for a dip on a hot day. He already made his money. Anyway, it’s safe as poison, and their collective pee, no matter how acidic, won’t dilute the deadly levels of toluene unless the kids were pre-soaked for several days in 55 gallon drums of Kentucky bourbon.

When I found out my brother built one of these pools, I was so jealous of his country living. He always seemed to be one up on his city mouse sibling. He got to kill deer and eviscerate them on the ground. He got a big diesel pick up truck. He got to ride a green tractor around the property, and say words like “wood lot” and “water well”. He used to boast about the latter whenever his family came over for dinner. He said our water tasted like swimming pool, and he’d get all proud about his purer supply, and start bragging about the strawberry patch and vegetable garden, on and on about how good irrigation ditches made big fat watermelons grow.

Of course that all ended the morning the results came back from oncology, and it turned out his whole family and the dog had cancer.

I still envy his pool. It has a sweet smell. It never freezes over, even in February, and the crystal colors on the surface shimmer all rainbowy.

Now for a serious talk about Ron Paul, libertarianism, and property rights, and how to apply these concepts to hydrofracking. I have a weak spot for Ron Raul, the retired twelve term congressman from Texas who ran for President three times, once as a libertarian, and twice on the Republican ticket. He is a minor thinker, more of a political philosopher than a politician. Even if his philosophy could be challenged in healthy debate, I voted for him in the 2012 election because he was the only candidate available who was not a disgusting human being. Lobbyists always stayed clear of his office on Capital Hill. He believed like Jefferson “that government is best that governs least”. Money in government, according to Paul, is the bane of modern society, in that there will always be tremendous winners and losers. In our present day, the winners representing the military, medical, educational, industrial complex, and the losers being everyone else, divided into warring factions, all pining for their teeny-weeny sliver slice of the government pie.

Through Paul I realized that I have always been of a similar philosophy, more or less. That is, I am a libertarian who believes strongly in the Golden Rule. I use it as an individual, more so than a political philosophy. That is, I am a moralist in theory, but practical enough to never apply it seriously to others, and expect good results. Because…

“Preacher was talkin’
There’s a sermon he gave.
He said, ‘Every man’s conscience
Is vile and depraved’”

—Bob Dylan from Man in a Long Black Coat

I also know that a libertarian would let my loved ones die if any were sick and in financial need.

So, pure libertarianism is very wrong. Because taxation is a reality, money needs to be distributed to the weakest among us in order to dignify the lives of as many Americans as possible.

Enter the concept of property rights, a basis of libertarian philosophy, and an example of cheap lip service paid by the Republicans and Conservatives of my country. Basically it means that you and I as individuals, through rights of property, whether that property exists as owning land, or just owning the rights to ourselves, should in theory have more power than all groups or governments that lobby and/or make laws. Individual rights trump group rights always, as long as no one else suffers from an individual’s actions. Property rights only work if courts invoke and society enforces them equally for all.

So, according to Ron Paul and libertarians, if you own a piece of land, not only should you be free from paying property taxes, but you can do with the land whatever you please, as long as you’re not infringing on the property rights of your neighbor. So again in theory, libertarians will tell you Monsanto is criminal because it’s pollen escapes boundaries and destroys the individual farmer’s seed crop. However, a guy selling seeds on his own land has every right to do so, without local, state, or federal government regulation, so long as his seeds do not hurt anyone.

In an interview a couple years ago, Paul was asked what he thought about hydrofracking. True to his form, he applied libertarian philosophy to the controversy. He thought out loud for the interviewer and came to a decision. First, he noted that if there is a strong potential to infect the groundwater that others connect to, then hydrofracking should be outlawed. Then, after further thought, he admitted that just the actual process defies a libertarian point-of-view. Hydraulic fracturing runs horizontal, across boundaries. It crosses properties below. So if Fred has a well, and the well shoots toxic chemicals sideways, then his neighbors Bob and Mary lose their individual right to keep their property free from toxic chemical invasion. From another angle (my own) it could be said that gas companies would be liable to pay Bob and Mary for use of the property a mile below their feet, which of course, would make such a venture impossible to profit by, making gas companies pay individuals for thousands and thousands of affected subterranean square miles.

It’s true, after the well is drilled, hydrofracking ignores the property rights of everybody else affected, whether that be from potential health risks to the individual, or loss of compensation from unauthorized land lease below ground.

Republicans and conservatives are lying to themselves about hydrofracking if they also subscribe to the concept of individual property rights. Now again, in theory, if they allow a legislative body (the state) to determine if hydrofracking will be allowed, then might it be that the Republicans and Conservatives are so in name only, yet may actually lean more toward a philosophy of socialism, or even a light totalitarianism/fascism?

I think so.

A quick note about libertarian philosophy. It cannot work beyond the political machinations of a clan type of government. Property rights for individuals are not, nor have ever been universally applied in the history of civilization. But it can act as a very good justice indicator. Applied to hydrofracking, one can easily prove to a Republican or Conservative brother-in-law that his philosophy is just made up of re-hashings of Fox News diatribes mixed in with a hot shot of greed and entitlement.