An Earth Day Yarn and The Real Deal

Earth Day is a time of celebration, recounting the past, assessing the present, and pointing the way forward. Those attending the April 21, 2018 Earth Day Mayor for the Day program in Naugatuck Connecticut were subjected to an alternate – read false – story having to do with the past.

Connecticut State Assemblyman David Labriola (R) claimed that the Bush family, namely Barbara Bush, was responsible for activities that led to the first Earth Day. We all enjoyed a tall tale in our youth but to pass off such a false narrative as true was both disingenuous and dangerous.

First, let’s get to the real Earth Day story.

In the fall of 1956, there was a meeting in Saint Louis, Missouri, about milk. The connection here was to strontium-90, a “fallout” radioactive material from nuclear weapons testing out west. Was this dangerous substance making its way into cow’s milk?

Eighteen women sent a letter to the U.S. Health Department and to the Saint Louis Health Department. Edna Gellhorn was one of the women. She had earlier led a similar campaign for pure milk. The International Ladies Garment Workers Union, led by Virginia Brodine, lent organizational help. Washington University scientists, including seminal work by Barry Commoner, aided with the science. (See The Closing Circle.)

It was also Commoner who had the idea of citizens and scientists working together to inform the broader public. This gave birth to the Greater Saint Louis Citizens Committee for Nuclear Information (CNI). Two women, Gloria Gordon and Judy Baumgarten, played important roles that kept CNI rolling for the next five years.

The Cold War atmosphere made none of this work easy. To question anything the U.S. government was doing, particularly military, would quickly bring out the “communist” charge. What helped to break down some of this toxic atmosphere was the civil rights movement then gaining momentum in the south. The exposure and censure by the U.S. Senate of arch-anticommunist Senator Joe McCarthy also helped.

To help spread the message and dangers of radioactive material finding its way into ecosystems, including humans, was a group of twenty scientists. The alliance of grassroots environmentalists, union, and scientists led to the publication of the magazine, Nuclear Information. In 1964 it became Scientist and Citizen. (See New Solutions 8:1:17-25 1998.)

It was around this time that a woman scientist became the talk of the country and world. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring burst on the scene. Carson combined the skills of a seasoned writer with her science background as a government biologist.

She cautioned about pesticides via a fictional silent spring when no birds sang. Carson followed this with real data and spoke on the Audubon circuit. She immediately drew venom from chemical companies and government bureaucrats. Former Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson, said “ . . .she was probably a communist.” (Lear, Linda.   1997.   Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature. 429).

Others picked up this vicious red-baiting. Here’s a period Letter to the Editor in the The New Yorker.

Miss Rachel Carson’s reference to the selfishness of insecticide manufacturers probably reflects her Communist sympathies, like a lot of our writers these days. We can live without birds and animals, but, as the current market slump shows, we cannot live without business. As for insects, isn’t it just like a woman to be scared to death of a few little bugs! As long as we have the H-bomb everything will be O.K. (Smith, Feminist Studies 2001, 27:741).

It would take another blog to unpack the anticommunist, anti-women venom here. You have to wonder whether the writer ever ate insect pollinated fruits e.g. an apple? Rachel Carson persevered these hateful attacks and is often cited as a key contributor to the origin of Earth Day and the modern environmental movement.

In the early 1960s, President Kennedy (D) sent the first U.S. troops to Vietnam. President Lyndon Johnson (D) followed by President Richard Nixon (R) greatly expanded the U.S. War in Vietnam. Anticommunism was resulting in a bloodletting. In his 1968 famous Riverside speech, Martin Luther King, connected the devastation in Vietnam and killing of its people to the oppression of the poor and people of color at home.

Then came the revelations of the cruel and genocidal use by U.S. forces of the chemical defoliant Agent Orange. Dow Chemical and Monsanto reaped megaprofits from this chemical warfare. Uniroyal Chemical was also a producer. Environment, war, and human rights were all coming together. The demonstrations in Washington D.C in 1968, 1969 and 1971 grew in size and effectiveness.

In 1969, Scientist and Citizen changed its name to Environment and quickly became the most prestigious journal in its field.

It was at this time that Senator Gaylord Nelson (D) of Wisconsin took the initiative to pull together many of these struggles and movements. He wanted a grassroots approach similar to the anti-war “teach-ins” on college campuses. Nelson hired Denis Hayes, a former Stanford student president and now Harvard Law School student. Hayes smartly hired a team of activists steeped in civil rights, the Chicano movement, and the Robert Kennedy (1968) presidential campaign. The result was various grassroots gatherings of 20 million people on April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day.

The action didn’t stop there. In 1971, word spread that the military was planning a nuclear weapons test on Amchitka Island in part of the Aleutian Archipelago off Alaska. A group of activists set off in an old fishing boat to stop the test. While initially unsuccessful, it led to the international organization Green Peace with 2.9 million supporters in 40 countries. Amchitka Island is now has a bird sanctuary*.

  • Dozens of Amchitka workers and Aleuts have died from leaking radiation from the 3 underground nuclear tests there.

 

Landmark legislation followed the first Earth Day such as the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act.

Soon after all this activity, there gained momentum to impeach President Richard Nixon for high crimes throughout his presidency. He was driven out of office in 1974. There are many lessons here as mass actions call for the impeachment of Donald Trump.

 

The dishonesty of a false narrative of Earth Day origins by a state legislator is easy to explain but why dangerous? I say this because if we don’t paint accurate pictures of how such a momentous event as how the first Earth Day emerged in April 1970, attempts of other needed social/political changes e.g. renewable energy, will lead to dead ends. Such changes have some shared, distinguishable characteristics.

Attempts to rewrite history, and grossly distort it, are legion. The movie Rebirth of a Nation (1915) is good example. When the film came out, President Woodrow Wilson (D) had a viewing of it in the White House. It gave this racist movie an unfortunate legitimacy.

This skewed view of U.S. history included vicious stereotyping of slaves and black people generally. Wilson was also responsible for resegregating Washington D.C. and disastrously led the USA into WWI after running on a peace platform. (See Dead Wake, Larson).

President Trump is a chief follower of those who rewrite history to fit their fancy. Having a picture of President Jackson prominently displayed in the White House is symbolic of his white nationalist ways. President Jackson was a slave owner and instigator of genocide against native peoples. The promulgating of his image along with praising Jackson’s presidency speaks volumes about Trump’s ideology and the politics that follow in its train.

Trump’s policies and approach to politics is to disunite our people and country. Misogyny, male chauvinism, and anti-immigrant ideas have a present currency. Oliver North’s recent anti-youth statements pointed at the students of South Park Florida, who are leading the struggle against gun violence, are a recent example. Racism and anticommunism are often the ideological bulwarks behind disunity.

The 2020 50th anniversary of Earth day will be here in a blink of an eye. It is also a presidential election year. There is a need to bring this true history forward versus those who would rewrite it with a false narrative. Unity of people with different political persuasions and with all people regardless of color and sexual orientation is a must to win back our country of the United States of America.

 

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The Many Faces of Systemic Breakdown

It was a Sunday morning. Going out to get the morning newspaper is a daily routine of mine. In early morning reverie, I forgot that I dropped my subscription to the Sunday regional paper. It did not matter. What I saw did.

There were waves of water lapping at the foot of my home’s cement stairs. You read that right. Waves. I blinked. There they were. Not living along the Connecticut shore, or any other body of water, you can imagine my stunned amazement.

By the end of the day, the water main break under our street was mended, damage to the land and my cellar totaled, and life continued. My family was experiencing an example of the crumbling infrastructure in our country.* Donald Trump says he has the answer.

What’s Trump’s solution to crumbling infrastructure? Like so much attempted by his Administration, it involves a bait and switch.

The time-honored deal for large construction projects was 80 percent federal dollars matched by 20 percent local monies. The infrastructure trick here would turn that on its head by forcing state and local governments to come up with 80 percent of the cost to win 20 percent from the feds.

My town of Naugatuck, Connecticut had to take $480,000 from reserve funds just to cover the present shortfall of state funding. How could my “distressed” town, with 11.4 % unemployment, ever hope to participate in such an upside down arrangement?

Recent events in Naugatuck are very much related to this overarching topic of systemic breakdown. There have been four pollution episodes in the Naugatuck River in the last 10 months. Three events involved sewage spills from the Waterbury Sewage Treatment plant. The largest of those killed 100s of fish and other living beings in the river.

In addition to these, on January 20th, 2018, there was an oil spill by Somers Thin Strip brass plant in Waterbury. Thousands of gallons of hydraulic oil made its way to the river. Pictures of the sheen (less than 0.01mm) moving across different sections of the river can be seen here.

https://youtu.be/AU_p_cTtGHQ

As part of the Clean Water Act, the Oil Spill Pollution Act (1990, 1994) asserts that a company must have a detailed containment plan to mitigate a spill. It must also have a cleanup plan. Did Somers have these in place? Trump has promised and has been implementing cutbacks to the same Clean Water Act.

My first wage-paying job was delivering grocery orders. In the early 1960s, I delivered such orders to the same Somers family that owned this plant. Global Brass and Copper Holdings Inc. of Kentucky now owns the Somers plant.

Were there periodic checks of the Somers plant by the Ct Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP)?

When motivated to do “periodic checks”, our country marshals the wherewithal to do them. There’s an historical example from our constitutional history. Let’s see if there are any connections to another example of breakdown of a different nature.

Systemic breakdown has many faces. Direct violence has always been part of the scene in the USA. School shootings are another horrific form of that violence. The killings of students and teachers in Florida are the latest example.

Three of the largest mass shootings in USA history have happened in the last five months (as of March 2018). There have been 300 school shootings since Newtown, Ct.

An historical framework always helps. This is what has been mostly absent in news reporting and discussions of young people with state and federal representatives.

The Constitution of the USA was ratified on September 17, 1787. The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments, wasn’t ratified until December 15, 1791. It took considerable compromises to get them passed by Congress.

The framers of all this used the term “Country” in the Bill of Rights. But when it came to the 2nd amendment that did not happen. Why?

The reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says “State” instead of “Country”, was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states. (The Second Amendment Was Ratified to Preserve Slavery by Thom Hartmann, 1/15/2013 www.truth-out.org

A crumbling infrastructure, pollution episodes out of the 1950s, and killings in our schools are all part of systemic breakdown.

Contained in what appears to be a local story along the Naugatuck River, is the kernel of another symptom of systemic problems. That holdings Co. mentioned above is also into munitions.

Whether those munitions end up in the Mid-East, the encirclement of China / Russia, or on our streets/schools will need further research. The killer in the Florida high school shootings had Nazi swastikas etched into the munitions he used. A mental health problem, maybe. A political problem, definitely.

Cutting the military budget, restoring personnel cuts to DEEP, releasing funds for the Clean Water Act and beyond are demands all movements must bring forward in some way. The proposal for solar panels, with federal and state help, on a superfund site in Naugatuck would add much needed jobs, reduce energy bills, and help local budget woes.

Making these connections of systemic breakdown and organizing fight-backs/solutions locally are the order of the day. It will take unity of all movements going into the 2018, 2019 (local) and 2020 elections.

* The same water main burst again, in a different place in front of my home, two years later.

Myths, Media, & Misunderstandings

Myth II – “There are no leaders.”  I’ve heard this said by different people in different settings. Most recently, it was uttered at the Union church, Vinalhaven, Maine, in a community discussion about the horrible events in Charlottesville and confederate flags flying from trucks here. Before grappling with this pervasive myth, a word more on the media.

One friend questioned my singling out writer Michael Roskin and The Free Press newspaper of Rockland, Maine. I pointed out above that concentrated wealth and power around the so-called “free press”, and media generally, are part of the problem we face in our country. It certainly aided the election of our current president.

Of course, most of the people working for The Free Press are NOT the main problem. It’s the controlling interests. More on that below.

At the same time, we must be able be able to constructively criticize those people, who with good intentions in the broadest sense e.g. including anti-Trump, feed some of the very problems we face as a people that contributed to these horrid election results. This criticism extends to institutions like our so-called free press (lower case).

For example, let’s use Mr. Roskin’s column, The Persistence of Vietnam, in The Free Press (9/21/2017). He makes a number of good points including the psychological effects of the U.S. War in Vietnam on veterans and the physical effects of Agent Orange. At the same time, he says, “Vietnam’s jungled mountains aided the enemy . . .”

As many of us learned in the 1960s/70s, it was the USA that was picking up the baton from French colonialism in Vietnam. Here’s just one example.

Herbert Fuller is an American promoter who wants to set up a $10 million sugar mill in South Vietnam. He is a “fervent believer in South Vietnam/s future.” When troops arrive to clear the area, as they sooner or later must, this American capitalist will literally be one step behind them “ . . . I am in it for the money,” Fuller says. “We could get our money back in two years.” {Fortune, 3/1966).

I went on to learn U.S. companies had already invested $100 million into Vietnam in the previous five years, including Gulf Oil drilling off the coast. The Vietnamese as “the enemy” receded for many of us back then. Mr. Roskin and The Free Press, by continuing this label push the anti-communist “fight for democracy” charade that led to the U.S. War in Vietnam.

With that same statement “Vietnam’s jungled mountains aided the enemy . . .” he justifies the very chemical warfare he decries at the end of the article. He states “Many veterans . . . and the effects of Agent Orange . . . we have damage across generations”. Notice also he leaves out the many millions of Vietnamese who were impacted by this chemical warfare in the first place. Leaving out the indigenous people smacks of racism. It’s like they don’t count. No. Vietnamese lives matter.

“Nixon finally got us out of Vietnam . . .” Really? As is well known, Nixon delayed the Paris peace talks before the 1968 elections. For compliance of the corrupt Thieu regime in South Vietnam, he promised total victory if elected. Once elected, Nixon promulgated the war for years.

It was the persistence of the Vietnamese plus the peace movement in the USA and the world that ended the U.S. War in Vietnam.
One last point, it was never the “Vietnam War.” As noted above, the U.S. War in Vietnam was an imperialist attempt to continue the colonial benefits from that land and its people. Ken Burns, in an effort to show the agony of war, continued this misnomer with his mislabeled documentary, The Vietnam War.

Of course woven in with the persistent anticommunism of many politicians and the racist stereotype of a people who don’t matter, you have the perfect storm the Vietnamese and we experienced.

BTW – Consider the review of Burn’s documentary on the next page from Mr. Roskin’s column on “The Persistence of Vietnam.” It was a reprint from The Washington Post. That’s the same newspaper owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.

Also, in 2015, billionaire Mexican Carlos Slim became the top New York Times stockholder, with a 17% ownership of the company valued at $300 million. As with Amazon’s Bezos, it’s a plaything, and power, with Slim. His net worth according to Forbes, as of July 2017, is 67.9 billion.

My previous point about The Free Press was its ownership being another example of concentrated ownership over many papers with big bucks having controlling interest. It goes in spades for these national papers with international distributions.

Recent ominous statements by the U.S. President about North Korea and Venezuela, along with a compliant press in various and different ways, spell trouble for the USA and the world.

How do we begin finding our way out of all this? One part of a beginning to answer this question is by tackling Myth II – “There are no leaders.”

Here’s a short list of grassroots leaders, and their organizations, with local, national, and international reach.

  • Henry Lowendorf is chairman of the Greater New Haven Peace Council, New Haven, Connecticut. As a member of the Executive Board of the U.S. Peace Council, he led a fact-finding mission to Syria in 2016.

www.uspeacecouncil.org/

 

  • Naomi Kline is an internationally recognized leader of peace, environmental, and social justice movements. She was an organizer of the massive climate march in NYC, 2014. Her latest books include This Changes Everything and No Is Not Enough.

Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, Black Lives Matter Movement. They lead struggles against violence and systemic racism.

BlackLivesMatter.com

–   Bruce Gagnon is Secretary & Coordinator of The Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He has led peace delegations to Hiroshima, Japan and Jeju, South Korea. He leads continuous protests in front of the Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine, as they produce the Aegis destroyers. http://www.space4peace.org/

Bruce Gagnon’s blog:     http://space4peace.blogspot.com/

If you don’t know these peace and social justice leaders, look no further than the so-called free press. The media works overtime to keep these organizations, their actions, and their leaders out of the news.

Now it’s your turn. Join one or more of the above groups. Spread the word. The groups, leaders, and leadership are there. Are you willing to participate?

 

Dangerous Happenings and Dangerous Myths

A Vinalhaven, Maine resident, who lived through WWII, said it very succinctly. This is the way it starts. What did this person mean? What happened?

Charlottesville happened. Of course there were prelims. Rufus Wolf, with a confederate flag waving in the background, happened. Nine African Americans shot dead in a church, happened. Two men slashed to death protecting Muslim women, happened. A grandfather and nephew killed outside a synagogue, happened.

The old Buffalo Springfield song, For What It’s Worth, ripples through the air. (I thought you might want to play the song as you read.)

Buffalo Springfield – For What It’s Worth 1967 – YouTube

“There’s something happening over here.” It is clear. But dangerous myths abound that divert from that clarity. Let’s see how.

It’s actually been happening for some time. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, extreme right-wing militia groups quadrupled during the Obama presidency. They were developing. They were waiting for their moment. Then it happened.

A misogynistic, wealthy, ignorant but sly leader, with gobs of free media exposure, happened. U.S. military forces surrounding Russia and China, happened.

There are myths afloat that not only prevent people from grasping the clarity necessary, but also further feed this growing, fascistic movement.

What are the myths? Let’s consider three.

Myth I. The military will keep Trump under control. Myth II. There are no grassroots, progressive leaders. Myth III. Both the Right and Left are violent. I also did some digging into the purveyors of these myths. So let’s take them one at a time.

Myth I. The military will keep Trump under control.

Every time I hear this little ditty, my mind flashes back to the fall of 1968. Teaching Junior Senior High in Thomaston Connecticut, I was directed by the administration to take my eight-grade class to the auditorium. Introduced was a retired military general replete with metals from chin to waist.

The general had one clear demand that I remember to this day. He emphatically told my twelve and thirteen year old students to convey a message to government leaders – unleash the air force on North Vietnam. Bomb them into the Stone Age.

It took a short time before I realized who was subjecting my students to this madness. We have to go back 28 years from my introduction to General Curtis LeMay. He was the commander who ordered the firebombing of Tokyo in the spring of 1945. Over 100,000 people died in a rolling, flaming hell. The napalm made infamous by U.S. use in Vietnam was experimented with here. An overwhelmed Secretary of Defense Stinson, reported to President Truman with a sense of bewilderment. No one seemed to object to killing all these civilians.

Of course, events escalated from there. Brigadier General Leslie Groves advised President Truman. This General encouraged the next mass killing of civilians in Hiroshima and in Nagasaki. The vast majority of the 210,000 killed were civilians. State terror had found something close to the ultimate weapon.

It was only later I learned that “the bomb” had little to do with ending the war. This mass killing was to keep the Soviet Union from having a say in the peace process in the Pacific. It was also a message to communists, socialists, and the world. Don’t mess with us. It helped kick off the Cold War.

Another connection brought home to me around that fall time of 1968 was just as important. One George Wallace served with that XX Bomber Command under General Curtis LeMay. The archetypical racist, now Governor of Alabama, would team up with his former military boss in the 1968 presidential race. LeMay would be his running mate. What my captive students in small town America were being subjected to was a not so disguised campaign stop with public taxes supplying a pliant audience.

Racism, militarism, and rabid anticommunism were being combined in deadly fashion.

It took me many years to realize that little Thomaston, CT was not some random stop. Small towns are a soft target. The most racist and militarist elements in the USA make small town America a destination.

LeMay, and other militarists like him, pushed the likes of Presidents Johnson and Nixon to bombs away. They followed orders nicely. Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians died in large numbers, 3.8 million would die in Vietnam alone. It also left 55,000 very sad U.S. families.

So with all this data readily available, how can the myth of generals being a “calming” influence on a President still have currency?

Myths need help. They need mass dissemination if they are to serve. They need to be kept up-to-date. Let me give an up-to-date example.

The Free Press is a newspaper of the Mid-Coast Maine area. The area is peppered with small town America for sure. Their very small town America newspaper is located right on Main Street, Rockland, Maine. The August 31st, 2017, Page 4 editorial page headline caught my eye. It was titled – Protective Layer?

It states that there is this “heroic” protective layer in government. It’s a “thankless task.” This protective layer prevents, “ . . .Trump’s latest self-inflicted crisis from spiraling out of control . . . “ Really?

Who occupies this “protective layer”? The editorial points to a small group. It says they are “ . . .not ideological” but have a “ . . .heroic if thankless task.” What stood out among this group was the dominance of the career militarists in the White House – H.R. McMaster, James Mattis, and John Kelly.

Peek back at the historical examples above and tell me if you feel these “bright, accomplished “generals are “protecting the Republic.” Do you rest at ease nightly because these generals are the “controllers”? Did ‘’generals ”protect the republic”, or the world for that matter, from the Bush Family when they gleefully invaded Iraq and Afghanistan? How about when the Obama Administration invaded and created yet another failed state in Libya? You know answers.

Now who are the purveyors of this myth of generals as the “calm downers”? Is it just The Free Press of cozy Rockland, Maine? Think again. The Free Press is owned by Maine Today Media. That group also publishes the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, the Morning Sentinel in Waterville, and the Coastal Journal in Bath, as well as the pressherald.com, centralmaine.com and mainetoday.com websites.

It doesn’t stop there. It also has its tentacles around The Courier-Gazette in Rockland, The Camden Herald, and The Republican Journal in Belfast. For good measure it owns the Alliance Press, a commercial printing company in Brunswick.

And it does not end at the state border. Maine State Media may have to change its name. It now owns The Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, and their affiliated print and online publications. Yes, that’s Vermont.

As is so often the case, the concentration of wealth and power led to corruption. One publisher at Maine State Media made off with $530,000. Also, victimized were 160 jobs cut just at the Portland Press Herald alone. They were union jobs with health benefits.

Ownership of Maine State Media has gone through many hands. Just recently financier and hedge fund owner Donald Sussman had controlling interest. Sussman managed Paloma Partners which received $200 million in US taxpayer funds as part of the AIG bailout. He also owns the Turner Farm on North Haven Island. In 2015, Maine State Media was sold to Reade Brower of Camden.

Michael Roskin, who wrote the above opinion piece in The Free Press, is a retired professor of political science. Among other stops, Roskin served as Visiting Professor of Foreign Policy at the U.S. Army War College from 1991 to 1994. Among esteemed graduates are George Patton and Leslie Groves (See above.).

What would be comical if not so insidious, are that people will hand me copies from multiple newspapers named above thinking they reflect multiple sources. Wrong.

So is The Free Press giving you some small town viewpoint? No. It’s among a long list of media outlets that has been gobbled up by concentrated wealth. They are the purveyors of the long-standing myths.

The truth – militarists propose military solutions. Further truths. Concentrated wealth controls the media. It extends from the print media to digital media. Concentrated wealth with a pliant media helped give us the 2016 elected president of the USA. Concentrated wealth, including the owners of the media, love those myths. It serves their interests.

Next up is Myth II. There are no grassroots, progressive leaders. Then there is Myth III. Both sides are violent. Stay tuned. Stay active.

 

 

The below blog is my essay that was published by the Maine Writers & Publishers Association. http://p0.vresp.com/ZRfiyq  I highly recommend the U-Tube video near the end of the essay. Per usual, let me know your thoughts. The journal, The Peavey, is named after a tool used by loggers in days of old.

________________________________________________________________________________________

Detachment.

I enjoy The Peavey. How could anyone who enjoys writing and reading not enjoy The Peavey. One reads about all kinds of writers. They are retirees. They are young like Tracy K. Smith. Then there are all those scribblers in-between.

Scribblers. Yes. Scribblers all. I say it with the very best of intentions. Trying to reach people with the written and spoken word. How important is that? Very important. It is at the essence of culture. It is one of the activities that we do and the content reflects all the other doings of humans.

Still that word surfaces. Detachment.

The genre is all over the place. That’s a healthy thing. Right? Do you agree? Mystery, memoir, fantasy, and sci-fi are there. There are the broadest of categories e.g. fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

Still, that feisty, somewhat ugly word reappears. Detachment. It’s just around the corner. It won’t go away.

The Peavey celebrates success. How important is that? Extremely important. The big time publishers narrow their production to those who make them the most money. Profit was always part of their motivation. Now it is everything. They celebrate profit. Wealth has concentrated everywhere.

Celebrating the successes, big and small, of the 99% of the rest of us takes on added importance. This applies not only to writers but also to independent publishers as Sophia Khan pointed out.

When you ponder it, none of what is going on in publishing is that surprising. Now you have to be among the 1% to run for political office or at a minimum, have the backing of sectors of that group. Maybe the 0.1% would be more accurate as one climbs the political ladder to “success”. That usually means the fossil fuel boys.

Those last two paragraphs may seem like a digression. They are not. It scares me. Politics is about power. There is a whole bunch of power rapped up in who gets published and who doesn’t. Power is deciding not only who gets published but also what gets published. They go together like the old horse and carriage. It’s about content.

It is also why detachment scares me. It goes far beyond the writing and reading world. But, I fear, we can be participants in separating ourselves so far from this moment in time.

Are we separating ourselves from our readers? Alienation, or is it estrangement, is bad for any relationship.

Detachment. It haunts mind, body, and soul.

And this moment in time is dark, and getting darker. Citizens, rising to protect our youth, Muslim in this case, are slashed to death. African Americans are gunned down in a church. An LGBQ bar is a target.

The President-to-be mocks a handicapped reporter. A Congressional candidate in Montana attacks a reporter. The candidates are elected. What?

Ever wonder where terrorists come from? Ideology? Of course, but what is the material basis for this gobbledygook to stick to ribs? Foreign troops and bombs will do just fine. A President more than willing to stoke racist embers adds to the mix.

“ . . .when you are being attacked, when bombs are falling around you, planes are hovering over your head, when your life is in danger and you are scared, it is so easy to look up to the sky and feel abject, boiling hatred for the people doing this to you, and you curse them out.” (Looking For Palestine, Najla Said, 2013)

Courageous Mainers demonstrate at Bath Iron Works. Their protest is aimed at the product, not the hands that do the work. Aegis Destroyers carry missiles that destroy lives in the Middle East. The President says bombs away. Lives taken. More terrorists created.

A Maine artist objects to it all. He demonstrates and is arrested. He painstakingly explains it all, including the damage to sea life these destroyers wrought through sonic waves. He shows his anguish through his sculpting:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BUQonAjTAA&feature=youtu.be

Mainers are resisting, marching, demonstrating. Do we know it? Do we hear it? Do we see it? Do we write it? Do we feel it? Do we publish it?

It is time to end the detachment. No more aping the big time book sellers and publishing houses. Detachment must be replaced. By what?

Resistance.

Resist what you might say? The content. Resist war, misogyny, racism, white nationalism, and terrorism, especially the homegrown variety. Resist violence, whether at a ball field, in a train, mall, or church. Resist militarism.

A welder has tools. So have we. We’re writers. We’re booksellers. We’re publishers. We’re printers. We’re storytellers.

Unite. Organize.

Detachment haunts.

Resist!

TRUMP – HOW DID WE GET HERE?

“We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” 

  • Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

How did we get here? There recently was a Trump White House rose garden celebration to inform us that a bill passed that will make healthcare “beautiful”. Then we learned that 24 million people would be cut from healthcare with this bill.

But wait a minute. A bill was not passed! It only squeaked by the House of Representatives by four votes. It still needed a majority vote by the Senate. How did we get here?

In 1984, George Orwell wrote, “ . . .the claim of the Party to have improved the conditions of life had got to be accepted . . .” Are we living through a dystopia? How did we get here? There’s more. Much more.

We were told that a Trump Administration would end the cycle of endless wars. Then U.S. Aegis destroyers launched 60 cruise missiles into Syria. This was followed by the military, which seems to have carte blanche from this administration, dropping an enormous bomb, the biggest short of nuclear, in Afghanistan. How did we get here?

Let’s follow this last point with a dollop of latter-day 20th century history. It was the Carter (D) Administration (late 1970s) that helped arm terrorists to overthrow what was then a nascent socialist government in Afghanistan. Oh yeah, who was the leader of those Afghan terrorists? The Saudi Osama Ben Laden.

In the 1980s, the Reagan Administration (R) gleefully picked up the flow of money and arms to terrorists. The USA sold missiles to an extreme religious, ultranationalist government in Iran. Yes, it was illegal. Using those monies, the CIA funded another group of thugs in Nicaragua to overthrow a socialist orientated government there.

Reagan’s Vice-President, George Bush senior (R), said we had to break the “Vietnam Syndrome”, meaning the peace strivings of our citizens in the USA. As president, he led the first, modern day, full-blown military invasion (1990-1) of the Mideast. That was Iraq War I.

President Bill Clinton (D) picked up the baton with the war (mid-1990s) in the Balkans and the break up of socialist Yugoslavia. Gas pipelines were part of the prize there. Entering the new millennia, George Bush junior (R) pushed for yet another war in Iraq. The facade was torn away. It was blood for oil – Iraq War II.

You may have noticed fossil fuels, along with generating failed state scenarios, pop up quite often in our history. It has deep roots. Let’s go to the other side of the 20th century.

In 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s vice-president Henry Wallace (D) was pushing for peace with the Soviet Union following the defeat of fascism in WWII. He called for “a Century of the Common Man.” Those who wanted “An American Century” had other ideas.

In the same year, oil millionaire and Democratic Party Treasurer Edwin Pauley muscled Harry Truman into the vice-presidency. When FDR died in April of 1945, Truman, not Wallace, assumed the presidency. The “bomb”, the Cold War, and imperialist policies of “An American Century” followed.

In 1953, the CIA engineered the overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran. Why? He was leading the charge to nationalize the oil fields there. The hated and empowered Shah (king) proceeded to destroy the progressive Left. So when the Iranian people revolted in 1979, their choice of who would take power was restricted. Thus extreme right wing religious elements took power.

Why does it seem Mid-Eastern countries have such constrained choices between dictators, religious fanatics and/or terrorists? Because, as the Iran example shows, imperialists worked overtime to destroy any Left progressive parties.

That “story” was repeated throughout the Mid-East. The latest example was the rebellion in Egypt. With the left repressed and too small to be an effective organizational force on the national scene, right-wing military elements took over.

Back to the 1990s.

A peace dividend was to flow from the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s. The military alliances, the Warsaw Pact and NATO, would dissolve. The War Saw Pact did. NATO? Imperialism, from a position of strength, did the opposite. NATO remained and expanded. Led by U.S. imperialism, we have the Iraq and Afghanistan wars outlined above. Libya happened. Now add the chaos in Yemen, Somalia, and Syria. More “failed states” to come?

.                                                       *****************

John Wojcik, editor of the Peoples World and vice-president of the Labor Journalists Association, was in Berlin recently. On a car trip to see a friend, he saw vehicles going at warp speed on an adjoining highway. They were U.S. tanks. Where were they going? To the border of Lithuania and Russia.

So we have two nuclear powers facing each other as tensions grow between the USA and Russia.

With Donald Trump (R) in the presidency, we have a situation even more dangerous than the Truman (D) presidency of yore. Steve Bannon et al have Rex Tillerson, former (yeah right) CEO of Exxon/Mobil, directly in the seat of Secretary of State. More blood for oil will surely follow without a growing and massive peace contingent in the Resisitance movement.

George Orwell, in 1984, also added, “ . . . war becomes literally continuous.” With proto-fascists prowling the White House, the dysfunction (fascism loves chaos) can morph into our children and grandchildren living through a dystopia with us. We can’t let it happen.

IMPEACH TRUMP!

RESIST!!!

P.S. You may have noticed much chaos being reported out of Venezuela. Its developing socialist government has the largest oil reserves in the world.

 

 

My Grandmother’s Radio

My maternal grandmother’s radio was a fascination of my beginning years in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Out of this mysterious box, which was about as big as I was, came “The Lone Ranger Rides Again” and “The Shadow Knows.” I waited every night with bated breath, as if on a magic carpet, to be swept away on some surprise adventure.

Like some creepy Cyclops, the radio had a single eye. It seemed to follow me no matter what corner in our living room I attempted to hide. My gosh, the eye even turned colors!

We were the beneficiaries of this wonderful entertainment because my grandparents were living with us. One day I asked my Mom why they didn’t have a house of their own. After all, I was always told of their business acumen. They had owned a small shoe store. I got a two-word answer. “The Depression.” It was followed by, “They lost everything.”

I grasped the answer easily. I had the evidence in front of me. My grandparents once had a large house on the south side of Waterbury, Connecticut. Now, they lived in one room of our rented apartment in the working class north end. Economics 101. Easy.

 

What I came to know gradually over decades is that both my grandmother and that radio held some other important historical lessons. For more context let’s zoom ahead to 2006.

I was fortunate to be in Oxford, England for a gathering of science educators from all over the world. My wife and I met a Japanese couple whom we exchanged life stories. We were riveted to the woman’s story from her youth.

Tiffany was kept in an interment camp during WWII. She did not dwell on it but the stories made a lasting impact on me. (Don’t miss the impact of the camps on a crew member of the Starship Enterprise https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeBKBFAPwNc   ) My mind drifted to my grandmother, an immigrant of Italy.

In the early 1940s, I’m told secret service agents visited our home. They confirmed my grandmother’s immigrant status. The agents then proceeded to solder a section of the radio’s dial that could pull in foreign signals. Apparently they were concerned Mussolini’s fascist diatribes would reach our families ears. I can imagine my grandmother’s horror and dismay. Did she feel responsible for the chaos and invasive action of those agents?

What those agents didn’t know was that my grandmother was apolitical. She once implied that the Kaiser (See previous blog.) was the reason she left Italy. That’s it. I don’t recall another political utterance.

The latest immigrant scapegoats are followers of Islam and Mexicans. Protecting them is one aspect of save-guarding the constitutional rights of all of us.

The husband of that Japanese couple is, besides a botanist and educator, an accomplished plant photographer. We received a wonderful gift from him. It was a picture of a series of flowers.

Every time my eyes glance at that photograph, I also see Tiffany and sense some of the indignities experienced in those camps. I see my grandmother. Then the millions trying to escape the ravages of war and climate change from Africa, Syria, and points eastward, come into view.

Can we call ourselves human beings if we just continue with our daily lives in face of these human and environmental disasters? Do we sit idly by while a sad and dangerous character, who wants to promulgate all these, walks the halls of the White House?

That’s the misogynist who says he doesn’t believe in climate change as if science was a belief and not about data and theories that congeal out of that data. Climatologists don’t believe in anthropogenic climate change. They accept the inferences that flow from data. The burning of fossil fuels is causing rapid climate disturbances.

Yet the President of the United States does not believe in climate change. In the background, I hear Pete Seeger singing, “When will they ever learn.”

There are many marches and demonstrations now in our country. It’s not just what people know, it’s how quickly they will come to know and act on that knowledge. Much to do.

Generals, billionaires, along with the Alt-Right, are marching into the administration of our country. Smelling the political air, this essay made its way to the surface.

Running With Iron Heels

This past spring I was camping and hiking in the Taconic range with a good friend. We walked and talked while soaking in the beautiful terrain of those green mountains.

Such excursions are important. They transport us physically. They also transport us mentally. The humdrum of everyday life fades as rolling hills and valleys come into view.

We are lucky in Connecticut. Beautiful, green woodlands, rivers, and an ocean surround us. We can choose the company of beautiful, caring people.

What can slip by almost unnoticed is that others are out there. They have a different view of what surrounds us. They see ugly everywhere.

African Americans are shot down, with regularity, in our streets. Some see injustice, others see genetics. Some see the continuance of hundreds of years of oppression and struggle. Others let fear consume them.

Fossil fuel pipelines ram through lands, from New England to Indian sacred spaces. Some see centuries of stealing land, religious violations, environmental degradation, and fight-back. Others see maintaining a lifestyle. More dangerously, the 0.1% sees major profits threatened with protests of the former.

Bombs are dropped an ocean away. People migrate. Some see state terror, a humanitarian disaster, and struggle. Some hear only “terrorists” and seek revenge.

People see, and maybe feel, these differences. The “others” handle them in different ways. A peek into our family’s 20th century histories may elucidate some of this. Let’s try mine.

In 1907, two sets of people made there way from the Apennine mountain range above Naples, Italy, to the USA. One, the Ciarlone’s, had a business orientation. The other, the Iannielli’s, was among the vast peasantry of those times. In relative order, the Scarpitti’s and Summa’s completed each set of the pairings. Children arrived, eight to be exact, from each pairing. Included among those offspring were my parents.

Why did my grandparents leave their homeland? After all, it’s not an easy do. Ever get that uncomfortable feeling when away from the familiarity of home? That sense of place comes into play. No. Not easy.

As a youngster, I asked that question. My maternal grandmother gave me a hint with a wonderful Italian inflection and waving an open hand in the air. It consisted of two words. “The Kaiser!”

That two-word answer and the move across the big pond took a bit of time to grasp in any full way. My experiences on the home front during the U.S. War in Vietnam helped. (For more on those experiences see

https://www.createspace.com/4330714

 

Later I got an assist from famed biologist Stephen Jay Gould. Here’s what I learned.

Before World War I (1914-1918), Vernon L. Kellogg was an entomologist (insects) at Stanford University, California, a pacifist; he became an official in Belgian relief work. In this capacity, he somehow ended up being among the German high command, including the Kaiser. Wilhelm II was the last Emperor (Kaiser) of Germany and King of Prussia (Parts of Germany and much land heading eastward).

Many of the German officers were involved in higher education before the war. They saw the war as a natural outgrowth of human behavior. These officers saw natural selection, a la Charles Darwin and evolution, as dictating violent competition among peoples.

The group of people representing the highest evolutionary stage, in their minds Germans, would prevail. Kellogg was so sufficiently horrified that he abandoned pacifism and supported the war against Germany as the only way, in his considered opinion, to stop them.

What Kellogg stumbled on here is one of the best examples of the perversion of evolutionary theory. It resulted in a crude form of social Darwinism. In other words, war erupts from our DNA.

We now know that redivision of the world for colonial plunder was a driving force for both sides of those wretched trenches. In other words follow the money, or better, the profits. When normal politics could not settle differences, war followed.

History had more to unfold, especially in Germany. In the years following World War I, much of the above crude social Darwinism became incorporated into Nazi ideology with a vengeance. That ideology, mixed with racism, ran amuck with extreme nationalism.

The Nazi Party actually started in the mountains of Germany in the 1920s. They nurtured a crude form of nationalism born of the disaster of WWI, social Darwinism, and with a questing religious fervor. The crash of 1929, unemployment and disgust with “big” government brought them into the cities and looking for a savior. They found Adolf Hitler and bankers willing to solve problems with an iron heel. WWII followed.

 

There is a fundamental difference in the mindset of the groupings of people mentioned at the beginning of this writing. Some hope to peacefully and thoughtfully grabble with war, racism, environmental degradation, and the injustice of it all. Others? They run with iron heels.

Politically, one outlook says let’s protest nonviolently, dialogue, and peacefully negotiate. The others say let’s protest violently, take people off voter roles, and stomp on those fighting injustice with that iron heel, including the use police/military force.

The iron heels, the fascist axis that took state power in Germany, Italy, and Japan in the 1920s and 1930s, were defeated in WWII. Its cost was 60 million lives and many fragmented ones. But hints that the outlook guiding those iron heel states had penetrated the USA were around us. The twin ideological weapons of fascism were at work.

The Soviet Union, an ally and friend during WWII, quickly became labeled an enemy, then later an evil empire. Anyone remotely associated with the recent ally was considered part of the “red menace” and a spy. U.S. State institutions pursued communists with a vengeance as well as others interested in peace and social justice.

Japanese living in the USA, and Japanese Americans, were treated differently from German and Italian immigrants. Internment camps were set up. (Don’t miss this! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeBKBFAPwNc ) African Americans remained under intense segregation, with lynchings and other violence visited upon them.

 

Let’s go back to bucolic Connecticut. We bathe in the suave of greenness. We need the caressing arms of nature. We need the company of caring people. The point here is that we can’t get lost in it.

We have to engage other outlooks. Some don’t want the iron heel approach to solve problems but don’t see the danger. We need to revisit the 1920s and 1930s, and shake out the causes, and lessons, of WWII.

There is hope all around us. We do have to take the time to see it. I met a welder recently who had drawn healthy lessons from her work experiences. She adamantly opposed Trump.

A fisherman once told me, “they make you not want to care.” This woman went in the opposite direction. She cares. My hiking friend ventured to Ohio to block Trump mania. We have to find bits of caring among our people and help develop a willingness to fight for caring core values.

We are going to need to put that caring into action. Too many times we didn’t do that when the Obama Administration, and also peoples’ movements, made forward-looking decisions e.g. halting the X-L Pipeline. When that same administration brought backward proposals to the table, as they did in Libya, Syria and elsewhere, a confusion and paralysis followed.

Ask yourself, “What do I care about?” Then ask yourself, “How do I show it?” It means getting outside of our comfort zone.

Here’s two ways. Go out and talk to those who did not vote, those who voted for Trump, and those coming of voting age. Use history, especially intertwined with personal stories, in a calm explanatory way. Then gather with like-minded friends and those who are learning.

We need to walk the talk.

P.S. My Grandmother (Scarpitti/Ciarlone) didn’t totally escape the discrimination meted out during WWII. More on that with the next blog.

It was a disastrous election. There’s no doubt about it. We need to make sense out of the mess in order to move forward. Here’s just a beginning.

The Rs pursued a classic tactic. As soon as Barack Obama was elected in 2008, they declared noncooperation. Massive gridlock followed. These reactionary forces then pointed to Washington D.C. and said, “See. It isn’t working.”

The Rs pursued more antidemocratic approaches. They set up the American Legislative Action Committee (ALEC) and moved at the grassroots and state-level. Taking people of color off voting roles was a major weapon nationally.

There are names that go along with all this. John Piscopo, State assemblyman from Thomaston, Ct, is a former president of ALEC. Assemblywoman Rosa Rebimbas of Naugatuck, Ct, scrupulously followed the ALEC agenda to the tune of a 55% voting record on the environment.

The political agenda had ideological components. Talk radio led the way. A visiting nurse from Watertown, Ct, told me that, “Obama lives in a black house.” Anyone supporting the environment was called an “elite.” And on and on the racism and anti-environmentalism went.

T.V. supplied Donald Trump with ample exposure, no matter how negative. A CNN executive admitted that Trump was good for “ratings.” Ex CIA, ex FBI, and retired generals supplied an analysis that justified every USA invasion and bombing run. Talk radio supplied vile Islamophobia and anti-Mexican rhetoric.

While Hilary won Ct, Trump’s vote total here was 2% higher than Romney’s in 2012. That kind of erosion probably cost State Senator Dante Bartolomeo her election to reactionary Leonard Suzio (R) by 300 votes. Bartolomeo had a 100% voting record on the environment and was very good on union issues.

Now, some rays of sunshine. Myrna Watanabe (D) challenged reactionary John Piscopo (R) for his State Assembly seat. She lost but in the process raised a very progressive agenda, including on the environment.

Maine won ranked choice voting. For example, you could vote for the Green Party. If no candidate wins a majority of votes, in a second round of voting your second candidate choice comes into play with the two top vote-getters. LePage (R), the Tea Party Governor, would never have been elected under this system. (See http://www.fairvotemaine.org)

Lastly, all us gray hairs have to pass on to the Millennials what happened in those rock & roll years of the early 1970s. Richard Nixon (R) won reelection by a landside in 1972. I well remember the impeachment march through downtown Waterbury, Ct, in 1973. Nixon was driven out of office in August of 1974.

Pass it on.

 

This is my shortest blog (450 words) to date and maybe the most important. Having trouble discerning fact from fiction regarding the wars in the Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy? Read on.

Civilians/Killers and the Middle East

News Flash – A Doctors Without Borders facility bombed by Saudi Jets in Yemen. Nineteen people killed. It was the fourth such facility bombed. The medical group had given the Saudis the coordinates of the medical facilities to avoid such events. The doctors are pulling out of Yemen. A school was also hit.

The NY Times wrote that they were “botched airstrikes.” Really? You don’t even have to read between the lines to get at the truth. Listen to Saudi military spokesman, General Ahmad Asiri. “We would have hoped (that Doctors without borders) would take measures to stop the recruitment of children to fight in wars instead of crying over them in the media.” Really? That is the job of a medical team?

This is the same Saudi Military that the Obama Administration wants to reward with a $1.5 Billion sale of military weapons. Think of all this while some in the USA ask, “Why are they so angry?” How many family and friends of the dead Yemeni want to take up guns against the USA now?

Let’s go back to the Saudi General’s statement above. Is that much different than those by General Curtis LeMay of the U.S. military of the mid-twentieth century? He once said, “There are no innocent civilians.” Could there be a better recipe for state terrorism?

Let’s go to Syria. Have you heard of the so-called NGO White Helmets of Syria? As reported by Vanessa Beeley of 21st Century Wire,

“The White Helmets have been demonstrated to be a primarily US and NATO funded organization embedded in Al Nusra and ISIS held areas exclusively.

This is an alleged “non-governmental” organization, the definition of an NGO, that thus far has received funding from at least three major NATO governments, including $23 million from the US Government and $29 million (£19.7 million) from the UK Government, $4.5 million (€4 million) from the Dutch Government.”

So the White Helmets are hardly a non-governmental organization. And look who they are supporting – the terrorists! It gets worse by the minute. A leader of this so-called humanitarian outfit, Raed Saleh was deported from Dulles airport on April 18th, 2016. Why? He appeared on a terrorist watch list. What?!

Are you tired of the ex-CIA, ex-FBI, and retired generals marched across your screen on CNN and other major networks? Want some relief from all that. Here is a UN August 9th press conference by peace activists and independent journalists who visited Syria a few weeks ago. They were in Damascus and two villages. They interviewed President Assad. Click and make your own assessment of what is really going down.

<http://www.unmultimedia.org/avlibrary/asset/1688/1688742/#.V6pBZ73G0ek.ema