Archives for category: Media

Flags, History, and Political Power

The past has been a mint of blood and sorrow,

that must not be true of the morrow.

– Langston Hughes

 

What can we do? This is a refrain heard quite often these days. A very important action, among many, is to register voters. It’s about political power. Here’s an example about political power followed by some very good reasons why we need it.

In 2017, a woman in Maine took exception to confederate flags being flown from a truck. She took the flags. Some young men, and a father, demanded she return them. Fine said the woman, let’s talk first. So, on her terms, they did. The flags were eventually handed back to the young men never to be flown again.

What happened after this? We’ll connect the dots but first some 20th/21st century history on steroids.

In 1935, Italy invaded Ethiopia; mustard gassed and bombed the people. On April 26th, 1937 Guernica, Spain was terrorized from the air by German Nazi planes. The Japanese fascists invaded Nanking China in December 1937. It resulted in 300,000 Chinese dead and 20,000 Chinese women raped and mutilated with many killed. The bombing of England by Nazis commenced on September 7th, 1940. Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. State terror on a roll.

Then it really got going. World War II erupted which resulted in 60 million dead. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki happened in 1945 with a total of 150,000 dead in two genocidal days of killing.

Are we seeing a similar build-up of military aggression in the latter part of the 20th century and new millennium?

In the1980s, the Reagan/Bush team was desperate to break what they called the “Vietnam Syndrome”. The reference is to the peace strivings of the people of the USA and of the world. They started small with the invasion of the tiny Island of Grenada.

Next was Irangate, which resulted in gun running to thugs called contras in Nicaragua. Then President Bush senior kicked off warring in a bigger way by invading the Middle East – Iraq War#1. The pushing of Palestinians out of their homeland by an Israel, armed to the teeth by the USA, continued throughout.

After 9/11, ruling circles here had the situation to really rev up the war machine and get control of dirty fossil fuels. Afghanistan was next, followed by Iraq War#2 orchestrated by President Bush#2.

Libya under the Obama administration fit right in with the above narrative. Claim a vicious dictator – Gaddafi (no Mr. Nice Guy for sure) – and it was bombs away with NATO now as cover. It destabilized a multi-state region of North Africa.

Let’s do a bit more detail here. Ever hear of the Tuareg rebels of Mali and Al Qaeda in the Southern Maghreb? They ran into the “failed” state of Libya grabbing guns and ammunition. Boko Haram of Nigeria also benefited by this arms cornucopia. They then terrorized North African communities with extreme religious doctrine and fascistic tactics. While the French were there, they weren’t quite up to the job so here comes the USA military to the rescue. (See The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer, 2016, SimonandSchuster.com 278p).

One last related note. Ever wonder why North Korea is so desperate to get Nukes? When Libya had nukes, no invasion. When Gaddafi renounced nukes, the NATO (read USA) bombing runs began.

We’re seeing a playing out of our worst fears from the late 1960s/early 1970s – the U.S. military machine policing the world for empire, especially tracking dirty fossil fuels. Where’s it all going? ExxonMobil is going to begin fracking in the pampas of Argentina. It just so happens the U.S. military has decided to build a military base there. The same scenario is happening in Tierra del Fuego. So the USA has 800 plus military bases and, as we are learning, the count keeps going up (“Oil Rich Neuquen, Argentina – site of new U.S. military base” by W.T. Whitney Jr., People’s World, July 16, 2018).

The environment, especially climate change, along with an expanding empire, is connected to dirty fossil fuels in another way. The current administration in Washington, D.C. took the USA out of the Paris Climate Agreement and the Iran Nuclear Deal. John Bolton is one of the extreme Right elements President Reagan began experimenting with in his administration during the 1980s. Bolton, now National Security Advisor, wants Iran. They want more blood for dirty fossil fuels. They would also give the planet more climate change, the deaths that go with it, and continuous warfare.

It’s no secret who the people are that support this imperialist / climate changing direction. The Koch brothers are one example. They are beneficiaries of dirty fossil fuel profits.

What are they supporting with their vast dirty fossil fuel wealth? Citizen’s United legislation, which made money a form of speech, was one outcome. In opposition, Supreme Court Justice Ginsberg said it best. “They have weaponized speech.” So money and wealth have free rein to influence what we see on TV, including Public TV, and control our political theater e.g. candidates.

Back to the flag story. The young man who flew those flags ended up working on the home of the very woman who absconded with them. As he left the work site, he gave the flag back to her. Did learning take place? What do you think?

We need political power. Like the woman who took the confederate flags, we need to obtain the power to have our say and gain more control of our government. The Koch brothers et al have the money. We have the people. But we waste that advantage if we don’t get out there and give progressive direction to the heightened political discussions during campaign season.

 

First steps –register voters. Patiently explaining war dangers and the role of racism to white voters, particularly millennials, are an important role of progressives (“Trump won because of racial resentment” by German Lopez, December 2017, Vox.com).

No time off. No relaxing. Negotiate just like the woman who took the flags – from a position of political power. Demand that Congress defunds fossil fuels. Fund green energy. Cut the military budget. Fund green jobs and our communities. Fund people and let their creative juices flow.

What’s the new narrative? Easy. We are the people we have been waiting for to help gain political power.

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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?