Archives for category: Media

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.

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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?