Archives for posts with tag: Militarism Trump Peace War Resistance

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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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.

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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?

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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.