2009—Dr. George Tiller, ushering in a Wichita, Kansas church, is shot dead to uphold the sanctity of life.
2007—New Hampshire becomes the first state to honor same-sex unions without court intervention.
2005—Ex-FBI official Mark Felt admits he is “Deep Throat.”
1971—For the first time in the U.S., Memorial Day is celebrated on a day other than May 30th.
1927—The last Model T rolls off the Ford assembly line.
1921—A black WW I veteran in Tulsa refuses a demand to surrender his pistol. During a struggle it fires; a massive “race war” ensues.
1921—The mistrial of Sacco and Vanzetti begins under Judge Webster “Did you see what I did with those anarchistic bastards the other day?” Thayer.
1916—The Battle of Jutland begins: 151 British ships, including 28 battleships, against 99 Germans (16 battleships). The results are inconclusive, except for the 8,645 dead sailors.
1889—A shoddy dam belonging to Andrew Carnegie, Andrew Mellon, and friends at the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club collapses upstream of Johnstown, Pa. The resulting flood kills 2,200, but the owners are never successfully prosecuted.
1779—General George Washington orders New Hampshire’s Gen. John Sullivan to bring “destruction…devastation [and] total ruinment” to the Haudenosaunee [Iroquois]. He does.
2005—“See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda,” mansplains G.W.[MD] Bush.
2000—Linda Tripp beats wiretap charges. Ignorance of the law apparently excuses Right Wingers.
1989—Stephen McCoy, being killed by Texas state employees, has a violent reaction to the drugs. His thrashing cause a male witness to faint and fall over, knocking over another witness.
1978—To spring skyjacker Garrett B. Trapnell, pistol-packing Barbara Ann Oswald orders pilot Allen Barklage to land his charter helicopter in the yard of the federal pen at Marion, Ill. Barklage nixes the plot by grabbing Oswald’s gun and shooting her dead.
1971—After a ski pole punctures his heart in a fall from a ski lift, actor Clint Walker is declared dead. A dissenting M.D. postpones his death to 2018.
1964—Barry Goldwater says let’s use nukes in South Vietnam.
1961—Freedom Riders, though violating no laws, are arrested on arrival in Jackson, Miss. It’s part of a secret deal between racist Sen. James Eastland and A.G. Bobby Kennedy.
1959—The first home bomb shelter is shown in Pleasant Hills, Pa.
1861—Shot while removing a Rebel flag from a hotel roof in Alexandria, Va., Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, friend of Abe Lincoln, becomes the first Union officer to die in the Civil War.
OK, I have seen, in my life, Eisenhower and Kennedy and Johnson and Nixon botch Vietnam.
I have seen Reagan botch the Euromissile crisis alongside the AIDS outbreak.
I watched George Bush the Younger and Dick Cheney utterly botch Iraq.
But in my lifetime I have never witnessed any U.S. president botch anything so disastrous as Trump has botched the response to Covid-19. I didn’t know so many mistakes were even possible and he just won’t stop.
His coronavirus denial was lethal and health care experts knew that, and were trying to advise him, but Trump takes no advice. That, he believes, is the mark of a leader. No, it is the mark of a loser. Sadly, it is the American people—suffering from the worst outbreak of this virus of any country on Earth—who are the actual losers. They are losing their lives, losing jobs in record numbers not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and losing any chance at a meaningful comeback, thanks to Trump.
The U.S. was, for decades, the power to whom everyone in trouble would turn. Now they know better. There is no help to be had from the U.S.. They can’t even get help to themselves.
This is all on Trump.
Naturally, being the gaslighting malignant narcissist that he is, he attempts to shift blame onto everyone and everything else. Ah, sorry, fat boy, it’s on you.
[Trump whining]: I was distracted by the dirty Democrats impeaching me.
Fact: Everyone on planet Earth knew the McConnell-run Senate would never vote to remove Trump. He literally could shoot someone on 5th avenue in broad daylight, as he bragged about, without fear of consequence. Since he and his people refused any and all cooperation with every aspect of the process, and since the outcome was never in doubt, we must call BS on this excuse.
And the list of claims versus reality just grows by the day.
· Trump claimed, again and again, utterly falsely, that Covid-19 testing was widely available to anyone who wanted it. BS. This is an ongoing gaslighting.
· Trump lied about the idea of a cure or preventive, as though his wish list were reality. Ah, sorry, no, shoving a UV light up your tush or injecting yourself with Lysol—not helpful to anyone and harmful, possibly lethal, to everyone who tries.
· Opening the economy? Trump wants. Trump must be satisfied. Give Trump what Trump wants. Yeah, there is no federal leadership except the uber stupid sort that kills more Americans. He is buck naked about killing more of us to help his stock market. We. Say. Hell. No.
The quality of leadership is abysmal in the U.S.. Either we switch out the Republicans who will not stop supporting this lethal loser, or we witness the demise of many Americans and of our democracy.
Some days it feels like we are at the Woody Allen crossroads:
“More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”
Yeah, this used to be humor. Now the humor is as absent as Trump’s sense of empathy, which he seems to be born without.
Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director and on occasion an expert witness for the defense in court.
In March, President Trump signed a “relief” bill that relieved the U.S.A.’s 43,000 wealthiest taxpayers of (an average) $1.7 million each, costing the rest of us $90 billion. This after wasting two months before finally showing some seriousness concerning the pandemic.
Now we are in the midst of a chaotic situation where underprepared states are “opening up,” with no clear direction from the White House.
We, a married couple, are responding by donating our stimulus money to Democrats who will defeat Donald Trump and enough of his Republican enablers to re-take the Senate as well as the Executive Branch.
That is the least we can do.
Neal W. Ferris and Sylvia J. Foster
Neal & Sylvia:
This may be one of those cases where the least someone can do may also be the best someone can do.
Sound the alarm! The Coronavirus death rates are wrong. The Media is promoting the greatest hoax ever told about cold and flu season. The Deep State is… The Elite want to…
Anyone with an internet connection can fill in the blanks of this conspiracy yarn Mad Lib.
Gross and grotesque generalizations are to blame for this fabulist thinking. There are three subsets of generalization at work here.
The first is Generalization of Grandeur. Or, euphemistically, Seeing the Big Picture.
One way of processing the complex and confusing universe is by forfeiting reason and enquiry in exchange for a digestible lullaby. The weariest of this surrender is the all-encompassing, “It’s God’s will.” One wonders if the use of “the Devil is in the details” instead of “God is in the details” is intended to send folks hightailing it for the hills of willful ignorance.
A less simplistic version of this intellectual dunce-shrug is the well-worn Conspiracy Theory of Everything. Although many defy comprehension, these readymade tales are more formulaic than the tackiest Hollywood schlock. These open-source explanation myths are so customizable that any action or inaction, statement or silence, incident or stillness can be commandeered as a story-starter.
If aspiring Matrix Morpheus had the misfortune of eating a sour grape, he would proclaim that only the blind could fail to see the evil agent of acidity lurking within every grape, spawned by ubiquitous vineyards of tentacle vines and invisible subterranean networks of roots, disseminated by a clandestine cabal of grape purveyors, all overseen by shadowy, billionaire overlords whose master plan is to infect every hard-working, real American mouth with this unpatriotic tartness. The Road to Sourdom. And don’t forget the humanoid lizards.
Ironically, this color-by-numbers piffle is proudly yelped from the rooftops of Reddit as if derivative fan fiction was the equivalent of String Theory.
The second is Macro Generalization.
The Government. The Media. The Market. The Elite. The People.
Such terms are so ambiguous they are all but meaningless. The disparate and diverse aspects of these conceptual groupings should preclude any rational person from referring to them as single entities. The laziness required to bandy these mouth noises would redden Jeffry “The Dude” Lebowski’s cheeks with embarrassment.
Such statements beg a few tiny questions. Who constitutes this global brainwash apparatus The Media? CBS and Fox? Pacific Radio and AM Talk Radio? The Huffington Post and Breitbart? The Washington Post and The Washington Times? Ian Masters and Alex Jones? Millennial Niece’s TikTok and Uncle Hermit’s Zuckerbook page? Well-oiled synergy if there ever was.
When one asks Uncle Hermit where he read such hokum, and he declares, “The Internet!” he has eliminated the Triple Deuce Bar’s bathroom wall, but not much else.
This leads to the third type, and most malignant: Thought Generalization. Or, what Orwell may have called GenThink.
All roads of Macro Generalization—omitting modifiers, synonyms, and needless words—eventually arrive at the empire of binary language: on/off, good/bad, us/them.
In Orwell’s 1984, the Newspeak Dictionary even eliminates antonyms. The word “bad” is rendered unnecessary when the prefix “un” is added to the monosyllabic “good.” This streamlines the dichotomy for maximum sterility: good/ungood. Because efficiency!
The character Syme, a philologist who works on the Newspeak Dictionary says, “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.”
In this age of Peak Generalization, as we bustle about whatever public or private square we find ourselves—classroom, social media, water cooler, or barstool—we should reduce the level of insidious drivel. (And slow the spin of poor George Orwell in his grave.) This can be done by asking one simple favor of our debate partners and ourselves. It’s the same favor our elementary school teachers asked us when they uncapped their red pens and wrote on the essays where we made our first attempts to convey our pre-adolescent thoughts, “Please be more specific.”
Robert Roman (@robroman23) is a writer and television producer.
As I watch TV and walk around the block, I see signs all over that say, “We’re all in this together.” Then, I read the story in the Portsmouth Herald (April 23rd) about a stand-off with a guy who had a loaded shotgun. The guy thought three construction workers “of Hispanic descent” were conducting drug deals according to the police affidavit. Evidently, the lawyer for the guy with the shotgun told the Herald (p. A5), “I am completely convinced this man is not dangerous.” On that same day, I scanned the police log. I see that someone called and hung up calling about some “black people causing trouble.”
Danger is in the eye of the beholder. We see danger where there may not be danger at all. A man with a loaded shotgun thinking Hispanic construction workers are doing a drug deal is definitely dangerous to the construction workers. Black people are in danger if someone calls to say that “some black people are causing trouble.” No doubt the callers to the Herald were scared as well.
If, in fact, “We’re all in this together,” then we’re going to have to deal with our prejudices. A black man in Georgia lost his life because a white father and his son mistook the black man for a robber. Our prejudices may lead us to wrong conclusions.
You make an excellent point—one that will only become more important as this thing drags on.
Our society has coined expressions like “philanthropist” to encourage and hail people’s charitable spirit.
Look on the flip side of that shiny coin of generosity, however, and you’ll find that its base substance is societal selfishness. After all, the need for charity only exists because we’re tolerating intentional injustices and widespread inequality created by power elites.
A society as supremely wealthy as ours ought not be relegating needy families and essential components of the common good to the whims of a few rich philanthropists. Yes, corporate and individual donations can help at the margins, but they don’t fix anything. Thus, food banks, health clinics, etc. must constantly scrounge for more charity, while big donors have their “charitable spirit” subsidized with tax breaks that siphon money from our public treasury.
Especially offensive to me is the common grandiose assertion by fat cat donors that charity is their way of “giving back” to society. Hello—if they can give so much it’s probably because they’ve been taking too much! As business columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin points out, “All too often, charitable gifts are used…to make up for the failure of companies to pay people a living wage and treat their workers with dignity.”
It’s not just the unemployed who rely on food banks, but janitors, nannies, Uber drivers, checkout clerks, and others who work full time, but are so poorly paid they can’t make ends meet. That’s not a sad charity case, but a matter of criminal exploitation by wealthy elites. The charitable thing to do is to outlaw it and require a living wage for all.
As Sorkin puts it, “The aim should be to create a society where we don’t need places like food banks…. We should be trying to put the food banks out of business.”
Copyright 2017 by Jim Hightower & Associates. Contact Laura Ehrlich for more information.
“While we no longer want to receive the paper version, we believe it is still worthwhile to keep reading the digital version no matter how distasteful it is.”
– E.F.R., Beaverton, Ore.
“If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out that’s not progress. Progress is healing the wound that the blow made. And they haven’t even pulled the knife out much less heal the wound. They won’t even admit the knife is there.”
– Malcolm X; b. May 19, 1925
“Healthy does not mean ‘healthful.’ Healthy is a condition, healthful is a property. Vegetables aren’t healthy, they’re dead. No food is healthy. Unless you have an eggplant that’s doing push-ups. Push-ups are healthful.”
– George Carlin
“If you start to think about your physical or moral condition, you usually find that you are sick.”
Whatever you think of my wish that the Green Party not complicate this particular Presidential election—and I know you and many other Millennials don’t agree with me, fed up as you justifiably are with both major political parties—please understand that I do care about your future and the lives of the rest of your generation and the generations to follow. And that includes the daughters.
I do not for a moment wish to underrate or dismiss or minimize the hurt and damage and pain and disrespect the sexual abuse of women engenders. My mother was a woman. My wife is a woman. You are a woman. It pains me deeply to think that you have been subjected to this kind of abuse. Last year I broke off a friendship of over thirty years in large measure because I could no longer bear the man’s disrespect for women, his serial philandering, and his disparagement of the Me Too Movement.
But to equate the lifetime history of abuse of women by Donald Trump with something Joe Biden may have done over thirty years ago—when weighed against the damage Donald Trump has already caused this nation and the world, and will continue to cause if he is reelected—seems to me out of proportion.
I don’t really much care what happens with the rest of my own life. I have been able to brush off this cancer I’ve been battling, for instance, because I’m not really all that eager to go on living anyway. Most of what I have hoped for and worked for over the course of my life has come to nothing. The world and my country are worse off now than they were when I was your age. It certainly isn’t my future I give a rat’s ass about because there isn’t much left of it.
It is your future that really does concern me. If you think the two parties are tweedle dee and tweedle dum, consider who the Democrats have appointed to the Supreme Court during your lifetime:
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
And the Republicans?
Ginsburg is going to be very lucky to survive as long as January 2021. She has no chance of surviving another four years of a Republican administration. And if Trump gets the next appointment, that will make the court an insurmountable 6-3. You can kiss Roe v. Wade goodbye, along with a lot of other fundamental freedoms and liberties.
Moreover, Trump and his minions in the Senate have been appointing scores and scores of equally odious judges to lifetime appointments at the district and appellate levels, packing the entire federal judiciary with rightwing ideologues who are even now in the process of reversing every progressive gain made since the Warren Court when I was a youngster.
Under Donald Trump, the deterioration of the very fabric of our nation is occurring at hyper-speed. Trump has dismantled and eviscerated the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Election Commission, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Education, the Justice Department, and the Department of State. And that’s not the half of it. He has repeatedly thumbed his nose at the Constitution, and repeatedly gotten away with it. The so-called U.S.A. PATRIOT Act was bad enough, but Trump has reversed, nullified, or thrown out literally all of the civil and legal protections provided for ordinary citizens so painstakingly won over the past ninety years.
Moreover, he genuinely seems to think that global warming is fake news, and is not only doing nothing to slow it down, but actively supporting and activating policies that are only increasing the impossibility of ever reversing the situation. You think I’m not thinking about your future? I’m not going to be around when this particular hammer comes down. It isn’t my future I’m worried about.
I am not a Joe Biden fan. I supported Bernie Sanders with my writing and my money right up until he withdrew from the race. I am underwhelmed that Joe Biden is who I’m going to have to vote for. But Trump is in a league of his own. Like no other President in my lifetime, he has actively promoted the services of, and openly encouraged the support of, misogynists, racists, and bigots. Over the past three and a half years, I have come to believe that another four years of Donald Trump will render your future something very close to untenable, and perhaps even uninhabitable. I am not convinced that the damage he has already done can be reversed. I am certain another four years of this disaster will be fatal to just about everything you and I care about.
Vote your conscience. I would and will never tell you not to. But I won’t apologize for writing to the Green Party and asking them to step aside this time around. I am not trying to silence them or dismiss their concerns. But I am terrified that Donald Trump will be reelected. I believe this election really is, for the first time in my life, well and truly not a time for a protest vote. I am seeing profoundly disturbing changes in this country unlike anything in all my 71 years. And I will say this one more time: it’s not my future I’m terrified for. My future is already history. You are who matters.
I love you,
W.D. Ehrhart has voted in every election—general, primary, and special—since he first became eligible to vote in 1972 (he was not allowed to vote during his time in the U.S. Marine Corps because the voting age was then 21: old enough to kill, not old enough to vote—yet people think it was the antiwar crowd who disrespected returning veterans).
Joe Biden has provided us with a good model for the “she said/he said” situations so common today. He respected his accuser’s right to speak and be heard. He did not attack her personally, question her motives or attempt to destroy her reputation. He has asked the National Archives to release any relevant Senate records and has called for an investigation.
We may never know the full truth of what happened 27 years ago, but whatever it is, it will not change the reality of Donald Trump’s catastrophic handling of the Covoid-19 pandemic and his inability to coordinate, collaborate, unite and lead. The country needs Joe Biden to bring this health crisis under control and do the hard work of rescuing our economy as he did when he oversaw the 2009 Recovery Act. Magical thinking and miracles won’t do the job.
The President and his cult of followers have managed to let a pandemic kill off the equivalent of the population of Nashua. In the process they’ve also managed to stop a humongous economy in its tracks. These things may be bad, but it must be admitted—they are also colossal achievements.
An ordinary gang of run-of-the-mill comic book villains would be sitting back at this point with smug smiles on their faces, smoking big cigars. Not this bunch, though. There is [Censored by the Legal Department] left to be done, and there are [Censored by the Legal Department] yet to be committed.
[We regret the necessity of leaving these lacunæ strewn across our columns, but we have neither the financial resources required to defend ourselves against prosecution, nor the political connections which would render such a defense superfluous.—The Ed.]
One of the foremost [Censored by the Legal Department] of the bunch, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has been much in the news of late. As is customary with members of this Administration, there are multiple and divergent theories regarding exactly—or even approximately—what he has been doing.
Some puzzles are best solved by looking for what’s missing. In this case, that’s Steve Linick, Inspector General of the State Department. He was fired a week ago today by President Trump, at the behest, according to that notoriously unreliable narrator, of Secretary Pompeo.
As an Obama appointee, Linick has had one strike against him since noon on January 20, 2017. His job, by definition, was to assure that Secretary Pompeo’s operation went by the book. Maybe that made two.
Last November, Linick reported that Department officials had “ended the detail of a career employee in the Office of Policy Planning after significant discussion concerning the employee’s perceived political views, association with former administrations, and perceived national origin, which are non-merit factors that may not be considered in assigning career personnel….” Six months later, though, he still had his job.
Last July, after a whistle-blower filed a complaint, CNN reported that Democrats in Congress had begun investigating “Pompeo and his family’s use of taxpayer-funded Diplomatic Security [which had prompted] agents to lament they are at times viewed as ‘UberEats with guns.’”
While “those personal-seeming tasks might be eye-catching,” according to CNN, “Congressional investigators say the State Department whistleblower told them the bigger issue causing concern among some agents is the question of why Pompeo’s wife, Susan, has her own security detail, assigned to her in 2018, even while she is at home in the United States.” All very interesting, to be sure, but that story made no mention of IG Linick.
The New York Times first linked Linick and the “UberEats with guns” scandal on the Saturday after his firing was announced. The paper said he “had begun an inquiry into Mr. Pompeo’s possible misuse of a political appointee to perform personal tasks for him and his wife,” but also mentioned that the investigation “might be unrelated to the previous allegations.”
Monday, the New York Times hit pay dirt. The Paper of Record reported that Linick had been “in the final stages of an investigation into whether the administration had unlawfully declared an ‘emergency’ last year to allow the resumption of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for their air war in Yemen.”
Walter Shaub, ex-Director of the Office of Government Ethics, did everyone a favor by draining off the Times’ customarily-thick layer of euphemism, and rephrased the matter in plain English: “firing an investigator in retaliation for probing the legality of shady transfers of weapons to support gruesome atrocities is about as low as you could ever imagine a President going…but here we are at this point and still falling fast.”
Shady arms deals certainly seemed like more substantial grounds for launching a cover-up. On Tuesday, though, NBC News amped up the petty grifting angle, reporting that Pompeo and his wife have hosted at least two dozen “elaborate, unpublicized affairs…in the historic Diplomatic Reception Rooms on the government’s dime.” And what a lavish dime that is. According to their own official website, they are “are among the most beautiful rooms in the world,” providing “a stunning backdrop of American art and architecture…” where the Secretary of State, Vice President, and Members of Cabinet continue to conduct the essential business of diplomacy….”
In this opulent setting, Pompeo and his wife also schmooze with “invitees…associated with media…[who] skew heavily toward conservative TV personalities, with 39 percent of them from Fox News.”
It would be rude to send these folks on their way without some little trinket to keep as a memento, so as “guests depart, usually around 9 p.m., they’re given a journal and a pen as gifts— both custom-embossed with the Madison Dinner logos. The State Department special-ordered hundreds of each in 2018, the pens for $23.75 apiece and the journals for $8, officials said.”
Want so see what those gewgaws look like? Ask our Governor. Maybe he’ll show you.
“Many of those invited are, indeed, global thought leaders whose perspectives could be valuable to America’s top diplomat: foreign ministers from allied countries, senators and prominent historians. But others seem to have little connection to the world of diplomacy, such as country singer Reba McEntire, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.”
Oh, the shame….
The former Prime Minister of Sweden, Carl Bildt, had a column in Tuesday’s Washington Post under the headline, “The post-American world is now on full display.” Describing the recent annual meeting of the World Health Organization, Bildt noted that it “took four hours or so of speeches by ministers from around the world before the United States made its presence felt. Until then, the United States hadn’t even been mentioned.”
The essence of the piece was this: “It is not that the United States has ceased to exist—far from it. But it has left behind any ambition of global leadership and any function as a global inspiration.”
For some this is surely good news—those, for example, whose interactions with the U.S. have come in the form of explosives. For others it is not—those to whom we may have introduced clean water or health care.
Domestically, Bildt’s argument will be refuted most vehemently by those at whose feet it can most surely be laid.
Its truth, to which they are surely blind, would be familiar to Herodotus or Edward Gibbon.
Its irony? Surely you jest.
White House Floats New Plan To Undermine Social Security
“On the heels of President Trump’s repeated calls to eliminate Social Security’s funding stream through payroll tax cuts, influential White House advisors are floating a fresh ploy to undermine Americans’ earned benefits. They reportedly propose to offer workers’ $5,000 cash Coronavirus relief payments in exchange for future Social Security retirement benefits. This would be another colossally bad idea from the Trump administration, which seems determined to dismantle Social Security under the guise of helping working people. The truth is: today’s workers will need every penny of their future benefits and should not be duped into postponing their right to claim Social Security when needed for retirement, disability or survivors income.
“Inducing workers to trade their future retirement benefits for temporary cash payments now is akin to similar schemes in recent years from the White House and Congressional Republicans. In 2019, Ivanka Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and others hatched a plan for parents to sacrifice their future Social Security benefits in exchange for paid family leave. These ideas represent a gross misuse of Social Security for purposes unrelated to its core purpose: providing baseline retirement security for American workers.
“President Trump has repeatedly promised “not to touch” Social Security, and one must assume that he is either too disengaged or too disingenuous to reject dangerous policies from his own advisors. The trading-cash-for-retirement-benefits scheme is only the latest in a series of proposed assaults on Social Security, including calls from the administration and congressional Republicans to cut payroll taxes, to raise the retirement age, to adopt stingier cost-of-living adjustments, and slash Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) by billions of dollars—along with their insistence that ‘entitlements’ be ‘reformed’ to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations. Seniors will not be fooled by the administration’s duplicity. President Trump postures as a leader who will protect Social Security while his appointed foot soldiers continue to hurl bombs at workers’ earned benefits.”
— Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.
Krupke Busts Again!
The indefatigable Officer Krupke, a stalwart of the Po’Town Division of the Flag Police, has been making his rounds in the South Street Cemetery again. He submitted Exhibit A, seen below on left, a fortnight or two ago.
We apologize for the delay in putting this evidence before the public—the fault is ours, not Officer Krupke’s.
Frankly, we’re disappointed in ourselves, letting down the side whose motto is, “Eternal vigilance is the price of upholding the fetishization of material objects which signify the values of a purported republic in the absence of any perceptible functionality.”
On a more upbeat note, last fortnight, in collaboration with the Flag Police, we published a photo of the pole shown below, carrying the sorry, ragged remnants of a once-proud flag.
As Exhibit B, above on right, clearly shows, that violation of the Flag Code has now been corrected.
Suicidal N.H. Trumpers For Choice?
Andrew Manuse is a former State Rep. from Derry who has set himself up as Chairman of ReOpenNH.com. It has been promoting those State House protests which have featured mobs of gun-totin,’ God-fearin,’ death-defyin,’ protestors demandin’ their right to, among other things, pack themselves into churches and let God decide whether they—and, by extension and the immutable laws of contagion, the rest of us—should live or die.
We received a press release from this outfit, dated May 14th, in which we were surprised to find a hint that perhaps some on the political right might finally be ready to declare a truce on the issue of abortion.
“On the eve of the governor’s expected ruling to extend his State of Emergency for another 21 days,” it began, “178 Democrats sent a tyrannical letter demanding the governor issue orders requiring all Granite Staters to wear masks in public.” So, so far, all the truculence we’ve come to expect. But wait! What’s this?
A quote attributed to Chairman Manuse then said, “These House Members, clearly enemies of liberty, have hypocritically argued for years, ‘My body, my choice,’ and now they have suddenly become enamored with the same top-down, single-solution approach that Gov. Chris Sununu has been imposing on the state.”
Clearly Manuse et al. are basing their beef with Hereditary Governor Sununu the Lesser on their righteous conviction that he has no right to tell them what to do with their bodies.
There is a difference between these two cases, though. If a woman choses to terminate a pregnancy, there is no discernable effect on Manuse, but if Manuse and his gun-totin’ pals go around in public flaunting their right to exhale the coronavirus, there are potentially-lethal consequences for all of us.
Memorial Day, 2020
We called City Hall thinking that perhaps we’d get the official line on this year’s observation of Memorial Day, but our heart was just not in it. No one answered anyway. We’re going to go out on a limb here—big journalistic no-no—and declare that, based solely on our own judgment and alleged authority, there will be no throngs of people lining Congress Street on Monday, applauding the marchers in a Memorial Day parade.
Those whom we would remember would surely understand. Some risk is inevitable in life, and some is unavoidable. Some is simply unacceptable.
Next year, if we’re fortunate, we can have a parade in the old style. The ranks will be thinner, though.
Yearning for Newsprint
Neat, tight bundles of fresh newsprint; a stack of them on a rolling hand truck; volunteers walking their routes; the origami gang gathering and folding…oh, we do miss it.
However, as with the Memorial Day parade, we move on. Fortunately we have these spiffy new digital digs, to which we’re just beginning to become accustomed. Roam around—make yourself at home.
1992—The 27th Amendment, prohibiting any Congress from raising its own pay, is ratified 202 years after its submission.
1982—The Rev. Sun Myung Moon is convicted of tax fraud.
1980—Mt. St. Helens cuts loose for the first time in 123 years.
1974—India successfully tests a nuclear weapon in an operation named Smiling Buddha.
1969—At Hamburger Hill, casualties mount as the fight goes on. The commander orders helicopters out of the area after more friendly fire deaths.
1958—CIA pilot Al Pope is shot down while strafing an Indonesian port. The U.S. Ambassador claims he’s a mere “soldier of fortune.” Documents found on Pope prove it’s a lie.
1935—The propaganda plane Maxim Gorky, equipped with a printing plant and loudspeakers audible from the ground, crashes after it’s hit by an escorting fighter plane; 45 die.
1927—Andrew Kehoe, angry at having to pay taxes to support the Bath, Mich. school system, blows up the school killing 43 people including 39 grade-schoolers. He then kills his wife, loads his truck with dynamite and nails, and blows up the school superintendent and himself.
1918—Congress creates the draft. Emma Goldman protests, for which she’s soon arrested.
1896—The Supreme Court OKs racial segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson.
2017—Learning his election will be investigated for Russia’s involvement, President Trump says, “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m [bleeped].”
1987—Its weapons officer away from his duty station, its Phalanx gun operator absent “on personal business,” and its radar countermeasure system unarmed, the frigate U.S.S. Stark is hit by two Exocets from an Iraqi plane; 37 sailors die on the Gipper’s watch.
1976—R. Reagan, in Time: “Fascism was really the basis of the New Deal.”
1974—Six members of the Symbionese Liberation Army hole-up in a small house in L.A. surrounded by 400 cops. Armed with full-auto M-1 carbines, they fire 4,000 rounds but hit no one. Shot or burned, they all die.
1973—To help Continental Oil develop new drilling techniques, the AEC explodes three nukes underground in Colorado.
1968—Nine people break into Catonsville, Md.’s draft board and burn 600 files with homemade napalm.
1954—Border Patrol agents begin deporting 1 million people from five states in “Operation Wetback.”
1954—President Eisenhower creates the notion of “Executive Privilege.”
1954—The Supreme Court throws out “separate but equal” education.
1934—At Madison Square Garden, tens of thousands of Friends of the New Germany rally under a swastika in support of Adolf Hitler.
2017—Two dozen goons attack peaceful protestors outside the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C. as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan looks on approvingly. Four are arrested, but all charges are dropped.
2001—Ex-FBI Special Agent, devout Catholic, patron of strippers, and amateur exhibitionist Robert Hanssen is indicted for selling U.S. secrets to the U.S.S.R., then the Russians.
1974—Bill Harris, terrorist, is caught shoplifting socks from Mel’s Sporting Goods in L.A.; but he and wife Emily escape as heiress Patty Hearst blasts the storefront with a machine gun.
1969—AP discovers that some grunts on Hamburger Hill are discontented.
1948—CBS correspondent George Polk turns up murdered in Salonika Harbor. The U.S.-supported Greek government frames a Commie, and U.S. journalists cover up the frame.
1918—Congress passes the Sedition Act. It’s now a crime to “ . . .willfully utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States, or the Constitution of the United States . . . .”
1916—In the Sykes-Picot Agreement, Britain and France, with Russia’s OK, screw the Arabs.
1879—Two men in Raleigh, N.C. are hanged twice: the ropes were too long the first time. In Utah, a firing squad misses the condemned man’s heart; it takes him 27 minutes to die.
2002—The White House admits it knew before 9/11 that al Qaeda had plans to hijack U.S. airliners.
2001—Two engineers in a locomotive chase and stop an unmanned train full of hazardous chemicals after it rolled 66 miles at high speeds across Ohio.
1991—The Pentagon releases info confirming that Manuel Noriega used to be on the CIA’s payroll.
1975—Marines retake the abandoned Mayaguez. Other Marines, green and unaware that the ship’s crew is being released, chopper to Koh Tang Island. Dug-in Khmer Rouge greet them. Fifteen Marines are KIA, 50 WIA. Three are left on the beach.
1970—City and State cops shoot 14 protesting black students, killing two, at Jackson State in Mississippi.
1969—Governor Reagan and his flunky Ed Meese send 800 cops into Peoples Park with shotguns. To quell the ensuing riot, he sends 2,700 National Guardsmen. The butcher’s bill: one dead, one blinded, 35 wounded.
1968—J. Edgar Hoover tells the Chicago office to tell the Mafia Dick Gregory is bad-mouthing them.
1951—Gen. Omar Bradley calls Gen. MacArthur’s Korea plan “[t]he wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy.”
1935—The Labor Relations Act gives U.S. workers the right to organize.
1923—Upton Sinclair is arrested in Los Angeles for reading the Bill of Rights to striking Wobblies.
2015—The Union Leader’s editorial, in full: “Frank Guinta is a damned liar.”
1992—The George H.[H.]W. Bush administration opens up 1,400 acres of spotted owl habitat for logging.
1987—Robert “Bud” McFarlane tells Congress that if he’d objected to arming Central American terrorists, “Bill Casey, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and Cap Weinberger would have said I was some kind of commie.”
1975—The Khmer Rouge take the captive crew of the Mayagüez to mainland Cambodia.
1969—Two companies of the 101st assault an NVA regiment atop Hamburger Hill. Despite 12 KIA and 80 WIA, they make no progress.
1961—Klansmen in Anniston, Ala. celebrate Mother’s Day by torching a bus. The Freedom Riders on board escape the fire, but not a savage beating.
1960—The New Yorker’s A.J. Liebling writes, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”
1932—Mayor Jimmy Walker leads 150,000 New Yorkers in a day-long “We Want Beer” parade.
1930—TheNew York Times, in 157 words about the New Hampshire Historical Society’s acquisition of a 18th century pamphlet, The Monster of Monsters, mis-states who was jailed and for how long, cites the wrong printer (Zechariah Fowle, not Daniel), and mistates this paper’s name.
964—John XII’s papacy is abruptly ended by a jealous husband.
2015—The day after eight die in a Philadelphia derailment, Congress votes to slash Amtrak’s budget.
2005—A Pentagon commission recommends closing the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
1985—A Philadelphia police helicopter bombs MOVE headquarters, killing 11 and leaving 250 homeless.
1971—President Nixon tells his flunkies to get a new IRS head: “a ruthless son of a bitch … who will go after our enemies and not go after our friends.”
1957—Ngo Dinh Diem is treated to a ticker tape parade in New York Ciy.
1946—Authorities in Germany order the destruction of 30,000 books—American military authorities.
1945—After a brief court martial in Amsterdam—and Germany’s surrender—Bruno Dorfer and Rainer Beck, deserters from the Wehrmacht’s Kriegsmarine, are executed by German soldiers using German rifles provided by the Seaforth Highlanders.
1930—The New Hampshire Historical Society announces it’s acquired one of three known copies of The Monster of Monsters, the pamphlet that got Daniel Fowle thrown in prison in 1754.
1929—Capone, Lansky, Luciano, Lucchese, Torrio, Nitti, Siegel, &c., &c. meet in Atlantic City, N.J.
1862—Robert Smalls, enslaved helmsman of the Confederate military transport Planter, commandeers the vessel, pilots it out of Charleston harbor, and turns it over to the U.S. Navy.
2017—President Trump meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office. He divulges classified info, exposes a foreign agent, and says firing the FBI Director relieved “great pressure” from him.
1968—Students in Paris barricade the streets. “Be realistic,” their graffiti read, “demand the impossible.”
1960—The FDA approves “The Pill.”
1945—New Hamshire adopts the motto, “Live Free or Die.”
1933—Goebbels tells students, make Germany great—burn books.
1919—In Charleston, S.C., white sailors foment the first of 33 U.S. race riots over a five-month period.
1908—The first Mother’s Day Service is held in W.Va. at the instigation of Anna Jarvis who is arrested on Mother’s Day 40 years later for protesting its commercialization.
1869—Leland Stanford fails to drive his railroad’s famous “Golden Spike” because he’s hammered himself. “Every step of that mighty enterprise,” says one Senator, was “taken in fraud.”
1849—Nativist fans of Edwin Forrest bombard New York’s Astor Opera House with bricks protesting a Brit performer. Preserving order, the 7th Militia Regiment fires into the crowd killing 20, mostly bystanders.
1740—South Carolina nixes assembling, raising food, earning money, or literacy for the enslaved, while legalizing slave holders killing the rebellious.
President Trump’s recommendation, aired on national TV, that Americans drink or inject disinfectant to cure Covid-19, is not a standalone instance of his lack of judgement. It is part of a pattern of irresponsible behavior, lack of respect for facts or science, and mental chaos demonstrated during his entire presidency.
A few of many examples: He has suggested dropping nuclear bombs into the eyes of hurricanes; he proudly proclaimed that the Revolutionary Army took over the airports in the 1700s; he seems to believe that the F-35 stealth fighter is literally invisible in a fire fight “just like the ones he has seen on TV,” rather than just capable of eluding radar detection: he has informed us that the noise from wind turbines, or “windmills” as he calls, them causes cancer.
Comedians have exploited Trump’s erratic behavior and moronic ideas for laughs for years. This is not a joke. Americans could die as a result of listening to him. He has described himself as “a stable genius.” Any person who describes themselves that way is not smart, nor is Donald Trump stable enough to be President of the United States.
Somewhere in my house must still be the cartoon my mother clipped out of a popular magazine from about 1950 and tucked into my baby album. It depicts a man just coming home from work in the traditional grey business suit, wearing a fedora and carrying a briefcase. He stands in the open doorway of a kitchen that looks as though a tornado has just passed through. Cooking utensils clutter the counters and dishes fill the sink, while baby spoons and cups and rattles lie scattered about. In the middle of the room stands an empty highchair, the tray of which is smeared and dripping. A bowl has landed upside-down on the floor, and the walls are generously splattered with gobs the same color as the spillage from the bowl. At the kitchen table, with her elbows planted between mounds of other culinary refuse and her hair clenched in the fists on either side of her head, sits a woman who explains the vacant highchair. “I gave him away,” reads the caption.
I first found the cartoon when I was in about the fourth or fifth grade. When I asked my mother what it meant she answered only obliquely, giving me to understand that if there were any justice in the world I would someday figure it out for myself.
Right about now there may be a lot of parents who would not have to have cartoons about the chaos of child-rearing explained to them. I would expect that to be especially true among those parents whom public schools have heretofore relieved, at least on weekdays, of parenting responsibilities as basic as feeding their children. There are certain ages at which children are particularly difficult even for a loving father or mother to bear around the clock, with nary a day off. The worst of those ages are probably from about two months to twenty-six years.
Yet I don’t think my mother had a day off from me for five years. For long stretches of that half-decade my father was away at sea, and anywhere my mother went I had to go. I could play outside with the neighborhood kids—or, more accurately, she would sometimes force me to go outside and play with them—but mostly it was just the two of us. We spent much of that time at the kitchen table, where she taught me my letters and numbers and told me stories from Greek and Roman mythology. She explained the plot lines and summarized the character descriptions from novels she had read, or was reading (some of which I recognized decades later, when by coincidence I read the same books).
I never thought of it as school, but in retrospect I’d have to say that most of my early education was absorbed at that kitchen table. My sole recollection from the parochial kindergarten I attended on Key West is a kindly old nun who seemed to single me out for attention, whose only memorable accomplishment was persuading me to hold the pencil in my right hand. My first years at Pine Tree School are much clearer, but I remember more about how bored I was than about what I learned there—and how much I resented the efforts to change the penmanship my mother had taught me.
A lifetime later, my turn came to serve as kitchen-table teacher to a precocious twelve-year-old, and to my surprise it turned out to be fun. We were mainly trying to save her from the so-called middle school, which we regarded as a pedagogical disaster, and I agreed to spend several hours a day on history, geography, English, and French. Her mother gave evening lessons in math, science, and music. I took it as a mutual compliment that our pupil eventually took a degree in math, with a minor in French.
We started with a summer course on local history, including an archaeological dig. We read Mark Twain’s Roughing It, in which his Nevada-bound stagecoach was crippled by a broken thoroughbrace, and we visited the Concord coach at the New Hampshire Historical Society, where she learned what a thoroughbrace was. We took a Revolutionary jaunt to Lexington Green and the rude bridge that arched the flood. We went to UNH, where one day years later she realized that she was staring out the same library window where she had spent an afternoon as a child.
The precedents that have been set by near-totalitarian governmental responses to this latest pandemic will exert such profoundly unpleasant influences on society that one feels constrained to emphasize any good that might result. No higher good could emerge than for more parents to understand that they—rather than a vast, bloated bureaucracy—are the key to their children’s education.
Four-plus years of compulsive viewing and reading of disturbing political news, commentary, tweets, and documents (looking at you, Mueller report)—more per day than I ever spent watching the Watergate hearings (yes, I am that old)—is good for neither soul nor psyche. But if you see scorpions in your home, it is impossible and even dangerous not to focus your attention on them.
There is some comfort in knowing I am far from alone in my feelings about the state our country is in. And there is some clever humor in cartoons and tweets that can still make me smile. But there is truth in that humor, and those truths are still painful, so the temporary relief they provide is no good balance. And, sadly, they are overwhelmed by a torrent of “humor” and tweets that are as hateful as that which they attack. If you play the game of Tit for Tat that those you oppose have laid out, following their rules by returning the hate in every Tat of theirs, well, Tat will always win.
While our determination to resist and defeat those who are traumatizing our country and shredding our democracy is essential, Booker T. Washington’s words can be a guide for us: “I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him.” What I feel greatly myself is sadness, for I see a hole inside the President that could never be filled, not with any amount of praise, obeisance, or money; his need and greed are beyond measure, and I believe him mentally unwell.
The hatefulness, cruelty, and lack of compassion in Trump and so many who support him are horrific, but imitating the very name-calling deplored in them adds to, rather than diminishes, the vitriol that surrounds us. Hate is damaging whatever its source. To spew hate back at the haters in high places is to spread the virus of hate even more. And there is no vaccine for hate.
Donna D. Pistole
Thank you for this extremely thoughtful message—so carefully measured that we were not certain whether or not you were writing about us. We do have a tendency towards the use of somewhat vigorous language in describing current events and the people driving them.
During the decade between being discharged from the Army and finally landing in a newsroom, we worked, among many other places, in a cabinet shop. An apprentice there once asked, as he was sanding a piece of furniture, “How can you tell you’ve gone far enough unless you go too far?” The question was so profound we all downed tools and discussed it for a while.
If our choice of words is occasionally too sharp, and our line of argument too robust, we like to think that those excesses are counterbalanced by our underlying intent.
We firmly believe that one of the primary reasons we are now in this harrowing predicament is that there has been a general tendency among supposedly responsible media in this country to be overly circumspect when discussing the actions of several generations of charlatans, mountebanks, schemers, chiselers, and grifters.
We would like to see built, on the ashes and rubble of the old system, a new one in which such frauds would find it harder to gain power: a system geared to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number.
In the quest for that goal, yes—we’re willing to occasionally hurt someone’s feelings.
I have been missing Trump’s appearances at the 5 p.m. pandemic press conferences more than I realized. His comments were a source of truth and information not to be found elsewhere.
For example: when he called the pandemic a hoax, I knew it was real; when he said it was contained, I knew it would spread rampantly; when he said he would make sure small businesses would be taken care of as provided for in the Congressional bailout package, I knew they were toast and the money siphoned off to big business; when he said, “No, I don’t take any responsibility,” I knew his administration had flubbed the dub even more than was obvious; when Dr. Trump started prescribing treatments for the virus, like Clorox and anti-malarial drugs, I knew more people would die.
See! Trump does tell the truth, you just have to interpret his alternate facts mind set to get to it.
As a member of the Science Technology & Energy (STE) committee of the N.H. House of Representatives during the past three years, I have been dealing with issues surrounding energy generation, renewable and sustainable energy, and energy efficiency. As part of that process I became aware of the fact that as a rooftop solar owner I am eligible to be registered as a renewable energy generator, allowing me to collect revenues.
Each Megawatt Hour MWh of generating capacity qualifies the owner for one Renewable Energy Certificate [REC]. These RECs are sold at the New England quarterly auction. It turns out that when such an owner is not registered to generate RECs, that person’s utility can claim them as their own and get credit as part of the utilities REC obligation for N.H.’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).
Based on our state’s RPS targets (which are lower than other New England states), the utilities are obligated to purchase a specific number of RECs. But if they can get them for free, that means they need to purchase fewer at the auction, and that lack of demand will discourage the generation of more RECs driving down the price of RECs. It is important to remember that RECs represent clean, renewable energy that also reduces carbon emissions. Also, when our RPS goals are low, we are forgoing many new renewable energy jobs and the economic growth that accompanies them.
Like many other solar owners, I was told that signing up as a renewable energy generator was too bureaucratic and not worth the effort financially. Despite that, I decided to find out for myself, so that I could share the experience with others. While I did not find the process too complicated or time consuming, it is true that the financial reward was not much to boast about (approximately $130/year for a 6,000 watt installation).
Allow me to describe the process. To qualify as a registered renewable energy generator who can earn RECs to sell at auction, an owner must take three steps: 1) Register with an aggregator (a collector and seller), 2) Sign up with an auditor, and 3) Submit monthly solar meter readings to the auditor.
After consulting with my solar installer, I was directed to a solar energy aggregator (I was sent a contract and signed up with Knollwood Energy). My contract was for three years at a minimum price, with the aggregator collecting approximately $2.50 as a commission for each REC sold.
In order for the energy generated to qualify, an auditor must verify the actual energy generated. If an appropriate software is installed along with the solar installation (at a cost of approximately $300), the energy generated can be reported automatically. My system, however, was installed five years ago, without such software. So, my other option was to sign up with an auditor and report the reading of my solar meter monthly by email or using an online portal. I signed up with Paul Button as my auditor at a cost of $10. per year. That is all that is required of me.
As the result of being registered, every quarter I am sent a check from Knollwood Energy for the RECs sold at auction. My last payment for three months amounted to a net of $35. While this certainly is not a large amount of money, it is important to remember that auction prices vary, and that changes in the demand for RECs that could be triggered by changes in the RPS target of the New England states could push prices up.
But this small financial benefit is in addition to the much greater benefits enjoyed by solar rooftop owners. These owners are not just benefitting financially by reducing their monthly electricity bills, but they are also contributing to the increasing amount of New Hampshire generated renewable energy stock, which provides more energy independence and environmental benefits for our state including reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.
Also, independent studies have found that solar energy generation saves money for all utility customers, not just the homeowner, by lowering the demand for long-distance transmission costs, especially when demand and solar energy generation are at their highest (hot summer days).
It is worth looking into solar energy generation whether on rooftops or stand-alone. The price of solar panels has been dropping annually and the efficiency of each panel has been increasing, while additionally, battery storage could soon be very affordable. In addition, there is still a federal energy credit and state credit available. The federal credit, which used to be 30 percent of system cost, is now only 26 percent but is being phased-out by December 31, 2021. The N.H. state rebate is $1,000, while funds last. This type of installation is not just for residential single-home owners, but in fact community solar installations are also becoming more popular.
If you have any questions, I would be glad to try and answer them.
Rep. Peter Somssich, Portsmouth, N.H. 03801; 436-5382
Thank you for this clear, comprehensive, and detailed look at this program.
As you say, the actual amount paid to homeowners isn’t the important thing. The cumulative effect is—and the sooner we get there, the better. We must say that we are shocked—shocked—to learn that there are electric utilities in this state employing underhanded tactics such as you have described. If the PR department of any such utility wishes to refute your statement, we will, of course, give them space to respond.
There was an iceberg but it’s in a totally different ocean.
The iceberg is in the ocean but it will melt very soon.
There is an iceberg but we didn’t hit the iceberg.
We hit the iceberg, but the damage will be repaired very shortly.
The iceberg is a Chinese iceberg.
We are taking on water but every passenger who wants a lifeboat can get a life boat, and they are beautiful lifeboats. Look, passengers need to ask nicely for the lifeboats if they want them. We don’t have any lifeboats, we’re not lifeboat distributors.
Passengers should have planned for icebergs and brought their own lifeboats.
I really don’t think we need that many lifeboats.
We have lifeboats and they’re supposed to be our lifeboats, not the passengers’ lifeboats.
The lifeboats were left on shore by the last captain of this ship.
Nobody could have foreseen the iceberg.
Good to hear from you. How are things up on The Ridge?
On March 19, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security issued a memorandum identifying the nation’s 2.5 million farmworkers as “essential” workers. Soon thereafter, agribusinesses began distributing formal letters to their farm laborers, also declaring that that they were “essential.”
Of course, it shouldn’t have required a government-business effort to establish this point. Without farmworkers, there is no food. And the American people need food to survive.
But, remarkably, over the course of U.S. history, farmworkers, although essential, have been terribly mistreated. Whether as slaves, indentured servants, sharecroppers, or migrant laborers, these millions of hardworking people endured harsh and brutal lives, enriching others while living (and usually dying) in poverty.
Nor is the situation very different today. Farm labor remains hard, grinding physical toil, requiring long hours of bending and repetitive motion to gather crops under conditions of extreme heat. Back strain, poisoning by pesticides, and other injuries, sometimes leading to death, contribute to making agriculture one of the nation’s most hazardous industries. Employment is often seasonal or otherwise precarious.
Some problems hit portions of the farm labor force particularly hard. Roughly half of all farmworkers are undocumented immigrants, a status that places them in constant fear of being arrested, deported, and separated from their families. Furthermore, women farmworkers face high levels of sexual harassment, thereby confronting them with the difficult choice of reporting it and facing the possibility of being fired or remaining silent and allowing the harassment to continue.
In recent decades, the federal government has prosecuted numerous growers and labor traffickers in the southeast for what one U.S. attorney called “slavery, plain and simple.” Farmworkers were lured to the U.S. under false pretenses, deprived of their passports, chained, held under armed guard, and forced to work. If they refused, they were threatened with violence, beaten, drugged, raped, pistol whipped, and even shot. In 2015, President Obama awarded the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which exposed these practices, the Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts in Combatting Modern Day Slavery.
Although people performing some of the hardest and most essential work in the United States certainly seem to deserve a break or at least reasonable compensation—they have not received it. In 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, a quarter of all farmworkers had a family income below the official poverty level, while most of the others teetered just above it. Most of them were forced to rely on at least one public assistance program. Even after some of the more progressive states raised the state minimum wage, the average wages of farmworkers remained abysmal. In 2019, they earned only a little more than half the hourly pay rate of all American workers.
Moreover, they now face the coronavirus pandemic. Greg Asbed, a leading voice for agricultural laborers, has pointed out that, for farmworkers, “the two most promising measures for protecting ourselves from the virus and preventing its spread—social distancing and self-isolation—are virtually impossible. Many farmworkers live, crowded together, in decrepit, narrow trailers or barracks, ride to and from their workplaces in crowded buses, have little access to water and soap once in the fields, and cook and shower in the same cramped housing facility. Rapid contagion is almost inevitable, and very few have access to healthcare of any kind.
Despite the heightened danger, though, working—even working while sick—is the only practical option for farmworkers, for, given their impoverishment, they cannot afford to be unemployed. Very few receive paid sick days. Some, to be sure, will be assisted by the one-time $1,200 payment Congress voted for members of low and middle income families. But undocumented workers, who constitute so many of the nation’s millions of farmworkers, are excluded from the provisions of that legislation. Nor are undocumented workers eligible for unemployment insurance—although, of course, they pay the taxes that fund these programs, as well as the programs that are now bailing out America’s multi-billion dollar industries.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration is getting set to deliver yet another blow to farmworkers. Almost a tenth of that work force is composed of Mexican guest workers, legally admitted to the United States for short periods under the U.S. Agriculture Department’s H-2A program. As America’s big agricultural growers are perennially short of laborers to harvest their crops, they have pressed hard for the admission of these guest workers. But they dislike the fact that, to avoid undercutting the wages of American workers, the H-2A program sets the wage level for guest workers at local American wage standards. And in states like California, the state’s rising minimum wage has lifted the wages of farmworkers considerably beyond the pitiful federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. As a result, the growers have fought for years to reduce the wages paid to guest workers. Finally, in April 2020, the news broke that their dream of cheap labor would soon be realized, for the Trump administration is now laying plans to lower the guest worker wage rate to $8.34 an hour. These plans, made at the same time that farmers and ranchers are about to receive a $16 billion federal bailout, will cut between $2 and $5 per hour from the pay of guest farmworkers.
Small labor organizations like the United Farm Workers and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers are resisting this continued exploitation, but there are severe limits to their power. Farmworkers seem likely to remain essential, but expendable.
Dr. Lawrence Wittner is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press).
One thing we’ve learned for sure this year is that no national crisis is too awful to keep Trump & Company from exploiting it for their plutocratic political purposes.
COVID-19 is a God-Awful crisis, but late one night deep inside the White House, a dim bulb flickered in our present president’s head: “Eureka,” Trump exclaimed, “here’s our chance to kill the U.S. Post Office!”
Of all the things a president might focus on during a devastating pandemic, hijacking your and my public mail service, bankrupting it, and then privatizing its profitable functions has become a top priority for this brooding madman. Bizarrely, Trump has ranted that the post office should charge higher prices for us customers to ship packages, and he bemoans the fact that postal workers are unionized and earn middle-class wages. So, in February, with our economy collapsing under the weight of Covid-19, Trump struck.
Like nearly every business, the Postal Service had suffered a crushing loss of customers and needs emergency funding to keep America’s mail moving. Congress quickly proposed a bipartisan $13 billion postal lifeline as part of its $2 trillion national rescue package. But our personally-piqued president said: “No,” threatening to kill the whole bill if it included a pandemic grant to save the public post office.
The U.S. mail service, however, is enormously popular, so Trump can’t just blatantly choke off its survival funds. Instead, he’s taking the agency hostage, offering to provide a $10 billion “loan” from the Treasury Department—contingent on the public entity agreeing to his draconian demands that it raise postal prices, gut postal unions, and cut postal services.
Trump’s provisos are postal poison pills, for they would destroy the agency’s morale and service, undermine popular support, and clear the political path for profiteering corporations to seize, privatize, and plunder this public treasure.
Copyright 2017 by Jim Hightower & Associates. Contact Laura Ehrlichfor more information.
It was perhaps inevitable that the debate over Coronavirus policy would fall victim to the partisan divide. Protestors on the political right are pushing for the elimination of stay at home policies and the opening up of the U.S. economy while discounting the seriousness of the epidemic. The liberal left postures that data and science should drive the decision to re-open and that a premature relaxing of stay in place rules would result in the reemergence of the virus.
It is clear that many protestors on the right have overly discounted the threat of the virus. It is extracting a grievous toll in sickness and death among Americans. Posturing on the steps of state capitals carrying assault rifles and spouting libertarian slogans will do nothing to ameliorate the damages of the epidemic nor bring the economy back to life.
Yet the liberal left is not entirely on the side of the angels in the debate. Their reliance on epidemiological models for policy-making ignores the fact that current knowledge regarding the novel virus is not sufficient to generate a reliable model. This is demonstrated by the divergence in the predictions of different models as well as their generally poor accuracy. Models are always simulations of reality not reality itself. They are useful when their assumptions approximate reality and enough data exists to demonstrate predictive validity. Models that attempt to predict human behavior as well as the actions of a new virus are especially unstable. Several epidemiologists have conceded that more data is necessary to validate their models. Some claim that millions of Corona tests are necessary to generate necessary data and current harsh containment policies must be kept in place until the data is generated. This may be reasonable from a purely epidemiological perspective but it ignores the damage that the current draconian methods being used to contain the virus are extracting. The dilemma is that we are not just facing a public health problem. We are facing a complex situation that includes medical, economic, social and psychological dimensions. All must be factored into an effective solution to the current crisis.
In order to better understand this point, it is useful to visualize two imaginary “damage” curves. One is a variation on the curve that is frequently shown during briefings on the spread of the virus. Call it the Corona damage curve. It demonstrates the havoc caused by the death and disease caused by the virus as well as its attendant health costs. The second curve includes the damages caused by the harsh methods being used to contain the virus. It tallies the economic, social, psychological and health costs associated with the current shutdown. As the virus is contained, the Corona damage curve declines. Over time, however, the shutdown damage curve increases. An effective policy on when to relax restrictions depends on where the two curves intersect. Note that this does not occur when Covid damages are at zero. It implies that some health costs due to the virus will continue but the costs to society of maintaining an economic shutdown would be greater.
Among the social costs of an extended shutdown will be the devastation of small businesses. Like many Americans, most small businesses exist month to month, relying on current revenue to pay their rent, suppliers and employees. They simply cannot sustain a shutdown that lasts for months. After only one month of the shutdown, more than 26 million Americans are unemployed. That number will continue to increase if the shutdown continues. The great majority of the unemployed are workers who depend on a regular paycheck to pay for food and rent. Moreover, many rely on their employer for health insurance. The health consequences for these workers and their families are dire if their jobs do not return. After only one month of the shutdown, the federal government has appropriated two trillion dollars to ameliorate some of the financial problems due to the crisis. This is approximately 10 percent of the current U.S. GDP and it was financed solely through debt. How many more debt-financed two trillion relief bills do you think that the U.S. can or will afford?
The times call for innovative responses to a complex and uncertain problem. The ravages of the Coronavirus must be minimized but at the same time so must the damages to society of an extended shutdown. A realistic solution may not optimize each dimension but the perfect should not be the enemy of the good.
Robert D. Russell, Ph.D.
Thank you for this assessment. Unqualified to render a scientific judgment, we hesitate to differ. As we noted in our response to Ms. Pistole, elsewhere, though, we fear that this issue is in the hands of people who cannot be trusted. The Alleged Administration tells us it’s under control. We do not believe that. The laws of contagion are in control. They’ll render their verdict in the months to come.
The government responded with blinding speed to make billions available to big business. Workers—being relatively powerless individuals—got a one-time check and perhaps a temporary bump on their unemployment compensation. Now they’re being told to get back to work, even if work is unsafe. Refuse and you lose your unemployment. The deck is still stacked—and we do not trust the dealer.
2003—A cargo door on a Russian-built plane flown by a Ukrainian crew pops open over the Congo. Three-fourths of the 200 aboard are sucked from the plane.
1979—Salvadoran police maintain order in a cathedral; 23 KIA, 70 WIA.
1970—With flags at half mast for Kent State kids shot by National Guardsmen, students protesting in NYC at Wall and Broad streets are attacked by 200 “hardhats” organized by AFL-CIO leader Peter Brennan. Nixon will make him Sec. of Labor.
1970—At the University of New Mexico, 11 people protesting the Vietnam War are bayoneted by National Guardsmen.
1967—Muhammed Ali is indicted for refusing to be inducted.
1964—Against Ike’s orders, Curtis LeMay sends a B-47 into Russian territory on a recon mission. It returns with extra holes thanks to a MiG-17.
1963—In Hue, Ngo Dinh Diem’s goons kill nine Buddhists for flying their flag, then blame the ’Cong.
1958—In Lima, Richard Nixon is stoned and spat on by Peruvians.
1755—In Portsmouth, murderer Eliphaz Dow becomes the first person executed in New Hampshire.
1725—John Lovewell, who had marched into Boston a month earlier wearing a wig made of Indian scalps, is killed by an Abenaki near Pequawket (now Fryeburg). A mountain in Washington, N.H. bears his name.
1999—A U.S. B-2 drops five “smart” bombs on the Chinese embassy in Belgrade: three dead, 27 wounded.
1998—Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan successfully quash an effort to regulate credit default swaps.
1992—Reporters reveal Ross Perot’s “concern” over U.S. POWs was mostly about Richard Nixon’s presidency.
1985—New York throws a ticker tape parade for 25,000 Vietnam veterans. Better late than never.
1970—Marine Sgt. Robert Phleger, 1st Force Recon, is killed in the night by a tiger in Quang Nam Province.
1955—Black voting activist Rev. George W. Lee is gunned down in Midnight, Miss. No charges are ever filed.
1954—The Viet Minh overrun the French garrison at Dien Bien Phu.
1931—In NYC, 300 cops entertain 15,000 bystanders by directing 700 rounds of rifle and machine gun fire at a fifth-floor apartment in a rooming house on West 91st St. After two hours Francis “Two-Gun” Crowley, his 16-year old girlfriend Helen Walsh, and his partner Rudolph “Fats” Durringer surrender.
1931—In Corbin, Ky. Harland Sanders—later Col. Sanders—puts two bullets in a gas station manager for painting over a sign for his restaurant.
1896—Gilmanton-born Herman W. Mudgett, aka “Dr. H.H. Holmes,” fiendish killer of over 100 women, is hanged for murdering one man.
2012—Stabbed in a bar fight, actor Sean Bean orders another drink.
2010—An imaginary bus bomb inspires panic in Portsmouth, N.H.
2010—A Londoner scamming from his parents’ basement gives The Invisible Hand of the Market™ jitters: the Dow drops nine pct. in five minutes.
1996—Missing for nine days, ex-CIA Director William Colby turns up in Chesapeake Bay, dead but remarkably fresh-looking, 20 feet from where searchers found his canoe eight days earlier. Verdict: a routine drowning.
1982—LAPD Chief Darryl Gates explains “some blacks [die in choke holds because] the veins or arteries do not open up as fast as they do in normal people.”
1978—In Chicago, First Lady Rosalynn Carter is photographed shaking hands with Polish Constitution Day Parade chairman (and prolific serial killer) John Wayne Gacy.
1967—Gen. Wallace Greene, Jr., U.S.M.C., says in Manchester, N.H. that America is winning the war in Vietnam, “and I say that without any doubt whatsoever.”
1937—A huge Nazi gasbag ignites over Lakehurst, New Jersey, 14 years before Rush Limbaugh was born.
1868—Angry that Samuel Mills had dropped from sight when the gallows opened under him, hundreds of observers riot in Woodsville, N.H.
1864—The Battle of the Wilderness rages; 3,723 die, including two Union and three Confederate generals.
1985—In Bitburg, Germany, Republican President Ronald Reagan lays a wreath at a cemetery full of Nazis.
1981—In Ireland’s Maze Prison, Bobby Sands dies of starvation.
1970—Jerry Rubin speaks at UNH.
1961—New Hampshire’s own Alan Shepard prays, “Please, dear God, don’t let me f__k up.” Prayer answered, he’s 1st American in space.
1960—The U.S. announces that Gary Powers’s U-2 was a “weather research plane” and its pilot a “civilian employed by Lockheed.”
1945—The collier Black Point is torpedoed by U-853 within sight of the Point Judith, R.I. lighthouse.
1945—Sunday school picnickers in Bly, Ore., find a strange object. The Japanese balloon bomb explodes as they’re dragging it out of the woods, killing five Sunday school children and a minister’s pregnant wife.
1925—As he and local boosters had hoped he would be, John T. Scopes is arrested in Tennessee for teaching evolution. On the team prosecuting Snopes is a man named Sue K. Hicks.
1904—Cy Young pitches the American League’s first perfect game for the Boston Americans (later the Red Sox).
1902—Bret Harte dies in England at 65. Mark Twain had called him “an invertebrate without a country.”
1886—In Milwaukee, Gov. Jeremiah Rusk orders 250 National Guard soldiers to fire on a crowd of strikers. They comply; seven die.
1990—Six-inch flames shoot from Jesse Joseph Tafero’s head as Florida’s “Old Sparky” takes three jolts and seven minutes to kill him.
1989—U.S.M.C. Lieut. Col. Oliver North is convicted of four felonies in the Iran-Contra scandal, but a Congressional screw-up lets him skate.
1970—In Haymarket Square, Chicago, a new cop statue replaces one destroyed by a bomb months earlier. This one gets blown up, too, months later.
1970—Ohio National Guard troops shoot 13 unarmed students, killing four, at Kent State.
1961—The Freedom Rides begin throughout the south.
1942—The Battle of the Coral Sea begins. In four days 14 ships are sunk or damaged, 159 planes destroyed, and 1,565 men killed; it was a great victory.
1940—Nora Joyce tells Jim, “I haven’t read any of your books but I’ll have to someday because they must be good considering how well they sell.”
1927—A motorman “sick of seeing that policeman with his arm raised” drives his streetcar into a nine-foot statue of a cop commemorating the Haymarket bombing.
1886—In Haymarket Square, Chicago, demonstrators against May 3rd police brutality at the McCormick Reaper plant are attacked by more police. A bomb kills seven cops; a dubious trial later convicts eight anarchists.
1814—Former Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte arrives at Elba, his new jail.
2011—After outliving the Administration of G.W.[MD] Bush, Osama bin Laden is whacked by its successor.
2006—With stereotypical inefficiency, state workers in Lucasville, Ohio jab Joseph Clark 19 times over 86 minutes to kill him by lethal injection[s].
2003—Richard Perle, its architect, writes that the Iraq War “ended without the Arab world rising up against us, as the war’s critics feared, without the quagmire they predicted, without the heavy losses in house-to-house fighting they warned us to expect.”
1972—The good die young. J. Edgar Hoover does it at 77.
1971—The U.S. Government reneges on its permit, calls in the 82nd Airborne, arrests 12,600 protestors, and packs them into D.C.’s RFK stadium without food, water, or sanitation.
1967—The California State Assembly is visited by 26 armed Black Panthers.
1963—In Birmingham, Alabama, 959 schoolchildren are arrested for letting themselves be attacked by dogs, firehoses, and cops with billy clubs.
1957—Senator and morphine addict Joe McCarthy dies of liver failure at 48, relieving top dope cop Harry Anslinger of an awkward chore: slipping him safe government morphine “for reasons of national security.”
1940—Mississippi Governor Paul Johnson, 60, clubs Jackson Daily News editor Major Frederick Sullens from behind. Sullens, 62, floors the Governor and beats him mercilessly.
2016—Lindsey Graham tweets, “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed…and we will deserve it.”
2016—After suggesting Ted Cruz’s father helped assassinate JFK (prompting Cruz to recall Donald Trump’s boast that dodging VD had been his Vietnam) Trump wins the Indiana Primary and clinches the Republican Presidential nomination.
2003—The law of gravity busts the Old Man of the Mountain.
1995—Alabama Governor “Fob” James reintroduces chain gangs.
1987—E. J. Dionne’s column quotes Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.): “Follow me around;” meanwhile, the Miami Herald reports that a woman (not his wife) spent the night in his D.C. townhouse.
1970—“[The North Vietnamese] have been in a war for years and years,” says Veep Spiro “Ted” Agnew. “I don’t think they are capable … of continuing this fight.”
1946—“Gruesome Gertie,” Louisiana’s electric chair, wired by a drunken trustee, fails to kill Willie Francis, 17. He’s escorted back to Death Row. A year later, Gertie kills Willie.
1945—The RAF bombs the German ship Cap Arcona, believing it’s carrying SS officers. Of 4,500 concentration camp inmates aboard, 350 survive.
1927—Turnout for Liberia’s Presidential election is 1,680 percent.
1909—A passenger train collides with a switching engine in the Portsmouth rail yard: one dead, seven injured.
May 1, 2020—Here it is—another glorious First of May. Workers the world around are standing up for their rights—generally at a safe distance.
Here in the U.S., of course, it’s traditional to ignore International Workers Day; and by traditional, of course, we mean perverse. The day, after all, was chosen to mark an American massacre of workers, at Haymarket Square in Chicago, Illinois, on May 4th, 1886.
The selection of that particular event could be seen as almost arbitrary. That entire stretch of American history, from the Civil War to Armistice Day, could accurately be described as a slow-motion massacre of American workers. The winners write the history, though—and the news, too.
For the record, when we say “American workers,” we mean workers working—or trying to find work—in America. Papers? The papers we want to see are the President’s tax returns.
This pandemic has now thrown business as usual, formerly known as the great chain of being, into question. Even American workers, and students, and renters, and sanitation workers, and truck drivers, and food service workers—in fact, a vast array of people formerly “seen” as functionally invisible—appear ready to demand a more equitable society.
Never mind the snows of yesteryear—where are the job creators or yore? Self-isolating on their yachts, useless as usual.
Now, some local news. Though it’s late in the day, the damp overcast here in Portsmouth is breaking; a streak of blue sky has appeared in the distance, over Newington. We’ll take that as an auspicious augery. For the first time more than a decade, with the congenial assistance of local experts, our online presence has been transformed to better serve our readers. Rather than risk summarizing the changes inaccurately—such technical aspects are not our forte—we’ll just invite readers to mosey around.
2017—“This is more work than my previous life,” says President Donald Trump. “I thought it would be easier.”
2016—Calling Sen. Ted Cruz “Lucifer in the flesh,” former Speaker John Boehner tells Stanford students he “never worked with a more miserable son-of-a-bitch in my life.”
2011—On the worst day of the largest tornado outbreak in history, 324 people are killed from Texas to Ontario.
1994—In South Africa, ex-prisoner Nelson Mandela is elected President.
1986—Protesting high rates for dish owners, John R. “Captain Midnight” MacDougall hijacks HBO’s satellite.
1951—An Air Force B-36—biggest bomber ever—is cut in half by an F-51 fighter during a training flight over Oklahoma; 13 die, four live. One, TSgt. Dick Thrasher, survived a B-36 “Broken Arrow” crash a year earlier.
1937—The first Social Security check is mailed to Ida May Fuller: $22.54.
1932—Saying “Goodbye, everybody,” Hart Crane, 32, leaps from the Orizaba into the Gulf of Mexico. His body is never found.
1930—A boy and girl burn to death within sight of their mothers after a sightseeing plane crashes in Greenland, N.H. Burned in futile attempts to save them was pilot Clyde Robinson.
1865—The steamboat Sultana explodes on the Mississippi: 1,800 dead; 1,450 are just-freed Union POWs.
1861—Abraham Lincoln suspends the writ of habeas corpus.
2011—During a speech in Las Vegas, Donald Trump drops about seven f-bombs, promising to tell the Chinese, “listen you mother______s, we’re going to tax you 25 percent.”
2006—Rush Limbaugh’s lawyers announce that their fine work will keep their dope-addled client out of prison.
2004—The SEC votes to let banks risk more money and keep less on hand.
2004—Frank Lautenberg [D-N.J.] says on the floor of the Senate, “We know who the chickenhawks are. They talk tough on national defense and military issues … but when it was their turn to serve, they were AWOL.”
1988—Aloha Airlines 737 develops a 20 foot hole in its fuselage; stewardess Clarabelle Lansing falls to her death.
1987—Contras in Nicaragua, “moral equivalent of our Founding fathers” according to President Reagan, murder American volunteer Ben Lindner.
1975—Daniel Schorr reports on CBS that the CIA plotted to assassinate the leaders of Chile, Congo, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Vietnam.
1973—Hot brakes start a fire in the Roseville, Calif. railyard, and a trainload of bombs explodes; 5,500 buildings are damaged, the town of Antelope disappears, but no one dies.
1945—Benito Mussolini and his mistress fail in an attempt to flee from Italy. They are shot by partisans and hanged by the heels from lampposts.
1789—Fletcher Christian leads a mutiny on the Bounty.
2014—Despite nine tries, Okla. prison officials miss Clayton Lockett’s veins; the poison goes into muscle. Without enough left to kill, they discuss options as he writhes. He ends their debate by dying of a heart attack.
2006—Stephen Colbert, at the Correspondents Dinner, performs the first televised autopsy of a sitting President.
2004—The Commission “investigating” 9/11 allows George W.[MD] Bush and Dick “Dick” Cheney to “testify” without taking an oath.
1992—A mostly-white jury in Simi Valley finds LA police not guilty of assaulting Rodney King. Soldiers and Marines end the rioting six days later.
1975—As helicopters begin evacuating Saigon, Marines Charles McMahon and Darwin Judge become the last two Americans to die in Vietnam.
1974—The Nixon White House releases redacted transcripts of Oval Office recordings; the phrase “expletive deleted” enters the English language.
1961—The Army’s Chief of Staff tells Defense Secretary Robert Strange McNamara “we cannot win a conventional war in Southeast Asia.”
1899—Hundreds of union miners hijack a train in Idaho, haul 1.5 tons of dynamite to the mill of the Bunker Hill Mine, and blow it to bits.
1886—Boston Beaneaters Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourne gives the finger to a rival New York Giant, on camera; the first documented use of that gesture by an American.
1986—A meltdown at Chernobyl lowers Ukrainian real estate values, contaminates much of the northern hemisphere to some degree, and condemns thousands to death.
1970—The Senate Chamber of Louisiana State House and the Baton Rouge Country Club are damaged by dynamite bombs.
1953—Radioactive rain falls on Troy and Albany, N.Y.
1952—The captain of the U.S.S. Hobson, disregarding an underling’s advice, takes his destroyer across the bow of the U.S.S. Wasp. Cut in half, the Hobson sinks with more than half its crew, captain included.
1946—Edna Rose Ritchings, 21, a Caucasian-Canadian, marries Father Divine, 65, an African-American religious figure.
1944—The U.S. takes over Montgomery-Ward after it defies the National Labor Relations Board.
1937—German and Italian planes destroy Guernica, Spain.
1931—Lou Gehrig hits a home run but is called out for passing another runner on the basepath.
1901—“I’ll be in Hell before you start breakfast!” says train-robber Tom “Black Jack” Ketchum, whose head flies off after the hangman drops him.
1865—Boston Corbett, a hatter-turned-cavalryman who had earlier castrated himself with scissors to better resist prostitutes, shoots and kills John Wilkes Booth.
Special for me during isolation—by phone playing a Scrabble game just about daily with my 96-year-old friend Marylou in Florida, in assisted living, in isolation too. We have conversation while playing, so please don’t suggest online “Scrabble with Friends!”
My Scrabble game’s box lid is falling apart, but in it I glued, when new, this article about the manufacture of Scrabble letters. The article is dated January 13, 1999. A Hasbro spokesman said, “The Bauhinia Limited Co. of Hong Kong is [now] making the wooden tiles and tile racks at its plant in Shanghai.” Also, “For 20 years, Milton Bradley Wood Products, Inc., in Fairfax, Vermont, produced tiles and trays. Hasbro closed the plant Dec. 4th, costing 87 people their jobs.” Closing that Vermont plant and five other manufacturing (toys) plants “around the world” is “expected to save the company $350 million before taxes within five years.”
In 1998, plant-closing-year for Hasbro in Vermont, Bill Clinton was a 2nd-term President. His first election had Independent H. Ross Perot in the picture. H. Ross Perot accurately predicted “the sucking sound of jobs leaving the country.” Whether Clinton or G.H.[H.]W. Bush won in 1992, either one was ready to sign the first Free Trade Agreement. Clinton did. Environmental protections and labor protections were nothing compared to reaping big, bigger, biggest profits by the companies that gained by going overseas. Being Democrat or Republican didn’t play. President W.[MD] Bush came along, then President Obama. No curbing Free Trade Agreements. At one time I recall, early in Obama’s tenure, believing I’d see him sign the first Fair Trade Agreement. At the time we already had Fair Trade coffee purchases and Fair Trade chocolate. No. Obama was in the mode of corporations getting their way.
Now we need to think harder about our economy after this coronavirus is contained and hopefully receding, then over. Where should our goods be produced? How should the planet’s needs be considered equally—at least—to economic needs as we provide for people’s lives? Should we be throwing away so much as we do? Which people count? Everyone should count, no matter race or wealth or hemisphere. We are all on one small, lovely, stressed planet. Our next election must provide national leadership that is intelligent and thoughtful and far-sighted. If you agree, please send this letter to voting friends and relatives in other states of our U.S.A.
What can be learned from the coronavirus pandemic? Preparing for epidemics before they happen saves lives.
Responding to epidemics at the first signs of outbreak saves lives and reduces damage. Denying there is a problem enables the catastrophe to accelerate. Delaying response causes preventable deaths and costs uncountable fortune.
The cost of early preparation, prevention and response is substantial. The cost of early preparation, prevention and response is very low, compared to the cost of doing nothing.
Can we apply these lessons to the global climate crisis? We are suffering early signs: hurricanes are more powerful and damaging; droughts are more severe and flammable. Some people, regrettably in political leadership, deny there’s a problem. Delaying response enables the crisis to accelerate; climate change feeds itself and may soon become unstoppable. The cost of changing from our oil-based energy economy is large, but the cost of not changing will become catastrophic.
With commerce largely shut down by coronavirus, and the price of oil sinking into negative numbers, we now have a special, one-time-only opportunity to switch to non-polluting, renewable energy sources to avert the climate change catastrophe.
I think this self-quarantine stuff is getting to me. I was so depressed last night thinking about social isolation, the economy, wars, jobs, Trump, my savings, Social Security, retirement funds, nuclear disaster, global warming, and the future of printed news, that I called the Suicide Hotline. I got a call center in Pakistan. When I told them I was feeling suicidal, they got all excited and asked if I could drive a truck. But they hung up on me when I told them my license had been revoked for a DUI.
Never saw the like of it before: four sets of railroad tracks on one side, four lanes of traffic on another, parking lots on either side, barely space for bushes and a patch of grass, an early April day, sun shining— and there, beside the fir tree, a fox. There, another.Smaller.And another! Three, four, five, six!Incredible. A vixen and her six small kits, the mother keeping watch, aware of us, fifteen feet away, my wife and I, but not alarmed so long as we stood still, her babies tussling, tumbling, racing, pouncing, prancing, chasing one another, having fun, though never far from Mom. I know it’s anthropomorphically incorrect to think of animals in human terms, but if those baby foxes weren’t as happy as a school boy on a snow day off from school, I’ll eat this mask I’m wearing.
“Clean drinking water is a human right,” says the N.H. Palestine Education Network (N.H. PEN). N.H. PEN has supported the “Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine,” a Massachusetts based organization (waterjusticeinpalestine.org) that has sponsored walks to raise funds to assist Palestinians who live in either Gaza or in the West Bank to gain access to water. Another Massachusetts group linked to the “Alliance” is 1for3.org, which works closely with Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, Palestine, to promote water security.
According to the Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine, “95 percent of the Gaza Strip’s two million residents, including 991,400 children, are without clean drinking water due to Israel’s continuing destruction of Palestinian wells and the water infrastructure, and its refusal to repair damage from its military onslaughts.” When Israel limits the electricity to Gaza to four hours a day to power the four dilapidated power plants and the necessary fuel to run them, the children of Gaza suffer. What the Israeli leaders are doing to the children and the elderly constitute, for many, crimes against humanity. Moreover, the coronavirus has begun to impact Palestinians as well. People are told to keep washing hands with soap and water so as to protect against infections, but what if there is no easy access to water?
Following the 1967 “Six-Day War,” Israel took control of all water resources in the Palestinian Territories, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and in Gaza, except for one small aquifer which runs under the Gaza Strip. Sadly, this aquifer has been polluted and thus the water pumped from this source is so contaminated that 97 percent of it is unsafe to drink. As a result, many children suffer from various diseases such as dysentery, diarrhea, kidney disease and gastroenteritis.
The 13-year-long Israeli blockade has helped create a massive sanitation crisis in Gaza where tons of sewage, raw and untreated, flow directly into the Mediterranean. The UN’s World Health Organization predicts that unless drastic steps are taken to provide clean water and stop the tremendous discharge of waste Gaza will be uninhabitable by the end of 2020.
When visiting Palestine, I have stayed in the houses of Palestinians and observed that on some days the water supply is turned off by Israel. This compels the families to buy trucked in water which the Israeli company charges Palestinians three to four times higher prices than for Jewish families. Al Jazeera reports that, “While Israelis have access to around 240 liters of water per person per day, and illegal settlers over 300, Palestinians in the West Bank are left with 73 liters—well below the World Health Organization’s minimum standard of 100.” During one trip to a settlement outside of Jerusalem, I saw green lawns and a very large swimming pool and fully thriving gardens. Later that same week, I travelled to a Bedouin village where there is no connection to a water supply so they must buy expensive “Israeli” water. Their water consumption can drop to 20 liters of water per person per day.
In conclusion, Camilla Corradin of Al Jazeera says that ”Israel’s discriminatory water policies prove that it is using water as a tool to dominate Palestinians, exercise its power, and punish an entire population by deliberately depriving its inhabitants the most basic rights.” And, as shown, water security is one such human right. One hopes that someday Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and its brutal military occupation will end and that justice and peace will prevail.
Will Thomas, N.H. Palestine Education Network
If we were to give one percent of our war budget to organizations like the Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine and 1for3.org, that would do more for our real security than the other 99 percent.
The uber-irony about the deadly coronavirus is that, as it claims lives, endangers millions and interrupts the social normal, threatening unprecedented global chaos, it is also quietly informing us what we must do to create a better world — and, indeed, creating it, in certain ways, as we look on in stunned wonder.
The “what we must do” part is obvious to many: “After all,” writes Lawrence Wittner, “why not work cooperatively to save humanity from massive global death and economic collapse rather than continue to devote $1.8 trillion a year to waging wars and engaging in vast military buildups with the goal of slaughtering one another?”
And Khury Petersen-Smith, pointing out how xenophobic racism at the level of national government — e.g., Donald Trump’s initial impulse to blame China for the virus — fans the flames of public stupidity, writes:
The impact will be disastrous. Already, racists have taken license to attack Asians and Asian-Americans in public. And stoking division on a world scale will undermine one of the most important keys to our collective survival of this crisis: cooperation across borders.
As the world struggles to create or flee from the new normal that’s emerging (or maybe not), here’s a phenomenon almost too strange to comprehend: March 2020, with schools across the country closed down, “was apparently the first March in nearly two decades without a school shooting in the U.S,” CBS News reports. The last March our school system has been free of a shooting spree was 2002.
America, America, God shed His grace on thee….
But let’s go back to the nearly $2 trillion the world as a whole devotes annually to war and armaments, all in the name of keeping itself safe. This is insanity beyond comprehension. But because, up until the last couple months, it has been, for several millennia, the essence of Normal, the falseness of that belief doesn’t matter. It’s the way things are. Protecting borders and “interests” is the primary function of most national leaders across the globe. Almost every nation maintains a hammer — that is to say, a military — and every problem out there then becomes a nail to whack at. Is the coronavirus waking us up?
“Imagine,” writes David Swanson, “if the nuclear doomsday clock being closer to midnight than ever before were addressed appropriately, with some hint of interest from human governments in human survival.”
That’s precisely what millions of people across Planet Earth have desperately wanted from their governments — some hint of interest in human survival! — since, I would say, the dawn of the nuclear age. Has the division of the planet into nation states, each with a desperately maintained sense of identity — an identity that seems so real to so many when there’s an enemy beyond the borders to hate and fear — completely deprived national leaders of the ability to think holistically: to think beyond the imaginary borders of the worlds they rule?
“Considering these questions,” writes Murtaza Hussain, “it’s hard not to conclude that the American government’s national security priorities have been so askew of reality that they left the country dramatically unprepared for an acute threat to millions of its people.”
While world leaders prepare for war, real threats continually percolate. One of them, of course, now has the name COVID-19. But most of them remain nameless and barely imaginable. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be looking at and addressing them with all the clarity we can muster.
Doing this is the work of what Swanson called a Department of Actual Defense, which is a far different entity from the current U.S. Department of Defense, which for most of American history was more accurately called the Department of War. A Department of Actual Defense “would need to be global, not national,” and, actually having an interest in human survival, would address our collapsing ecosystem, as well as poverty, physical and mental health, and issues of safety, he writes. I could see it also addressing the ongoing global pandemic of violence, the inadequacy of our prison system, the nature of crime and the nature of healing.
“A Department of Actual Defense,” he writes, “would train pro-environment workers, disaster-relief workers, and suicide-prevention workers in the tasks of protecting the environment, relieving disasters, and preventing suicide, as opposed to training and arming them all to kill large numbers of people with weapons but then assigning them to other tasks. We don’t need a military redirected but disbanded.”
Unfortunately, while the Department of Actual Defense has not yet attained actual existence, the Department of War…I mean, the Department of Pseudo-Defense…continues to strategize about winning victories that have nothing to do with the real world and its real dangers. For instance, the New York Times recently informed us:
The Pentagon has ordered military commanders to plan for an escalation of American combat in Iraq, issuing a directive last week to prepare a campaign to destroy an Iranian-backed militia group that has threatened more attacks against American troops….
Some top officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser, have been pushing for aggressive new action against Iran and its proxy forces — and see an opportunity to try to destroy Iranian-backed militia groups in Iraq as leaders in Iran are distracted by the pandemic crisis in their country.
Actual military commanders see a few problems with this: “The debate is happening as top Pentagon officials and senior commanders worldwide are also expressing growing concerns about coronavirus cases expanding rapidly in the ranks, potentially threatening the military’s ability to field combat-ready troops.”
And there you have it: The virus is interrupting humanity’s ability to kill itself.
Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor. He is the author of Courage Grows Strong at the Wound.
Let me get this straight: Captain Brett Crozier, commanding officer of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt has been relieved of his command for “poor judgment,” “unprofessional conduct,” and damage to his “national security mission” because he wrote a letter asking the U.S. Navy for resources to help his crew of nearly 5,000 sailors deal with a coronavirus outbreak on his ship.
Meanwhile, his and our Commander-in-Chief got elected at least in part through the help and intervention of Russian President Vladimir Putin, a man for whom our president often expresses affection and admiration.Our Commander-in-Chief has gone through Secretaries of Defense and National Security Advisors as if they were itinerant peddlers, at least one of whom is now a convicted felon.He has handed over one of the most sensitive areas of diplomacy, the Middle East, to a 30-something relative with absolutely no diplomatic experience.He has murdered in cold blood the second most powerful man in the Iranian government.
Our Commander-in-Chief believes that a few years at a military school is pretty much the same thing as being in the armed forces.He has expressed the thought that he ought to award himself a Purple Heart Medal (perhaps for bone spurs miraculously discovered by podiatrist Larry Braunstein, who rented an office in a building owned by the father of our Commander-in-Chief).He ridiculed former prisoner of war John McCain, saying,“I like people who weren’t captured.”
Our Commander-in-Chief has alternately threatened and cuddled up to that pudgy pompadoured man in North Korea.He threatened to withhold vital military aid to an ally at war with Russia unless the president of Ukraine took action to enhance the domestic political career of our Commander-in-Chief.He continues without skipping a beat his support for the Saudi ruler responsible for the murder of a U.S. resident whose children are American citizens.He has alienated our NATO allies repeatedly, those countries that most support and reflect our most admirable American aspirations of freedom, tolerance, and democracy.
Our Commander-in-Chief has made a mockery of American diplomatic integrity, withdrawing from, pulling out of, or outright abrogating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the Paris Agreement on Global Warming, the Transpacific Partnership, and the Iran Nuclear Arms Pact.What sovereign nation will ever again in our lifetimes trust the signatures of U.S. leaders on any diplomatic document or treaty?
Indeed, our Commander-in-Chief utterly dismisses global warming as “fake news,” ignoring the overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, and even dismissing his own military leadership’s concerns about the national security implications of global warming.He has placed in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency a succession of advocates for the fossil fuel industries, and repeatedly rescinded federal restrictions on the exploitation of our environment.
Our Commander-in-Chief dispensed with the National Security Council’s pandemic unit several years ago, and when the coronavirus outbreak began, he insisted first that it wasn’t a threat, then that it was no worse than the common flu, then that he knew it was a pandemic all along, then that we should stop social isolating and all go back to work to save the economy, meanwhile offering federal assistance only to those states whose governors, in his words, “Treat me well.”At the same time, he now considers himself a “wartime president,” and insists on calling coronavirus “China virus” (perhaps because it’s less exciting to be at war with a corona—whatever that is—than to be at war with the Chinese).
Our Commander-in-Chief has left dozens of countries without a U.S. ambassador, and even embassies with ambassadors are frequently badly understaffed.There has been a massive exodus of career civil servants from the State Department since January 2017.He has publicly and repeatedly undermined and questioned the integrity of both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency.
I won’t even go near the Commander-in-Chief’s taunting of the physically disabled, his flagrant disparagement of women, his serial lying, his grotesque boasting about how intelligent he is and how extensive his vocabulary is and how successful he is in business since these things may not bear directly on issues of national security (though even these things certainly fall under the categories of poor judgment and unprofessional conduct).
And certainly just about everything else I’ve discussed here very much touches on the security of the United States of America in addition to issues of judgment and conduct. Yet Captain Brett Crozier has been relieved of his command for acting in the best interests of the men and women for whom he is responsible.
Would that our Commander-in-Chief would show such concern for the men and women to whom he is responsible.He could start by awarding Capt. Crozier the Navy & Marine Corps Medal, the highest decoration available for heroism not involving armed combat.
W. D. Ehrhart holds a doctorate from the University of Wales at Swansea and an honorable discharge from the U.S. Marine Corps.He recently retired from the Haverford School for Boys as a Master Teacher of History & English, and is the author of Thank You for Your Service: Collected Poems (McFarland, 2019).
Last weekend Covid-19 was killing a thousand Americans a day. If the death rate doubles every six days or so, this weekend we’ll say goodbye to 4,000 more.
This is, of course, quite terrible. It certainly seems so right now. All things being relative, though, and the laws of mathematics being as they are [the exponential function has a power that Bill Barr can only envy] a month or two from now we may look back and see these as the good old days.
Remember the bumper sticker, “Giant Meteor 2016—Just End It Already”? The comet never came, but we got the next-worst thing: umpteen trillion itsy-bitsy blobs of ribonucleic acid are giving this country its biggest X-Ray ever.
Lo and behold, we’re a total wreck.
“How can this be happening?” some might ask. So might an English peasant have cried in 1348, as he discarded a chicken bone next to his hovel, where it was seized by a flea-infested Norway rat. We’ve been walking into this fateful ambush for more than a century.
Our non-paper* of March 27th carried the following item for April 8th:
“1917—At the U.S. Embassy in Bern, future CIA head Allen Dulles gets a call from I.V. Lenin, begging for an immediate meeting. Dulles, who has a date with buxom Swedish twins, puts him off. Lenin boards a train to Petrograd and starts a Revolution.”
On April 13th—less than a week later—this happened:
“1917—Prescient President W. Wilson establishes the Committee on Public Information, 67 years prior to 1984.”
As the sordid life of Allen Dulles† demonstrates, the Prime Directive of the U.S. Government has been to defend capitalism against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
After letting the world’s #1 Bolshevik scamper off to overthrow the Russian Empire, Allen, the inveterate horndog and unregenerate conspirator, joined his staid and stuffy brother John Foster at Cromwell & Sullivan, the world’s most powerful corporate law firm. Their clients, ipso facto, were the world’s most powerful corporations.
Even after purportedly leaving corporate law—Allen becoming Eisenhower’s CIA Director, John Foster his Secretary of State—they continued serving the same clients. This diabolical duo overthrew insufficiently-capitalist governments from Guatemala City to Kinshasa, and from Saigon to, most likely, Washington, D.C.
The Dulles brothers were unique, of course, only in their fraternal partnership. The vast majority of American politicians have been enthusiastic capitalists, particularly since the rapid proliferation of railroads in the period following the Civil War. It’s difficult to resist so remunerative an ideology on a mere Congressman’s pay.
Having learned our history from Hollywood, we tend to see the time between the Civil War and World War I as one long western movie. In fact it was fifty years of Congressional corruption, urbanization, widespread factory-based wage slavery, and Jim Crow laws, all within an economy wracked by cycles of boom and bust. In the absence of foreign adventures, our military establishment, amounting mostly to state militias, kept in shape by using rifle butts to beat striking workers into submission.‡
President Woodrow Wilson barely won re-election in November, 1916. The slogan, “He kept us out of war” may have given him the edge. “Yet within a very short period after America had joined the belligerents,” said a 1940 report by the Council on Foreign Relations [CFR], “the nation appeared to be enthusiastically and overwhelmingly convinced of the justice of the cause of the Allies, and unanimously determined to help them win.”
The CFR report attributed the change in attitude to “the work of the group of zealous amateur propagandists, organized under Mr. George Creel in the Committee on Public Information [CPI]. With his associates he planned and carried out what was perhaps the most effective job of large-scale war propaganda which the world had ever witnessed.” Our titans of industry, noticing this stunning achievement, began investing millions in the public relations racket—at the pinnacle of which stood Sigmund Freud’s nephew, CPI alumnus Edward Bernays.
America’s anti-Communist crusade was briefly suspended as the Soviet Union lost 13 percent of its population fighting Nazis on the Eastern Front. Approximately one day after victory in Europe, the U.S.—on its way to losing 0.32 percent of its population—rounded on its former ally and resumed hostilities. Preventing foreign countries from succeeding under anti-capitalist systems is quite expensive—but it’s cheaper than letting Americans start getting strange ideas.
Working stiffs who survived the war were like peasants who made it through the Black Plague: for once they were in a slightly better bargaining position. Many men with high school educations could work a factory job, buy a house, and support a family—largely because they could join unions. Even some Black men got in on the action. Obviously, this all had to stop. Neoliberal policies made sure it did.､
With collaboration from feckless Third Way Democrats, Republicans led the way, crushing unions and gutting the Government. Arthur “The Curve” Laffer ludicrously claimed that lowering tax rates would increase tax revenue. It did not. Grover “Drown The Government In The Bathtub” Norquist was honest about his intentions, at least.
Yesterday, Reuters’ Heather Timmons tweeted, “Art Laffer is being floated as head of a new task force to ‘reopen’ the U.S. economy.”
— — —
* For the record, it is our intention to survive this mess and resume our longstanding love affair with newsprint just as soon as we possibly can. — The Ed.
† Talbot, David. The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government. New York: HarperCollins, 2015.
‡ Beatty, Jack. Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America, 1865–1900. New York: Knopf, 2007.
§ “Neoliberalism: A political approach that favors free-market capitalism, deregulation, and reduction in government spending….” – Lexico.com.
On Monday, a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude oil had less value on the market than a printed copy of this newspaper—which, under normal circumstances, is free. Anyone willing to accept delivery could expect to receive $40 along with each 42-gallon barrel.
Demand for oil was already falling early in March, due to the coronavirus. Because Vladimir Putin was resisting his plan to keep oil prices comfortable by lowering production, Saudi Arabia’s fun-loving Prince Mohammad Bin Salman decided to start an oil price war against Russia. He jacked up production and offered big price breaks on Saudi crude. The combined effect was a glut so sudden and so great that the whole global system for transporting oil seized up like an overwound watch.
This, of course, seems pretty weird. On NPR Tuesday morning, energy correspondent Camila Domonoske told host Noel King, “I’m running out of synonyms for unprecedented.” After an explanation of how this had come about, King, searching for some shred of normalcy, asked, “could the federal government intervene and stabilize the market in some way?” According to Domonoske, “President Trump mentioned a few different possible actions. … He talked previously about filling up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve [SPR] ….” That’s not going to help. The maximum capacity of the SPR is 717 million barrels [mb]. The current inventory is about 635 mb, so there’s only about 82 mb of capacity left. Before the virus and the price war, the world used more than that in a day.
According to Peter Zeihan, who appears to know about this sort of thing, the real weirdness is just beginning. In a post at Zero Hedge, he wrote, “this is nothing but the warmup for the big show.
“That will happen when the world runs out of storage.
“… no one thinks there’s a whole lot of storage capacity left. Global oversupply of crude right now is over 20 mpbd [million barrels per day] (with 30 mbpd seeming to be the “average” guestimate). Most folks in the know are now musing that what storage remains will be filled up completely sometime in May or early-June.
“And filled up it will be, because that is the express goal of the world’s largest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia. The Saudi price war started out as a spat with the Russians over carrying the burden of a production cut. It has since expanded into the Saudis targeting the end markets of every single one of what the Saudis’ consider to be inefficient producers. The Saudis are directly targeting markets previously serviced not just by U.S. shale and Russian [crude], but those serviced by Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan and Libya and Iraq and Iran and Malaysia and Indonesia and Mexico and Norway and the United Kingdom and Nigeria and Chad and you get the idea.”
A Pox on All Their Houses
In a melee involving the entire global fossil fuel industry, there are no good guys for whom to root. Fortuitously, though, according to Zeihan, there is one player in all the world that “has the most to lose” in this price war, and it’s one we should all be rooting against: Alberta, Canada.
Because it is landlocked, there is only one market for the nasty oil from its tar sands: via a pipeline, into the U.S. Since we’re already awash in oil, we don’t need it. TC Energy, though—the company behind the Keystone XL [KXL] Pipeline—has a lot invested and seems determined to do whatever it takes to reap what it considers to be its rightful profits.
James Hansen, the former NASA scientist who has been warning the world for thirty years about the greenhouse gasses and climate change, got right to the point about tar sands in a 2013 interview in The Guardian:
“Oil from tar sands makes sense only for a small number of people who are making a lot of money from that product. It doesn’t make sense for the rest of the people on the planet. We are getting close to the dangerous level of carbon in the atmosphere and if we add on to that unconventional fossil fuels, which have a tremendous amount of carbon, then the climate problem becomes unsolvable.”
Bill McKibben wrote in The Guardian on April 5th about just how far TC Energy execs, their cronies, and their enablers will go for a buck.
Thousands of demonstrators had persevered long enough to get the project shelved during the Obama Administration. Naturally, Donald Trump reversed that decision on his fourth day in office. Still, nothing happened because TC Energy was broke.
“[T]hen came the coronavirus epidemic,” McKibben wrote, “and the oil industry saw its opening. It moved with breathtaking speed to take advantage of the moment.
“In Alberta, premier Jason Kenney, a pliant servant of the oil companies who had already set up a ‘war room’ to fight environmentalists, invested $1.1 billion of taxpayers’ money [in] TC Energy to fund construction through the year, and set aside another $6 billion in a loan guarantee.
“Meanwhile, on the southern side of the border, a series of states quickly adopted laws making it a felony to protest ‘critical infrastructure’ like pipelines. (Last week South Dakota, a crucial link on the KXL route, made it a felony even to ‘incite’ such protest.) And the Department of Health and Human Services issued a memorandum exempting pipeline construction from stay-at-home orders because such work was ‘critical’—that is, the department is asserting it is essential to build oil pipelines at the precise moment that the world is swimming in oil and that the Trump administration is boasting about getting Saudi and Russian autocrats to cut supply.”
All is not yet lost, though.
As Niina H. Farah reported for E&E News, on April 15th, “Chief Judge Brian Morris for the Montana district court sided with environmental groups’ complaints that the Army Corps of Engineers had failed to perform a multiagency consultation mandated under the Endangered Species Act to assess the risks of its Nationwide Permit 12 ahead of the program’s five-year renewal in 2017.”
The Corps of Engineers has traditionally taken a rubber-stamp approach to individual permits making up part of a larger project.
“In their lawsuit, which focused on the KXL pipeline but raised broader claims about the Army Corps’ general permit,” Farah wrote, “the environmental challengers said the agency approval treats each of the pipeline’s water crossings as a distinct project and does not take into account the cumulative harms of building through all the water crossings along the entire project route.”
As Rick Perry might say, “Oops.”
About Those Pandemic Bonds
In our most recent printed edition, published on March 13th—and about which there is more below—we noted that two days earlier the WHO had finally declared that a pandemic was under way. We were wondering at that time if that declaration would finally trigger a payoff from the World Bank’s peculiar Pandemic Bonds.
Yesterday we went looking for an update on those bonds. The best explanation came from Double Down News, a UK non-profit, in a YouTube video by Nick Dearden titled, “WTF Are Pandemic Bonds? And Why Are They So Shit?” Here’s a transcript:
The World Bank, which is supposed to be about developing societies, and fighting poverty around the world, one of the ways that it thinks that you fight epidemics is the creation of special bonds called pandemic bonds. Pandemic bonds are loans that are sold to investors, sold to pension funds, sold to hedge funds. And they pay a return to those big investors until a pandemic happens. And when the pandemic happens, the original capital that was invested in the bond, that is used to help countries deal with that pandemic.
The problem is that in order to encourage big investors to buy these bonds, they’ve been structured in such a way that they don’t really work at all. They’ve effectively never paid out to date, despite the Ebola crisis and whatever else, they’ve never paid out.
Now with corona virus pandemic bonds have finally been triggered, so we hope now that those bonds are going to pay out. However, these bonds have been paying out, high rates of interest for the entire time that they’ve been issued to rich investors. So a lot of people have made money.
It would be far far better if we put society’s resources into trying to take money out of tax havens, tax the super rich, tax big business, so that countries are able to develop decent universally accessible, public health care systems, so that when something like this happens, they have a head start—they’re ready to begin dealing with a public health crisis, in a way that can actually meet the needs of everybody but especially, those [who] were going to struggle otherwise.
The idea that you can kind of persuade the financial market to behave, as if it was a development institution, as if it was something that was interested in solving poverty around the world, is ludicrous and we shouldn’t tie ourselves up in knots like this.
We need to tax, and we need to regulate, and we need to build up decent public services.
I always like to think that after the Second World War, my grandparents’ generation suddenly thought: We’ve been through this war, we’ve been through horrendous suffering, we want to build a better society—how do we do that? And one of the things they did in this country was to say; health care is too important to be dictated by the market. Whether I get treated or not, how much I suffer or not, should not depend upon how much money I’ve got in my bank account. Health care should be a given. It should be available to everybody in society, no matter where they come from.
And that’s where they created the National Health Service, and it was a very effective way of trying to re-level, some of the inequalities that had evolved in society over a long period of time. And I think most people in Britain probably regard the NHS, as kind of the pinnacle of civilisation, of what if we put our minds to it we can achieve to create a better way of living.
Exactly that kind of solution needs to be rolled out, right the way around the world today.
Unfortunately, the very institutions like the World Bank, that are creating these ridiculous pandemic bonds, have spent years, and years and years telling countries they need to slash public spending, they need to privatise everything in sight, they need to liberalise their economies, they’ve made those kind of solutions that much more difficult. And we need to reverse course now very, very rapidly. And hopefully one of the few positives that might come out of this crisis, is that we finally wake up to the damage that’s been done, to our ability to meet our needs as human beings, by the ravages of the market for decades now.
The mainstream media has become more and more dominated by vested interests. That’s why alternative media is so utterly vital, if we’re to create the kind of better world that most of us want to create. And it’s why things like Double Down news are so important, so please, please, please support it if you possibly can.
Which we were happy to do.
Our Third Fortnight in Digital Limbo
It’s been 42 days since we loaded the hand truck and wheeled fresh papers to RiverRun Bookstore; six weeks since we sat and helped fold papers for mailing to subscribers. Lord, how we miss publication day—and all those other days in between. Seeing the paper on tables here and there, slightly crumpled or soup-stained, was visible, tangible evidence that all this daily key-poking had a purpose, and meaning. Now we make do with a few additional clicks, silently sending a file to some gadget on a rack in an air-conditioned room devoid of human life. This represents an incredibly radical and rapid change from our familiar, comfortable, former circumstances—a state of being it literally took decades to develop. Indulge us while we briefly reminisce….
The editor first heard of the New Hampshire Gazette in the late 1980s, during his second go-round at the Hillsborough[N.H.] Messenger. Its disgruntled employees, warned of an impending takeover by a man they knew too well to work for, were considering a mutiny. The plan was for the whole crew to jump ship and start a rival paper.
A paper needs a name. The editor had recently been reading certain quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore, looking for confirmation of a story his father had told him three decades earlier: “There was a printer in the family, way back in the olden days, and he printed something the authorities didn’t like. So they threw him in jail.”
There it was, in Isaiah Thomas’ History of Printing in America : Daniel Fowle, thrown into Boston’s stone gaol in 1754, founded this—the first newspaper in New Hampshire—in 1756. Making things all the more enticing, Frank Luther Mott’s American Journalism  noted that “the oldest American paper surviving today is the New Hampshire Gazette, of Portsmouth….”
The editor hastened to the offices of William “Bill” Gardner, New Hampshire’s Secretary of State for Life. Writing a check for $40, hoping it wouldn’t bounce, he whisked the rights to the Nation’s Oldest Newspaper from the previous claimant, then the owner of the Portsmouth Herald, Kenneth Thomson, 2nd Baron Thomson of Fleet, and the 9th richest man in the world. (The Herald and the Gazette had been paired up since F.W. Hartford bought all the papers in town at the turn of the 20th century, shutting down all the others.)
Gardner made it official on May 1st, 1989. After a decade of publishing on irregular dates from a number of locations, we reintroduced this paper to Portsmouth 21 years ago, on May 1st, 1999. In mere months we gained two stalwarts still with us today: Business [Such as it Is] Manager Rose Eppard, and Starving Artiste Mike Dater.
Until we’re back on paper, we’ll be here, confined to www.nhgazette.com. Happily, though, we expect that on May 1st, 2020, this site will undergo a subtle transformation, making it more flexible and responsive.
Noted epidemiologist, Vietnam War draft dodger, and President, Donald J. Trump now conducts televised daily briefings on the Federal Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic—and whatever other random thought-substitutes may then be fluttering around, bat-like, in his belfry.
We hope that scientists in the future—if there is one, and there are any—will study this phenomenon and confirm or deny the following theory, which is ours: when he gets in front of the cameras and talks, the nation’s collective IQ plummets.
Collective intelligence is not exactly a commodity which we have in surplus. He should be grateful to the President’s handlers, though, for inducing him to accept these briefings as a substitute for campaign rallies.
If they had continued, those hate-fests might eventually have counterbalanced through attrition the voter suppression efforts which keep Republicans in power. More likely, though, they’d have just raised the death toll, right across the board. There’s that bipartisanship for which everyone’s been clamoring.
As the victim of a cruel disability (a worm hole in that part of his brain which, in normal people, detects irony) he holds these events at 5:00 o’clock. During the war that he skipped out on, that was the time when the Pentagon’s Public [Dis]Information Officers tried in vain to convince war correspondents that everything was going according to plan. Their method was way ahead of its time: they employed drone warfare. Not in the sense we use it today, though. They stood at a podium and read in monotone an endless list of meaningless statistics which, according to then-current algorithms, proved conclusively that the light at the end of the tunnel was not on the front of an oncoming locomotive.
During Tuesday’s episode, the President—who dithered for months as this pandemic gained momentum—tried to lay some of the blame off to the World Health Organization. The italicized text below comes directly from the White House transcript:
Trump – “But we want to look into it—World Health Organization—because they really are—they called it wrong. They called it wrong. They really—they missed the call. They could have called it months earlier. They would have known, and they should have known. And they probably did know, so we’ll be looking into that very carefully.
“And we’re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO. We’re going to put a very powerful hold on it, and we’re going to see. It’s a great thing if it works, but when they call every shot wrong, that’s no good.”
Three thousand words later, a journalist asks a question:
Journalist – “Thanks. A quick follow-up on that. So is the time to freeze funding to the WHO during a pandemic of this magnitude?”
The President – “No, maybe not. I mean, I’m not saying I’m going to do it, but we’re going to look at it.”
Journalist – “You did say that you’re going to —”
The President – “We give a tremendous —”
Journalist – “You said you’d put a hold on it.”
The President – “No, I didn’t. I said we’re going to look at it. We’re going to investigate it. We’re going to look at it. But we will look at ending funding.”
[Emphasis (bold) added.– The Ed.]
Strictly speaking, this is not news, but, for the record: when the President speaks, a series of sounds tumble from his mouth. Trying to assign any fixed meaning to them is a chump’s game. If he were where he belongs, that is, standing in a public park in Queens, orating at pigeons, with a loved one, if one can imagine such a thing, watching to make sure he comes to no harm—this would not be a problem. Tragically that is not the case. This man is supposedly the leader of what used to be called the free world.
WHO funding matters, of course. So does Covid testing. In March, Trump was promising millions of tests “soon.” They never materialized. NPR reported Wednesday that “Some local officials are disappointed the federal government will end funding for coronavirus testing sites this Friday. In a few places those sites will close as a result. This as criticism continues that not enough testing is available.”
If you don’t test, of course, if you won’t get as many positive results as you would if you did test. That will create a false impression: the problem will not look so bad, and, by extension, it will look like the President is doing a better job. Those temporary, illusive benefits, all of which accrue to the President, will come at a cost, though—i.e., more people will die.
Article 25 of the Constitution, provides, under Section Four, that whenever the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet transmit their written declaration to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President. As yet they have not done that, though, and it’s hard to imagine at this point what it will take to convince them. Perhaps they’re waiting for CNN to broadcast footage of his head rotating 360° on-camera, followed by a torrent of green vomit.
Meanwhile, Foreign Policy, a highly respected magazine not given to alarmist speculation, published an article yesterday headlined, “The Normal Economy is Never Coming Back.” Alan Tooze wrote, “America’s economy is now widely expected to shrink by a quarter. That is as much as during the Great Depression. But whereas the contraction after 1929 stretched over a four-year period, the coronavirus implosion will happen over the next three months. There has never been a crash landing like this before. There is something new under the sun. And it is horrifying.”
A Teachable Moment?
Let’s look at the bright side: yes, a highly contagious new disease has been unleashed on the world, to which no one was immune, and for which we have no vaccine; and, yes, the effects on our economy have already been such that we’re only just beginning to figure out how bad it might become. But at least people are paying some attention to a few things that have hitherto escaped their notice.
The value of the work performed by nurses and grocery store checkout clerks, for example. Exposed all day long to a dangerous pathogen, they’re used to working for relative peanuts. If they’re risking their lives to keep us healthy and fed, don’t they deserve a living wage?
The unemployment rate has absolutely exploded. How many of the recently unemployed just lost their health insurance, too?
Thousands of insurance workers do nothing but deny health care benefits to sick people. How, exactly, are they helping matters?
Medicare for All is the obvious answer to these problems. The answer is always, “How will you pay for that?”
Congress just tossed $2.2 T-T-Trillion to Jared Kushner and Steven Mnuchin, as far as anyone can tell, to dole out as they see fit. There was to have been an Inspector General, but he’s been fired. The money could end up anywhere, so keep your eyes open.
One place it won’t go is the Post Office, speaking of previously unsung heroes. One might think that since it rates a line of its own in the U.S. Constitution—Article I, Section 8, Clause 7, empowering Congress “To establish Post Offices and Post Roads”—the Postal Service might get a little respect from self-styled “Constitutional Conservatives.” One would be wrong, though, of course. Democrats put money for the Postal Service in the bailout package. Trump yanked it out.
In 2006, Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. Anyone familiar with Congress’ ways will immediately realize its true intent was not to enhance, but to weaken and undermine the Postal Service.
As Oregon Rep. Pete DeFazio recently explained, the law “require[d] the USPS to prefund 75 years worth of retiree health benefits in the span of ten years—a cost of approximately $110 billion. Although the money is intended to be set aside for future Post Office retirees, the funds are instead being diverted to help pay down the national debt.
“No other private enterprise or federal agency is required to prefund retiree health benefits on a comparable timetable. The mandate is responsible for all of USPS’s financial losses since 2013.”
As for accountability, the bill passed in the Senate by unanimous consent, and in the House by a voice vote—in other words, anonymously. Republicans held the whole dang Government at the time. DeFazio got a bill through the House which would end the retirement mandate. God only knows how it would get past McConnell.
A Message from the D.M.
Speaking of our good friends at the U.S. Postal Service, whom we hope to see again sooner rather than later, here’s a message from the District Manager, about how to make life a little easier and safer for your local mail carrier:
During these challenging times, postal employees are working hard to ensure residents stay connected with their world through the mail. Whether it’s medications, a package, a paycheck, benefits or pension check, a bill or letter from a family member, postal workers understand that every piece of mail is important. While service like this is nothing new to us, we need our communities’ help with social distancing.
For everyone’s safety, our employees are following the social distancing precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health officials. We are asking people to not approach our carriers to accept delivery. Let the carrier leave the mailbox before collecting the mail. With schools not in session, children should also be encouraged to not approach a postal vehicle or carrier.
If a delivery requires a signature, carriers will knock on the door rather than touching the bell. They will maintain a safe distance, and instead of asking for a signature on their mobile device, they’ll ask for the resident’s name. The carrier will leave the mail or package in a safe place for retrieval.
We are proud of the role all our employees play in processing, transporting, and delivering mail and packages for the American public. The CDC, World Health Organization, as well as the Surgeon General indicate there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 is being spread through the mail.
With social distancing, we can keep the mail moving while keeping our employees, and the public, safe.
Regina Bugbee, District Manager, U.S. Postal Service – Northern New England District.
Fine, Frugal Folks Left Money for Medics
Sam Yarnold was born in New Hampshire around 1908. The son of poor immigrants, he began working at an early age, mostly in the blueberry fields and cranberry bogs of New Jersey. His nephew, Stephen H. Roberts, remembers that Sam and his wife Alice (nee Pinkham) were “quiet, sincere, and kept pretty much to themselves. Sam was very frugal and would only read a newspaper left over from a neighbor.” The Yarnolds retired to Rollinsford in 1958. Their 52 year marriage ended with Alice’s death in 1991; Sam survived her by three years.
As a tribute to their doctors, the Yarnolds left a legacy of $800,000 to fund scholarships in the range of $1,000 to $5,000 for New Hampshire residents already in the process of post-secondary education pursuing careers in nursing, medicine, or social work. This year’s applications are due by May 23, 2020; scholarships will be awarded this fall. Applications may be requested from the Alice M. Yarnold and Samuel Yarnold Scholarship Trust, 127 Parrott Ave., Portsmouth, N.H., 03801.
Life and Travels of Mrs. Nancy Prince
The office of the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire, at 222 Court St. in Portsmouth, will remain closed for regular business until Monday, May 4, 2020. The staff, however, are working remotely to adjust their programs to our new reality. Though visiting is currently out of the question, you can always sign up for JerriAnne Boggis’ newsletter. You never know what you might learn.
For example, we had never heard of Nancy Gardner Prince. JerriAnne’s brief mention made us want to know more: “Despite a bleak beginning selling picked berries to survive, this author and traveler would go on to serve in the court of Czar Alexander I, start a business in St. Petersburg, Russia, establish a school in Jamaica, and publish her autobiography, A Narrative of the Life and Travels of Mrs. Nancy Prince. The full text is available online from the New York Public Library.
Who could resist this?
“I was born in Newburyport, September the 15th, 1799. My mother was born in Gloucester, Massachusetts—the daughter of Tobias Wornton, or Backus, so called. He was stolen from Africa, when a lad, and was a slave of Captain Winthrop Sargent; but, although a slave, he fought for liberty. He was in the Revolutionary army, and at the battle of Bunker Hill. He often used to tell us, when little children, the evils of Slavery, and how he was stolen from his native land. My grandmother was an Indian of this country; she became a captive to the English, or their descendants. She served as a domestic in the Parsons family. My father, Thomas Gardner, was born in Nantucket; his parents were of African descent. He died in Newburyport, when I was three months old. My mother was thus a second time left a widow, with her two children, and she returned to Gloucester to her father. My mother married her third husband, by whom she had six children. My step-father was stolen from Africa, and while the vessel was at anchor in one of our Eastern ports, he succeeded in making his escape from his captors, by swimming ashore. I have often heard him tell the tale. Having some knowledge of the English language, he found no trouble to pass. There were two of them, and they found, from observation, that they were in a free State. I have heard my father describe the beautiful moon-light night when they two launched their bodies into the deep, for liberty.…”
OK, then—that’s going on top of the “Read Next” pile.
In times as terrible as these—the news cycle dominated by daily infomercials featuring a clearly addled mountebank praising his own homicidally ham-fisted response to a lethal pandemic; the global economy wheezing like a chain-smoker in the Tour de France; choruses of ignored scientists chanting a litany of pending but unaddressed environmental catastrophes; and, apparently, no baseball—we must keep our heads, and strive to accomplish whatever good we can. As one small step toward that end, we propose the abolition of the term “intelligent design.”
Intelligent design, as we all know, is a weasel-phrase engineered to insinuate religion into our public schools under an assumed name. In modern parlance, it’s an attempt to re-brand an old product. Far from attacking religion, though, abolishing this phrase would defend it.
This Presumed Designer of our ludicrous species—is he, she, or it benevolent? Cruel? Or simply insane? Judging from the available evidence, it’s some mixture of the latter two. Don’t bite the hand that created you, we say—admit you’re a monkey’s distant nephew, and put the blame on Darwin’s lemurs.
While we’re ladling unsavory ingredients into the communal punchbowl, we’ll note that there’s a disturbing parallel between so-called intelligent design and our alleged democracy. Winston Churchill—that homicidal half-American—called democracy “the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Considering the way ours is operating, one has to wonder if he shouldn’t have quit while he was ahead, i.e., at “government.”
Public consciousness, such as it is, has now been subjected to nearly five full years of increasingly incoherent and self-contradictory jabber with the lowest signal-to-noise ratio since the Tower of Babel fell. We have all seen the photo: the source of this chaos and confusion, staring with naked eyes at a solar eclipse. So, too, are we transfixed by him—the Black Hole of Meaninglessness. As with a black hole, the thing itself cannot be seen—only the havoc it wreaks.
To better see what’s actually in front of us, let us imagine something a little different, something to which we have not become blind by staring at it for too long: the President is a black woman, a socialist, exhorting her supporters to strap on their guns and assemble on the steps of state houses across the nation’s heartland, expressing their willingness to die in defiance of decrees issued by Republican governors.
This picture would be incomplete without the proper context: a ubiquitous propaganda channel, operating around the clock, claiming to be the sole source of unadulterated truth while condemning its competitors as dupes and liars. It reports Madame President’s every utterance, and backs her to the hilt.
For the sake of accuracy, we’d have to expand our vision even more. It would have to include a broad array of tax-exempt foundations, subsidizing generations of scholars steeped in the works of anarchists, socialists, and communists like Bakunin, Kropotkin and Trotsky. These intellectual shock troops would regularly release, as if from a bat cave, viral packets of language in endless succession. At the core of them all would be this essential message: ideologically speaking, capitalism and cancer are indistinguishable. Both Big Cs believe growth is everything; there is no future beyond the next quarterly report.
The finishing touch for our Bruegelesque hellscape would be the leaders of the Democratic National Committee, wearing Che berets, benevolently smiling over all that it had encouraged and promoted.
Our analogy is flawed, of course, because it is incomplete. It includes no representation of the investing class. Overwhelmingly favoring the GOP, it pursues its further fantastic enrichment at the risk of all our lives.
Hyperbole? Our editorial foot.
Scientists at the Becker Friedman Institute in Chicago—Ground Zero for pro-capitalism academics—published an academic study Sunday, titled, “Misinformation During a Pandemic.” They devised a way to compare the health outcomes for the audiences of two Fox News programs, one featuring Sean Hannity, the other Tucker Carlson.
“Carlson warned viewers about the threat posed by the coronavirus from early February, while Hannity originally dismissed the risks associated with the virus before gradually adjusting his position starting late February.” The study showed “greater viewership of ‘Hannity’ relative to ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’ is strongly associated with a greater number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the early stages of the pandemic.”
Then there’s the matter of the tangerine-colored man who’s not a doctor but acts like he is one on TV. “I hope they use [hydroxychloroquine] because…what do you have to lose?” Your life, apparently. “About 28 percent who were given hydroxychloroquine plus usual care died, versus 11 percent of those getting routine care alone,” according to an AP report about a recent Veterans Affairs study. Wednesday we learned that he fired the director of vaccine development—who has an actual PhD in immunology—because he refused to waste resources on a quack hydroxychloroquine cure. Yesterday, in the latest episode of his unrehearsed remake of “The Gong Show,” he was promoted a new cure: injecting people with disinfectant.
The atmosphere was already warming when this virus came along; the ice caps were already melting, the oceans were already acidifying, and species were going extinct at a rate not seen since the dinosaurs went bye bye. We might get a handle on the pandemic in a year or two, but meanwhile the house is on fire. If we Homos really are sapient, this would be the time to start showing it.
The good news is that in a poll last week, 81 percent of the public backed social distancing, even if it does continue to damage the economy. Only ten percent held the opposite view.
Forget our wisecracks earlier about the flaws of democracy. We’ll take that any day over the lunocracy that rules us now.
[Originally published in 2009, this somehow seems relevant. – The Ed.]
Let’s talk pills. To treat everything from allergies to heart problems, half of Americans take a prescription medicine every day, and nearly all of us reach for the pill bottle on occasion.
It’s perfectly safe, though, because the Food and Drug Administration regulates the ingredients that go into those medicinal compounds, right? Yes—assuming they’re produced in the U.S.A.
Uh, aren’t they?
Mostly, no. Take antibiotics. The New York Times reports that ingredients for the majority of these bacteria fighters are “now made almost exclusively in China and India,” as are the components of dozens of other major drugs. Unbeknownst to most Americans (and to our doctors), China has become the world’s pre-eminent supplier of medicines. As one major drug company puts it: “If tomorrow China stopped supplying pharmaceutical ingredients, the worldwide pharmaceutical industry would collapse.”
What’s at work here is mindless globalization and deregulation. Our politicians threw open the U.S. market to drug imports, while also letting foreign manufacturers go uninspected and unregulated. So, companies located in China can cut corners and undercut our own regulated pill makers. America’s last producer of penicillin’s ingredients, for example, shut down in 2004, leaving us dependent on China.
FDA—our supposed watchdog—doesn’t even know where a drug’s ingredients come from. Why? Because drug companies say they don’t like to reveal their sources—so they don’t. The Times found that one federal database lists the existence of about 3,000 foreign drug plants that ship to the US, while another lists 6,800. No one knows which is correct, if either.
This is ridiculous. For the sake of America’s health, security, and economy, let’s regulate all pill makers and rebuild our own industry.
“Drug Making’s Move Abroad Stirs Concerns,” The New York Times, January 20, 2009.
Copyright 2017 by Jim Hightower & Associates. Contact Laura Ehrlich.
The U.S. Postal Service, I mean—the corporate hierarchy that runs this enormously popular public institution. Yes, I know that U.S.P.S. has lost revenue it traditionally got from first-class mail delivery, but I also know that letter carriers and postal workers have offered many excellent ideas for expanding the services that U.S.P.S. can deliver, thus increasing both revenue and the importance of maintaining these community treasures.
Yet, the Postal Board of Governors, which includes corporate interests that would profit by killing the public service, seems intent on—guess what?—killing it. The board’s only “idea” is to cut services and shut down hundreds of local post offices. Incredibly, their list of closures include the historic post office in Philadelphia’s Old City, the very building where Ben Franklin presided as our country’s first Postmaster General, appointed by the Continental Congress in 1775.
All across the country, post offices that are invaluable artistic and historic assets are slated to be sold to developers. One is the marvelous 1935 Bronx post office, with classic architectural flourishes and 13 museum-worthy murals. “It’s not just a post office,” says one customer fighting the closure, “it’s part of my life.” No one feels that way about a Fed Ex warehouse. Yet, says a U.S.P.S. spokeswoman dismissively, the four-story building is “severely underused.”
So, use it! Put a coffee shop in it, a public internet facility, a library and museum, a one-stop government services center—and, as U.S.P.S. employees have suggested, a public bank offering basic services to the thousands of neighborhood people ignored by commercial banks. Come on, U.S.P.S., show a little creativity and gumption, and remember that “service” is a key part of your name!
Copyright 2017 by Jim Hightower & Associates. Contact Laura Ehrlich.
Early in the spring of 1963, we eighth-graders at Conway Junior High traipsed down Main Street to Kennett High School to sign up for our freshman programs. It did not occur to me, or perhaps to many of my classmates, that this event could have a significant impact on the future course of our lives. We saw the guidance counselor, who asked us a few questions and filled out some 5×7 cards before signing us up for a program.
There were three general courses of instruction at Kennett. College prep consisted mainly of academic studies. General education began with fundamental English, math, history, and science, and bookkeeping or secretarial classes for those with business interests. Industrial arts included the same basic courses as general education, but with wood and metal shops and some basic automotive training.
Somehow the guidance counselor wrote me in for industrial arts. I don’t know how it happened; maybe I found the phrase “industrial arts” intriguing, and said “I’ll take that,” or maybe he suggested it. After all, this was the same man who later suggested that I ought to consider becoming a barber. I didn’t really care what course I took. I hated school anyway, because it cut too deeply into my reading time.
I came back to the junior high in time to file back into the building after noon recess, and my homeroom teacher, Margaret Gagnon, fell into line beside me. While we shuffled in she asked what I had chosen for a course. When I told her, she took me by the elbow and turned me away toward the office, where she sat me down and called the high school. I don’t remember what she said, but from a drawer she produced a 5×7 card just like the one the guidance counselor had used, and after filling it out she told me to take it over to the guidance office after school.
That was how I entered the college preparatory course. I took some interest in English and history, but by the beginning of my senior year it dawned on me that my post-graduation prospects would be limited. If I didn’t go to college, my schooling only qualified me for local jobs I didn’t want, or for military service. I was considering the Navy.
Attending college already seemed economically impossible by my last year of high school. Tuition and housing expenses then only came to a few hundred dollars a semester, but I had accumulated no savings. Neither had I thought far enough ahead to compete for local scholarships that bridged the gap for better scholars. In 1967, family-court judges had not yet extended the limits of mandatory parental responsibility through the college years, and I had moved out of the house anyway. Student loans—as ridiculous as it must seem to adherents of Elizabeth Warren and Comrade Bernie—were limited to those who actually had some intention of paying them off, and only in amounts that seemed possible to repay. The system of unlimited, unsecured, and essentially federally subsidized loans that encouraged colleges to charge astronomical tuition had not yet been engineered.
So I didn’t go. Even after getting out of the Army, I still spent several years dividing my time between bread labor and obsessive reading. For upwards of two years I lived barely half a mile from the Boston Public Library, and made that my principal hideaway, with a decided preference for the microfilm and special collection departments in the old half of the building.
Thanks to the GI Bill, I did finally earn a degree in the last months of my third decade, and graduated with savings instead of debt. I did quite well, too, in that era before grade inflation rendered deans’ lists completely meaningless. Still, the degree itself never won me a job, and I continued at blue-collar work I could have taken straight out of high school. That gave me the free time I needed to experiment with my most compelling interests, and eventually they coalesced into what became a most satisfying occupation.
Had a Mrs. Gagnon taken me by the elbow again when I graduated from high school and insisted that I begin college, I might have followed the logical track for those who don’t yet really know what they want to do. That would probably have yielded a respectable career with a satisfactory income, and in a day when students had to actually pay their own college costs it would not have cost a fortune—but there isn’t much chance it would have made me happy. Today the education racket promotes college as the “key” that all students must have, but those who rush into it often find that it locks a door that might otherwise have remained open.
April 24, 2020 — To download this issue of our paper, just click on the image at right.
We’re posting a little late today. The alleged editor is still struggling with this digital-only transition. Without bundles of newsprint to move around, the end of the publishing cycle doesn’t seem quite real.
Perhaps, though, there is an upside to our dogged resistance to change. The content of the paper doesn’t seem to have lost any of…whatever it is it’s always had.
April 10, 2020 — To download this issue of our paper, just click on the image at right.
Normally at this stage we would be wrapping up, dropping off papers at
Jumpin’ Jay’s Fish Cafe, and the Statey. Their doors are closed though,
as are ninety percent of our other distribution locations.
Because we can’t distribute, we’re not printing the paper.
March 27, 2020 — To download this issue of our paper, just click on the image at right.
This is a day we had hoped would never come: this issue will not appear on newsprint. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we are publishing online only. We intend to return to newsprint as soon as that becomes possible. Newsprint subscribers will find further details in the Alleged News®.