Let the Glory Out

“Yet because of his gargantuan inheritance from one of America’s richest fortunes, permissible by our faulty tax laws, there he sat as chairman… a frequent guest at the White House… Many politicians, too equated money with brains and esteem.”

-written about early 1960’s economic royalist Henry Ford II

The Book of the Week is “Let the Glory Out, My South and Its Politics” by Albert Gore, Sr., first published in 2000 [but written in 1972]. The author (father of former vice president Al Gore), a U.S. senator from Tennessee, described his experiences in politics. Sadly, the nature of some politicians’ behavior has changed little since the 1950’s and 1960’s.

As is well known, the 1950’s saw several landmark U.S. Supreme Court Civil-Rights Movement cases. [As an aside, charter schools are the modern-day version of “separate but equal” situation in American education– when compared to the private schools attended by children of wealthy parents (See the second-to-last paragraph of this blog’s post “Vernon Can Read”)].

Anyway, Congressman E.C. Gathings of Arkansas thought that the move toward racial integration was a Communist plot (!) Other American politicians weren’t so zealous in spreading anti-Communist propaganda, but they did fight integration tooth and nail. These included among others, Strom Thurmond, Harry Byrd and Richard Russell. They wanted to maintain the then-status quo of white supremacy and States’ rights.

Read the book to learn many more ways in which the same political issues keep rearing their ugly heads again and again and again, because some people (such as those in the CDC [Centers for Disease Control]) under political pressure, will say anything in order to secure funding for, and/or keep their jobs at, their organizations. Along these lines, here’s a lamentation on the CDC of late:

CDC

sung to the tune of “Maybelline” with apologies to the estate of Chuck Berry.

CDC, is what you say true?
Oh CDC, is what you say true?
You flip-flop on all you advise us to do.

As the pandemic lockdown was a go
I saw CDC contradictions grow.

When deciding on a mask mandate for all,
you made a really confusing call.

On closing schools you went against the grain.
Partly why the country went insane.

CDC, is what you say true?
Oh CDC, is what you say true?
You flip-flop on all you advise us to do.

Well with orders, guidelines and mandates,
you influenced govs ruling our states.

You got cloudy on immigration.
You crossed boundaries, causing irritation.

The stress from your waffling affected neighborhoods.
We knew you were doing propagandists good.

CDC, is what you say true?
Oh CDC, is what you say true?
You flip-flop on all you advise us to do.

CDC, is what you say true?
Oh CDC, is what you say true?
You flip-flop on all you advise us to do.

Well, the country calmed down, deaths went down.
We heard more of your untrustworthy sound.

Your messaging looked like politics again.
Who knows what your real motive was then?

We’re not listening, not sittin’ still.
We’re living our lives. You are a pill.

CDC, is what you say true?
Oh CDC, is what you say true?
You flip-flop on all you advise us to do.

The Real Cost of Fracking / The Buffalo Creek Disaster / A Trust Betrayed – BONUS POST

The first Bonus Book of the Week is “The Real Cost of Fracking, How America’s Shale Gas Boom is Threatening Our Families, Pets, and Food” by Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald, published in 2014.

Through the decades, monster-sized American corporations have mastered the game of political machinations, public relations and propaganda in doing tremendous harm to Americans (and getting away with it!), and in defending themselves against environmental-damage lawsuits, and premises-liability, personal-injury and wrongful death lawsuits. These corporations tend to be energy companies. See the following posts in this blog for several other examples (in no particular order):

  • Klondike
  • The Law of the Jungle
  • Sons of Wichita
  • Fateful Harvest
  • The World According to Monsanto
  • Superpower: One Man’s Quest…
  • The Oil Road
  • In the Name of Profit
  • Killers of the Flower Moon, and
  • Let the People In (see boldfaced paragraphs)

American companies that do fracking is the same story. The authors loosely define fracking as “unconventional drilling” for gas and oil, and hydraulic fracturing. The fracking industry has successfully convinced landowners (through omissions, half-truths and outright lies in their pitches) that they (the owners of small farms) could make big bucks from leasing their land for the purpose of fracking (when it turned out to be the other way around, most every time).

There are three major reasons it takes so long for the public to catch on to companies that damage the earth and people and can destroy communities and/or a way of life:

  • The companies put political pressure on the EPA and state-politicians to shut up;
  • The companies have the damaged parties sign non-disclosure agreements; and
  • The companies pay hush money to, or threaten any other parties who might give them bad publicity.

“Proving proximate cause for illness is complex because the water, soil and air have multiple chemicals of varying toxicities, and [have] hardly any pre- and post-drilling testing of air, and water, soil, people and animals.”

The consequences of fracking have far-reaching potential to contaminate the nation’s food supply, when cows, chickens and other food-animals are exposed to fracking toxins.

Sadly, Pennsylvania is only one of several states that has sold out to the pro-fracking interests. The authors had hours of discussions with those very adversely affected by the litany of unpronounceable toxins very likely produced by fracking. Beginning in September of 2009, those owners of small farms developed the following health problems: rashes, burning eyes, sore throats, headaches, nosebleeds and unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms.

The victims’ farm animals and pets had trouble reproducing, or they died. Air pollution resulted from dust, dirt and noise from heavy earth-moving vehicles and tanker trucks. In spring 2010, one family’s only water supply was terminated by the fracking company.

In addition, the family lost their livelihood breeding horses and dogs. They couldn’t afford to buy bottled water for the horses. The fracking company graciously offered to incinerate the horse’s corpse. One of their dogs also died even though it was drinking bottled water and was barely two years old. The suspected reason was that it drank wastewater that was poured on the family’s property.

Further, tests sufficiently specific to provide evidence of proximate cause between:

the family’s health problems, their animals’ deaths, and the drop in their property’s value due to contamination; and

the fracking company’s toxic practices

were prohibitively expensive.

Also, apparently, the company wasn’t legally required to disclose which toxins were produced by its operations, because it didn’t– when the leasing documents were signed with the landowners.

In central Arkansas, fracking wastewater was recycled when it was injected into deep wells, causing small earthquakes. Other states that allowed fracking at the book’s writing included: Ohio, Texas, Louisiana, Colorado, North Dakota and New York.

Read the book to learn a wealth of additional details on fracking, its adverse effects, of the complicated laws governing (or not governing) land in Pennsylvania and New York State at the book’s writing, and the authors’ suggestions for how to regulate the oil and gas industry to strike a balance between extracting needed fossil fuels and public health and safety; and sensible energy policy.

The second Bonus Book of the Week is “The Buffalo Creek Disaster, The Story of the Survivors’ Unprecedented Lawsuit” by Gerald M. Stern, published in 1976.

“If the government ever did knock on my door, I’d probably expect harm and harassment instead of help.”

-The [Caucasian] author’s attitude when he was a federal civil-rights attorney, personally visiting unannounced, helpless black families in Southern States, to inquire whether they required assistance with registering to vote, or with being protected, during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s.

In West Virginia coal country in the 1950’s, one dam overflowed. Then two more dams were built. The construction of the third dam– built cheaply– was subpar pursuant to civil engineering standards. The dam-builder was the Buffalo Creek Mining Company. Its holding company Pittston Company knowingly allowed a burning pile of coal waste-products to obstruct the stream, so that sooner or later, a tidal wave would flood the area.

In February 1972, it happened. More than 125 people drowned and hundreds were left homeless in a valley when the third dam broke, causing a stream to overflow in Middle Fork Hollow.

The possible causes of action in the ensuing class action suit included involuntary manslaughter and criminal negligence, but “psychic impairment” was a relatively new concept that had yet to be commonly litigated. It was known as “shell shock” in WWI. The new label for it after the Vietnam War was “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” (PTSD).

In April 1972, the author and his public-interest law firm, Arnold & Porter began to represent people harmed by the flood. They had to take the case on contingency, a rarity, only because those survivors couldn’t afford to pay the lawyers with any other fee structure. There occurred the usual frustrations, uncertainties and wrenches in the works that complicated the case, making it more expensive and time-consuming. Just a few included:

  • the fact that the wife of and daughter of, and the rival himself of the recently elected United Mine Workers Union’s president were murdered;
  • Once the lawyers decided whom to sue and in which court, it was hard to guess which of three judges would be assigned to the case (bringing up the cliche, “good to know the law, better to know the judge”);
  • At that time, there was a limit of $110,000 that could be awarded to each personal injury / wrongful death victim in the state of West Virginia; and
  • The disaster occurred less than two months prior to the West Virginia gubernatorial election.

Read the book to learn of the slew of additional details on the case and the fate of the stakeholders.

Yet one more largely similar disaster case was documented in the third Bonus Book of the Week, “A Trust Betrayed, The Untold Story of Camp Lejeune and the Poisoning of Generations of Marines and Their Families” by Mike Magner, published in 2014.

Like the fracking and coal-country stories, this story involved contaminated water, too. However, it was not a monster-sized corporation’s, but the United States government’s, negligence and secrecy that harmed people.

This story also differed in that the residents of the community were fluid– living there only months or a few years, compared to the fracking and coal-country victims. So they didn’t immediately connect the harm done to them with their drinking water, and communication among them was more scattered.

At the dawn of the 1980’s, an under-resourced water-testing lab at Camp Lejeune (where U.S. Marines were stationed) in North Carolina began to get an inkling that wells that provided drinking-water contained toxins such as THM’s, TCE, PCE, pesticides, PCB’s, VOC’s and benzene.

New federal clean-water laws were going into effect, so the Navy had to comply. The water was supposed to be tested regularly for grease, oil and suspended solids. If results showed contamination above a certain level, the lab was supposed to tell the EPA, but it didn’t handle cleanup.

The lab’s five (alarming) test-results between October 1980 and February 1981, were sent to Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Atlantic Division, where they disappeared into a black hole; not necessarily because there was a cover-up at that time, but merely due to bureaucracy– the lab workers thought the Navy knew what they were doing and would do the testing and regulating.

Camp Lejeune’s base commanders didn’t want to know whether individual wells were polluted. They hoped the base had sufficient clean wells to dilute the water from the contaminated ones. Shutting down any of the wells would produce a water shortage for the whole base during the summer, when demand for water was highest. Besides, water-testing was expensive.

Starting in the 1960’s and for decades thereafter, the military families and employees who lived in a certain geographic area on the base saw a disproportionate number of miscarriages, birth defects, and in later years, cancer. The suspected sources of pollution (or legal-defense scapegoats) included a dry cleaners, fuel tanks and a pumping station that exuded gallons and gallons of fuels and chemicals (through spills, leaks and inadequate safety practices) all the time.

In spring 1985, the crisis started to hit the fan, when the Navy was compelled to notify the residents that their drinking water might be unsafe (when in reality, for decades, it definitely had been).

Read the book to learn lots of additional details of what happened then (hint: the usual federal and state inter-agency (and military-branch) fighting, finger-pointing, report-writing, excuses for delays in the form of follow-up-research, and all manner of bureaucratic secrecy and shenanigans; after which the victims and taxpayers were the ones who paid the price).

Our Iceberg is Melting

The Book of the Week is “Our Iceberg is Melting, Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions” by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber, published in 2005.

SIDENOTE: Candice Bergen was the daughter of the world-famous ventriloquist, Edgar Bergen, whose dummy was named Charlie McCarthy. Born in May 1946, Bergen was just as angry about what the older generation was doing with her world as Millennials are today, with what their elders are doing.

“In six months, mine [Bergen’s parents, by 1968] had seen me go from socialite to socialist; had listened to my sermonizing them on American militarism, the massacres of the American Indian, their destruction of the ecosystem, their invention of plastics and their introduction to pesticides and preservatives.” Even so, Bergen realized she still had so much to learn, even though she had all of the advantages a child of a celebrity receives from birth onward.

Anyway, despite the unrealistic title-subhead (“… Under Any Conditions”), this fable provided a simple framework of actions to take in order to effect change on a system, whether it be overturning an oppressive situation, reversing the destruction of the environment, improving a healthcare system, or protecting everyone from cyber-attackers or other social ills.

The story started when one alert penguin informed others in his colony that their lives were endangered by an environmental threat. Other penguins helped him by convincing the community that there was a clear and present danger that needed to be dealt with as soon as possible.

The colony’s leaders formed a committee (whose members had diverse talents and skills but were still able to maintain civil discourse when they disagreed) to decide what to do. They propagandized early and often, and made everyone feel empowered by getting everyone to take action. They achieved a small victory to show the colony that the problem could be solved. Then they went at the problem whole hog, and didn’t let up– kept propagandizing and empowering to ensure that the major change stuck.

Read the book to learn of specific examples of how a group of people can learn to do the same. Of course, their experience won’t be so cut and dried as this penguin fable, as human beings and their problems are more complex, and there are always going to be some who get greedy and /or power-hungry, or angry and vengeful at those who do.

Drive -BONUS POST

The Bonus Book of the Week is “Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” by Dan Pink, published in 2009.

Studies in psychology have shown that when money is offered as an incentive to do a creative activity, people are less motivated to do that activity, than when they were previously doing it for fun, for free! The reason is that it would smack of being a job–so the creator would have less autonomy over their product.

In the 1960’s, a management professor at MIT theorized about two types of sets of behaviors.

People who exhibit Type X behaviors:

  • are motivated externally– by money or other incentives outside themselves;
  • believe that everyone’s level of intelligence is fixed and cannot be augmented (“entity theory of intelligence”);
  • set goals that are externally determined, such as getting A on a test (“performance goals”); this way, they can blame someone else if they fail; and
  • look down upon those who exert effort to solve a problem or master a skill they’re not naturally good at.

People who exhibit Type Y behaviors are the opposite:

  • are motivated internally (“type I internal motivators”) — doing creative activities for fun, for free makes them happy;
  • believe that everyone’s level of intelligence can be augmented with effort (“incremental theory of intelligence”);
  • prefer to set goals within their control (“learning goals”) such as learning a foreign language fluently; incidentally, this way, they have no excuses if they fail; and
  • aren’t embarrassed to exert extra effort if necessary to solve a problem or improve a skill.

People who engage in Type Y behaviors, rather than type X behaviors, are growth-oriented, naturally happier, and their work-product is more creative. They are not constantly trying to live up to someone else’s standards. The Type X people (unsurprisingly!) are prone to unethical actions and addictive behaviors; they are dishonest, interested in reaping a short-term reward, and don’t care about long-term, adverse consequences.

Read the book to get more interesting theories on motivation, and insights into the behaviors of specific people who (immediately!) come to mind, and Pink’s tips for motivating people in business, education and other situations.

The Life and Times of Little Richard

The Book of the Week is “The Life and Times of Little Richard, The Quasar of Rock” by Charles White, published in 1984. This story included quotes from people who knew the subject, and quotes from the subject himself. WARNING: As is well known, Little Richard was a rock star; this volume described graphic sex scenes.

Born in Macon, Georgia, Richard Penniman was the third child of thirteen born to a teenage mother in December 1932. He was a problem child and class clown, having a crying need for constant attention. Fortunately, he was supervised and disciplined by a tight-knit African-American community that encouraged his talent, so although he was always getting into trouble, he avoided doing serious harm to people or damaging property, or becoming a career-criminal. Throughout his life, he vacillated between singing religious music, and singing music he perceived as banned by his religion.

At a young age, Richard began singing gospel music with a group of other kids organized by an adult from the local church. His mother was raised as a Baptist; his father, a Methodist. He himself preferred to attend a Pentecostal church. In high school, he learned to play the saxophone in a marching band. In the 1950’s he saw traveling musicians at the local concert hall, and even got to meet a few of the greats of that era, such as Cab Calloway.

At fourteen years old, Richard left home to become a singer in the floor-show of a literal traveling snake-oil-salesman. He soon transferred his talents to singing and developing his own style of attention-grabbing choreography, with a band that played the standards, that traveled all over the state of Georgia. Over the next few years, he performed with a series of bands, met lots of people in the community, and attended numerous shows of the period– minstrel, vaudeville and night-club.

In October 1951, Richard got his first recording-contract with RCA. He was to deal with various music companies in the years to come. At that time, he was singing rhythm and blues, and wore a pompadour. He sang other people’s songs. He soon switched to rock and roll.

Later, Richard’s signature song got lots of laughs from night-club audiences for its initial obscene lyrics– “Tutti Frutti, good booty – if it don’t fit, don’t force it, you can grease it, make it easy…” Of course, the song had to be rewritten to be played on the radio. Richard resented the fact that Pat Boone (a white singer) sang a cover version that was made number one in the radio countdown. Richard’s own concert audiences were about 90% white.

In the 1950’s, the back room of a furniture store served as a recording studio. The space was large enough to accommodate a full orchestra and grand piano. But someone had to make adjustments for the acoustics of the room via careful placement of microphones and locating the drummer outside the door.

After a while, Richard realized he had been repeatedly cheated of reasonable compensation, given his talent and how hard he worked. In the mid-1950’s, pursuant to his contract, he made half a cent for each record sold.

The powers-that-be obviously knew how to maximize profits– the early rhythm and blues holding-companies had music-publishing companies, which owned the record companies. One way Richard and his concert-entourage wised up, was to demand half their pay when they signed a contract, and collect their remaining pay just before they went onstage. Or else they wouldn’t go onstage.

Richard eventually accumulated sufficient wealth to buy a house for his mother and siblings in the Sugar Hill district of West Los Angeles, next door to Joe Louis. Other famous singers such as Elvis, Bill Haley and Buddy Holly began covering Richard’s songs. When Richard gave concerts with his band, the Upsetters, he wore crazy clothes, makeup and had long hair. The band members got their hair done at a beauty salon. At one performance in El Paso, Texas, Richard was arrested for having that long hair.

Read the book to learn a wealth of additional details on Richard’s life, including what transpired when: Richard found God again, stopped his drug addiction, alcoholism and promiscuity, had to deal with racial issues, and much more.

Barbara Jordan

The Book of the Week is “Barbara Jordan, American Hero” by Mary Beth Rogers, published in 1998.

Born in Houston, Texas in 1936, Jordan was the youngest of three daughters. She was inspired to become an attorney after hearing Edith Spurlock Sampson speak at her high school. In 1962, when Jordan was running for a seat in the Texas legislature, the Democrat party was split between liberals and conservatives. The liberals were smeared as “radicals, integrationists, labor goons and nigger-lovers.”

The biggest tragedy of Lyndon Johnson’s presidency was that he wasted untold amounts of taxpayer money on the Vietnam War that could have been better spent on fighting poverty. As is well known, Nixon followed his lead, and in addition, had his own evil agenda. Fortunately, Jordan played well politically with others. So when she explained Nixon’s crimes in laypeople’s language, everyone listened.

Jordan said, “One should regret that it happened– then try to find out why. What is it about the American political system which allowed this kind of event to occur… then maybe we can prevent it in the future.” Sadly, human nature gets in the way, every time. It’s a vicious cycle. In 1990, after Ann Richards was elected governor of Texas, Jordan became chief ethics officer in the statehouse. Richards ordered ethics training (for the first time ever (!)) for her state-board and commission appointees, numbering about a thousand, during the course of her four-year term. As is well known, that’s a bygone era.

Speaking of ethics, here’s a parody on the latest tabloid punching-bag, Rudy Giuliani:

STEP UP, OLD RUDY

sung to the tune of “Wake Up, Little Susie” with apologies to the Everly Brothers.

Step up, old Rudy, step up.
Step up, old Rudy, step up.

Attorney-client privilege won’t fly.
Step up, old Rudy, don’t lie. It’s been two years, the jig is up.
Your own legal bills are high.
Step up, old Rudy, step up, old Rudy.

Well, what weren’t you gonna tell the State?
What dirt on Biden couldn’t wait?
What’d you tell your political friends to seal-that-ambassador’s fate?
Step up, old Rudy, step up, old Rudy.

Well, you told us that you were lobbying for Trump.
Well Rudy baby, your loyalty made you a chump.
Step up, old Rudy, step up, old Rudy.
You’re on your own.

Step up, old Rudy, step up.
Step up, old Rudy, step up.

Ukraine-trip put you on the spot.
Plus the Dominion-voting-machine plot.
You’re sell-ing the Brooklyn Bridge.
Your goose is cooked, your reputation is shot.
Step up, old Rudy, step up, old Rudy.

Well, what weren’t you gonna tell the State?
What dirt on Biden couldn’t wait?
What’d you tell your political friends to seal-that-ambassador’s fate?
Step up, old Rudy, step up, old Rudy.
Step up, old Rudy…

Anyway, read the book to learn much more about Jordan’s life.

Surviving the Extremes – BONUS POST

The Bonus Book of the Week is “Surviving the Extremes, A Doctor’s Journey to the Limits of Human Endurance” by Kenneth Kamler, M.D., published in 2004.

The author, a medical doctor, described people’s experiences: in the Amazon jungle, while deep-sea diving, on Mount Everest, in the desert, on the high seas, and in a spaceship. The adventurers were subjected to life-threatening conditions at every turn (by choice— they were Darwin award candidates), but possessed expertise and technology that bettered their chances of survival. Their local-area employees possessed the physical characteristics advantageous for survival because those employees had become adapted to the harsh conditions over the course of generations. Some people did die, though. However, the author failed to specify the time-frames of the above scenarios. The introduction of new technologies, and discoveries have probably prevented or mitigated some of those kinds of disasters, since the book’s writing.

One point the author made, concerns the relationship between the human brain and society. A society can regress when an influential leader in a position of power breaks a taboo. His followers will copy him and rationalize away the sin. It then becomes easier to break additional taboos. Eventually, fairness and morality go out the window, because human brains actually adopt a more primitive way of thinking.

The cerebral cortex of the brain guides the ethics of behavior, but the amygdala takes over when tempers flare, and impulse control decreases. If the amygdalas of a significant portion of the population are activated via vicious political rumors, such as:

  • Biden’s going to pack the U.S. Supreme Court!
  • Medicare’s going to be privatized!
  • Biden’s senile and Harris is going to take over the country!
  • The Republicans are going to win back the House in the 2022 midterm elections!

the nation’s behavior regresses. Enough said.

Anyway, read the book to learn a lot about the roles physiology, biochemical processes, psychology and man-made resources play in survival when humans are present in places that tax their limitations.