Strom Thurmond’s America

The Book of the Week is “Strom Thurmond’s America” by Joseph Crespino, published in 2012.

Born in December 1902 in South Carolina, Thurmond grew up in the small-town farming community of Edgefield. His father was an attorney and his family was wealthy and aristocratic.

In 1929, Thurmond became schools superintendent in his hometown. He favored giving a teachers a raise and extending the academic year, funded by the state through a beer tax. He entered into a legal apprenticeship under his father, and in 1933, as a Democrat, was elected to South Carolina’s state senate. Three years later, he became a circuit-court judge, traveling around the state to preside over county-court cases.

During the Depression, the way Thurmond and his fellow southern Democrats defined themselves as “liberal” allowed them to support FDR’s New Deal in order to provide financial aid for white farmers and low-skilled industrial workers in their districts.

After fighting in WWII, Thurmond ran for governor as a Democrat. He was a white-supremacist, mudslinging, drama-queen, populist demagogue while campaigning. Although he did some good things, his actions were always politically expedient. In 1947, he actually delivered on a promise to have South Carolina law enforcement and FBI agents round up 31 (white) men who were suspects in the lynching of a black man. However, a jury of twelve white men acquitted the suspects.

At the time, the United States was helping to establish the United Nations– an international body that concerned itself with respecting human rights. There was pressure on the state of South Carolina to help America maintain a good reputation in that regard, so Thurmond spoke in favor of a federal anti-lynching law. Thurmond and his fellow Dixiecrats wanted to continue to prevent intermingling of blacks and whites so as to not contaminate the genes of the latter. He therefore denigrated every one of president Truman’s civil rights proposals.

And Thurmond was always arguing for state-level laws. To that end, in 1948, he ran for president on the States’ Rights ticket (a third party) in order to play the spoiler against Truman to kill civil rights legislation. But postwar, he returned to a lucrative law practice.

Thurmond then sided with corporate America and the kings of industry in oil, cattle, sugar planters, mercantile and shipping entities, steel, coal, and textiles, etc. He became rabidly anti-Communist and anti-union. Up until 1950 in South Carolina, voting for the Republican Party was NOT anonymous. If one wanted to do so, one had to request a ballot at the polls when he or she voted.

Thurmond ran for a U.S. Senate seat in 1954 as a write-in candidate (due to the previous officeholder’s death) even though his fellow Democrats were less than thrilled that he had disloyally run as a third-party candidate in 1948.

A litany of events and groups influenced voters in the South: the Korean War, the Democratic National Committee, the federal goings-on, the CIO, the NAACP, the national labor movement, the upward mobility of urbanites, and backlash (by whites) against southern blacks consequent to Truman’s civil rights legislation.

In the early 1960’s, Thurmond executed a series of far-right-wing campaigns that failed. For one, he pushed for the Nike-Zeus missile program that would help America respond to an attack by the U.S.S.R.; another had him holding hearings to stop JFK from scotching a military education initiative that would spew anti-Communist rhetoric. Finally, in September 1964, Thurmond announced he was a (Barry) Goldwater Republican.

Two prominent legal minds (William Rehnquist and Robert Bork) expressed their opinions that the 1964 Civil Rights Act would lead to a tattletale culture when it came to civil rights violations. Another indicator of the mentality of then-conservatives was that of blaming the Supreme Court for its pro-desegregation stance in a 1969 ruling in a major case, instead of blaming president Nixon.

Two years later, however, in 1971, Thurmond hired a black staffer (!) He needed to repair his reputation after he backed conservative Democrat congressman Albert Watson, who agreed with him on civil rights issues but ran a dirty campaign in 1970. Thurmond needed to woo moderate Republican voters to get reelected in 1972. Nevertheless, he stuck with Nixon until the end.

In sum, the current COVID face-covering issue in American schools is as controversial as desegregation-busing was from the mid-1960’s into the mid-1970’s. Shortly before he was reelected in 1972, Thurmond actually said, “If it [busing] improves the quality of education, then busing is good. If it doesn’t, then I think it’s bad.” According to their respective memoirs, busing was good for Vernon Jordan, but was socially traumatic and a hardship for Donna Brazile.

So letting local officials decide, pursuant to the majority of their constituents’ preferences, might have been a better policy. And if local officials acted against those preferences, then community organizing and political activism in neighborhoods that believed in education, would likely lead to some changes in the next election year. Dissatisfaction would reach critical mass eventually, in those districts.

Incidentally, in 1975, Senator Joe Biden listened to his constituents in his state of Delaware. He wrote a bill making race irrelevant to assignment of students and teachers to schools.

Read the book to learn of: the skeleton in Thurmond’s closet, his presidential-run results, his one-man filibuster, the historical events (Supreme Court cases and election campaigns) that compelled him to change with the times (or else he would see the end of his political career), the differences between his style of campaigning and that of Jesse Helms, and much more.

The Most Dangerous Man In Detroit

The Book of the Week is “The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit, Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor” by Nelson Lichtenstein, published in 1995.

Born in September 1907 in West Virginia, Walter Reuther was of German ancestry, raised Lutheran. He quit high school to learn the tool and die trade. In February 1927, he and a friend moved to Detroit for better pay and hours. He eventually made his way to Ford Motor Company, where he quickly rose through the ranks before the Great Depression hit America.

In the early 1930’s, Ford opened a plant to manufacture its Model “A” in the Soviet Union. Americans who believed in socialism were aware that the Stalin-led Soviet government ruled via one party– the Communist, and was perpetrating human rights abuses. But they liked certain economic aspects of its experimental “Five Year Plan.”

Beginning in early 1933, Walter and his brother Victor bicycled a distance of approximately twelve thousand kilometers during the nine months they were meeting with their European political contacts in various countries. In spring 1933, they were already seeing Fascist oppression in major German cities. In late 1933, they began working in a few Soviet industrial complexes to see labor and political conditions for themselves.

By the late 1930’s, the famine caused by Stalin’s disastrous agricultural-reform program prompted peasant-farmers to go to work in the factories that made steel, cars and tractors. In mid-1934, since they were foreigners and skilled middle-managers (training workers in tool and die making), Walter and Victor were permitted to travel between Stalingrad and Moscow to visit construction projects, collective farms and tractor factories. They were chaperoned by Party bureaucrats. They got special treatment, so perhaps they did not see the abuses suffered by unskilled workers. Their experiences led them to believe that the Soviet system was far less of a police-state than Germany’s.

Walter and Victor wanted to believe so badly in a Soviet workers’ paradise that they rationalized away the serious problems (such as impossible-to-meet production quotas, and reports of fancifully high numbers of vehicles manufactured). In 1934, on supervised tours, the brothers also took a look at labor conditions in China and Japan. October 1935 saw them return to the United States.

On May Day of 1936, in major cities across America, various political groups were speaking in the public square with the goal of unionizing workers; some of them– the Socialists, Proletarian and Communist parties– united to form a Popular Front (the joke in Spain was, “the girl with the Popular Front”).

By the mid-1930’s, the auto industry (which included carmakers, parts suppliers, tool and die makers, etc.) consisted of about a half million union members, thirty thousand of whom were in the United Auto Workers (UAW), a national union. In autumn 1936, Walter became a member of that union’s executive board. He planned and got employees to execute work-stoppages and sit-down strikes in order to get the big automakers like GM, Ford, Chrysler and Dodge to grant collective bargaining rights exclusively to the UAW. Other workplaces such as U.S. Steel were inspired to take such actions, too.

Ford was particularly hostile in its anti-union activities, as it had an in-house security department that spied on workers, fired some, and used violence against photographers. GM took measures to protect against productivity losses by rotating its parts suppliers and building new plants in different locations.

In the late 1930’s, Walter launched propaganda campaigns with the distribution of leaflets, and ran pro-union candidates in local political elections in Midwestern cities. In October 1945, he knew that his UAW workers couldn’t win their strike on just solidarity and militancy. He needed support from other ordinary Americans and the federal government. In January 1946, union workers in a bunch of other industries struck, too; electrical, meatpacking, steel milling, and iron mining.

By the late 1940’s, the power of the unions and corruption in government skyrocketed, so that organized crime used bribery, patronage-contracts and and physical violence in order to rule the “… construction industry, short haul trucking, East Coast longshoring , and the bakery and restaurant trades.”

It is a little-publicized datum that in 1962, president Kennedy granted a cut to all taxpayers that favored corporate America, which also got tax breaks. The rich got richer. That same year, members of the UAW executive board included 21 Caucasians, and one African American, whom they knew wouldn’t buck the status quo.

By then, Walter, a liberal, realized he had been incorrect in thinking that the American labor movement would eliminate discrimination in the workplace when the unions and the economy were strong. But he was still stubborn in insisting on an all-or-nothing egalitarianism. Others of his political ilk, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Hubert Humphrey and Adlai Stevenson were willing to compromise with the Dixiecrats (Southern Democrats who opposed civil-rights legislation) to make a little progress rather than none. The following year, Walter had become more flexible, as he was friendly with JFK and his brother.

In July 1967, the race riots in Detroit resulted in the deaths of 43 people and $250 million in property damage. The mayor, and the governor of Michigan assigned a 39-member panel of leaders and influencers in the community to suggest solutions for quelling hostilities. Various actions were taken; among the major ones:

  • throwing money at low-cost housing;
  • hiring of black workers at Ford and GM; and
  • throwing money at black community groups

but nothing seemed to help. The automakers moved their plants from Detroit to Troy and Dearborn.

Read the book to learn a wealth of additional information on Walter’s trials, tribulations, triumphs, and disputes with the AFL and CIO (unions competing against, and with different views from, the UAW); the growing-pains of the labor movement– how it was affected by: the WWII years (hint– the government ordered it to make war weaponry), political elections, regulation of pricing / wages / production in the steel industry, the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War; how and why different automakers’ compensation structures changed, and much more. See this blog’s post “See You In Court” for more information on the pros and cons of unions in America.

Politics of Conscience

The Book of the Week is “Politics of Conscience, A Biography of Margaret Chase Smith” by Patricia Ward Wallace, published in 1995.

The author wrote,

“Or perhaps it was that after four years, the nation had witnessed his unseemly bullying, insulting, and humiliating tactics for too long…”

of Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI). In the spring of 1954, the U.S. Army held hearings in order to give McCarthy a taste of his own medicine.

Senator Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME) took over her deceased husband’s U.S. Senate seat when he died, and was reelected in 1940. She received special treatment from Bangor Daily News columnist May Craig, in that Craig was assigned specifically to favorably cover Smith, but hardly ever, any other politician.

Smith was best known– aside from her gender, along with six other senators– for issuing a “Declaration of Conscience” in June 1950, that took McCarthy to task (even though she and he were both Republicans) for his dictatorial methods in rooting out accused Communists.

After Smith delivered an accompanying speech on the Senate floor, her group took no follow-up actions, ingenuously thinking that that one act of protestation would convince the rest of the government and ordinary Americans that McCarthy was violating people’s civil rights in capitalizing on Cold War hysteria. He retaliated against her, (as politicians of his ilk will) by pressuring senate-committee-leaders to deny her membership and assignments she wanted.

In 1952, the book U.S.A. Confidential was published. It was full of lies and smears against all parties who were automatically treated as guilty of associating with Communists (many through only the most tenuous of connections), or who were automatically Communists by virtue of simply being accused (by their enemies, of course).

Smith sued the book’s authors and publisher for libel, as several of the book’s pages mentioned her. The defendants used every possible tactic to delay litigation, but finally agreed to settle the case in autumn 1956. It was a hollow victory for Smith.

In the 1950’s, some members of the United States government galvanized citizens to turn their fears of nuclear war into hatred of one enemy: the former Soviet Union. Nowadays, fears and hatreds are scattered between or among all kinds of groups, absent the threat of nuclear war.

One way American governmental authorities are again attempting to galvanize the people against one enemy is to direct it against a disease, through controlling the population in various ways.

And yes, the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 is soon to arrive, bringing with it threats to national security. But the government has known this anniversary would arrive, for the last twenty years; the most recent administration, for the last eight months. Just a thought.

Read the book to learn much more about Smith’s career, life and times.

Serpent on the Rock

The Book of the Week is “Serpent on the Rock” by Kurt Eichenwald, published in 1995.

This volume contained an egregious error. It appeared in an anecdote about a member of the Belzberg family, Canadian Orthodox-Jews. In the late 1970’s, Belzberg was acquiring a large quantity of stock of the retail brokerage named Bache, so one of Bache’s executives met with him, to find out his intentions.

As the meeting ended, the author wrote that Belzberg shook hands with the Bache executive. That was obviously a fictionalized detail of the story, because Orthodox Jews do not shake hands with, or touch others, except for close family members.

Anyway, in the second half of the 1970’s, tax shelters became trendy in the securities industry. In the 1980’s, Bache (with a shady reputation in the first place) sold tax shelters in the form of limited partnerships of various kinds (oil and real estate were the most common) and reaped fat fees of as much as 8%. On a bunch of them, printed marketing communications illegally contained material omissions and misstatements.

Bache’s clients were clearly unsophisticated, because anyone with a minimal knowledge of finance should have seen that the objectives of the investment were contradictory: “income, growth and safety” (!)

Brokers dispensed with the printed prospectuses (which contained disclaimers required by law), and focused on verbally selling the money-losing financial instruments to their clients. They lied about the projected financial returns (14 to 15%, when they were pretty sure there would actually be disastrous losses). They called the investments “safe”– a word that should NEVER be used on Wall Street. The proper lingo should be “low-risk” and only when that’s the truth. The limited partnerships were “high-risk.”

One man, Jim Darr, became particularly powerful in the Direct Investment Group, and engaged in a boatload of excessively greedy, unethical activities and white-collar crimes that made him fabulously wealthy. In 1983, he flew all the way to a small thrift bank in Arkansas to get a home loan of $1.8 million to purchase a mansion in Connecticut. At that time, there were plenty of local lenders he could have approached.

Another sleazy character, Clifton Harrison, after pulling his last act of unbelievable thievery, gave the excuse, “I’ve just been borrowing some money against future fees.” Read the book to learn more about the various individuals who shaped Bache’s history, and what became of them.

ENDNOTE: The above shenanigans happens every few years in the United States. The line from the movie “That Thing You Do” describes it perfectly: A very common tale, boys, a very common tale. Here is a brief elaboration of the last forty years:

Steps of the American Politico-Economic Cycle

  1. An extremely pro-business president comes to power.
  2. Excessive deregulation ensues.
  3. Shady financial instruments and money-making vehicles spike in popularity (tax shelters, savings and loan associations, goodwill valuations, junk bonds, derivatives, dot-com stocks, stock-options-repricing, subprime mortgages, payday lenders, for-profit colleges, the PACE program, etc., etc., etc.)
  4. Out-of-control greed ensues.
  5. Profiteers of all political persuasions dispense with ethical behavior.
  6. The bubble bursts. A financial crash ensues.
  7. Lawsuit time!
  8. The impoverishment rate accelerates for the middle class and the poor.
  9. Election time. “It’s the economy, stupid.” Whether true or not (usually not!), campaign-propaganda convinces voters that the president is solely responsible for their personal financial situations.
  10. The reelected president, or one from the same party, continues some of the same hog-wild policies, or the new president reverses what he can. Re-regulation ensues.
  11. Time for another round of Survival Roulette (See this blog’s post, “Blind Ambition”).
  12. Opposition-propagandists pull strings to reverse what the new president reversed. They make voters impatient for improvement, even though undoing the damage takes years and years.
  13. Election time. Repeat steps 1-12.

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).

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.

We’re Still Stuck in the Mire

We’re Still Stuck In the Mire

sung to the tune of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” with apologies to Billy Joel.

Outbreak COVID-Nineteen, pandemic quarantine,
World Health Org, N-I-H and the CDC.
Virus from Wuhan, Trump orders travel ban.
Mouthpiece doc and mouthpiece doc Birx and Fauci.

Short of gowns, gauze and test kits, de-tained cruise ships.
Wrong projections lead to, ventilator snafus.
Stay at home” Cuomo, “Shelter in place” de Blasio.
No church services, no funerals, nursing homes and lawsuits.

We’re still stuck in the mire.
The plot’s been thickening.
The whole thing’s been sickening.
We’re still stuck in the mire.
It’s history’s ups and downs.
We go round and round.

Guidelines, treatments, deaths of patients.
Govs get power, politics sour, Hydroxychloroquin.
Sources spread panic, profiteers ecstatic, Trump holds rally,
George-Floyd-arrest, GUN VIOLENCE, then real hell begins.
Angry people blow off steam, stress for the response team.
Antifa, BLM, propaganda provoke them.
De-fund the police, book from prez’s niece,
optional masks, vigilante tasks, no one gets any peace.

We’re still stuck in the mire.
The plot’s been thickening.
The whole thing’s been sickening.
We’re still stuck in the mire.
It’s history’s ups and downs.
We go round and round.

Gilead, Seattle, Chicago/Portland battle.
Trump holds rally, SARS-COVID-2, unclear what sources knew.
GUN VIOLENCE, empty malls, fan-cutouts in baseball.
Reopen the schools, Trump-rally, no-TikTok-fools.

GUN VIOLENCE, Trump holds rally, GUN VIOLENCE.
Trump holds rally, GUN VIOLENCE.
Trump holds rally, con-ventions, Kenosha tensions.

GUN VIOLENCE, VP Biden no-see
Trump holds rally, maskless Pelosi.
GUN VIOLENCE, Texas Gulf hurricane-slam,
Bannon wall-scam.

We’re still stuck in the mire.
The plot’s been thickening.
The whole thing’s been sickening.
We’re still stuck in the mire.
It’s history’s ups and downs.
We go round and round.

Trump holds rally and tax returns, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Barrett all set, de-bates, Trump holds rally.
Whitmer plot discovered, Hunter emails uncovered.
Trump goes to Walter Reed, says poll-watch on vote-tally.

GUN VIOLENCE, sugar-coating, lots of early-voting.
Poll-sters, guess and pray. What else do I have to say?

We’re still stuck in the mire.
The plot’s been thickening.
The whole thing’s been sickening.
We’re still stuck in the mire.
It’s history’s ups and downs.
We go round and round.

Trump holds rally. Same thing a-gain, stokes fears of Biden win.
GUN VIOLENCE, COVID spreads, Trump holds rally, touts meds.
Trump talks up vaccine, rally, rally rou-tine.
GUN VIOLENCE, same list, screams Biden socialist.
Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania: uncertain.
GUN VIOLENCE.
Nerves get raw, Trump challenges election law.
American election war, but with a rally whore.
GUN VIOLENCE, GUN VIOLENCE.
Still deafening silence!!!

We’re still stuck in the mire.
The plot’s been thickening.
The whole thing’s been sickening.
We’re still stuck in the mire.
It’s history’s ups and downs.
We go round and round.

We’re still stuck in the mire.
The plot’s been thickening.
The whole thing’s been sickening.
We’re still stuck in the mire.
It’s history’s ups and downs.
We go round and round.

We’re still stuck in the mire.
But we’ll be kind again.
And GOVERN and mend.
And mend and mend.
We’re still stuck in the mire.
The plot’s been thickening.
The whole thing’s been sickening.
We’re still stuck in the mire.
The plot’s been thickening.
We’re still stuck in the mire.
The plot’s been thickening…

Arms and the Dudes

The Book of the Week is “Arms and the Dudes, How Three Stoners From Miami Beach Became the Most Unlikely Gunrunners in History” by Guy Lawson, published in 2015.

In summer 2004, when he was eighteen years old, the Orthodox-Jewish high school dropout, pothead and pathological liar Efraim Diveroli became passionate about the lucrative field of supplying firearms to the U.S. military. He had been mentored by his father and uncle on contracting with the U.S. government, through their businesses. There was one particular website where he could see all the needs for weaponry for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Diveroli worked around the clock combing the website’s classified ads for competitive-bidding contracts he thought he could win, and making phone calls to contacts he made to find suppliers from whom to purchase arms, to sell and deliver, via planes and / or trucks to the U.S. military on-location. He also needed lenders to finance the deals, as he had to make down-payments of tens of thousands of dollars he didn’t have, when he was finally awarded a bid.

In early 2005, the battles in Iraq between Shiites and Sunnis became even more fierce, resulting in more roadside bombings, kidnappings, sniper incidents and ambushes. Thus, there occurred an increase in demand for rocket-propelled grenades, AK-47’s (or their equivalents; the whole world was already full of them– but apparently still not full enough), ammunition for them, and missiles.

This resulted in an even bigger spike in the number of bribes, kickbacks and Swiss bank accounts among war profiteers. Diveroli also benefited from the high turnover of inexperienced procurement officers in Iraq. Every few years, he attended war-weaponry trade shows, such as Eurosatory in 2006 in Paris, and the International Defence Exhibition and Conference in 2007 in Abu Dhabi.

The State Department rated resellers such as Diveroli pursuant to their reputations for satisfaction in completing contracts, similar to the way eBay does. Eventually, the Department allegedly compiled a “watch list” of resellers (which included a lot of offshore and shell companies) with whom the Department was supposed to exercise caution in doing business. Diveroli’s company’s name (AEY) was on that list, but background checks were (accidentally-on-purpose) sloppy or non-existent, because the shortages of weaponry and ammunition in Afghanistan were so severe.

Unsurprisingly, there was inter-agency rivalry between the State Department and Defense Department (run by the bureaucrats in the Pentagon). When Congress authorized the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security through a long, complicated document, one little phrase gave the Defense Department unlimited powers: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law.”

To boot, the Pentagon used its new hegemony to wreak capricious vengeance on people who gave it bad publicity for its misdeeds and embarrassed it; there was no honor among thieves in the cut-throat war-weaponry business. One specific overzealous individual at yet another agency, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), helped with the Pentagon’s dirty work.

In May 2007, the main plot of a suspenseful saga started when Diveroli’s two friends (also only in their twenties) from grade-school assisted him with a $300 million (!) contract (that had an interesting origin) with the Department of Defense.

Unfortunately, the trio encountered numerous obstacles in trying to complete the contract and get their money. For one, the shipment of arms and ammunition that was supposed to go from Albania to Kabul was held up at an airport in Kyrgyzstan on a legal technicality. Two, an irresponsible article in the New York Times completely botched up the real story, prompting the Department of Justice to get involved.

Read the book to learn the rest, and what became of the participants (which included a wayward Albanian official, and an Albanian-American investment banker, among other pesky characters).