Letter #1: Death Of A Master Propagandist
Labor's Great Awakening | Ocean Trash Theater
Colin Powell is dead. He was the first Black US Secretary of State, a veteran of Vietnam, a trailblazer and a hero to many. He could even have been the first Black president, had he wished. He was also the architect of Operation Just Cause, the 1989 US invasion of Panama and a flagrant violation of international law.
That last part was maybe not as bad as it sounds - it was more of a cleanup operation. He was acting as janitor for CIA, mopping up the Noriega government after the Agency had found other ways of growing its legendary drug-trafficking business. Ironically, this particular war crime might have gotten some cocaine off of America’s streets. Then again, probably not. This was the 80’s after all.
None of that, though, is really as important as his UN speech about the dangers of Saddam Hussein and the urgency of a coalition to depose him in 2003. That speech contained a powerful lesson for those willing to internalize it. Sure, we know the intelligence he presented was bullshit. He clearly also knew. Secretary Powell was, after all, the greatest propagandist of the 21st century. The Bush Administration was lucky in that respect.
Most Americans either didn’t know or didn’t care that the horrifying events of September 11th 2001 were committed by Saudi hijackers, who were trained by a Saudi billionaire, and had nothing to do with Iraq or Saddam Hussein. Secretary Powell, who was probably a military genius, certainly knew. Let’s give him the credit he deserves and place him alongside the great propagandists of history.
John Deere factory workers are on strike. Employees want lower copays on health insurance, higher wages, and better retirement benefits. Can they get it? Maybe, actually.
Pandemics have a well-documented after-effect of thinning out populations, which means mass exits from the labor force, either by death or retirement. Less workers equals more leverage to ask for things like, say, a dignified wage. Usually it doesn’t mean much, however, because strikes are typically localized conflicts between labor and capital over crumbs.
There hasn’t been a serious labor movement since Ronald Reagan fired the air traffic controllers and proceeded to gut the working class like a fish. In New York City, for example, striking is still illegal for public employees.
Still, other companies with large underpaid workforces appear to be getting nervous. Starbucks has decided suddenly that two of its cafés in Buffalo, NY are in dire need of remodeling, which requires extended closure, after employees there decided to unionize - nothing to see here!
After decades of being on the defensive against red-baiting, labor might actually be growing a backbone in the United States. We’ll see how long that lasts.
Thousands of pounds of trash have been removed from the Pacific Ocean. A group called The Ocean Cleanup has been testing a new large-scale trash-removal system (a large net? Innovative.) since July - and like your dog bringing you a dead bird, they’re a lot more proud than they probably should be.
The lesson here is not that cleaning up trash is bad. It’s great. We all hate trash and we all love the oceans. We are, however, a species that figured out how to split atoms and build the internet. Ocean plastic is an economic problem, not a technological one. A lot of companies simply have business models that aren’t sustainable.
Single-use plastics produced by companies employing low-wage labor in economically-starved parts of the world, are now floating around the oceans because nobody with enough resources has any economic reason to stop. To put it bluntly, nobody actually gives a shit.
Until, of course, they do. But what does The Ocean Cleanup really give a shit about? Well, Coca-Cola is one of their funding sources. It is also one of the largest producers of the very ocean plastic that’s being “cleaned up” (brought on land by fossil-fueled ships and burned).
We should all be grateful that the world’s largest (taxpayer-subsidized) polluters have decided to literally move around a fraction of the pollution they generate per year and take some pictures for news headlines. Now we can get back to dumping 24 trillion pounds of plastic into the ocean every year.