Tag Archives: America

Truckers Protest, The Resistance Begins

Until the beginning of this month, Americans seemed to have nothing to say about their ongoing economic ruin except, “Hit me! Please, hit me again!” You can take my house, but let me mow the lawn for you one more time before you repossess. Take my job and I’ll just slink off somewhere out of sight. Oh, and take my health insurance too; I can always fall back on Advil.

Then, on April 1, in a wave of defiance, truck drivers began taking the strongest form of action they can take – inaction. Faced with $4/gallon diesel fuel, they slowed down, shut down and started honking. On the New Jersey Turnpike, a convoy of trucks stretching “as far as the eye can see,” according to a turnpike spokesman, drove at a glacial 20 mph. Outside of Chicago, they slowed and drove three abreast, blocking traffic and taking arrests. They jammed into Harrisburg PA; they slowed down the Port of Tampa where 50 rigs sat idle in protest. Near Buffalo, one driver told the press he was taking the week off “to pray for the economy.”

The truckers who organized the protests – by CB radio and internet – have a specific goal: reducing the price of diesel fuel. They are owner-operators, meaning they are also businesspeople, and they can’t break even with current fuel costs. They want the government to release its fuel reserves. They want an investigation into oil company profits and government subsidies of the oil companies. Of the drivers I talked to, all were acutely aware that the government had found, in the course of a weekend, $30 billion to bail out Bear Stearns, while their own businesses are in a tailspin.

But the truckers’ protests have ramifications far beyond the owner-operators’ plight –first, because trucking is hardly a marginal business. You may imagine, here in the blogosphere, that everything important travels at the speed of pixels bouncing off of satellites, but 70 percent of the nation’s goods – from Cheerios to Chapstick –travel by truck. We were able to survive a writers’ strike, but a trucking strike would affect a lot more than your viewing options. As Donald Hayden, a Maine trucker put it to me: “If all the truckers decide to shut this country down, there’s going to be nothing they can do about it.”

Image courtesy of The Beaver County Times

More importantly, the activist truckers understand their protest to be part of a larger effort to “take back America,” as one put it to me. “We continue to maintain this is not just about us,” “JB”– which is his CB handle and stands for the “Jake Brake” on large rigs– told me from a rest stop in Virginia on his way to Florida. “It’s about everybody – the homeowners, the construction workers, the elderly people who can’t afford their heating bills… This is not the action of the truck drivers, but of the people.” Hayden mentions his parents, ages and 81 and 76, who’ve fought the Maine winter on a fixed income. Missouri-based driver Dan Little sees stores shutting down in his little town of Carrollton. “We’re Americans,” he tells me, “We built this country, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to lie down and take this.”

At least one of the truckers’ tactics may be translatable to the foreclosure crisis. On March 29, Hayden surrendered three rigs to be repossessed by Daimler-Chrysler – only he did it publicly, with flair, right in front of the statehouse in Augusta. “Repossession is something people don’t usually see,” he says, and he wanted the state legislature to take notice. As he took the keys, the representative of Daimler-Chrysler said, according to Hayden, “I don’t see why you couldn’t make the payments.” To which Hayden responded, “See, I have to pay for fuel and food, and I’ve eaten too many meals in my life to give that up.”

Suppose homeowners were to start making their foreclosures into public events– inviting the neighbors and the press, at least getting someone to camcord the children sitting disconsolately on the steps and the furniture spread out on the lawn. Maybe, for a nice dramatic touch, have the neighbors shower the bankers, when they arrive, with dollar bills and loose change, since those bankers never can seem to get enough.

But the larger message of the truckers’ protest is about pride or, more humbly put, self-respect, which these men channel from their roots. Dan Little tells me, “My granddad said, and he was the smartest man I ever knew, ‘If you don’t stand up for yourself ain’t nobody gonna stand up for you.’” Go to theamericandriver.com, run by JB and his brother in Texas, where you’re greeted by a giant American flag, and you’ll find – among the driving tips, weather info, and drivers’ favorite photos –the entire Constitution and Declaration of Independence. “The last time we faced something as impacting on us,” JB tells me, “There was a revolution.”

The actions of the first week in April were just the beginning. There’s talk of a protest in Indiana on the 18th, another in New York City, and a giant convergence of trucks on DC on the 28th. Who knows what it will all add up to? Already, according to JB, some of the big trucking companies are threatening to fire any of their employees who join the owner-operators’ protests.

But at least we have one shining example of defiance of the face of economic assault. There comes a point, sooner or later, when you stop scrambling around on all fours and, like JB and his fellow drivers all over the country, you finally stand up.

If you would like to help support the truckers in any way, go to http://www.theamericandriver.com/files/TruckersAndCitizensUnited.html

– written by Barbara Ehrenreich

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American Tap Water: A Toxic History

With the recent uproar over the amount of pharmaceuticals in America’s drinking water, the general public is paying more attention to the toxins lurking in their tap water. The report by the Associated Press National Investigation Team has raised many questions on the nation’s public health standards, but what about the toxins that are deliberately added to drinking water?

A well-known, toxic chemical called fluoride has been added to American tap water since 1945. Below are some excerpts explaining the history of fluoridated water and its dangers from Randall Fitzgerald’s The Hundred-Year Lie: How to Protect Yourself from the Chemicals That Are Destroying Your Health .

About 66 percent of public municipal water systems in the United States serving 170 million people had been fluoridated by the dawn of the 21st century, yet most of the countries in Western Europe – from France and Germany to Italy and Switzerland – continue to reject adding fluoride to their drinking water. Did they know something we refuse to accept?

It might be useful to recall how fluoridation came about in the first place. A scientist working under a grant from the Aluminum Company of America made the initial public proposal in 1939 to add fluoride to public water supplies in belief that it would help prevent tooth decay. In 1945 the first barrels of sodium fluoride were added to the drinking water in Grand Rapids, Michigan. When the United States Public Health Service endorsed fluoridation a few years later, many cities and entire states quickly followed that advice.

There was an ulterior motive for the aluminum industry and the fertilizer industry to promote the fluoridation idea. A by-product of factory smokestacks operated by both industries was a toxic waste called silicofluoride that contained lead, cadmium, arsenic and other toxins. Instead of these industries having to pay for the disposal of this waste (today at an estimated cost of $8,000 a truckload), fluoridation enabled both to make money by selling the waste for use in public water supplies.

Using public water as a vehicle to deliver a drug – and one that is among the most toxic substances on the planet, used as an active ingredient in many pesticides – was an idea that concerned some physicians and scientists at the time. It even initially drew opposition from the dental profession. A 1944 editorial in The Journal of the American Dental Association warned that water fluoridation’s prospects for harming human health “far outweigh those for the good.”

Once dentists came aboard the fluoridation bandwagon along with public health-minded politicians, and with backing from a public relations campaign funded by aluminum and fertilizer industry coffers, there was no stopping the fluoridation juggernaut. Industry-funded studies began to appear in dental and medical journals showing improvements in dental health apparently resulting from fluoridated water, and that was all the proof most people needed to accept fluoridation’s benefits as the gospel truth. Anyone who disagreed was branded a right-wing nut.

Periodically a courageous voice with impeccable scientific credentials spoke up to sound an alarm about fluoridation’s potential dangers, only to be dismissed as eccentric. In 1975, for instance, the chief chemist emeritus of the National Cancer Institute, Dean Burk, declared that fluoride in water “causes more human cancer, and causes it faster, than any other chemical.”

Two years later some members of Congress inquired about whether federal health authorities, after a quarter-century of experience with fluoridation, had ever tested fluoridated water as a cause of cancer. The answer was no. More than a decade passed before these tests were finally performed. The results caused a brief uproar. Young male rats exposed to fluoridated water developed both bone cancer and liver cancer.

These results were quickly attacked on a variety of grounds – flawed methodology, incomplete results, animal studies aren’t always reliable, etc. – and then ignored by the fluoridation establishment. But other researchers, emboldened by the precedent this study set, began conducting their own experiments into fluoride’s effects on health. In 1992, three U.S. scientists found evidence of Alzheimer’s-like symptoms in laboratory animals exposed to fluoridated water that had apparently carried traces of aluminum into the animals’ brains. That same year a study appeared in The Journal of the American Medical Association connecting water fluoridation to an increased risk of hip fractures.

The negative studies about fluoride’s effects on health built into a tsunami during the 1990s. Here are just a few examples: the medical journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology found evidence that fluoride accumulates in the human body and creates motor-skills dysfunction and learning disabilities; two separate studies in the journal Fluoride showed that in areas where water supplies were fluoridated, children’s Is were lower than normal. Other science papers in Fluoride drew connections between the chemical and thyroid abnormalities, arthritis, even Down’s syndrome in children.

Even the argument that put fluoride into drinking water in the first place – that it prevents tooth decay – came under a sustained challenge. A study in 1995 by the California Department of Health Services revealed that money spent on dental work actually increased in areas where water was fluoridated in that state, while dental costs declined in communities without fluoridated water. In a July 2000 issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association, John D.B. Featherstone of the University of California in San Francisco, concluded that ingesting fluoride from tap water does little to prevent tooth decay. Fluoride only works when directly applied to teeth in the form of toothpaste.

J. William Hirzy, senior vice president of chapter 280 of the National Treasury Employees Union, summed up the loony logic of injecting fluoride toxic wastes into our drinking water: “If this stuff gets out into the air, it’s a pollutant. If it gets into the river, it’s a pollutant. If it gets into the lake, it’s a pollutant. But if it goes right straight into your drinking water system, it’s not a pollutant. That’s amazing!”

[Image courtesy of Indymedia.org.uk]

A sea change in attitudes about the safety of adding fluoride to water seems to be under way in the United States. A major article on the growing opposition to fluoridation appeared in Time magazine (Oct. 24, 2005) and described how tooth decay “has plummeted even in regions where there is little or no fluoride in the water,” and warned that “fluoride is indisputably toxic; it was once commonly used in rat poison.” The article revealed that a Harvard University study had been suppressed because it “showed a sevenfold increased risk of osteosarcoma in preadolescent boys from fluoridated water.” Furthermore, “in Western Europe, where the drop in tooth decay in recent decades is as sharp as that in the U.S., seventeen of twenty-one countries have either refused or discontinued fluoridation” because of health safety concerns.

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Zeitgeist: Tactical Myths That Control the World

A compilation of the most prominent myths that have misled our culture for centuries. An in-depth look at the world, exposing the abuse of power from the time of the Egyptians to the war in Iraq.

For more information visit www.zeitgeistmovie.com

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Filed under Civil Liberties, Economics, Education, Environment, Health, Mental Environment, Politics, Social Justice, Surveillance

America’s Fear of a Woman with Power

Now don’t get me wrong, when it comes to politics I don’t consider myself any sort of guru, although I know enough not to believe anything on Fox News. Overall, politics can get sticky and the lines between the bad and the ugly can begin to blur. What I have noticed for the duration of 2007 into 2008 is a prominent bashing against Senator Hillary Clinton. Again, I don’t consider myself a political analyst, but I can’t help but question the validity behind the seemingly shallow hatred. This is mostly because of the fact that when I ask people why they hate her, I’m most often met with the vague, bandwagon response along the lines of “She’s a bitch” or “She’s a femi-nazi.” 

So I looked into Senator Clinton’s policies and compared them to her competitors in order to find any sign leading to “femi-nazism”  Needless to say, the only evidence I found was a policy that supports women’s reproductive health care issues and a stance that desired compromise between the two sides. Clinton has been quoted saying that she strongly believes in Roe vs. Wade, but also believes in taking preventative measures to encourage abortion alternatives, even embracing the possible use of religion and morals to promote abstinence. So this is what a femi-nazi is? 

Now, I hate this term “femi-nazi” and for good reason. I believe it was derived from the far right to connect their female enemies with negative associations. Ask anyone who a femi-nazi is and they’ll refer to a bra-burning, man-hating woman on steroids, even though the notorious bra-burning scenario was a completely false illusion created by sensationalized journalists and almost anyone would have some sort of dissent against someone else who has cheated them out of fair pay and equality for thousands of years.  So why would conservatives want to take power away from women? Easy, because women gaining power means they (our beloved wealthy white men) will be losing power, and they’ll stop at nothing to keep it. 

A recent Op-Ed in The New York Times by Gloria Steinhem was called to my attention today, which brought up the fact that during Clinton and Obama’s two overlapping years in the senate, they have voted the same 90 percent of the time. If you place their view points on reproductive rights, climate change and war side by side, they appear to run parallel to one another, plus or minus a few tweaks. Yet, the Clinton-bashing brigade strengthens, feeding off of any insignificant detail that could be used against her. She remains stern, she’s a robot. She cries, she’s an emotional wreck unfit to run a country. One has to ask, is it really Clinton as a candidate or the fact that she has a vagina that leads ignorant forces to prompt a fight against her? 

Charlotte Whitton once quoted: “Whatever women must do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good,” mostly because there are very black and white definitions that are carried with the label of “woman.” If she is attractive, then certainly, she is a whore. If she is not feminine, then she is a dyke. If she’s emotional, she is a “typical woman” and if she holds back the emotion and runs the show with a firm hand, then she is a bitch.  Any woman who breaks out of the mold is seen as having penis envy, unnatural, etc. and here we have our first front-running female presidential candidate marking U.S. history and low and behold, she is the most ridiculed of them all. 

I applaud Clinton’s efforts and shout loudly “It’s about f-ing time!”  I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that there have been no presidential candidates up until now that were either female or of a different race.  How can citizens tout their tattering American flags out their car windows or claim our country is the greatest when the government, a so-called democracy, does not rightly represent the demographics of the American people? 

What I find even more interesting concerning this issue are our misled citizens’ claims that women in other countries have it a lot worse. But as we all know, the recently assassinated Bhutto, who was the first female prime minister for a Muslim nation, was elected into office in Pakistan, not in this decade, not in the 90’s, but in 1988 – twenty years before we saw a woman candidate. As for sympathized South America; Argentina and Chile already have had a taste of having a woman in power. 

The worst aspect of this situation is hearing these formless claims coming from the mouths of fellow women. Oh, I understand all right. I was raised in a family where abortion was a huge no-no and quite possibly the biggest deciding factor. But women must realize that just because they are women, does not exempt you from feeling the pangs of living in a patriarchal society that has catered towards men in power. Quite frankly, most of us do not realize the basic realities and faults of our current system and find it all normal, because that’s just how it always was. Fortunately, I was saved from the lie that condemning abortion would save our nation. Unfortunately for the rest, believing in a woman receiving hygienic health care versus throwing herself down a flight of stairs or finding a wire hanger simply seems absurd.

I’m not telling you to vote for Hillary.  I’m not running a campaign site here.  I am just plain sick and tired of such uninformed groups of people preemptively judging and blurting false accusations.  All I ask is that you judge each candidate, not by their looks, gender or ethnicity, but by his/her experience, integrity and policies towards what our nation is and what it can and should be.

– written by Elena Gaudino

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