Crackpot conspiracy theory

“Crackpot conspiracy theory” is not a redundancy. Granted, we have been exposed to a lot of crackpot conspiracy theories lately, but that does not mean that all conspiracy theories are crackpot.

It is clear that COINTELPRO was a conspiracy to undermine and discredit the left in general and African-American movements in particular. It is no mere theory that the FBI and the Chicago police, at the very least, conspired to murder Fred Hampton in December of 1968.

The recent spate of right-wing conspiracy theories is egregiously crackpot on its face. By definition the ruling class is conservative. Conserving its power and preserving the status quo are what it does. As Mayor Richard Dailey famously told us in 1968: “The police aren’t here to create disorder; the police are here to preserve disorder.” To think there is a Deep State conspiracy to foment radical change is nonsensical. (I also find it humorous that the “Deep State” players seem to be the dedicated public servants who work long-term in government jobs for worse wages than in the private sector. Those opposed to the “Deep State” are the opportunist political appointees who take short-term jobs in order to consolidate their power and return or advance to lucrative private-sector positions.)

So sit back, relax, and enjoy this crackpot conspiracy theory. Since the appearance of COVID-19, among the first drastic actions was to close down a lot of small, locally owned businesses – those with the least accumulated capital and the least ability to weather an economic storm. Business moved from Main Street to the internet even more than it already had. Now, even some internet businesses are shutting down (Sierra Trading Post among them), citing the need for deep cleaning of their warehouses and fear of spreading the disease among their workers. Who is still open for business? Amazon.

Where is one of the largest accumulations of capital in the world? Amazon. Who has been in the forefront of automating warehouse operations? Amazon. What if COVID-19 were a covert plan to consolidate business even further and to move toward full warehouse automation? Amazon can afford the capital expenditure for full automation. It could eliminate jobs under the guise of protecting warehouse workers and saving the economy from collapse. What about delivery? What if we were to fast-track approval of autonomous delivery vehicles? Amazon could bypass the normal shipping chain, with its unionized workforce, and deliver via self-driving vehicles and drones -again to save the economy from collapse. We would be left with a company owned by a multi-billionaire, the largest retailer (and one of the largest companies, period) in the world, employing almost no one after driving out of business countless other companies employing many.

I just made this all up on a bike ride. The trouble with crackpot conspiracy theories is when they sound believable.

Heigh Ho

Ironically, I have been called back to work on the same day that the Governor issued a stay-at-home (“safer at home”) order. I shocked everyone at work by showing up in scrubs. I had to field more questions about that than about the fact that I was out sick for >2 weeks for the first time ever. I have never before worn scrubs to work. After wearing a uniform as a plumber, I wanted to wear my own clothes for this career. That just changed. I will have a “clean” and a “dirty” zip close plastic bag to carry clothes to and from work. I’ll change there every day and have a separate laundry load for work clothes – just like the old days! We all look like space creatures with face shields over masks. To preserve masks (which can’t be cleaned) we cover them with a plastic face shield (which can).

Our pharmacy is now making and packaging hand sanitizer due to the shortage of the commercial product. A local distillery is selling a special 140 proof vodka as a hand sanitizer. More businesses closed today. The good news is that, among essential allowed activities, is outdoor exercise. (Photo by Jason Rice/WMTV)

Words to live by

From Dane County (WI) Executive Joe Parisi: “(A)s long as we’re looking out for one another, we will all have someone looking out for us.”

From Miami Herald writer Leonard Pitts: “the GOP is a hate group – and Trump its Grand Wizard.”

And, of course, this exchange (in case the previous statement needed clarifying):
Peter Alexander, White House correspondent at NBC News: “What do you say to Americans, who are watching you right now, who are scared?”
Donald Trump: “I say that you’re a terrible reporter. That’s what I say. I think it’s a very nasty question and I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people.”
He could have appeared as the calm father figure, here to reassure us. He could have said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” He could have lied and told us he had the situation well in hand. (There are many video compilations of his various statements over the past two months to make that falsehood obvious.) But no, true to form, he lashed out and attacked the questioner. He attacked the question itself, and he chose not to answer.

McDonald’s spoke out in favor of new proposed federal legislation mandating paid sick leave during the pandemic. Interestingly, the bill applies only to those who employ between 50 and 500 people. Yes, your neighborhood restaurant might be required to provide paid sick leave, but McDonald’s will not. WordPress is acting up tonight and the embedded YouTube video above may or may not work. (It was working yesterday). If it is flashing and making you dizzy (as it is as I do this final edit), try this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oPbpE5EIgc&t=13s

“After food and shelter, there is no greater need or necessity than the ability to protect oneself and one’s loved ones,” the Keystone Shooting Center wrote. Gun stores are being allowed to remain open in several states that have ordered all “non-essential” businesses to close. It seems that being able to guard one’s stash of toilet paper is essential. My source is not the Onion, but the Washington Examiner and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Adopt-a-Highway

It was a slow start for the first few hundred meters, with nothing much but cigarette butts. Business started to pick up and Bud Light made a strong initial showing before being overtaken by Busch Light to hold on to its overall championship. To be fair, both are Anheuser-Busch products, so they retain the title of the most popular brand among litterbugs. Hard seltzer products made a strong showing. Tobacco products showed gains, with snuff tins, empty cigarette packs, and a vaping device in addition to the numerous butts.

Folks made a strong effort to sully a roadside stream, with an unprecedented number of beer cans clearing the guardrails on both sides and reaching the stream banks. The day set records for weight and volume, with a lot of cardboard in the mix. We picked up 25 pounds of trash, filling two large bags to overflowing. Radical social distancing, walking alone on a rural highway with almost no traffic. We saw one family out for a walk and one person shooting hoops in his driveway.

What to read while you recuperate

On December 4, 1969, Chicago police murdered Fred Hampton while he slept. They also murdered Mark Clark, possibly “collateral damage”, and shot Verlina Brewer, Doc Satchel, Blair Anderson, and Brenda Harris. Since Fred didn’t die in the initial hail of gunfire, but due to two shots in the head at close range, the term “execution” is entirely appropriate.

At the time of his assassination at the age of 21, a documentary about Mr Hampton was being filmed. He was an up-and-coming leader in Chicago, having been a community activist in high school and rising to the chair of the Chicago Black Panther Party. That film became “The Murder of Fred Hampton” (full film at the link) and was released in 1971. In 2010 a longer retelling of the story was published by one of the attorneys who represented the survivors of the massacre and the families of those killed. I spent the past few days reading “The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther”, by Jeffrey Haas.

The police termed it a “shootout”. The evidence showed it was a hit; a planned takeout as part of COINTELPRO, designed to “prevent the rise of a ‘messiah’ who could unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement” (from an FBI memo). More than 90 rounds were fired into the apartment. One was fired out, by a dying Mark Clark.

In his short life, Hampton said, “You can jail a revolutionary, but you can’t jail a revolution. You might run a liberator like Eldridge Cleaver out of the country, but you can’t run liberation out of the country. You can murder a freedom fighter like Bobby Hutton, but you can’t murder freedom fighting….Nothing is more important than stopping fascism, because fascism can stop us all.”

I saw the film when it first came out. While more recently looking for it as something I wanted to show my children, I came across the book; and reading that book is how I spent the past two days. I recommend it highly, as well as the film. With the current off-the-wall right-wing conspiracy theories, younger readers may not recall that it was not so long ago that there was a real-life conspiracy to eliminate the movement for self-determination by African Americans, by any means necessary. Most white people heard more about the Black Panthers arming themselves for self-defense than about their free breakfast programs for school children. Many white people may still think that the stories of police and FBI abuse were exaggerated. This book documents the truth exhaustively, including the coverup that lasted more than ten years.

At the beginning of my recovery, I read Roy Meals’ “100 Orthopaedic Conditions Every Doctor Should Understand”. Also see his blog “About Bone” (no need to be a doctor for the blog). “Murder on the Red Cliff Rez” by Mardi Oakley Medawar, a Cherokee writer living on the Red Cliff reservation, is an entirely fictional murder mystery, and was my next book. Mixed in there was the new book by Jane McAlevey, “A Collective Bargain: Unions, Organizing, and the Fight for Democracy“. Jane and I worked together in Nicaragua in 1987. She went on to work as an organizer for the union of which I was a member. She also worked at the Highlander School and earned a doctorate along the way.

Constructing a Water Pipeline in Matiguas, Nicaragua, 1987
Jane (right) in Nicaragua; photo from her website. If I’m not mistaken, Patrick Liteky is second from right. Patrick and his brother Charlie, an Army Chaplain, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, and former priest, were active in protests against the School of the Americas, the training ground for Central American death squads at Ft Benning, GA. Patrick was also a veteran and trained at Ft Benning. Charlie later renounced his Medal of Honor.

A central premise of Jane’s book can be summed up by these graphs:

In this first graph, you can see that there is an inverse correlation between union membership and the share of income going to the top 10%. In other words, when union membership goes down, the rich get richer.
Another way to look at this is that, as union membership declines, middle class incomes decline in parallel.

Jane is more optimistic about the chances for unions to make a comeback than I am right now. That might have something to do with Wisconsin Act 10, which eliminated collective bargaining at my place of employment. By state law, a union is now illegal.

On my second visit to Olbrich Gardens last week, I saw the Ancora String Quartet perform Randall Thompson’s String Quartet #2 in G Major. I discovered that quartet music works with riding on a trainer, too.

Back to work!

Finally back to work after six weeks of disability. I must say, working beats the heck out of sitting at home fighting to be able to use the benefits I spent 20 years earning. Not working took about 2 hours/day for the past six weeks. pat mAcdonald said “Lookin’ for work is worse than working”. [The link goes to a live version by TImbuk 3. I gotta say the demo EP version by Pat MacDonald and the Essentials is better, but I don’t have that in a digital format. (Note: The different formatting of his name is by Pat’s choice, or should I say pat’s choice – the old and new ways he writes it.)] At any rate, working beats looking for work or fighting for benefits.

The first day back at work felt, in some ways, like I never left. I don’t know that that’s a good or bad feeling, it just is. My legs felt the ride…a ride that is normally short enough to do in my sleep, though it’s way more fun to pay attention. I guess I’m a bit out of shape. Less than five months to get ready…

Magic Sam Maghett lived on the West Side of Chicago and died three days before Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were killed. I don’t know if they ever met.

Interview about 50 seconds, then you get to hear him play and sing.