Yesterday marks 40 years since that fateful day in 1980. Above is a documentary shot shortly thereafter, showing the volcanic eruption, its devastating aftermath, and some of the things irretrievably lost in it all. Most notably, 80-year old Harry Truman (no relation to the former president who shared his name), who was swamped by the eruption, along with his beloved lodge, his cats, his player piano, and the forest all around them on the shores of Spirit Lake. The only quote more memorable than the salty things old Harry said came from the lips of then-president Jimmy Carter himself, who remarked after touring the area by helicopter that “the Moon looks like a golf course compared to what’s up there”.
Life has since returned to the disaster area, but the lessons of St. Helens should not be forgotten. Those who insisted on being so close to the mountain when it blew its stack were lost, and nothing can bring them back.
Reminds me of that part in Mother Night (by Kurt Vonnegut, a must-read) in which a character chants, almost melodiously, the German phrase: “Leichenträger zur Wache!” (“Corpse-carriers to the guardhouse!”) He’s remembering Auschwitz, and how prisoners there were called upon to carry the bodies of comrades who had died (of disease, starvation, or worse) to the crematoria. These people aren’t carrying real corpses just yet, and this Bad German is hoping they will never have to.
And before anyone comes at me about how the US today, under lockdown, is exactly like a concentration camp, you can fuck all the way out of here with that noise.
Those places under lockdown are the OPPOSITE of Auschwitz, because at least in a lockdown state, where you get to stay safely at home, somebody cares enough not to just let masses of random people die of contagious diseases. By contrast, Auschwitz was a place where they dragged you from your home and locked you in, not to keep you well, but to virtually guarantee that you would sicken and die, en masse. And nobody gave a plague-ridden rat’s ass whether you lived or died. You know, like those “right to work” states in the US where they would rather work you to death than lift a finger to help you survive even a little bit?
One thing that heartens me is that at least two-thirds of US-Americans are, at least, aware enough of the danger that they don’t want lockdowns prematurely lifted. That leaves, however, the one in three who are insane…driven that way, no doubt, by not being able to go out drinking, golfing, or to get a friggin’ haircut. Maybe it’s no consolation to them to hear this..but really, nobody else cares about your pickled liver, your golf game, or your high-maintenance haircut. All those things can wait.
…and it’s killed all my nostalgic affection for him and his music, too:
Let’s count the facepalms here, shall we:
Okay, dude, here’s where you lost me: The moment you started to whine about having to cancel your LUCRATIVE concert series, from which you stand to make literal MILLIONS.
And you have the gall to call the Chinese “some fucking bat eating, wet market animal selling, virus making greedy bastards”? And to tell people who can’t afford that bourgeois lifestyle of yours to “go vegan”? How far out of touch and up your own ass ARE you, anyway?
With all due respect: Vegan lifestyles are NOT going to save this planet. They are expensive and highly petrochemical-dependent, and often both nutritionally and environmentally unbalanced. Ultimately, they are not natural to our species, which is naturally omnivorous, not herbivorous. And even if they weren’t, they still wouldn’t solve this crisis any more than drinking bleach, shooting Lysol, popping malaria pills, or shining a sunlamp on your ‘nads.
When people live at close quarters with animals (which they do all over the world), they run the risk of catching viruses that are native to those animal populations, and foreign to us. The current novel coronavirus outbreak isn’t a simple matter of people eating animals, it’s a complex matter of people sharing an entire fucking global ecosystem with them.
And it’s only the latest in a long history of animal-to-human transmission of devastating viral diseases. The Kansas flu pandemic of 1918, for instance, started on a farm, then jumped to a military base, and thanks to American soldiers shipping out to fight in World War I, it wound up wiping out millions more than the war itself did. The virus itself is of avian and equine origins, and may have links to an earlier epizootic outbreak of influenza in horses, in 1872, which wiped out so many horses that travel and trade throughout North America ground to a standstill:
In fact, the species from which this coronavirus jumped to humans was not even a bat, but a pangolin…a species much in demand with rich, air-headed status seekers who have much more in common with Bryan Adams himself than they do with his audience. Maybe this outbreak will finally kill demand for the species, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.
Meanwhile, thousands of poor folks who’ve never tasted pangolin meat have died of this pandemic and are still dying now. Some of them may even have been “clean”, ostensibly healthy-living vegans. Their lifestyle hasn’t saved them from what is, in fact, an airborne virus. One that you could catch simply by breathing within a few metres of any critter that’s carrying it — be it bats, pangolins, or who knows what.
And in the midst of all that, ol’ Bryan is pissing and moaning from the safety of his mansion about how much richer he won’t be getting this year off the backs of fans who can ill afford to see him anyway.
It’s enough to make you sick, if you aren’t already.
…and that’s really saying something, because this is the man who stripped down to his underoos during a child-custody hearing in which he was, strangely, NOT stripped of custody, much less visitation rights. But now he’s not just into weird sexual intimidation, but…CANNIBALISM? Yup:
May 1st was my last day as a VP and Distinguished Engineer at Amazon Web Services, after five years and five months of rewarding fun. I quit in dismay at Amazon firing whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of Covid-19.
What with big-tech salaries and share vestings, this will probably cost me over a million (pre-tax) dollars, not to mention the best job I’ve ever had, working with awfully good people. So I’m pretty blue.
What, great pay and perks under capitalism weren’t enough?
Last year, Amazonians on the tech side banded together as Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ), first coming to the world’s notice with an open letter promoting a shareholders’ resolution calling for dramatic action and leadership from Amazon on the global climate emergency. I was one of its 8,702 signatories.
While the resolution got a lot of votes, it didn’t pass. Four months later, 3,000 Amazon tech workers from around the world joined in the Global Climate Strike walkout. The day before the walkout, Amazon announced a large-scale plan aimed at making the company part of the climate-crisis solution. It’s not as though the activists were acknowledged by their employer for being forward-thinking; in fact, leaders were threatened with dismissal.
Fast-forward to the Covid-19 era. Stories surfaced of unrest in Amazon warehouses, workers raising alarms about being uninformed, unprotected, and frightened. Official statements claimed every possible safety precaution was being taken. Then a worker organizing for better safety conditions was fired, and brutally insensitive remarks appeared in leaked executive meeting notes where the focus was on defending Amazon “talking points”.
Leaked notes from an internal meeting of Amazon leadership obtained by VICE News reveal company executives discussed a plan to smear fired warehouse employee Christian Smalls, calling him “not smart or articulate” as part of a PR strategy to make him “the face of the entire union/organizing movement.”
“He’s not smart, or articulate, and to the extent the press wants to focus on us versus him, we will be in a much stronger PR position than simply explaining for the umpteenth time how we’re trying to protect workers,” wrote Amazon General Counsel David Zapolsky in notes from the meeting forwarded widely in the company.
The discussion took place at a daily meeting, which included CEO Jeff Bezos, to update each other on the coronavirus situation. Amazon SVP of Global Corporate Affairs Jay Carney described the purpose to CNN on Sunday: “We go over the update on what’s happening around the world with our employees and with our customers and our businesses. We also spend a significant amount of time just brainstorming about what else we can do” about COVID-19.
Zapolsky’s notes also detailed Amazon’s efforts to buy millions of protective masks to protect its workers from the coronavirus, as well as an effort to begin producing and selling its own masks. So far, the company has secured at least 10 million masks for “our operations guys,” with 25 million more coming from a supplier in the next two weeks, Zapolsky wrote.
Sounds like they were doing something, right?
Uh, not quite.
Amazon fired the warehouse worker Smalls on Monday [March 30], after he led a walkout of a number of employees at a Staten Island distribution warehouse. Amazon says he was fired for violating a company-imposed 14-day quarantine after he came into contact with an employee who tested positive for the coronavirus.
Smalls says the employee who tested positive came into contact with many other workers for longer periods of time before her test came back. He claims he was singled out after pleading with management to sanitize the warehouse and be more transparent about the number of workers who were sick.
Zapolsky’s notes from the meeting detail Amazon’s plan to deal with a wave of bad press and calls for investigations from elected officials following the firing of Smalls. They also show top Amazon brass wanted to make Smalls the focus of its narrative when questioned about worker safety.
“We should spend the first part of our response strongly laying out the case for why the organizer’s conduct was immoral, unacceptable, and arguably illegal, in detail, and only then follow with our usual talking points about worker safety,” Zapolsky wrote. “Make him the most interesting part of the story, and if possible make him the face of the entire union/organizing movement.”
So, it sounds like the real “something” they were doing wasn’t improving working conditions, as the workers were calling for — it was shooting (and smearing) the messenger. And, oh yeah: discrediting the movement he organized with. Amazon employees at the JFK8 warehouse have been struggling to unionize since 2018.
And most sickeningly of all, making lame excuses (and using the workers’ health as a cudgel against their own representative):
In a statement to VICE News, Zapolsky said his “comments were personal and emotional.”
“I was frustrated and upset that an Amazon employee would endanger the health and safety of other Amazonians by repeatedly returning to the premises after having been warned to quarantine himself after exposure to virus Covid-19,” he said. “I let my emotions draft my words and get the better of me.”
And here’s a part that’s truly despicable:
Amazon also weighed ways to generate a PR win from their mask stockpile with “different and bold” ways of giving away surplus masks to hospitals and independent grocers. “If we can get masks in quantity it’s a fantastic gift if we donate strategically,” Zapolsky wrote.
“Another idea for giving masks away — give 1,000 masks to every police station in the country,” Zapolsky wrote, adding this “reminds folks it’s not just medical workers who need these.”
Yeah, that’s right: Instead of listening to workers’ concerns and taking their recommendations to heart, Amazon was all top-down…and using stockpiled masks as part of a downright shameless PR initiative.
And what’s more, they have the nerve to brag about it:
AND Donnie thinks THESE are “very fine people”:
Yeah. Donnie is now openly supporting armed fascist thugs. AGAIN. Because remember Charlottesville? Yeah, this is that all over again…and this time, the violence is against healthcare workers.
Never mind what flags the thugs are wearing, or what motives they’re claiming. These are armed thugs, not patriots. They are threatening to shoot up the statehouse if they don’t get their way, ON BEHALF OF MONEYED INTERESTS including, but not limited to, Betsy Fucking DeVos herself.
Corporatism has joined hands with far-right gunwankery, and this is what Donnie thinks the government of Michigan has to “make deals” and “negotiate” with?
If that’s not fascist terrorism, I don’t know what is.
And NOBODY owes fascist terrorists anything, much less a fucking deal.
Fear doesn't travel well; just as it can warp judgment, its absence can diminish memory's truth. What terrifies one generation is likely to bring only a puzzled smile to the next.
--Arthur Miller, "Why I Wrote 'The Crucible'", The New Yorker, October 21, 1996
All opinions here are the brain-wrackings of Sabina C. Becker, unless otherwise credited. If you cite them, please give credit where due.