Small Town Newspaper Stories: Universal Truths of Corroded Capitalism

Finding truth in an endless parade of stories in the not-so-mainstream-press

Universe in the back seat of the station wagon

I do this quite a lot – looking at those American towns I call home or still have connections with and try to make universal tie-ins to the larger world, certainly connections that overlay here, say, Portland, to the universal Amerika, fed through the lens of American Capitalism Gone Hard Fascist Right.

Scouring newspapers – those that are left, still independent, or those part of monopolies like Gannett, Advance Publications, Hearst Corp., McClatchy Newspapers and Tribune Co. or otherwise – gives me a look into the madness of American planning, lack of it, and housing, homelessness, joblessness, the cultural cognitive dissonance of Americans fiddling with their junk consumer society while Nero is Fiddling.

Take Seattle (where I worked as adjunct faculty and then adjunct faculty organizer for the largest US union, SEIU), Vancouver-Portland (where I worked as adjunct and then in employment for adults with developmental disabilities), Spokane (where I did all manner of things, and still currently write for a lifestyle rag, as the magazine’s serious and philosophically bent journalist, monthly column space, some of which has been reprinted at DV).

These are looking glasses into community disenfranchisement, community angst, economic slide, and capitalism for the rich and powerful. Each city or township is reflected in the newspaper of record there, even if it is a biased (conservatively so) news organ. You thumb through the pages around city and county governance, and development, and the business community, and well you get a microcosm of Amerika. What works in Seattle doesn’t work in Trenton. What shilling works in Boston works in Portland. It’s a very disconcerting thing to see story after story around the lower economic classes and people of color and youth and the old, how mistreated they are universally in each community I’ve been in, each community I have skin in the game in, and each community I get to know through their respective newspapers.

Oh, I could look at Missoula, Montana, Oakland, California, El Paso, Texas, or any number of places, scour the newspaper, and see the connected dots to a dying culture and super-vindictive Capitalist State of Dog-eat-Dog, and ya-gotta-have-skin-in-the-game-to-even prosper mentality/psychosis. What I find with the regional NPR stations is much the same — the people “doing” the news are aloof or too hip to stink or are just on the side of progress (for the 20 percent) and technology and all the new-new world of work, i.e., sink or swim.

Jobs

Lies, more lies, bigger lies. So, the national economy is just doing dandy, according to the liars in labor markets, investment firms, chambers of commerce. Front page news in Sunday’s Oregonian with the headline, “Downside to State’s Stronger Economy” is emblematic and axiomatic of AMERIKA! This is how punishment Capitalism and delusional planning and thinking work – so the state’s booming economy in the service sector, part-time economy, at-will economy that it is, will hurt thousands of people receiving food stamp benefits. Homeless or near homeless. If one uses up the three months of food stamp benefits before finding work or signing up for state volunteer programs, the food stamps go, and they do not become eligible again for three years.

Part-time jobs, aging, health issues, subsidized housing (which is rarer and rarer) and Democrats welfare-to-work reforms (penalties) will end SNAP benefits, which cap out at $200 a month anyways. This is the fascist, mean, rotten country that we are, and dozens of states are doing the same thing. Cutting yet another safety net – while billions go to US military gas bill, and hundreds of billions go to the major tax cheats like Amazon, Boeing, GE, Micrsoft, Google.

Much of this sort of news hits newspapers, but in the end, since so many poor are affected and poor people are not sexy causes, and do not have lobbying K-Street teams, and have no politicos in their camp, in the end, well, this is how Orwell would see our Capitalism 3.0 – poverty is wealth, hunger is bounty, money is war, rich are hurting.

We can thank Clinton and Company for that welfare reform act, three strikes and you are out, and all those cops on the streets.

My Job Search

So many people have told me to not write about ME, or to change my name here at DV, because, all the stuff I write will kill my chances of a good job, or any job. First, this is the problem with leftists, with people who think they have a narrative gift of gab. These are real times, real sweaty, fearful, hard days, by the minutes, of real people trying to lift themselves up by bootstraps. I have applied, literally, to dozens of places since my October 5 layoff. In that time, two interviews, but a lot of people saying I am too qualified (Orwellian, again) to want or be happy to work with their outfit.

It’s a sickness of Capitalism and the non-profit sector, a large chunk of which receive my application. Even a weekly newspaper was looking for someone, a journalist, and the editor said I am way too overqualified. This is the sickness of our education system, since I suppose the guy went to school, J-school, and maybe a business minor thrown in. Maybe a master’s in Journalism. Heartless, asinine and as reductive and stupid as they get.

So just for this job, I pitch a story-series idea, and this little newspaper is owned by a small media group that has other newspapers in the area of Portland, et al. The story would be an insider’s look at employment, the job market, looking for work, and my own talents and the struggling job seeker who is older (58) and multiple degreed! No answer back. Not expecting much from a world of poorly educated fools.

Heroes as Terrorists

Things are so bad in la-la land, especially in the lefty land, that putting someone who burns down ski resorts on sacred and environmentally sensitive mountains on a pedestal, or even nuancing their causes, well, them’s FBI-seeking, Homeland Security-attracting, Job-Killing words.

Again, in the Oregonian: “FBI hopes age-progression photo helps catch 41-year-old eco-sabotage fugitive.” Josephine Sunshine Overtaker was indicted with others in nine torchings of buildings and facilities, from forest ranger posts, to trucks, to meat processing company, to wild horse holding facility and lumber company office. There is a shoot-to-kill order out, and she is probably in Europe, in Spain, living with Basque separatists. Her connection to Oregon is around those targets she hit, some of which were located in this lovely state.

Maria Rachelle Quintana, her new alias after working in small cells for the Animal Liberation Front. $50,000 for the arrest of her, and tips come in two or three a year, and the FBI likens her victimless crime work — based on ethical and larger revolutionary principles (albeit, everything against the American Way of Life and Capitalists’ Murder Incorporated Way of Doing Business) – Mafia-Mob Boss, murderer, James Whitey Bulger – who the FBI got caught on the same pay for tip method.

She’s Canadian, and, well, her life and this movement using flames for protest, what, $35 million worth of damage, or so the insurance real estate Mafia says, is something worth studying and understanding. You know, how many drones and fire bombings, and napalming and Whiskey Pete drops, and cluster bombing and uranium spraying and germ warfare seeding has the Western Project on Murdering Indigenous and Subsistence People’s done to millions of lives in the quest for Empire?

Just how many General Westmorelands or Henry Kissingers and Cheneys and Obamas and McCains and Powells and Clintons and Albrights and General-after-General been indicted for mass murder, terrorism, war crimes?

Vail ski resort burns, no injuries, of course, and that’s $12 million estimated insurance claim, and the FBI launches the concept of “the largest domestic terrorist organization associated with Earth Liberation Front and their Cells around Animal Liberation.”

Writing about this, even thinking about putting one or several of these folk into a novel (which I am doing as I write this) is publishing death, in some sense, if not handled just right, so balanced for the publishers, who in the end are the Controllers, are they not? You can make these people into humans, or advance anything about their cause, or else . . . .

It’s The Oil, Stupid

Okay, so it’s difficult to finish a column like this without mentioning COP 21 and climate change and the deluded folk talking up a storm in Paris. Some of the jobs I’ve applied for are sustainability-oriented outfits, living building organizations, even the Center for Biological Diversity. The calls for hiking up the price or tax on oil, gasoline, and then cutting those fossil fuel subsidies – paying the oil companies money to get free R & D and tax write-offs and keeping the oil priced low – $40 a barrel, 2 cents a gallon in Venezuela, 150 cents here – well, there will be blood, consequences in a service economy in a land where none of the hard work has been done by the pay masters, captains of industry, grand old flag politico; for example, single payer health bill, where’s that;  hiking up the social security income tax limit to, oh, a billion a year salary, how about that; no shift from bad work to goods, like community resilience through day cares, adult cares, home fixing, habitat for humanities on a Marshall Plan level.

So, how many jobs lost in the energy sector because of falling oil prices? That’s 11,300 lost jobs here, USA. Oh, it’s the service economy, Stupid, I forgot that. Democrats and Republicans, Clinton and Obama, Bernie and Cruz. Get them those low paying jobs and keep them in two or three at a time, and low ball them into the poor house.

More money for consumers – we are not citizens, but Retailopithecus Consumos, like ticks or bed bugs, leaches – to spend is what the low cost of gasoline is all about. But will that parlay into more jobs? Oh, the perpetually employed economists can masturbate and ruminate and they are still Titans of Economic Terror. That’s 17 percent of mining jobs lost in North Dakota. Shifting to what sort of economy? The continually unemployed one?

Mental Gridlock — Vocational universities, anti-humanities Everyone

All of that aside, though, where is this worthless economy going? Portland is gridlocked almost 18 hours a day in traffic, any given day, crossing the Columbia slack water from Vancouver to Portland and back. People dry walling, servicing, waiting tables, doing the soft skills work that pays, err, $13 an hour with two college degrees, thank you very much.

So, reading the Arizona Daily Star or the Oregonian or Spokesman Review or San Fran Chronicle/Examiner, wherever, it’s all the same cracks and chasms and broken dreams (of the 80 percent) and lived fantasies (of the 20 percent). And the news deliverers, as Paul Craig Roberts calls them, the presstitutes, are just handmaidens to the Corporate Propaganda, big or small, for profit or non profit.

Someone said to me – “Why don’t you leave the country and get a job in one of those places you speak so highly of?” You know, I speak highly of the people of so many countries, so many genuine and thinking people unfortunately locked in countries run by transnational money-industries-militaries. Why not just chuck it all? Heck, I have a book coming out in April, wow, that will pull in an Oprah appearance.

Sometimes a person can be locked into systems that lock them out. This is not about everyone who is worthy of some of the pie, especially people willing to work for community and people and environment, work for low pay but real causes, can easily make his or her way in the land of opportunity. Start up a food truck. Go back to school. Risk it all at 58. It’s the American way.

I Get Everyone’s Story, from TMI to Catharsis 201

Right. Something about this entire economy-society-environment that is warped, and just as yet another example, purchasing some oil and filter for my Chevy Metro yesterday (I put on sometimes 100 miles a day, 46 mpg, albeit, looking for work), at AutoZone, the assistant manager started talking to me. I have this way of getting EVERYONE to tell me their story. He talked about a $4000 day on Saturday with only four folk working. He said he likes the job. He has Harleys and roadsters, loves the motor head game. Says he played football at WSU and is finishing his BA at a for-profit on-line school. He said he dropped out to go into the Army.

But he also waxed nostalgic, saying he worked for Blackwater overseas, where he brandished high powered weapons and killed a few people. Special operations hits. In India, too. Pakistan. He was happy about telling me that, and said he missed it. One big happy American Killing Family, either with the trigger pulled with chunky index finger or with wave of the mouse and click of the cursor through the fiduciary or financial or real estate or prison-poison-propaganda-policing-political-patriotism industrial complex Mafia. Whether it’s Hillary raping Libya or Ted Cruz calling for all Americans to be armed or Jerry Falwell Jr telling his Christian students to carry concealed weapons or Trump unfurling his red-white-blue plans at a master race of zealots, or Ben Carson saying he jujitsu-ed perps into submission or Madeline Albright happy about those collateral 800,000 dead babies, old, young, sick, or all those preachers blessing Empire or the Jews with Stars of David on tank bodies or F-16 wind tips, or all the lies of NYT or PBS, this country’s hens are coming back to roost.

This is a happy time of false coat drives and giving campaigns at work, and carols and mangers and menorahs, and we have as many more dumb things we will never need or would ever be of value bought and purchased for and by Santa, and we pray the cash register or phone app on-line purchase will employ a few other million schmucks, so the paymasters and master tribe can capitalize, maximize, monetize, incentivize, on the coming of the falling of the empire.

Yes, we are  a dead and dying culture, in that order. Continually dying and reviving our death culture back to the process of dying over and over, like some Dante frozen over hell. Andre Vltchek, says it right, all the time, this time coming to the States to talk about his movies, books, insights, with supposedly “enlightened liberals”:

This visit broke me. It exhausted me. It thoroughly depressed me.

I saw clearly how grotesque pseudo-morality, disgusting religious concepts and hypocrisy influenced and ruined entire nations, client states, worldwide, especially in Asia and Africa.

Yes, I believe in collective guilt. Holding US citizenship, I share the guilt. And therefore, I work non-stop, not to wash my hands, but to stop the madness.

I am convinced that the West, the white race and its lackeys abroad, have no right to rule over this Planet. I saw enough to back my conviction.

The West is finished, its culture dead. What is left is unattractive, even horrifying. There is no heart, no compassion, and no creativity. And those billions of people beyond the Western realm should not be dying, while forced to support the aggressive individualism of the post-Christian, post-Crusade colonialism and fascism of Europe and the United States.

I told that almost-all-American auto parts guy that I had seen and met a lot of ex-mercenaries, operatives, in Central America, a few in Vietnam and Laos. All sad about something in their lives, and so all-knowing since they too were paid to kill, maim, destroy. Military men and women think they are the elite, and you can hear it in the generals’ voices on TV, in the news articles where they are quoted. I told him that Erik Prince, head of Blackwater, is a punk, all backed up with guns, air ships, bombs, and probably plutonium. How many Obama folks and others on down the line think Blackwater is the most sustainable thing going to kill Islam, or some sick was to try and disrupt it by seeding the seeds of discontent, horror?

I told the parts guy I count Jeremy Scahill as a friend, at least on my radio show, where he took on Blackwater, wrote a book, and spoke in Idaho where they were headquartered in their white supremacist compound. Here, Democracy Now:

Well, first of all, the fact that Blackwater operatives were told—that there was a culture at the company where they called people “ragheads,” where they used any manner of “sand monkeys,” other things, slurs to describe the people in Iraq and Afghanistan that they were—you know, whose countries they were occupying. But also, there have been numerous court cases, whistleblowers within Blackwater, who have said that their pilots in their helicopters would drive around, and they literally would go, quote-unquote, “hunting” for people and that it didn’t matter whether they had anything to do with 9/11, they were all the enemy. And there was a tone set in the company, and I know this from people that were there and that would hear Erik Prince’s speeches. He would talk about the so-called war on terror in these epic historical terms of a battle of civilization, of the Christian world versus the Islamic world.

Also, if you look at the Prince family and their history, they’ve been very, very dedicated to funding radical right-wing religious causes in the United States. One of Erik Prince’s closest friends for much of his life was Chuck Colson, who was of course Nixon’s hatchet man during the Watergate scandal, the author of Nixon’s enemies list, who then went to prison, came out as this sort of evangelical Christian who spent much of his life then trying to fight the scourge of Islam within America’s prisons. I mean, Erik Prince is surrounded by very radical right-wing Christians. And, you know, the fact that he says, “Oh, we want to go and fight ISIS right now,” first of all, they want to make money off of it; secondly, it plays into Erik Prince’s worldview that Islam is the enemy.

I know a thousand guys like the auto parts guy, and he is stuck in the killing phase of empire, all the great feats of joystick drone murder, high altitude bomber runs, murders, satellite guided war machines, murdering. All of it looks like a slam dunk for Empire on Superbowl Sunday — except when you look at the masses, the lost, the soon to be lost, the ever growing lack of community grounding and roots.

Here, my radio hour with him, Scahill, as an affront to war, killing, US Murder, Inc.

Paul Kirk Haeder has been a journalist since 1977. He's covered police, environment, planning and zoning, county and city politics, as well as working in true small town/community journalism situations in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico and beyond. He's been a part-time faculty since 1983, and as such has worked in prisons, gang-influenced programs, universities, colleges, alternative high schools, language schools, as a private contractor-writing instructor for US military in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Washington. He organized Part-time faulty in Washington State. His book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his autobiography, weekly or bi-weekly musings and hard hitting work in chapter installments, at LA Progressive. He blogs from Otis, Oregon. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.