Category Archives: Agent Orange

A Real-life Toxic Avenger

If the Bill of Rights contains no guarantee that a citizen shall be secure against lethal poisons distributed whether by private individuals or by public officials, it is surely only because our forefathers, despite their considerable wisdom and foresight, could conceive of no such problem.
— Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring

One might think running across a 78-year-old woman living in a cabin on 20 acres near Five Rivers is not unusual. Add to the biography: this activist’s menagerie of a Patagonia parrot; Archie the cockatiel; Patience, a blue-footed Amazon; two Sicilian donkeys, one of which is named Oakie; 25 chickens; two crippled pigeons; her double-barrel shotgun; and a large vegetable garden … and you get Carol Van Strum.

I’m talking with Carol in Debra Fant’s Waldport, Oregon, dining room while she puts away two dozen free range eggs Carol sold her and while I am leafing through Carol’s two penned books that she’s giving me — “my interrogator,” as she jokingly calls me.

At a glance from a typical visitor to our coast, Carol’s appearance (and life) might seem to embody “just one of those quirky (kooky) California transplants who is all into that back-to-the-land philosophy, living out in the boonies to get away from civilization, progress.”

This statement is both true and false as applied to Carol Van Strum.

One book written by Carol is a fictional novel, The Oreo File, concerning protagonist Molly Matthissen, who has been arrested for murdering an FBI agent. The thriller is set in the Pacific Northwest; there are penguins involved (climate refugees); and small-town justice played out.

However, the real meat and potatoes of this profile is Carol’s other book, a nonfiction gem: A Bitter Fog: Herbicides and Human Rights, written in 1983 (updated in 2014), which follows the case of Carol, her husband, four children, neighbors and residents of Lincoln County and their battle with the state of Oregon, chemical companies, the EPA and the Forest Service.

The stories Carol unfolds are dynamic as they cascade through many labyrinths. She has been in the Siuslaw Forest for 45 years, but her origins start in 1940, the start of World War II. Her roots were first set down in Port Chester, Westchester, New York, with a father who went to Cornell and a mother who supported the whims and avocations of their five daughters.

My mom grew up as ‘Shanty Irish.’ She never went to college. When women at cocktail parties from Smith, Radcliff and Bernard colleges asked her where she went to college, my mom said, ‘Barnum and Bailey university.

Carol laughs loudly like a native of County Cork, Ireland.

Carol Van Strum

Her mother trusted her daughters so much that she loaned the family car the summer of 1957 and let three of the girls embark on a road trip across the USA. “We went everywhere. We went camping. Oh, we did our hell raising, but our parents had absolute trust in us.”

Imagine a life well lived, and then jump to 1974 when she, her then husband Steve, their three sons and daughter, and a menagerie of animals moved from the Mendocino area of California to a homestead in Lincoln County — Five Rivers, specifically.

Her presence here, precipitated by what happened in 1975, has literally changed the narrative around the toxic herbicides timber companies, tree farms and road crews spray both by air and land.

Early in A Bitter Fog:

Where the road skirted the riverbank, overhanging shore and water, they directed their hoses into the water, inadvertently spraying the four children fishing down below. The truck moved on, leaving the children gasping in a wet mist that clung to their skin and clothing. With smarting skin, tearing eyes, burning mouths, throats and noses, they stumbled home. By nightfall, all four were sick.

Carol is clear and unyielding when she recalls the beginning of an uphill battle to fight the Forest Service spraying chemicals akin to the Agent Orange infamously used during the Vietnam conflict.

The garden plants died, “their leaves twisting and wilting in grotesque configurations.” Weeks following the herbicide spraying, chicks, geese and ducklings were born deformed. Some were hatched with misshapen wings, clubfeet, crossed beaks. Their family dog developed oozing sores, and his hind legs became paralyzed.

Readers might have a tough time imagining living through that first spraying of 2, 4-D and 2, 4, 5-T on their own children with noses bleeding and guts hemorrhaging. However, the mettle and inspirational fortitude of locals who have lived here for decades embody the power of democratic principles at both a local and global level.

The very idea of individuals and communities having a right to security from poisons and pollutants is being played out daily in this county and state, as well as worldwide. What Carol Van Strum, her neighbors and the citizens of the Oregon Central Coast and Coast Range have had to battle is the very foundation of existence — the right of informed consent.

Poisons 101

I am confronting Carol with the proposition that we have always been Guinea pigs — that no real scientific studies have been done (or can be realistically accomplished) to ferret out the harms any individual chemical/toxin can do to us as humans because so many other Post-Industrial Revolution chemicals are working synergistically in our industrialized bodies.

Carol agrees, and what unfolds is hour upon hour of recalling the vagaries of life during and before Lincoln County — starting college, a marriage and family in California after growing up in New York State. She says she picked the University of California-Berkeley “because that was the only university that had a five-dollar application fee … I didn’t have the money for all the other schools’ fees.”

That was in the early 1960s. Soon, the FBI is surveilling their house because she is involved in an underground railroad for returning Vietnam vets who want to go AWOL in Canada and because she is writing articles for a newsletter under the auspices of the Port Chicago Vigil. This anti-war group — started August 7, 1966 by peace activists — gathered at the main gate of the Naval Weapons Station in an attempt to block trucks carrying napalm bombs for shipment to US pilots flying incineration missions over Vietnam.

Carol has all sorts of asides to flavor her narrative — she lived at 2608 Derby Street in Berkeley while the W.E.B. Du Bois Society was located at 2806 Darby. The FBI got the address wrong, and instead of staking out the members of the politically active Du Bois Society, they watched Carol and her family.

Here, history intersects with Carol Van Strum — Du Bois (1869-1963) was an African-American writer, teacher, sociologist and activist whose work transformed the way that the lives of black citizens were seen in American society. Du Bois was an early champion of using data to solve social issues for the black community, and his writing — including his groundbreaking “The Souls of Black Folk” — became essential reading in African-American studies.

She tells me how she wrestled an alligator at the Steinhart Aquarium to assist a veterinarian with the sick reptile. She talks about Twiggy the Toucan, who she rescued as an emaciated dying bird but was brought back to life with Carol’s recipe of “rich pound cake and blueberries mashed up.” Even the vet at the aquarium asked her secret when one of the zoo’s toucans was suffering.

She co-owned Cody’s Bookstore in Berkeley. They had moved a few times in California in attempt “to get away from city life,” but finally they answered a for-sale ad in the San Francisco Chronicle for a 160-acre homestead in Oregon. Steve, Carol and the four children had never been out here on the Oregon Coastal Range, but the family bought the forested farm sight unseen.

“It was part of the original Homestead Act. There at the spring in concrete I found his name, Elihu Buck, crudely written with a finger. It had the first telephone line in the valley. The old posts were still there.”

This is an idyllic life until the four children are sprayed. Then the court battles, the scientific investigations (and backtracking and cover-ups) of the real effects of these herbicides. We are talking about neighbors throughout the area, up to a mile away from each other, collectively having multiple miscarriages, children born with genetic defects, adults suffering cancers and other ailments.

The dedication in her non-fiction book is emblematic of the struggle Carol has undergone:

For my children, Daphne, Alexey, Jarvis and Benjamin Van Strum.

I asked her what gives her hope.

The death of our children left me with what they loved — this farm, this dirt, these trees, this river, these birds, fish, newts, deer, and fishers — to protect and hold dear. These became my anchor to windward, keeping me from just drifting away with every wind that blows.

Even that tragic story isn’t simple — there is evidence the four children, old enough to babysit each other, perished in a house while Carol was next door at a neighbor’s house. The fire marshal indicated it was suspicious, potentially the result of arson. Carol has her suspects.

All the legal wranglings have reinforced my chronic intolerance of lies. Ditto the never-ending battle against poisons — that is an industry that could not exist without lying about its products; therefore, it should not exist.

Carol’s life on many levels, including her work to prevent chemicals entering into our watershed, as well as her personal physical and spiritual peaks and valleys, could be made into a movie. I asked Carol what she gathers from these trials and tribulations.

One person can’t save the world, or even see the other side of it. When I was four years old, I set out to see the world — thinking it was a special place like the World’s Fair with carousels and Ferris wheels. After the cops found me asleep in a pile of leaves by the street, my mom asked why I had run away. I told her I didn’t run, I walked, because I wanted to see the world, and she laughed and said, ‘It’s been right here all the time — the world begins at home.’ Lessons you never forget. I can’t save the world but I’ll fight tooth and nail to save this little corner of it.

Readers of my work might be surprised at the level of inquiry and seriousness of some of the stories I write, especially in a magazine dedicated to people enjoying our coast’s amenities and landscape (originally published in Oregon Coast Today). However, it does take a village to raise a family, and it also takes individuals and groups in a community to make it safe for everyone.

Carol might be impugned as being a “character,” but residents and tourists alike must respect that we in small rural and coast communities make up the fabric of how the place ticks and where the history is both created and memorialized.

Finally, finishing off where this essay stared — the following words from President James Madison make a fine book mark for Carol Van Strum’s life:

A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives. — James Madison, 1822, cited by William Douglas in EPA v. Mink, 1974

A Bitter Fog

Gender Neutral Pronouns While Nukes Go Unregulated

Charlie Hill, Oneida-Mohawk-Cree: “A Redneck told me to go back where I came from, so I put a tipi in his backyard.”

What exactly is the size and shape and breadth of that infamous straw that broke the camel’s back? One thousand more African-American youth murdered by cops this year in US of A? One million more people this year leaving homelands because of climate change? One billion more people making less than $2 a day? Flotilla of icebergs floating down the Baja coast? Epstein-Trump-Clinton-Woody Allen on tape raping boys and girls?

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Yet, well, how many toxins, how many chemicals, how much sewage in freshwater and how many oil spills on beaches, and how much radioactivity, and how many EMF’s will it take for that camel’s back to crack? Oh, those great white men and women telling you how many cancer-causing, hormone-disrupting, DNA-morphing, chronic illness-producing poisons should be allowed on the corn flakes and potato chips! Read on:

*Health harms

Human exposure to atrazine is linked to a number of serious health effects. A potent endocrine disrupter, atrazine interferes with hormonal activity of animals and humans at extremely low doses.

Endocrine Disruption: The science on atrazine’s effects on the hormone system continues to grow. It alters the levels of key hormones in rats and can delay puberty. In male frogs, exposure to atrazine causes a kind of “chemical castration,” causing them to develop female sex characteristics. Researchers hypothesize that atrazine signals the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, demasculinizing the frogs.

Reproductive Effects: Because atrazine disrupts hormones, it’s not surprising that epidemiological studies find associations between exposure to the herbicide and reproductive effects including increased risk of miscarriage, reduced male fertility, low birth weight, increased chance of any birth defect, and higher incidence of abdominal defects;

Cancer: Evidence for the carcinogenic potential of atrazine is growing — exposure has been linked to elevated risk of breast and prostate cancer. The recent President’s Cancel Panel Report notes that atrazine has possible carcinogenic properties. In response to concerns, U.S. EPA is currently re-evaluating atrazine’s carcinogenic potential.

[or….]

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Scientist Dr. Emily Marquez, who spoke at the DARTIC hearing in Sacramento, said this:

The committee made the right decision in light of the scientific evidence. Chlorpyrifos is neurotoxic and the Prop 65 listing affirms what scientists, doctors and communities have been saying for years – children’s developing brains are incredibly vulnerable to low amounts of the chemical during critical windows of development. State regulators should follow today’s decision by finally taking this chemical off the market.

15 years later . . .
It’s not new news that chlorpyrifos harms brains, particularly children’s developing brains. Research showing this was the impetus behind banning the chemical from home use more than 15 years ago. But progress on getting this chemical out of agricultural fields, and off of food crops, has been slow thanks in large part to the focused attention of its manufacturer, Dow Chemical.

On the national stage, Dow’s influence was made clear earlier this year when, after closed door meetings with the company’s CEO, newly appointed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt made the surprising announcement that he wasn’t going ban the use of chlorpyrifos on food crops — as the agency had previously announced it would do based on its own scientific analysis.

I was on the radio yesterday, SOS Spokane with KYRS-FM, my old radio station when I had an hour show, Tipping Points: Voices from the Edge, a weekly public affairs show where I had all sorts of guest on, a veritable list of greats (a few so-so’s) both local and national. Winona LaDuke, Bill McKibbeon, David Suzuki, Naomi Wolf, Naomi Klein, Amy Goodman, Jeremy Scahill, and so many more whose names are not household names, but amazing authors and scientists and literary types — James Howard Kunstler, Novella Carpenter, Richard Heinberg, Richard Wrangham, Tim Flannery, so-so many more!

It was a look back (and forward) on my 10 years in Spokane organizing, writing columns, doing special reports for magazines and newspapers, teaching college, and more-more, including another graduate degree (urban planning), helping raise a child, literary and non-literary publishing, and environmental organizing. A fellow named Paul Potocky hosts it, and  it was both fun and frustrating to be back on the air.

Big issues, like, how do we fix our education system, how to fix the mush and propaganda of Media, how to deal with cities like Spokane spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on paid shills/people rallying the rest of the country to move to the town (how many other big and small communities do the same?), how to get lefties off their asses and to quit griping over other lefties’ nuanced beliefs, climate change, etc.

Here’s my beef — Paul is an old lefty, and he’s retired, and he is in a community within a community — left-leaners but people who will never ever criticize the powers that be or the town itself. In the end, the new black is green or social services or legal aid, or what have you. People in the left-leaning arena are not willing to go full blast on criticizing America, the white supremacist threads of heavy gauge wire binding the minds of the left-leaners. They are not there to put stops on growth, to really look deeply at the embedded capitalists in the colleges that are part of Spokane, and the rah-rah small town folk but mean as cuss people who love a good Trump sexist, racist, wacko Christian joke. Spokane wants growth, Spokane wants a fulfillment (sic — a devil’s den) center from head Devil, Jeff “Amazon-Monopoly-and-Slaver” Bezos, and Spokane wants more roads, no public transportation. Spokane has a drug, depression, drop-out, decaying neighborhoods, dragging intellect problem, and the city wants to forget about the dispossessed, the near-homeless, and aging, chronically ill peeps.

When you go to a county or city meeting, the people that are the movers and shakers are developers, builders, and a few in various city-county departments. The town, like many towns, is non-responsive to we the people, but rather, we the money bags.

The very idea of “fixing things” means getting rid of things, stopping this digitalization of everything, this new disruptive and demeaning economies of scale, economies of hate, economies of monopolizing pigs who run the show. Paul and I quibbled over the media, or really, the Press. I posit that we need small rags back, more neighborhood and community broadsheets and newsletters and monthlies and weeklies — grassroots — on the streets. We need more readers. He thinks that since the cat is out of the bag, that there is no going back to a newspaper-newsprint hard copy time.

I disagree, and now is the time to teach young people how to resurrect mimeographs and typesetting, cold or hot. Time to have groups go after all levels of bad government and worse than bad business and those chamber of commerce felons.

Imagine, ten thousand or more people hitting the streets of a town like Spokane. Snap-snap-snap of maleficence, and more and more prying into the problems facing its citizens, with no salvation or solutions coming from the top, the ones who love those trendy Portlandesque bars and food emporiums and bad ass cafes.

There is no rabid, frothing, scabies-infested cat out of the bag we can’t stuff back in and gas back into euthanasia heaven.

We could say that, well, now that the cat is out of the bag in PK12 education — the common “killing” core/standardized testing brought to us by Gates-Pearson-Eli Brand — there’s no turning back. Or, now that we are completely surveilled and our lives dictated by a few chosen people vis-a-vis their schemes of anti-democratic info-biometric-history-DNA collecting, there’s no putting that black plague infected cat back in the bag. Same with all the toxins being foisted on us all, daily, and all the illegal wars not-in-our-name; all the illegal financial-real estate-insurance fraud, those distemper filled cats are out of the bag, so why attempt to change those systems of penury and structural violence? Universities that are colonized by the Koch Brothers and Fortune 1000 Companies of Fraud, well, those leukemia-finished cats are also out of the bag, so also give up?

Nope — Zapata: I would rather die on my feet than to live on my knees.

In fact, the foundation to any revolution and radical (root) change in this un-Democracy is more robust discourse, discussion, and coverage — by local entities, by local various forms of media!

This chipping away at America, or putting in better wires and cloud servers just to say new is new and better is in the mind’s eye, just allows the oppressors to do their dirty deeds quicker, more pervasively, and with a Nazi’s efficiency and Eichmann cold heart and Goebbels collective double- and triple-tap to the human brain and eco-landscape to completely confuse the population.

My thesis is to have these conversations many many more times, daily, and with more radically truthful concepts, with gusto, no holds barred, and to ram the facts down their throats — both sides of the manure pit called US Politics-Law Making-Legislative Governing.

Every single hour, now, I receive emails and texts from friends who are becoming more and more fatigued — as in Stockholm syndrome or abusive-battered spouse syndrome —  with not just the deplorable stories and vapidity of the press reporting (stenographing) on the people running the country, running the corporations, or those in the throw-a-trillion-dollars-at-their-talentless celebrity culture, or those rally goers with their chronic illnesses and vicious Christian ideology of hate thy neighbor, BUT absolutely drained with the entire project that they believe was a possibly decent American way of life in some mythical golden period of prosperity (for the rich, the white), as in post-WWII? That magical time when all things were in place —  all the bells and whistles, all the “Kum ba yah” (African spiritual song of slaves, meaning, come by here), and two cars in every driveway and smart, adorable, handsome/beautiful offspring with prominent college degrees and a trajectory that might be the envy of a Chelsea or Ivanka.

Truly, the amount of information that floods our corpuscles and demands dendrites and synapses to fire simultaneously while also filtering out the reality that this country has ALWAYS been warped and bad hombre-like puts most average people into a tailspin: spiritual, guilt-laden, fearful, hypocritical and circling the wagons kind of multivariate predicament.

Not acknowledging the U.S. as a white supremacist settler-state translates into a fundamental error.

I am sorry, but there are more white nationalists in the U.S. than folks want to admit. Not acknowledging the U.S. as a white supremacist settler-state translates into a fundamental error. AOC along with other liberals and most of the Eurocentric left are not calling for a break in the history of the U.S. state. They are not calling for authentic de-colonization. By not doing so, they are embracing the perspective of the invader.

Really, what is this “America” that the squad loves and claim to be a part of? AOC’s family is from the colony of Puerto Rico. Tlaib’s America is probably the most Islamophobic country on the planet. Omar’s native land of Somalia became one of the first of the so-called “failed states,” those states where U.S. and Western imperialism plunders and then pretends that the state failed as a result of its internal weaknesses. Pressley, as an African American, is part of a captive population subjected to 243 years of enslavement, 100 years of post-slavery apartheid, and 54 years of benign neglect.

These are the practices and policies of a state and society committed to upholding white colonial/capitalist power. The squad must understand that if one’s people are part of the working class and nationally oppressed, you don’t beg to become part of that de-humanizing and degrading machine. You don’t call for integration or for the recognition of your rights, which is not going to happen. No! You fight and struggle for your inherent dignity, understanding that human rights are not going to be granted by the oppressor.They have to be won through ferocious struggle.

Ajamu Baraka, national organizer of the Black Alliance for Peace

More people in the USA, according to the “pollsters” like Gallup, say they want to leave than even under Obama or Bush, and their number one choice? Again, so American of them, so elitist and exceptionally ignorant of them, but it makes sense these Yankee Doodle Dandy defectors hands down see the white land to the north, Canada, somehow is in their sights as the number one choice from where to skedaddle. As if Oh Canada is this gilded, vaunted place of harmony, endless socialized this and that, and non-bigoted, pro-woman, highly respectful people! Just read the pages of Dissident Voice by putting “Canada” into the search box and you will get a virtual house of horrors/whores list of the not-so-good, bad and ugly of that land of my mother’s birth!

But, truly, so many friends have known the CIA-WTO-Skulls&Bones-MilitaryIndustrialComplex-Fortune500 fix has been in for decades; some, however, go back to this “union’s” roots and realize that the foundation of this country (forget that there were hundreds of First Nations here) —  invaded by undocumented Puritans, illegal aliens the lot of them: thieves, slave- traders, rum-runners, suckah-born-every-minute — is/was/continues to be based on land theft, raping women, enslaving women, children, men, robbing granny blind, flimflamming, scamming and bilking, polluting, lying, marketing, stealing the public coffers.

Even with this knowledge — sort of like knowing a vote for the Democrats is the same as a vote for the Republicans — one is not so steeled from succumbing to a type of despair and fatigue and paralysis even if you knew the jig was up two centuries ago. The younger ones are skeptical and so jaded — cynical — they have little push toward any sort of reckoning for the kings of this rape-thy-neighbor culture. They put noses down and push through this rotting capitalist culture, hoping that something really bad happens collectively, regionally and nationally (heat waves, tornado’s, hurricanes, earthquakes, plagues, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, viral outbreaks, war, invasions) to wipe the slate clean, so to speak. Cynics, man, cynics. Then, the older people are shaking fists at Trump, forgetting to mind their P’s and Q’s, forgetting recent and old history. Trump is Obama is Bush is Clinton is Reagan is Carter is Ford is Nixon is Kennedy . . . . and so on. Trump a racist? Open racist, for sure, in the same bad hombre company —  Jackson, Fillmore, Buchanan, A. Johnson, Wilson, Nixon. We have to really watch those politicians and presidents who are never openly racist or misogynistic — like Willy Clinton and Joey Biden!

Oh those good old days in the 20th Century:

Overthrowing other people’s governments: The Master List by William Blum

Instances of the United States overthrowing, or attempting to overthrow, a foreign government since the Second World War. (* indicates successful ouster of a government)

China 1949 to early 1960s
Albania 1949-53
East Germany 1950s
Iran 1953 *
Guatemala 1954 *
Costa Rica mid-1950s
Syria 1956-7
Egypt 1957
Indonesia 1957-8
British Guiana 1953-64 *
Iraq 1963 *
North Vietnam 1945-73
Cambodia 1955-70 *
Laos 1958 *, 1959 *, 1960 *
Ecuador 1960-63 *
Congo 1960 *
France 1965
Brazil 1962-64 *
Dominican Republic 1963 *
Cuba 1959 to present
Bolivia 1964 *
Indonesia 1965 *
Ghana 1966 *
Chile 1964-73 *
Greece 1967 *
Costa Rica 1970-71
Bolivia 1971 *
Australia 1973-75 *
Angola 1975, 1980s
Zaire 1975
Portugal 1974-76 *
Jamaica 1976-80 *
Seychelles 1979-81
Chad 1981-82 *
Grenada 1983 *
South Yemen 1982-84
Suriname 1982-84
Fiji 1987 *
Libya 1980s
Nicaragua 1981-90 *
Panama 1989 *
Bulgaria 1990 *
Albania 1991 *
Iraq 1991
Afghanistan 1980s *
Somalia 1993
Yugoslavia 1999-2000 *
Ecuador 2000 *
Afghanistan 2001 *
Venezuela 2002 *
Iraq 2003 *
Haiti 2004 *
Somalia 2007 to present
Honduras 2009 *
Libya 2011 *
Syria 2012
Ukraine 2014 *

Q: Why will there never be a coup d’état in Washington?

A: Because there’s no American embassy there.

So, yeah, these are rough times, but what point in history do we see the good times rolling for the majority of people on planet earth? How were those wars waged from time immemorial? All-volunteer and well-treated armies of the Roman Empire, Alexander’s? How were those cities and pyramids built? Union jobs? How were those lands acquired, plots laid out, cattle drives perpetrated? Who got to “have” Canada or “have” Australia? Whose Hawaii is it?

I know, I know, it’s tough actually living in and fighting within and struggling inside because of everything this society stands for when it comes to all those self-delusions. I know, one out of four Americans say they will never retire . . . just work themselves to the grave or hospital gurney or care facility (streets). I know, there are a million jobs — professions — that are not worthy of the print their descriptions are printed upon, yet we continue to let the chosen few determine the futures of young and old with their a suckah (mark, fool, patsy, money-train, fall-guy/gal) is born every nano-second schemes.

The world burns, the crops desiccate, the water dries up, the diseases are spreading, the neo-natal units are busting at the seams, infrastructure’s collapsing, minimum wage blocked ($7 and change man, in 2019 — yep, we are a failed and failing and falling down nation), housing and rentals costs sky-rocketing, debt increasing, mental duress and illness burgeoning, the few gaining more and more by stealing from the many, more toxins and nuclear particles streaming into our daily lives, and yet, we now no longer can have printed on sewer and stormwater plates — manhole. It’s a they-hole, or them-hole, maybe a shit-hole cover.

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BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Berkeley, California, has adopted an ordinance to replace some terms with gender-neutral words in the city code.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports Wednesday that “she” and “he” will be replaced by “they.” The words “manpower” and “manhole” will become “workforce” and “maintenance hole.”

The City Council on Tuesday unanimously passed the measure to replace more than two dozen commonly used terms. There will be no more “craftsmen” in city code, only “craftspeople” or “artisans.”

Berkeley has a long history of leading on politically and socially liberal issues.

The sponsor of the ordinance is councilman Rigel Robinson, a 23-year-old recent graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. He says his time in college expanded his awareness of gender issues.

Robinson says critics suggested the council spend time on more important matters.

We talk about these prescient and emblematic moments in this essay forum I deploy to stave off my own insanity and the likelihood of going postal. You know, one vote here by the prostitutes of politics, or one headline or story there crafted by the presstitutes, or this or that “scientific” claim/report promulgated by this or that biostute (biologist bought, paid for and wrapped up by The Industry). It is more than just a Mad Mad Mad World, where I’m Not Going to Take It Anymore people running around.

I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth. Banks are going bust. Shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

We know things are bad – worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is: ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’

Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get MAD! I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot – I don’t want you to write to your congressman, because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. (shouting) You’ve got to say: ‘I’m a human being, god-dammit! My life has value!’

So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’

I want you to get up right now. Sit up. Go to your windows. Open them and stick your head out and yell – ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad!…You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’ Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first, get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’

— Peter Finch in the 1976 movie, Network, playing newscaster, Howard Beale!

I am staving off that Howard Beale moment by putting into perspective everyone’s insanity and my own slippage here. That spillage is my own frustration trying to help guide others who are seeking justice, balance, perspective and answers to “how the hell did we get to this place” and “why have I failed my children and my children’s children’s children’s futures. Indeed, even making a few shekels out here on the coast for a column I pitched (and I got) Deep Dive with Paul Haeder, I get to interview people I want to get to know and learn about; some of them are powerhouses, these individuals who in a lifetime make people who have become so cynical and rotten in their lack of push forward and against the powers that be really pause.

Carol Van Strum, captured here — A real-life Toxic Avenger

Carol Van Strum

Early in her book, A Bitter Fog:

A Bitter Fog

“Where the road skirted the riverbank, overhanging shore and water, they directed their hoses into the water, inadvertently spraying the four children fishing down below. The truck moved on, leaving the children gasping in a wet mist that clung to their skin and clothing. With smarting skin, tearing eyes, burning mouths, throats and noses, they stumbled home. By nightfall, all four were sick.”

Fighting against Dow, against the Forest Service, against the Timber Companies, against the OSU biologists, against the media/Press, against the powers that be, and against ignorance. Monsanto and 2,4,5-D, that fine ingredient as one baseline poison that made  Agent Orange another gift that keeps on giving. She lost four children in a fire in their cabin, and Carol was not afraid to point to the FBI, the thugs of the herbicide companies, or the timber companies. And she keeps going, man.

Vietnamese Girl Writes With Foot

Project 1 C

Spraying Agent Orange Ranch Hand

Vietnamese Before Billboard

Carol Van Strum in my interview: All the legal wranglings have reinforced my chronic intolerance of lies. Ditto the never-ending battle against poisons — that is an industry that could not exist without lying about its products; therefore, it should not exist.

One person can’t save the world, or even see the other side of it. When I was four years old, I set out to see the world — thinking it was a special place like the World’s Fair with carousels and Ferris wheels. After the cops found me asleep in a pile of leaves by the street, my mom asked why I had run away. I told her I didn’t run, I walked, because I wanted to see the world, and she laughed and said, ‘It’s been right here all the time — the world begins at home.’ Lessons you never forget. I can’t save the world but I’ll fight tooth and nail to save this little corner of it.

So, my fine people, friends, aging folk who are going to more and more memorials, or visiting the cancer wards and Alzheimer’s facilities; those people who can’t understand this America, the one We Have Always Had America, I love you for the work you attempt.

I know people like me stir the pot and wack the hornets’ nest. I understand that in a world of spitting, cursing, lying, shooting, imprisoning, raping, stealing, a guy like me opening yet more floodgates on how much we are cooked climate-wise, civil liberties-wise, sanity-wise might be too too much. For that, I hope I do not push anyone over anyone’s edge point. You can do that all on your own, or not!

We can’t go back to some mythical time, but we can put all those polluting, infecting, scratching and biting cats back in the bag, man.  The market knows best, and below, Chomsky’s quote,  just replace “fossil fuel extraction” with any of the following — coal, mining, medical malpractice, banking, computer engineering, chemical making, big pharma, real estate, stock market, artificial intelligence, big ag, big anything, big retail, big guns, big nukes, big energy, big marketing, big ed, big prisons, big fat planned and perceived obsolescence manufacturing-marketing-retailing-delivering (think Amazon).

The logic of the capitalist market rules — what Joseph Stiglitz 25 years ago called the “religion” that markets know best. The same reasoning extends beyond, for example to the major banks that are pouring funds into fossil fuel extraction, including the most dangerous, like Canadian tar sands, surely in full awareness of the consequences.

CEOs face a choice: They can seek to maximize profit and market share, and (consciously) labor to undermine the prospects for life on earth; or they can refuse to do so, and be removed and replaced by someone who will. The problems are not just individual; they are institutional, hence much deeper and harder to overcome.

There is no need to review record of interventions, subversion and violence, particularly since World War II, which established the U.S. in a position of global dominance with no historical precedent. The record includes the worst crime of the postwar period, the assault on Indochina, and the worst crime of this millennium, the invasion of Iraq.

Like most terms of political discourse, “imperialism” is a contested notion. Whatever term we want to use, the U.S. is alone in having hundreds of military bases and troops operating over much of the world. It is also unique in its willingness and ability to impose brutal sanctions designed to punish the people of states designated as enemies. And its market power and dominance of the international financial system provide these sanctions with extraterritorial reach, compelling even powerful states to join in, however unwillingly.

Noam Chomsky: “Worship of Markets” Is Threatening Human Civilization