Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egypt Is In Flames And So Is My Life

 Friday, January 28, 2011

When I took that picture I wondered if some young pilot had decided to rebel against laying out Chemtrails in straight lines. Stranger things have happened. Pilots in the US military are officers, and an officer, you would think, is about as scripted and controlled as they come. But sometimes even someone like that breaks free, as people are doing right now in Egypt, where every effort known to modern social control has been made to script and control and co-opt a people but where the headquarters of the ruling party are on fire.

Maybe there was some valid reason for laying out the Chemtrails in circles. Those would have been over an area roughly between I-80 in Wyoming and Vernal, Utah which as far as I know is largely uninhabited range land scattered with oil and gas wells and a few mines where related types of minerals are mined such as that pure carbon they bag up in huge plastic bags and use in various industrial processes and also bury alongside pipelines and run a small current through to attract ions away from the iron based pipe and keep it from rusting, which I have hauled out to the wilderness on occasion. Those are sometimes miles off even the logging or mining trails, but a semi truck is a very good off road vehicle so it can be fun out there, and it's nice to get so far off the beaten path.

Chemtrails, incidentally, are those white cloud-like streaks you see across the sky almost every day. The government never talks about them but they are sprayed by military planes, for radar to reflect off of, and it makes radar more effective, so say the people who worry about the chemicals the atmosphere and the environment and we the people are being saturated with. Some people worry about them for simple health reasons but others attribute them to more sinister motives. Are they the reason Americans are so obedient to their Capitalist masters?

Just Googling Chemtrails brings up a lot of sites where these matters are speculated upon and a documentary has been made about them. Rosanne Barr, the comedian, has an afternoon drive time show on KPFK, the Los Angeles Pacifica station. Yes, that Roseanne. She's quite a gal. Roseanne usually discusses the political events of the day but once the station was in fund raising mode when I was in LA and Roseanne was offering the Chemtrail documentary as a thank you gift if you made a donation of a certain amount.

Another time Roseanne put in $10,000 of her own as a challenge to others. Her show seems to come and go. Sometimes she phones it in from Maui where she has a house. The station seems to give her a lot of leeway, perhaps because she is Roseanne and a big celebrity and attracts listeners. Last time I caught her show live in LA she was critical of Israel. I had not heard her criticize Israel before, but as I have said, Israel is losing support as word gets out about its treatment of the Palestinians. Even many Jews, like Roseanne, who were perhaps hesitant to criticize Israel before have found out what's going on over there and are now speaking out.

But what about Egypt? In one of my last posts I wrote that some on the Left were advising not to get your hopes up after the success of the people in little Tunisia, who have ousted a dictator and are still in control of events there. In other places, like Egypt, they have been saying, the mechanisms of control are too well established. But there have been four straight days of mass protest now and every day the people press a little harder, become more emboldened. Iron man Hosnai Mubarek, the US client who split the Arab nationalism movement down the middle by signing a peace deal with Israel in the Jimmy Carter days, fired his whole cabinet yesterday in a move of apparent desperation.

And when you look past the headlines at what's happening city to city in Egypt it's even more impressive. Al Jazeerah has a page with a clickable map where you can get city by city reports. In one city, for instance, protesters took over police headquarters and were arresting police officers!

I was hearing occasional news reports from Egypt as I spent the day Friday driving, working, and each one elated me more, but then at the end of the day I got some news from my company that brought home the reality of the situation I'm in, in the US, as a lone, isolated worker in the most powerful Imperial country in the history of the world, which is under the near total control now of a gang of Capitalist thugs determined to wrest out of me every penny I have or will earn for the rest of my working life.

Here, where the class war begun by Ronald Reagan, of the rich against the poor, is nearing its final stages, where they are always on the verge of gaining control of the Social Security Trust Fund and wiping away the last government program that benefits the masses of the people, nearing the point in time when they will be able to say, 'Well buddy, I've got mine, the hell with you, you should probably hurry up and die.

And just for the record, one more time, there is no crisis in the Social Security system. That is a pure, unadulterated lie, one they have been repeating and repeating and will keep repeating until they get what they want, until they get another chance, which they thought they had not long ago. As you recall George W Bush was going to devote his second term to eliminating Social Security. He had political capital and was going to spend it. Until he was rudely informed by a coalition led by the unions that he did not have the political capital he thought he had. But they have learned from that and now they have Obama, the kinder, gentler, more persuasive face of Capital who packed his big time debt reduction commission with people like Alan Simpson, and Democrats who want to privatize Social Security.

The reality of all of this came down upon me yesterday at the end of my work day. One of those things happened that I am not sure I can accept, and I have the weekend to think it over, to decide whether to stay or go.

But to tell that I have to confess something about this web log. It's not what I have made it out to be. Here is what it is.

In my fifteen years of truck driving I have been keeping Journals. I've kept them mainly as a record, and always intended to do something with them. To write something or other using them as the basis. Sometimes the Journals have been therapeutic. I started driving truck when I was going through a divorce. I had been a newspaper reporter before that, but didn't like it all that well, and then during the breakup with my ex I wasn't doing a very good job of it anyway. So I hit the road.

With this web log then, I have been rewriting my Journal entries as if they are happening now, in real time, and trying to work in the things I feel like commenting on, the political and social events that are happening now. I have been trying to use the Journal entries as illustrations of what I think about things. The things happened alright, but several years ago, in the case of the ones I have used so far. I have just used entries I made since I got this current laptop in 2006. i have older Journals in older computers and in notebooks but have not even gotten to those yet.

But much of the time I just give in to the urge to say what I think about what's going on, and don't really focus on the web log as a writing project. That's also because I spend almost all my free time reading about what's going on. That's what I know, so I can write relatively authoritatively about it. But then I don't have time to work on the other aspects of the web log.

For a long time I enjoyed truck driving, seeing the country, photographing it, living the life of truck stops and loading docks. I've been in each of the lower 48 states multiple times now, and much of Canada. At about ten years I began to want to get off the road, and I've tried three times now. Once in Wisconsin, in 2001, I quit my truck driving job and tried to buy some land and build apartments on it. That deal fell through and I went back on the road, and also moved to New Mexico, which basically meant getting a post office box in Moriarty and renting a little hovel out there to keep my stuff in and sleep in when I took a week off every few months.

In 2007 I tried again to get off the road. I had quit my job and was negotiating a purchase officer with two guys who owned eight acres out there in the Estancia Valley south of Moriarty  I called on the lawyer I had retained to get him to help me with it and he didn't get back to me for a week. I was living in a motel in Moriarty and watching the TV news every night, and they were starting to talk about the housing market going bad. The early stage of the financial crisis was unfolding with the problems at AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac. So I backed out of the deal and started applying for jobs.

The only people who called me, called me because I had the CDL, commercial driver's license. One of them was the Albuquerque bus department, and I ended up being a bus driver and moving down to Albuquerque. I drove the city bus for a year, and that's a story in itself.

I ended up back on the road for two more years, just letting life carry me along, living on the road, not really being able to do a job search of any kind and so on June 30, 2010, I quit again. I had nothing lined up, but I had made up my mind to find something else to do, that did not involve driving and living on the road. I wanted a little house, a shop, a garden. I wanted to cook and maybe entertain and have some friends, and the inevitable lover and perhaps partner.

I sat here in my apartment and applied for jobs online for the next three months. I applied everywhere. I applied mainly to places that advertised on the Albuquerque Journal classifieds listing, which is one of  the few parts of the cheap bastard Journal you can read for free online. By the time I had reached almost 100 jobs applied for I had gotten two interviews. One was at a Sears store in the Coronado Mall, for part time at minimum wage. I declined that. The other was at a Lowe's, on Eubank or somewhere up there, stocking  shelves at night. The two women I interviewed with there made it sound like I might get the job, but then I never got called back.

I had been living on savings. I have a couple of CDs, nothing spectacular, and I have not wanted to cash in those, so when I got down to the wire I went to a Temp Agency. When they saw that I had a CDL they set me up with a guy who supplies drivers to the oil fields, and I spent a couple of months being flown to New York and Pennsylvania and Oklahoma for a few weeks at a time.

In the oil fields I drove a water truck. What happens in the oil and gas fields is that some of the wells pump out not only gas or oil, but water, too. Especially where they have done the notorious hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as it is known. The water that comes up is stored in big tanks next to the wells and must be hauled away constantly, by people like myself, and taken to disposal facilities, most of which, by the way, are deep wells. The oil and chemical contaminated water is simply pumped back into the ground. I never knew this happened. They say it is pumped into different aquifers than the ones that supply our drinking water, that it can't get mixed together. Which sounds to me like somebody's famous last words.

I started asking questions out there. I wanted to know, too what is in that fracking  fluid that they pump underground at high pressure to crack the layers of underground shale so they can extract more gas and oil. Thanks to laws snuck through congress by then Vice President Dick Cheney, a former head of Halliburton, one of the biggest companies that does fracking, they don't have to say what's in that stuff. It's proprietary. But they just don't want us to know what's in the toxic mix of chemicals, because that knowledge would make it easier to rally opposition to it.

So I was asking questions. I wanted to know, first, how the oil field business is organized. There's a confusing layering of contracting and subcontracting and I wanted to know who is in control, who has the power, who makes the decisions, who gets the money and so forth. I was putting together background material. As a former reporter I was in a good position to get a good look at that industry from the inside. I always have thoughts about doing something in Journalism again and that would have been a good opportunity.

I say all that to explain why it was, I think, that after they flew me home for my time off this last time, they didn't call me back. It could have been something else, too. There were a couple of higher ups who didn't exactly take a liking to me, but my immediate supervisors on the ground were more than pleased with my work ethic, which is very good, if I do say so, and one of them even offered to hire me direct, as they call it. That is, I'd work directly for that company and not my contracting company. He spelled out some pretty good terms, too. Fully paid Blue Cross, a free apartment, a dollar more an hour. But I decided I owed the people who had hired me my loyalty, at least for a reasonable amount of time -- I figured a year -- and I declined. And to thank me, they fired me. They knew I had been a reporter, and that I was asking questions, and they didn't call me back.

I'd only made back about half what I'd blown those three months. That was a big disappointment, and it was depressing to be back looking for work again. In another way though, I didn't really mind. It was dirty, cold, hard, and relentless work. I am not exaggerating when I say I barely slept, and I don't think that's healthy. Four hours sleep was a luxury. As I say, those wells are continually pumping water, and it must constantly be drawn off and disposed of. And there were so many trucks doing it that sometimes you had to drive all over looking  for a disposal site that would take your dirty water, because the underground wells can only absorb it so fast.

So I started applying for jobs again, and this time didn't limit myself to non truck driving jobs. I just did not want to sit here another three months applying for jobs. Counting the jobs I'd applied to before, I went over the 100 jobs applied for mark, but this time I was applying for driving jobs, and interviews and offers came relatively quickly. I ended up with a little company that has what they call a "hub" here in Albuquerque, that does something like Fedex and UPS. They deliver medicines to pharmacies and hospitals and rest homes, clothes to Bealls, and parts to Auto Zones. The stuff comes from California or Amarillo, is sorted out in a little warehouse on Hawkins Drive, and we deliver it. I get $10 an hour, no benefits. Sometimes I fill in for the truck driver who goes to Holbrook and meets a semi coming from Phoenix, at $14 an hour, no benefits.

But I've been enjoying it. It's a nice group of people. The bosses are kind hearted to the extent bosses can be. They thank you and let you know you are appreciated. I'm home every night. I've been looking on the internet at little fixer upper houses, and even duplexes. I had a duplex once, in Wisconsin, as a prelude to my property developing plan, and I've thought about easing back into that.

I've been pleased with how things are going. I'm working. Not a lot of pay but it's enough to keep me going until I figure out what else to do. I realized this morning that I have actually been cracking jokes now and then at work, and it was nice to know that. I only do that when I am comfortable with who I am around, when I like them, when I trust them. That was a very significant and heartening realization for me.

Today I worked 15 hours. There was a screw-up with the stuff coming  from Phoenix, and someone had to make an extra trip up to Farmington to deliver six boxes to a Smith's pharmacy. Farmington is my normal route now. I leave the warehouse at 1 a.m. in a 26 foot straight truck, a Penske rental truck, loaded with what has come from Amarillo that afternoon that has to go north. I meet at Gallup the semi coming from Holbrook and get what he has that needs to go north. At Farmington I give most of what I have to a little company similar to ours that delivers it to places like Cortez, Durango, Bloomfield, and Aztec., and then I make the Farmington deliveries myself -- a Bealls, a Smith's pharmacy, and sometimes a big rest home.

I got back from the second trip to Farmington and was handed my first paycheck. They only pay every two weeks, and they delay it another ten days. Payroll is done in Phoenix. My check was for my first few days of work, and they had shorted me some one or two hundred dollars. My boss pointed it out to me as he was handing me the check, and told me he would get it fixed. The first check is usually messed up, he said.

He was holding my last two time cards, which have a lot of overtime on them, and he said, "Oh, by the way, I just remembered I forgot to tell you that they don't pay overtime here. It's all just straight time."

I was in shock at hearing this. He continued, saying that the people who own the company have had lawyers look into it quite thoroughly, and it's legal, they are exempt from paying overtime because of all the states they do business in. He was saying all this but it sounded like he was talking in the background, as I stood there, stunned, trying to decide what about the situation I should comment on -- the questionable legality, the ethics of it, the fact that he had not informed me of it. Encroaching on these thoughts, too was the realization of my naiveté. Thinking that these people were different. The realization that what I had thought was perhaps the end of my travails, of the three months, the 100 job applications, the not getting call backs, the groveling to places I never have considered groveling to, all of it, was maybe, possibly, hopefully over, or at least that I had a few months here to breathe, to figure out what to do next.

I did give him a little pieced of my mind, but held back from giving him the full scope of my thinking, of my disgust. He said he really wants me to stay but he could understand if I left, but asked me to not leave him in the lurch. I agreed, and said I would think about it over the weekend.

I say he said he wanted me to stay, but that was before I gave him the title piece of my mind I did give him.  I directed my comments at the owners, not him, and I said I didn't consider what they are doing to be legal, but that my main problem with it was the ethics of it. That's no way to treat people, I told him.

Things like the eight hour day, overtime, benefits, were won with hard struggle, with peoples blood and with their lives. For someone to take advantage of some loophole, for there to be a loophole, disgraces the people who fought for those things, disgraces us, disgraces themselves. I didn't fill in all that background, but he has a little more idea of who I am now and will probably be doing some thinking, too, and maybe he won't think that someone who calls the owners unethical should be working there.

An ironic side note is that yesterday, or the day before, I had got a call from a woman who identified herself as the "HR" person at the Roadrunner Food Bank, where I had applied for a driver job several weeks ago. I had wanted to return that call, as a matter of courtesy, to thank the woman and let her know I was working somewhere else. But all this week I have been arriving at work at midnight or 12:30 a.m., arriving home at two or three in the afternoon, dropping into bed, waking up and going right back to work, and I had not returned her call. I just would forget.

But immediately after my session with the boss, I sat in my pickup outside and returned the woman's call. I was still upset, my voice trembling a little, but it was after 4 p.m., a Friday, and I got her voice mail. I left her a message and put the best face on why I had not called her back as I could, without lying, but I don't really expect to hear from her.

As I was sitting in my pickup, with the door open, dialing the number, my boss drove past on his way home. I wondered if he thought I was calling the Labor Department. I have considered that.

As I drove home I gradually went from feeling hopeless, and morose, to a feeling of resolve. To looking at my situation as a challenge, a test. I'll be OK. I always have been. I've been in bad situations before, and things always work out in the end, more or less.

I'm left, however, with a few key facts. One, I did not follow through on my intention to return that woman's call, and it will probably cost me. I think of this in the context that I have lamented the fact that in those 100 jobs I have applied for, I received almost no response of any kind. Sometimes a form email, but almost nothing personal. It was once customary in the business world in this country to acknowledge receipt of an application. No more. A lot of things were once customary. Thanking customers for their patronage, for example. A sense that we as a nation have things in common, like our mutual well being. That is gone, thanks to Ronal Reagan and those who have followed him and to his daddy, Margaret Thatcher, his mentor and soul mate who famously said, "There is no society, only individuals."

I did, however, receive a nice letter from the Indians at the Route 66 Casino after I applied for a public relations job there, a letter on nice paper saying they had received my material, and thanking me for my interest, but no one else bothered. It's easier not to, and cheaper, and if everyone else does it, why not?

I have also thought about the pressures my immediate boss must be under to get people to do the work he is responsible for getting done, and getting it done at low pay with no benefits and no overtime, and I understand his predicament, even feel sympathetic. I believe its likely he misled me about the pay situation -- not only him, but his assistant, with whom I also interviewed. Both laid out what the company does and explained about the strange pay schedule and so forth, and neither of them mentioned that the company doesn't pay overtime.

But they were in a bind, needing a driver in a hurry. I have pictured how they might have gotten to that place. First being in the situation I have been in, really needing a job, feeling desperate maybe, and then after they are into it and dealing with everything that comes up, and down upon them, realizing little by little what they have to do to accomplish what is expected of them. The pressures of retaining people, the consequences of not retaining people when they should, and before you know it you're not telling people about the overtime.

Everyone isn't me, after al. If I have nothing else I do have a strong set of beliefs, and not having accomplished much in my life, my adherence to my principals is one of the few things I feel good about. But I don't have children, no bills, no responsibilities except to make my life more pleasant for myself.

I see the majority of other people as being more at the mercy of the pressures to conform we are bombarded with from birth. To seek what they see held up as success on TV, what they see constantly reproduced in society around them, in their neighborhoods, in their peer groups, in a society from which they don't feel detached, as do I, but one in which they feel they are a part, so that they must succeed according to its terms, not on their own terms. I think of them, and my supervisors, and of what they must do, and I ask myself, at what price would I sell my soul?

But that's the story of this web log. It's a story, in a way, and I had to reveal that to tell this story I'm telling now.  I began the web log only after I quit my over the road trucking job and had time to do it, and figure out how to do it. I apologize for being misleading. I was even afraid to put my name on it at first. I eventually did that, and now you know the rest of the story. It's on the record now.

I don't know what I'll do with the web log now. I still have all my Journals from 15 years of truck driving. I don't know if there will be much in the way of adventure arising from delivering boxes to a pharmacy at a Smith's in Farmington. My thinking is that I will probably continue as I have been doing, using the older material, keeping it factual and taking minimal writer's license and then only for the purpose of dramatizing certain facets of certain events in order to highlight some universal truth. Not that you believed anything I've written so far.

As for what I intend to do with my real life, I am kind of stuck at the moment. I have been seriously thinking about buying a semi truck and driving for myself. Not "leasing" myself to one of the big companies and giving them a 15 percent cut, as 99.9 percent of drivers who call themselves an "owner-operator" do, but getting my own operating authority from the federal government and driving for myself, solely. Finding my own loads. Getting that part of the business down and then buying another truck and having someone drive it, and go on from there.

In other words, throwing the dice. I don't like to use credit though -- and just let someone else take a cut -- and so I am a little shy of what it would take to buy a truck and trailer, insurance, etc. I'd be spending my life savings. That I have been saving, for a just a few years now, really, but saving for what? For me? For my security? No, that is not what I have been saving it for. That's not what I live for. I think we get to chose that, and I'm a revolutionary, and not a reformer. I think the system, Capitalism, is, by its nature, corrupt, and it needs to be brought down and replaced with something else and that is what I will be trying to do. Somehow.

Replace it with what though?

The people in the streets of Egypt and Tunisia and Yemen have some ideas about what they want to replace their corrupt and authoritarian systems with but for the most part hey are playing it by ear. Get rid of the tyrant, first. Everyone can agree up to that point. But that is just the dynamics of revolution, and people like Lenin have pointed out that something will fill the power vacuum, and so you must first build institutions, like labor organizations or political parties, so you have something to fill that power vacuum with yourself. The hand of the United States is already evident in what will or might fill power vacuums in Tunisia and Egypt.

When the people do get to decide what comes next, there hasn't been a lot of opportunity for experimentation with other kinds of systems. Every time someone tries, like in the Soviet Union or Cuba or in Venezuela or in some of the countries of Africa after they threw off the colonial yoke, they draw the immediate attention of global Capital, led now my the US, and are relentlessly, unceasingly, and often savagely under attack. It's all they can do to survive, and the measures they take to do that often end up corrupting the system they are trying to build, as happened in the Stalinist USSR.

They had the benefit of having control of a nation state, which brings with it a certain amount of power, but as they learn, Capital, which does not recognize the nation state or its boundaries, has immense resources at its disposal.

My contention is that we, of the opposition, we who would like to find a better, more just, more humane way, make the mistake of leaving Capitalism to the Capitalists. We leave them in control of the all capital, and therefore all the power, and that's why I think Capitalism must be taken over from the inside. The means of production, the financing, the media, transportation, all of it. Of those, I know something about two -- media and transportation. In other words, I'll see you down the road somewhere.


I went ahead and called the boss. I know he comes in on Saturday morning and I didn't want to wait until Monday. We had a nice talk. He understands. I still work there. I understand. He didn't have to give up anything, admit to anything, although he did apologize, for something. I'm not sure what, but it doesn't matter. Corporate life prevails. He's doing a better job at maneuvering his way around it than anyone I've seen in a long time. I actually like him.

And since I have called the boss, and still have a job, the answer to the question of what I will sell my soul for has an answer. Ten dollars an hour, straight time, no overtime pay, no benefits, and the chance to keep going. Like I say, I'll see you down the road somewhere. Never give up. Look at what they're doing in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen,  Jordan, Algeria, Albania, and still doing in Cuba, and Venezuela. As long as we live, the revolution has a chance. It's inside of us. Long live the revolution.

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