The Poisoning Of East Palestine Is America's Chernobyl
The Government And Corporate Axis Sentence A Small Town In Ohio To Death In The Aftermath Of A Disastrous Train Derailment
“A cargo train containing multiple cars used for carrying hydrochloric acid (red and white painted tank cars in this image) is moved between rail yards near Chicago's Chinatown neighborhood in fall 2021. 2.21 million carloads of chemicals-- including hazardous materials such as chlorine gas, strong acids, and ammonia, as well as non-hazardous substances such as potassium chloride-- were hauled by U.S. freight railroads in 2021 according to the Association of American Railroads.”
Photo by Sam LaRussa on Unsplash
God bless the valiant rank-and-file railroad workers.
They tried to warn us that this would happen months ago, as the top management representing the disjointed group of multiple railroad Unions, and the executives of the rail companies, worked with the Biden administration’s Presidential Emergency Board to stop a legitimate strike before it even began.
The deceptive minions in the corporate media wasted no time as they rushed to create panic in order to manufacture consent from the public for the government to break the strike.
A strike, they ominously warned, would disrupt the critical flow of goods within the almighty consumer economy of the United States, and even more horrifically, just before the frenzy of Christmas shoppers could send retail industry receipts into the black.
It was a heinous villainizing of the rail workers by default as visions of chaos and consumer disappointment was planted in our heads.
Joe Biden, the avuncular sadist, stepped in to break the strike, and changed his theatrical mask and costume, transforming himself from “capitalist Joe” into “union Joe,” a man of the people, a friend of the working class, and a restorer of “dignity” to the “soul of America”.
Biden, posing as an alleged neutral arbiter, clumsily tap-danced between the demands of the rail companies, keeping the economy “open,” and the low-key, reasonable demands of the rail workers. The end result was predictable: the economy, as always, is far more important than any group of workers that service and maintain it through their labor. Biden, the capitalist hero, was directly involved in averting the strike, the sycophantic media breathlessly proclaimed.
It was reported that he stayed up past his bedtime in an intense overnight negotiating session to hammer out a deal that was suitable for all parties. “Historic pay raises” were part of the deal, said Biden, even though in reality it denied workers reasonable demands for sick days and critical safety regulations, and was cynically crafted to the singular advantage of profit for the rail companies.
It was all an act of performative political theater.
The rank-and-file workers, the heart of the industry, never stood a chance.
They didn’t merit a seat at the table and had their interests thwarted by default.
The final insult was a rare bipartisan moment of unanimity as Congress forced through the rail labor” agreement,” leaving rank-and-file workers in the cold as the equivalent of modern-day slave labor, and despite their bitter protests that they had been stabbed in the back by their own alleged Union and Congressional representation.
“After three years of endless rounds of government-mandated mediation, imposed on railroaders by the anti-worker Railway Labor Act, and after an earlier settlement that the government and union bureaucracy sought to enforce in a vote subject to endless delays and marred by serious irregularities, workers were finally set to launch a national strike on December 9. Workers face brutal employers who refuse to budge on essential and basic demands, such as paid sick leave (workers currently have none at all) and scheduling that allows them to spend time with their families.”
Studs Terkel, were he around to interview the rank-and-file rail workers in 2023, would be appalled.
The infuriating aspect of all of this was that rank-and-file rail workers were simply asking for quality-of-life improvements. Paid sick days, available to at least some categories of both blue and white-collar workers in America, were denied to rail workers, who were also threatened with the loss of their job should they call out too many times for “personal” reasons.
Most importantly, the emphasis on pay rates and sick days glossed over the fact that the rank-and-file workers were warning of the dangers, to themselves and the environments rail tracks were transversing, of Precision Scheduled Railroading.
“Although almost all of the Class I railroads have been deploying precision scheduled railroading (PSR), an operational model that seeks to streamline operations, for several years already, a number of issues keep the debate over its value alive.
The railroads have argued that PSR provides shippers with consistent and reliable service. Proponents of PSR contend that shippers previously had to wait until a train was long enough in order for them to receive service, making service more erratic. Having that stability helps freight rail become more trucklike, they say. Implementing PSR has also helped the railroads lower their operating ratio, a gauge derived by a formula that helps investors determine the financial health of a company.
But the unions representing craft employees and train and engine crews — the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, SMART-TD, Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes, among others — generally have been skeptical of PSR, in large part because the operational model also seeks to cut costs, and one way to cut costs is to reduce employee headcount. Since 2016, the yearly average of those employed by the U.S. operations of the Class I railroads has fallen roughly 25%, according to data submitted to the Surface Transportation Board.”
In this model, obviously, inspections and safety fall by the wayside.
It should be noted that this rail disaster, occurring almost two weeks ago, was completely eclipsed by the media fixation on everything from the Super Bowl to the alleged invasion of American airspace by Chinese spy balloons.
The mainstream corporate media, as obedient cheerleaders for the coming global wars with Russia and China, had no time or interest in covering domestic existential disasters, much less the rail industry's culpability in it. Those balloons, now fuzzily defined as “objects” have captured the attention of ratings-starved corporate media, who scrutinize and endlessly analyze the “mystery”.
The Biden administration, which usually piously brags about how they are vigilant in protecting and defending democracy, was perceived by the opposition party as slow to react to the first “invading object,” and since that time has shot down, in concert with Canada, four objects total.
It’s like a slow-motion, nightmarish scenario filled with fantastical, childish priorities in the midst of a real, deadly, immediate disaster.
Where are the adults in the room?
As I write this, Biden has made no public comment, via conventional or social media, about the derailment, choosing instead to focus attention on the most recent, tragic, senseless shooting, and sending Valentine’s greetings to his wife. Perhaps he was hoping that throwing Pete Buttigieg, his hapless Secretary Of Transportation to the wolves would be the best strategy. It was only yesterday that Buttigieg even acknowledged this full-fledged disaster that falls directly under his authority and purview. It was a matter, tweeted Buttigieg with zero sense of actual alarm, of “continuing concern”.
While inept and obviously unconcerned politicians and cabinet Secretaries fumble and flounder, (Buttigieg tweeting that he really wants to improve safety, but gosh, Obama-era laws that required improved braking systems were repealed by Trump, but he’s open to working with Congress in the future) the citizenry of East Palestine are suffering an existential crisis that demands immediate attention.
Some critical questions:
Who, or what agency, made the decision to burn off and release into the atmosphere a toxic cloud of lethal vinyl chloride gas from derailed cars?
Why does an allegedly modern EPA at the State or Federal level, act like they are simply doing a cleanup in aisle seven of the grocery store?
Why did Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, seeming more like a confused Mr. Magoo playing guessing games with existential safety, eject and arrest an independent journalist at an official press conference for doing his job and asking legitimate questions?
Why were the citizens of East Palestine told they could safely return to their homes when, clearly, evidence of mass poisoning was, and is, obvious?
Why haven’t environmental scientists been dispatched to assess the situation, as opposed to the vague analysis of local officials and politicians?
Do they recognize that poisoned water affects a more far-reaching ecosystem many miles downstream from the actual derailment site?
Why would Governor DeWine insult his constituency by reassuring the public that the rail companies would ultimately pay for, and do right by, the most adversely affected citizens when all they have offered are a thousand dollars in “inconvenience” checks, and group compensation to the town of East Palestine of 25,000 dollars, the equivalent of five dollars per person? Is money going to restore health and prosperity?
On a personal note, I feel for the residents of East Palestine, as I live next to rail tracks in Saint Augustine, so close, in fact, that the miles of rail cars that pass daily rumble and vibrate so powerfully that it shakes the foundation I stand on.
Years before this horrible and unfolding tragedy occurred, I have often thought that if the train derailed, I live close enough that a tumbling, derailed car could literally crush me to death.
That nightmare, which used to seem like unreasonable fear, is closer than ever now.
Let’s hope that this incident brings about a long-overdue mandate for improved rail safety.
The cost may seem high to the self-interested, exclusively profit-driven rail companies, but the cost in misery and human life to the less powerful citizens that live nearby will be far greater.
It’s time for Biden and Congress to step up and stop chasing balloons like cats at play.
Hi Andre: Thanks for the feedback and reaching out. I try to be clear and concise as often as possible, it's great to have encouragement for an endeavor like this. The people of East Palestine are being exterminated by corporate fiat with government co-operation. I would recommend, following "Status Coup News" for the best live on the ground reporting. Thanks again for reaching out. https://www.youtube.com/@StatusCoup
Excellent writing and great points. Concise and clear.