Friday, May 24, 2013

Another Passing. One On Deck.

T.S. Eliot called April "the cruelest month".  April 2013 certainly lived up to that reputation for me and even came with a follow-up kick in early May.  I previously wrote about the death of my co-worker  April 1.  Turns out that was only the first death notice.

Not long after my co-worker died, my friend Mel was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that had metastasized to his lung.  His prognosis is six to 12 months.  Mel is almost 83 and beat several cancers in his 60's so he is pretty mellow about his fate.  He calls himself lucky.  I am lucky to have known him for the past nine years.  He's been good company and, as a retired attorney, a valuable and sometimes iconoclastic legal resource.  Had I not met Mel, I may not have ended up in Olympia.  His son's connection to this town that brought me here.  Maggie and I are taking the opportunity to enjoy his company while we can. 

That was April.

May began with another death.  Ken Schwilk's died May 8.  Ken is a fellow Veteran For Peace, a charter member of the Rachel Corrie VFP Chapter 109 here in Olympia and Camera 1 on the studio crew for the chapter's cable access television program, "The Veterans Hour".  Ken served in Vietnam in the late 60's.  Here in Olympia he has been a consistent and vocal advocate for peace.  I am honored to have served with Ken as a veteran for peace.

Ken's death was sudden; most of us learned of a possible cancer diagnosis only in late April.  I saw him mid-March and can't say that I noticed anything at all.  Maggie thought less color maybe.  He performed in an annual musical production in February.  And now he is gone at 68.

Aside from Vietnam and VFP, Ken and I had the shared experience of living in Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia.  As a regional manager his territory covered the southern portions of  Piedmont Virginia where I grew up.  We both knew the routes and landscape of that region.

Godspeed, Ken.

Ken in September 2012

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

More Capitalism Waiting to Happen

All my life I've heard the stories of oppressed peoples who rose against their oppressors to secure justice and freedom.  From colonial patriots to  pioneers to the "Greatest Generation", America has collective imagery of triumph over distress. 

So I guess I should take heart when I look at the forces arrayed against the public interest.  According to the national myth, the good guys win.  Looking at reality, the story is less positive.  Money wins, if not immediately, in the long run then.  And even when it loses, money can often manage the results in its interest.

These gloomy thoughts are amply illustrated by Gary Rivlin's article, "How Wall Street Defanged Dodd-Frank", in The Nation.  It's a case study of massive lobbying on behalf of private interest at the expense of the public.  It's all-too-typical of how national policies are established.  A hard-fought, not-perfect-but-good-start attempt to regulate the excesses that crashed the economy is slowly whittled to nothing by the same monied interests that created and profited from those excesses. 

And this is simply one front in the corporate wars.  The Trans-Pacific Paratnership is a "free trade" agreement that gives preference to corporate interests over silly, "un-scientific" national and public interests like social, enconomic and  environmental concerns.  Think NAFTA only bigger  Add in the US-European Union trade negotiations and it looks all too much like the private interest and profit has won despite our best efforts.  

This tells me that the myth of good triumphing over evil is only part of the story.  Any victory will be hard fought.  Nor will any victory be complete or final.

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