December book report
American Lightning by Howard Blum is not easy reading. Elements of criminal behavior as set out in this book reminded me that we have not made much progress as a species in regarding terrorist actions.
This story involves a bombing of a large newspaper building, hundreds of dynamiting’s of small businesses, kidnapping, unlawful renditions, a constant surveillance of a suspect, illegal mail confiscations, spies, double agents, bribing of two jury members, and psychological warfare.
The use of movies and news releases for propaganda was rife, with an election hanging in the balance concerning the “Trial of the Century”.
All of these actions and happenings did not occur in Asia, Middle East or Europe.
It occurred here in America, mainly in California perpetrated not by “outside agitators” or foreign agents but by erstwhile upstanding American citizens.
At the time, dynamite was easily procured, and there were no such things as background checks, so with the advent of the struggle between labor unions and capitalist corporations, it was the weapon of choice.
When a company started making money in 1910, the few men at the top considered it to be their right to pay as little as possible in wages. If a labor union was rumored to be forming, all means were taken to prevent that happening. This included reduction of wages, scab labor in case of a strike, and the hiring of thugs to threaten and beat up any of the workers brave enough to demonstrate against the near slavery conditions of a factory or mine.
Since this was before the federal income tax, corporation presidents deemed it their right to make exorbitant profits, to fix prices, to form cabals, and to treat their working force as inferior people.
The unions started to fight back against this attitude and mal practice by blowing things up.
When the Los Angeles Times building was bombed on October 1, 1910, it was meant to only damage the building and scare the owners. The Times had a very anti-union stance, and such purple prose against the organized labor riled not a few union members.
The fact that 21 people died in the blast drew in a famous detective to solve the case. Mr. Burns cut more than a few corners and stretched the law to the breaking point, but he did get the perpetrators. These bombings were all approved by the International Bridge and Structural Iron Workers Union leadership.
I was struck by the fact that this was happening in our country that conditions between manufacturing and the labor force had deteriorated to such a point as to cause despair and murderous actions.
Now we see the same scenarios unfolding, and where the author see parallels between the Times building bombing and the 9/11 bombing, I see that Americans are still trying to redress wrongs with bullets and bombs.
We can look back at the Oklahoma Federal building as an example of home grown terrorism.
The cause of these disaffections between the disgruntled and the fat cats seems to be the great gap between wages and corporate profits.
The rich corporations get that way from squeezing every bit of income out of the worker. The worker has no recourse if he/she gets sick, injured or stressed from the job, as those that enjoy their billions are determined to keep the poor underpaid. This is why the Affordable Care Act was so disturbing to the rich Republicans (of which 274 in Congress are millionaires).
Eventually, the laws got changed so that unions did not have to struggle so much to obtain legitimacy, but the recent erosion of union power shows that the oligarchs are on the march toward complete power over the economic sector, with no one to curb them.
Dynamite used to be as prevalent as guns are today, but very tricky to handle.
Now the NRA keeps the arms and ammunition flowing.