When Montana Senator Greg Hertz introduced Senate Bill 523 into the legislature earlier this year, he never imagined it would catalyze the gathering of more people than any other piece of legislation introduced during the entire 2023 session. His bill sought to rein in the addictive potential of the municipal tool known as Tax Increment Financing and allow TIF to finally receive some much needed public scrutiny. It also brought its primary beneficiaries into the light, many of whom revealed exactly how low they’re willing to sink in defense of their “free money” fountain.
After passing through the Senate Committee, SB 523 entered into the House Taxation Committee for review, where it was met by an army of lobbyists. Former City Councilman and longtime TIF critic Jesse Ramos commented on the irony of voters facing off against opponents whose salaries they’re helping to pay for:
“Unfortunately, constituents have to work,” he said. “When you’re taking on these big giants, the League of Montana Cities and Towns, a lot of these folks are paid with taxpayer dollars to fight against the interest of the taxpayers. It’s frustrating.”
Montana taxpayers were up against a crowd of suit-and-tie representatives from the Big Sky Resort, the Montana Building Industry Association, the Montana Economic Developers Association, the American Council of Engineering Companies of Montana, the Montana Contractors Association, the Great Falls Development Alliance, the Montana Banking Association, Montana Architects, the Montana Travel Association, the Hospitality and Development Association of Montana, Montana Chamber of Commerce, Montana Infrastructure Coalition, Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, Montana Association of Realtors and the Missoula Economic Partnership. Every one of these lobbyists arrived in the state Capitol to help protect their favorite public investment subsidy from succumbing to additional regulation.
Without unregulated TIF dollars, developers would be on the hook to pay for the demolition costs associated with redeveloping existing property, which is the normal course of events and always has been. It’s always nice to receive a subsidy but the screaming high demand for real estate in Montana guarantees that said developments would have happened anyway and therefore did not require an extra incentive from the taxpayers. Nevertheless, one of the classic arguments made by TIF addicts is that these developments would not have happened “but for the TIF”, hence all the corporate hysteria hurled in Helena.
Charles Robison of the Montana Chamber of Commerce alleged that, “TIF builds infrastructure that won’t get built otherwise.” WGM engineer Brent Campbell echoed with, “My developer clients will not invest in that kind of risk, where some neighborhood folks dislike a project. Frankly TIF is the great equalizer.” Brent Campbell also earned the award for Most Distracting Facial Expressions Made During a Legislative Hearing.
There were many runners up for Most Offensive Show of Entitlement for Taxpayer Money, including the unelected Mayor of Missoula Jordan Hess’ breathless claims about so-called “affordable housing” or WGM’s executive officer Jeff Smith’s contention that “TIF is too important to the health of Montana’s economy and in solving our affordable housing crisis.” The public are meant to believe that our communities would fall apart without public subsidies for developers, which is exactly what Julie Foster of Ravalli County claimed when she said, “If this bill goes forward it is the knock-out blow for our community.”
But the award for Most Emphatic Distortions may go to May Nan Ellingson from Missoula, who alleged:
“Every tax increment district, every tax increment project, every tax increment bond that has ever been issued in this state has been approved by a duly elected City Council or a board of county commissioners. … Tax increment bonds are truly revenue bonds. If the tax increment revenue is not adequate, the tax payers are not on the hook. It’s a risk that the purchasers of tax increment bonds make. Tax increment bond proceeds cannot be used to fund private buildings.”
According to constitutional attorney J. Kevin Hunt, these revenue bonds are really “junk bonds” secured only by unrealistic predictions of guaranteed prosperity. General Obligation Bonds are more secure, but must be approved by a vote of the people. Many cities issue “junk” revenue bonds explicitly to eschew that responsibility, especially when it comes to projects they know the public won’t support.
Dan Brooks of the Billings Chamber of Commerce seemed to corroborate this fact when he mentioned that, “While some cities may not require council approval, ours does, and those elected officials get to answer to their constituents.”
As for whether TIF bonds can be used to fund private buildings, that seems to be exactly what MRA proposed in 2019 when they pushed forward a $16.5 million TIF bond aimed at helping entertainment magnate Nick Checota build a community center that only he could enjoy exclusive access to, and for a lease duration of 75 years to be paid for by his property taxes. Stockman Bank likewise spent millions of dollars of public money to build private bank towers throughout the Missoula valley.
Next, the award for Most Obvious Contradiction goes to Craig Rickert and his misguided declaration that,
“People outside my TIF district are not paying taxes into the TIF district. There seems to be a lot of miscommunication about that. People outside my TED district are not paying taxes into the TED district.”
Actually, people outside your TIF district are, in fact, paying taxes into the TIF district. And that isn’t a typo – Craig conflated TIF and TED so many times the chair had to ask him which one he meant. If you own property in an Urban Renewal District (URD), part of your property taxes go into a special fund used for other projects in that area. And this a isn’t “miscommunication”. It’s the reason why neighboring taxpayers grow increasingly irate about the things that their dollars are funding in districts that redirect captured tax revenue. In 2021 Craig Rickert’s developments became the target of lawsuits from citizens who called his deal with the Department of Transportation “unconstitutional”:
The lawsuit, filed in district court in Broadwater County, takes aim at MDT’s decision to work with Montana Rest Area JV Partners to build a rest area in Three Forks near U.S. Highway 287 and Wheatland Road. In exchange for the new rest area building, MDT would hand over the 19th Avenue rest area in Bozeman to developer Craig Rickert.
Next up, the award for Biggest Facepalm goes to Sara Hudson of Snowy Mountain Development, who claimed that anyone who criticizes the use of TIF must have a “fundamentally flawed” understanding of it, which in this case included Fortune 500 CFO Bob Moore and other veteran finance professionals. Officials reliant on TIF dollars predictably employ this old-hat response whenever the voters begin to get wise about where their taxes are going. Regardless of how many facts and figures are presented, critics are unanimously and contemptuously told that they “just don’t understand” how TIF works.
Finally, the award for Most Offensive Show of Entitlement for Taxpayer Money goes to developer Matt Sullivan who foolishly alleged that his ideological opponents were wasting everyone’s time and merely for the purposes of personal grandstanding:
“Programs like TIF should always be improved but please be careful, objective and data-driven to make this decision. Do not be swayed by exaggeration and misinformation! Today no proponent has presented actual studies proving this bill will lower taxes! They’ve just presented their opportunities for themselves to speak!”
First of all, neither Mr. Sullivan nor any of his peers ever satisfactorily rebutted any of the specific criticisms or concerns presented. They can’t debate the merits of a bank buying it’s own TIF bonds because they don’t seem to understand what that sentence even means. And they certainly can’t tell us it’s ethical for local businesses to be forced to subsidize outside competition.
Secondly, it’s technically true that tax burdens wouldn’t necessarily drop immediately, but they could stop skyrocketing as steeply for those affected by the so-called “special assessment” taxes of URDs.
Does anyone really think Missoula’s constant tax levy proposals are a normal consequence of fiscally responsible policy decisions? Every approved levy constitutes a tax increase. Missoula County Public Schools have repeatedly asked the voters for special general fund levies because their budgets got hollowed out by TIF. The same thing happened in California where it was discovered that TIF districts had stripped over $40 billion from public education, contributing to then Governor Brown’s decision to shutter over 400 URDs.
In 2017 only 4% of Missoula’s tax base was captured by TIF increment.
And when the City of Missoula took in $36 million in property taxes during fiscal 2020, the MRA acquired $35 million of that.
Other cities are following suit and the percentages tend to grow larger. It’s a common pattern that seems to repeat ad infinitum. When municipal officials become addicted to this one-size-fits-all approach to development there is nothing but the state legislature to stop them from stretching the limits ever further.
But while Sullivan got downright irate about the very notion that his precious subsidy might need to be regulated, he also explicitly admitted that TIF does, in fact, represent a form of corporate welfare:
“We’ve never received TIF funding or any other form of corporate welfare for our past projects, but due to high construction costs currently, we are asking for TIF funding for the project in front of you today. TIF provides developers with an incentive to improve our communities and increases the housing supply.”
I thought the love of the community was the incentive to improve it, but apparently some people need TIF money to feel that way about where they live. And increased construction costs duly noted, putting the burden on your neighbors isn’t the answer. We don’t need to build so-called “affordable housing”. Our priority should be to make existing housing affordable for people who already live here.
The main problem with funding so-called “affordable housing” developments with TIF dollars is simply that nothing in state code allows for TIF dollars to be spent that way. Tax Increment dollars were only intended to fund the elimination of physical blight, not to subsidize housing projects.
Yes, there’s high demand for housing out here but locals are well aware that the problem isn’t a shortage of places to live. The problem is that locals can no longer afford to live in the communities they grew up in. Building more buildings isn’t going to help because that doesn’t address the core problem that these policies are displacing the locals.
Matt Sullivan alleged that the loss of TIF subsidies would ultimately result in fewer apartments for Missoula, but existing Missoulians need breaks, not additional buildings funded with public money. The Missoulians who already live in Missoula but haven’t been displaced yet grow daily annoyed by the attempts all around to take their housing away, and that includes every mechanism that negatively impacts their property tax bills.
Developers are receiving TIF subsidies to build stack-and-pack apartments under the banner of so-called “affordable housing” and in doing so exacerbate the very reason housing has become so unaffordable for locals: the burgeoning effect that TIF overuse has on property taxes.
Harping on the “affordable housing” buzzword with extra gusto was former City Councilwoman and executive director for Habitat For Humanity of Missoula, Heather Harp:
“And while on council I heard from constituents about the lack of affordable housing every week, and I have to say that remains very true today in my current job. This bill unravels the work of last session to include workforce housing – which was genius by the way – which is exactly what we build at habitat. … This bill affects every developer’s lending costs. To make home ownership affordable we rely on a variety of funding sources and grants from local and federal governments are an essential part of our lending strategy. … And for 30 years our affiliate financed 2 homes a year with bake sales and raffles. But with skyrocketing home sales and a statewide housing shortage of 30,000 homes, we opted to innovate to find financing alternatives to supply the demand. That solution requires large scale investment. The problem needs cash flow now. Government grants that can direct tax increment dollars to workforce housing are a much needed tool. This bill and others focused on reducing TIF’s strengths or leverage capabilities will effectively water down those local government funding sources to be meaningless. And without those local government dollars then we will not have the necessary local match to be awarded federal grants.”
Heather Harp fails to mention the voluminous TIF opposition she witnessed during her time on council including several of the longest council meetings in Missoula’s entire history. Nor does she seem to remember the woman who lost her Habitat home to rising property taxes in Missoula. On 27 August 2018 Councilwoman Harp was present at the Missoula City Council’s marathon budget meeting where one woman provided testimony that she could no longer afford the property taxes on her Habitat home. TIFs had significantly affected her property tax assessments.
When the national branch of Habitat For Humanity found out there were lobbying efforts in Montana this year to finance their housing program with public subsidies, they hit the ceiling. Habitat For Humanity homes are explicitly not supposed to be built with funding models that involve taxpayer dollars, and Heather knows it. It’s likely she knew it during her time on City Council too.
Heather’s development director, Nevin Graves, took the microphone next on behalf of Habitat to say:
“Every part of our state is facing a housing affordability crisis. And just as my previous opponent said, we build workforce housing. We have an incredible tool in Tax Increment Financing to build workforce housing. And usually when people steal tools from my tool chest I call the cops. In this case I have to come to you. … But if anyone feels like they’ve got an adequate understanding of how this works in every community in Montana, then by all means, take your action tomorrow.”
After speaking, Nevin Graves publicly accosted Jesse Ramos in a heated outburst that had to be broken up by Capitol security, earning himself the prize for Most Unprofessional Behavior At A Legislative Event.
Jesse Ramos was standing in the committee room when Nevin marched up to him and shouted, “What the fuck do you think you’re doing? This is irresponsible!”
Jesse replied, “Don’t you think it’s irresponsible that we’re subsidizing this level of corporate welfare?”
Nevin again shouted over Jesse, “You just don’t understand the time value of money. You’re supposed to be a financial advisor.”
Nevin continued cursing his adversary out until he was told to leave by capitol security.
“Sure enough!” Nevin declared as he turned and walked out the door.
As we’ve repeatedly observed for years, there just doesn’t seem to be any limit to the behavior of people desperate to defend their parasitic choke hold on public money. Not all municipalities are corrupt but someone has to clean up the ones that are. SB 523 was a gallant effort to that end.
Jesse Ramos and Greg Hertz really hit a nerve in Helena this spring. So much so that big business had to flood the legislature with a toxic cloud of “smugnorance” emitted by a shrieking chorus of angry lobbyists. It doesn’t seem particularly surprising that organizations that have grown accustomed to TIF subsidies would rather not restructure their revenue model. Big business tends to be against major changes, unless those changes make them money. Developers will happily destroy historic housing that locals can afford with patronizing insults to injury like, “Change is hard.” But look how offended they become when the shoe is on the other foot. Hence the corrupt seldom see themselves as liable for the problems their corruption creates, as though no drop of water could ever be responsible for the flood.
An addict is a person with an uncontrolled compulsion to continue engaging in an activity despite the negative personal or professional consequences that result. Addiction can also be defined by the overreaction that occurs when the object of addiction is taken away from the user.
Tax Increment Financing began as a complex and convoluted financial scheme of using public money to repair blighted areas that has gradually morphed into a silver bullet solution for every municipal problem and often gives rise to rampant cronyism at the expense of the taxpayers.
Bureaucrats who become predictably overdependent on Tax Increment Financing constitute TIF addicts and their overuse of this legal financial tool signifies an obvious perversion of the original intentions set down by the state legislature that enacted it in 1974.
This spring Senator Greg Hertz championed a bill meant to reign in some of the abuse during Montana’s 2023 legislative session, prompting an army of lobbyists and business people to come out of the woodwork and assemble in defense of the status quo.
Anyone who earnestly studies TIF will eventually recognize that the law is loose, open to interpretation and riddled with loopholes. There are plenty of instances of Cities using this tool responsibly, but nobody can deny the fact that TIF has also consistently birthed a scourge of runaway redevelopment agencies staffed by unelected bureaucrats who enjoy uninterrupted control over municipal budget spending decisions.
Don’t take it from me. Take it from former MRA director Geoff Badenoch, who ran the agency for 18 years:
“The history of Tax Increment around the country has been that it is a temptation that many cities have not been able to resist. And tax increment gets used in ways that go way out on the fringe of what I think legislatures intended. And as a result, in Minnesota, California, Illinois, other states, legislatures have felt the need to come in and restrict the use of tax increment or eliminate it altogether. And, yes. But that’s a political response to abuse. The danger with TIF is that there is a temptation to use it every which way, if you can square it in the law any way, to use it.”
“The one that absolutely just destroys Tax Increment Financing in the state of Montana is a Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Hertz and it just puts us out of business,” Buchanan said. “There’s no way to amend it that makes it functional or even just less efficient. It just destroys Tax Increment Financing.”
When SB 523 came before the Senate Committee in March, Ellen Buchanan showed up to defend her access to the municipal purse strings. After the Montana Senate passed it Buchanan went into overdrive, sending out a mass Email that included the business community, fellow MRA board members, former mayors, TIF dealers like Stockman Bank and major TIF recipients like Peter Lambros. The Email expressed grave concern about the bill and provided an eight-bullet list of talking points with which to appeal to the members of the Tax Committee that would be deciding the bill’s fate.
Many of Ellen’s bullet points are factually problematic, like the claims made in Bullet #7:
“Elimination of TIF may result in higher property taxes, not lower property taxes. Without TIF investment in public facilities, roads, bridges, parks, other infrastructure, this puts more pressure on local governments to find ways to pay for these services.”
So without TIF there aren’t any resources for government to fix the roads? What about the taxes that were collected to begin with? Do we really need a bank loan to fix our roads?
But it doesn’t matter that many of the bullets are factually and demonstrably false because if you get enough people to repeat the lie everyone starts to believe that it’s true. And she definitely harnessed enough people to repeat her points.
In fact, Buchanan’s recruitment efforts were so successful that she didn’t even have to herself testify before the committee. Her newly unelected mayor, Jordan Hess (alongside his handler Council President Gwen Jones), also came to her bidding and helped hypnotically repeat the phrases “affordable housing” and “workforce housing” while she lingered in the background on her phone building the next wave of testimony. The real power remains behind the throne.
A cacophony of lobbyists and business owners stepped up to the microphone to read versions of Buchanan’s talking points at the tax committee. Among the hyperbolic allegations was the predictable claim that “TIF critics are just ignorant,” which seemed particularly offensive given the explosive history of TIF criticism in Missoula.
Speaking of offensive, Missoula City Council President Gwen Jones publicly projected the word “criminal” onto Adam Hertz and Jesse Ramos – two former Missoula City Councilmen – for compiling a list of TIF abuses in their City. By The Missoulian’s account, Jones is “an experienced attorney in town” (ostensibly meaning her enunciation of the word “criminal” has extra authority). The article went on to illustrate how the MRA unanimously characterized professional criticism to their spending habits as a“lot of misinformation” being presented deliberately by elected officials:
Everyone in the room murmured in agreement. “By elected officials who know precisely what they’re doing,” Jones said.
One wonders if Ms. Jones has access to a mirror, as she too is an elected official who knows exactly what she’s doing. She is also well versed in the practice of abusing her power. As a board member of Missoula Aging Services, Gwen Jones threatened the job of another MAS employee who had written a poem critical of her policy as a City Councilwoman of placing crippling debts on local homeowners for unnecessary and unsolicited sidewalk updates. She also made a habit throughout 2019 and 2020 of performing background checks on all constituents who presented TIF information to the City Council that she personally disagreed with.
“You watch what’s going on in Helena and it’s just terrifying,” Buchanan said. “It’s just a microcosm for what went on in D.C. … It’s pretty scary,” Buchanan said. “It’s frightening for staff. It’s frightening for me and it’s frightening to city administration. So not to be a Debbie Downer, but it’s been a tough couple weeks around here.”
She also alleged that there’s been a “criminal” amount of disinformation spread about TIF. Former City Councilman Jesse Ramos responded, saying, “And citizens going to Helena to fight for what they think is right is ‘criminal’? That’s fantastic.”
Big Business opposed the bill with extreme prejudice, and many of the lobbyists who rose in opposition are paid by Montana tax dollars. Most of them parroted Chicken Little’s claim that “the sky is falling” and other apocalyptic predictions foreshadowing the end of the world as we know it should this bill ever become law.
They couldn’t debate obvious instances of TIF abuse so they instead try to divert attention elsewhere. And their buzzwords this session were “affordable housing” and “workforce housing.” But we don’t need to build affordable housing. We need to make existing housing affordable. Native Montanans are supposed to be represented by their legislature and their existing housing is under threat from the commonly occurring phenomenon of sudden property tax inflation. TIF districts disproportionately affect the working classes who pay for them because their property taxes balloon when the “taxable value” of their homes increases.
A stated purpose of TIF is the increase of taxable value, which thereby theoretically grows the tax base.
Theoretical benefits of TIF aside, the demonstrable abuses are as numerous as they are egregious but are all still technically “legal” since the legislature hasn’t really begun to regulate TIF in Montana yet. They include banks loaning their own TIF handouts to municipal governments at interest, unlawful claims of eliminating “future blight” and “blight down the trail,” designating newly constructed buildings as “blighted” to justify additional spending, weaponizing tax monies against local businesses who pay for their corporate competitors to out-compete them, and the cronyism inherent to a runaway board of unelected bureaucrats who have seized control of the City budget and decide economic winners and losers without regard to public will.
While snakes in suits kicked the legislative can down the road in the halls of Montana’s Capitol, many hardworking Montanans continue to be taxed out of their homes and businesses to make room for tourists with townhouses and second-home snowbirds. For the development regime who opposed Hertz’s bill last month that’s not a bug but a feature.
The problem in Missoula is not a lack of housing, it’s that people can’t afford it. One Army veteran we interviewed returning home to Montana in April of this year couldn’t find a one-bedroom studio apartment for less than $2,200 in his hometown of Missoula. But TIF addicts love to twist the reasons for our affordability problem around, which is why they talk a lot about their false solution to the problem: so-called “affordable housing.” TIF addicts like this subject because it technically allows them to administer many additional hits of industrial-grade TIF, even though the TIF statute says nothing whatsoever about building housing.
But Ellen Buchanan won’t let a petty thing like facts get in the way of her propaganda. And beyond quoting her inane blathering, the stenographers at the corporate-owned Missoulian won’t ask her any follow-up questions to statements she utters that make absolutely no sense:
“One of the arguments that is being made by some of the folks testifying for this bill is that we’ve got no business doing housing,” Buchanan said. “All we’re supposed to do is remove blight and housing is not something that’s permitted under TIF statutes, which is ridiculous. That’s been said over and over again, by one of our former city council members that’s really pushing this bill hard. So that’s a little bit ironic that there’s this dichotomy going on.”
I fail to see what Ellen Buchanan means by “ironic” since irony is an outcome opposite from and in mockery of the expected result. She doesn’t provide any evidence whatsoever that her critics are incorrect in their assertion, just that said assertions are “ridiculous”. Having said that, it does indeed seem ironic that a former elementary school principal and superintendent would oppose a bill supported by the School Administrators of Montana:
Rep. Ed Butcher, R-Winnifred, said he supported the bill because he believes “bad actors” are abusing the system. “Big corporations that don’t need these tax dollars for their construction projects. We have a person from Big Sky coming up here wanting his money, that really turned me off because those guys have more damn money than the U.S. government has.”
The bill was supported by the School Administrators of Montana, who argue that TIF diverts funds from school districts and instead into construction projects in Urban Renewal Districts.
But Rep. Mark Thane, D-Missoula, took issue with Butcher’s comments. Thane is the former superintendent of Missoula County Public Schools.
“We’ve heard essentially people say that there are abuses, that it’s corrupt, that it’s corporate welfare,” Thane said. “And I just want to go on record as saying that these funds are audited. There’s oversight by local government entities. There is no evidence that there’s been any kind of fraud or corruption or even abuse.” Thane went on to say, “I do take some offense at the allegations that it’s in some way corrupt or being abused when there’s been no evidence presented.“
But plenty of evidence of abuse was presented before Thane and his peers by Senator Greg Hertz during the hearing. Thane’s definitely come a long way from his 1995 appointment as principal of the newly constructed Chief Charlo Elementary. Isn’t it interesting that he opposed a bill supported by the School Administrators of Montana, since TIF districts adversely affect school budgets?
TIF addicts won’t bother trying to defend the $1.5 million to Stockman at 4% interest or the $1.6 million to First Interstate at 6%.
They can’t deny the fact that Andy Holloran’s Home Base received over $3.6 million in TIF and used it to add an additional floor to the Marriott.
They can’t rebut the fact that “future blight” is not covered under state code, but was employed to justify $8.6 million in TIF subsidy to Peter Lambros to build a new road toward SouthGate Mall to incentivise Lucky’s Market to move in. But Lucky’s went out of business after only two years and Lambros sold Southgate to Washington Prime Group for $58 million. According to then Mayor Engen, the reason we helped Peter make a cool fifty million dollars of profit with over eight million in public money was to prevent “future blight,” since malls were going out of business all over the country.
Nevertheless, SB 523 died in committee on its way to the House after being tabled by a vote of 13-8. Former City Councilman Jesse Ramos said of the bill’s defeat, “Most unfortunately, SB 523 died in Committee today because of the Great Falls Caucus who believe it is their job to represent their local government. Not their constituents.”
It also didn’t help that certain committee members seemed hellbent on abdicating their responsibility to even consider regulating demonstrably irresponsible behavior. Committee member Dan Fern from Whitefish pigeonholed the debate as “the Missoula show” and even tried forcing a requirement on speakers to identify what town they were from. Chair Feilder overruled Fern’s requirement, but his minimization of the issue was duly noted.
All in all, Ellen Buchanan’s success was a manifest reality. Her persuasion machine succeeded, however narrowly, in convincing the legislature to leave her magic wand collection alone. With the legislative session finally over, she can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that her access to the tax coffers – and her ability to continue profiting from them – remains unimpeded.
At least for now.
Efforts to reign in TIF in Montana multiplied following this legislative session as more citizens began to familiarize themselves with the law, learning for themselves just how deep the rabbit hole goes. SB 523 awoke the multi-tentacled TIF Leviathan. And when the next round of TIF debates fill the halls of the Helena Capitol in 2025, Montana taxpayers can expect an even larger and more menacing beast to rear its ugly head.
When three IRS whistle blowers stepped forward with the We The People Foundation to inform Americans that the income tax represents an institutionalized fraud of the highest order, the predictable response from those in power involved labeling the dissidents as conspiracy theorists, tax cheats, and other pejoratives. Those who benefit from the status quo know that anyone exposed to the authentic history of the IRS and the 16th Amendment becomes more likely to join the 90 million Americans who refuse to file income taxes. So the owners wheel out old red herrings to get the unwashed masses to fight among themselves. The corporate media run stories meant to turn a shackled population against anyone trying to help free them. We hear that “tax dodgers” are inherently selfish people who “refuse to pay their fair share”. Such ridicule has thus far prevented the working classes from banding together and going after the powerful who benefit from the situation remaining unchanged.
Because common literacy of the legal fiction threatens the scam, those in charge have a vested interest in perpetuating the lie. In the words of former IRS Criminal Investigator John Turner, “TheIRSfears the public gaining a knowledge of how their scam works.”
Many activists and journalists have attempted to negotiate with the IRS directly about these problems, including many prominent employees of the IRS itself. But the agency stonewalls just about every inquiry that comes their way. In the words of another former IRS agent, Sherry Peel Jackson, “[the authorities] can’t answer because if they did, the American people will know the whole thing is a fraud.”
And in the words of IRS Special AgentJoseph Banister, “Rather than pulling up a chair they pull out a club.”
These whistleblowers have helped many Americans understand that an unapportioned tax on labor is completely unconstitutional. They have exposed the fact that there is no law requiring Americans to file with the IRS. They’ve also illustrated that there is no way to file an income tax without testifying against yourself.
INCOME TAXES DO NOT CONTRIBUTE TO GOVERNMENT SERVICES.
If we’re supposed to get angry with anyone refusing to “pay their fair share” of the overall tax burden, where is the outrage for corporations that pay zero income taxes? The average American pays more income taxes than Exxon-Mobile, and plenty of other multi-billion dollar operations such as General Electric,Verizon and Boeing likewise avoid the income tax completely. So how can huge corporations avoid income taxes while simultaneously dodging scrutiny about paying their fair share? Wouldn’t such an arrangement place an obviously disproportionate burden on the working class?
Most Americans continue under the false impression that everything in society from the roads to the schools to the military must be funded by income taxes. But roads and schools and military services existed prior to the formation of the 1933 income tax. America has funded government services since the Declaration of Independence officiated its existence in 1776. For over 150 years America somehow financed government without income taxes, without the social security system, and without the IRS.
In 1982 Joseph Peter Grace was appointed by President Ronald Regan to identify waste and inefficiency in the US Federal government, in turn creating the now infamous Grace Commission. Grace requested that members of his commission “be bold” and “work like tireless bloodhounds” leaving no stone unturned in their search to root out inefficiency. Their conclusions were so shocking that the report was ultimately buried, and most students of history have never even heard of the Grace Commission.
“… all individual income tax revenues are gone before one nickel is spent on the services taxpayers expect from government… 100% of what is collected is absorbed solely by interest on the Federal Debt.”
Exactly zero percent of income taxes collected go towards funding government. The Grace Commission concluded that income taxes only fulfill the interest payments on the debt our government owes to the banks. Every cent of America’s finances are loaned to it at interest by the private Federal Reserve. According to John Whitehead, America’s government borrows $6 billion a day. This fact exists in spite of a stubborn unwillingness from countless Americans to acknowledge the evidence that the FED is privately owned. Said evidence includes the unnamed shareholders the official website admits to – shareholders who earn dividends based on interest payments collected through income taxes. The FED has historically collected $36 million an hour in interest from the American people this way. Income taxes are not really taxes per se. They are interest payments and America’s owners have grown fat from them.
We’ve only had an income tax since the 16th Amendment’s fraudulent passage in 1913, which just happens to have been the same year that the Federal Reserve came into existence. Prior to that, Americans kept 100% of their earnings, going all the way back to 1776. No IRS, no tax on labor, and no April 15th filing deadline. Yet somehow America financed schools, colleges, libraries, roads, railroads, subways, the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, and many other services and institutions that exist today. So how could America fund all of those programs without an income tax?
Countless taxes are levied against American workers every day, including property taxes, automobile registrations, building permits, court fines, gas taxes, traffic fines, marriage licenses, medicare and social security, parking meter fees, hunting and fishing licenses, toll booth levies, inventory taxes, real estate taxes, road usage taxes, septic taxes, estate taxes, capital gains taxes, CDL fees, tobacco and liquor taxes (i.e. “sin taxes”), and in most states there is also a sales tax.
When we include the Federal Income Tax into the ever-growing list of compulsory fees, fines and surcharges, today’s average American pays more than 64% of their total earnings into various tax collection schemes. That’s more than four times the relative tax rate that triggered the American Revolution.
WHY IS OUR GOVERNMENT PAYING INTEREST TO BANKS?
The rubber meets the road in the margins and in the fine print and in the loopholes when it comes to America’s legal and political processes. If the people don’t want something that benefits big business, the industry doesn’t take it as a learning experience to become more ethical, but as a cue to conjure the next loophole. They never take no for an answer, and no low is too low when it comes to their methods for infecting systems of governance with corruption that benefits them.
Such it was when the Federal Reserve Act was first pushed through Congress during the holidays. On Christmas Eve of 1912, when very few lawmakers were present in Washington, a tiny handful of legislators were on the floor and knew they could pass legislation without the rest of the Congress. An administrative technicality required only a majority of those physically present to pass legislation. So if only three showed up, and there were only three in the building, they only needed two for successful passage. The only potential hurdle after that was executive veto, but President Wilson had already agreed to sign the Federal Reserve Act into law in exchange for campaign financing. Wilson could be expected to fall in line because he took those campaign contributions from the very bankers pushing the bill through the legislature vicariously through their political puppets.
In 1913 the Federal Reserve came into existence and began loaning money to America at interest, placing the country immediately into debt. America entered the Great Depression as a direct result of the bankruptcy that inevitably occurred following the adoption of usury onto the national Treasury.
Through this elaborate system, which does a brilliant job of keeping us ignorant of the fact that we’re anything but free, our central banking system extracts wealth from the workers through the parasitism of interest. The intended effect of usury has always produced greater ownership possibilities for those who already have all the money. Banks profit from loans because borrowers must pay back a larger sum than was provided by the lender. So how can a country ever repay the debt in full, if the entire existing money supply is less than the money owed? It can’t. Eventually entire nations are forced to provide additional resources in “collateral” to satisfy the banks they’re indebted to.
John Perkins wrote extensively about this in his book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, describing this very process with regards to how the World Bank and International Monetary Fund put entire countries into debt through similar schemes.
So by 1933, after twenty years of loaning the country money at interest, America owed more than it had to the private Federal Reserve Bank. It only took two decades the render the country broke, at which point the bankers proposed another “solution” to the disaster they had created.
THE 16TH AMENDMENT
Ardent supporters of the status quo alongside fawning economics professors and government authorities continue to insist that the 16th Amendment grants the power to levy an income tax on the private labor of American citizens.
Determined to claim some of the citizenry’s wealth for its own uses, the government reinstituted the income tax in 1894. Charles Pollock challenged the tax as unconstitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor. Pollock’s victory was relatively short-lived. Members of Congress—united in their determination to tax the American people’s income—worked together to adopt a constitutional amendment to overrule the Pollock decision.
On the eve of World War I, in 1913, Congress instituted a permanent income tax by way of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution and the Revenue Act of 1913. Under the Revenue Act, individuals with income exceeding $3,000 could be taxed starting at 1% up to 7% for incomes exceeding $500,000.
The 16th Amendment never legally passed the ratification process because the number of states required to do so was never met. Despite this fact, the 16th Amendment to the Constitution was enacted.
But the fraudulent passage of the 16th Amendment was so problematic that another series of lawsuits prompted yet another Supreme Court ruling. And the Supremes once again determined that the average American is not required to pay the tax because the 16th Amendment’s powers only extend to gains earned as a result of corporate activity. Thus the Supreme Court ruled that the 16thAmendment granted “no new powers of taxation”.
BIRTH CERTIFICATES AND SOCIAL SECURITY
America is supposed to have a National Treasury, but the treasury has operated under emergency powers since 1933 following the nationwide bank collapse that brought about the Great Depression. In 1933 the country enacted the Social Security system as a way to collateralize the debt through birth certificates. Despite what most of us might think about them, birth certificates weren’t always part of the economic system. Birth certificates are bank notes and labeled as such on the edges which are designed with a webbing similar to that on the dollar bill. Before 1933 there were no such things as birth certificates. Prior to that, obstetricians recorded a Live Record of Birth as the common standard slip filled out upon a newborn’s arrival. It was not a “certificate” because certificates are defined as warehouse receipts on human resources.
This note’s worth is based on the estimated taxable value throughout a person’s life, which on average accounts for roughly $750,000. Birth certificates differ little from the deeds that 18th century plantation owners kept on their slaves. We the people are their collateral to keep this financial farce floating forward. One of the effects birth certificates have on society is the formation of a new corporation every time someone is born. And once a corporation comes into existence its financial profits can be treated as corporate gains, making it eligible for levy by the income tax.
Diligent study of the code reveals that there simply is no clear law requiring the average American to pay income taxes. The exception involves any corporate entity that records gains from corporate activity. This dirty little secret explains why refusing to file with the IRS is completely within your legal rights. Legitimate authorities wouldn’t have to rely on intimidation and scare tactics to enforce the tax if it were an authentic means of funding government services.
ON 15 APRIL USS AMERICA BECAME A ROGUE PIRATE SHIP
If you’ve ever wondered where the April 15th filing deadline came from, the answer has something to do with Abraham Lincoln, the Lieber Code and George Washington.
After George took office in 1789 a currency was developed for the country on a standard 70 year contract. That contract came to an end during the Lincoln Administration’s tenure in the 1860’s. Lincoln presided over 34 states at the time, but 21 of them were free from banking rule because only 13 colonies were included in the original contract. The additional states had come into existence as sovereign territories since Washington’s original establishment negotiations. So when Lincoln started his own financial renegotiation to extend the currency another 70 years, the banks demanded additional collateral. The Lincoln Administration agreed to all 34 states, but without the consent of the individual states themselves. When word of this got out, the states enacted their 10th Amendment powers and seceded from the union and on 27 March 1861 the Lawful Congress of this country disappeared forever.
The country formerly known as America was effectively disintegrated at this point and replaced with a military government. Abraham Lincoln continued to preside over the emergency executive branch but could no longer be called “the President” as there wasn’t a country to rule over following the secession of the constituent states.
On 15 April 1861, the Lincoln Administration issued executive order #1 establishing martial rule over all Federal territories. The spring of 1861 effectively voided the contract known as “the Constitution” and the United States as it had been known to that moment ceased to exist.
Since a new way of governing the Federal Territories would be required, Lincoln issued the General Orders 100 on 24 April 1863. General Orders 100, also known as the Lieber Code, has come to replace the old government with the military government we’re living under today. It instituted a martial rule and established a text-book dictatorship without a Congress or President accountable to the citizens. 1863 was also the year the Supreme Court was abolished. Without a lawful Constitution to guide the bureaucracy, the Article 3 Judiciary no longer existed and a new Supreme Court was established in the District of Columbia. But this De Facto court is very different than the one originally put in place by the founders.
In 1870 the Department of Justice was created to provide some semblance of law, but it was placed under the direct authority of the Executive branch. So the President now controlled the legal system. The top Law Enforcement Officer under this new system is ultimately the Attorney General, who is appointed by the executive.
In 1871 a new private municipal Corporation was created under the Organic Act, complete with a corporate charter called The Constitution of the United States of America. This is not the Article 6 Constitution published in 1789 since it was never intended to be a living document, as it explicitly stated. With no Constitutional authority to do so whatsoever, Congress created a separate form of government for the District of Columbia in 1871, replacing the organic Constitution and with a corporate one. America is not even a country anymore. It is a Corporation.
The IRS will never send SWAT teams into the headquarters of HSBC or Exxon-Mobil, or General Electric. Those corporations own the politicians who direct policy for the IRS. The irrational authorities in power selectively enforce laws to operate against the interests of the people. The facade of legitimacy around all things “government” clouds our ability to identify unfair exploitation, but the tide is turning, and faith in this system of taxation is waning.
If the present owners are to remain in power, their self preservation demands a divide-and-conquer approach against any attempt to upend their hegemonic apple cart. The authoritarian system that built their mechanisms of tyrannical bureaucracy would instantly collapse beneath the weight of the common people if we ever came to understand the extent of our collective enslavement.
What prevents Americans today from the kind of outrage that inspired a Revolution two centuries ago? It was much easier to stage a revolt when an ocean physically separated one side from the other. When the British imposed taxes, Americans recognized the exploitation for what it was. Today many Americans honestly believe in the unquestionable authenticity of our tax system here at home, although the veneer of legitimacy wears thinner every day.
At least 18 rail cars stacked up against a tunnel entrance directly across the river from Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort. Guests of the resort staying in the waterfront cabins were temporarily evacuated as a precautionary measure. At least 2 chemical tanker cars derailed with one tipped over on the tracks and one stuck in the mouth of the tunnel. Workers struggled through the week to free the cars that went off track within the confines of the tunnel. Images show steam rising from the derailment site where heavy machinery works on the cliffs above and a crew dressed in orange floating along the river in an inflatable boat. Surveillance footage from Quinn’s Resort shows the cars piling up and falling down the steep banks toward the river at around 9 am.
While the train had been transporting hazardous materials in chemical tanker cars, only a tanker of butane came off the rails and it did not emit any of its contents into the environment. The spill was limited to powdered bentonite clay and cases of beer, in both bottles and cans. While a small amount of diesel fuel spilled onto the soil near the tracks, it wasn’t from a tanker car but from refrigerator cars with diesel-powered generators that became damaged in the pile up.
Amid a plague of toxic derailments all over the country that daily worsen an ongoing contamination nightmare, Montana Rail Link lucked out big time. The Clark Fork isn’t a small creek, and the location of this derailment happens to exist just a few miles upriver from its intersection with the Flathead River on its way to Lake Pend Oreille, the Columbia River, Portland and finally the Pacific.
History doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme. As reported by The Missoulian, an eerily similar scenario played out along the same segment of river over two decades ago:
“Amid sweltering temperatures on July 11, 1999, a heat-warped rail derailed an MRL freight train between Paradise and Plains, only a couple miles downstream of Sunday’s derailment. As happened Sunday, the 1999 derailment also sent thousands of Coors Light beers floating down the very same river, until a boom was deployed to contain them. The 1999 derailment also involved a tank car of liquefied petroleum gas — in that instance propane — that derailed but did not rupture. … However, unlike Sunday’s derailment, the 1999 incident sent about 20,000 gallons of scorching hot liquid asphalt into the Clark Fork. And that derailment caused a two-acre grass fire that took more than 30 firefighters to extinguish.“
Considering the liquid asphalt spill and subsequent fire that resulted from the 1999 derailment, Montana Rail Link didn’t just luck out last Sunday. They hit the proverbial jackpot, sustaining minimal damage to their reputation by inflicting zero demonstrable harm to the environment. But how long are we just going to run on luck? It seems rather pathetic that a culture with our technology doesn’t regard derailments as a rare or easily correctable phenomenon. To the contrary, the news of the day wants us all to believe that they’re not only normal, but also innocuous. The incident almost feels like a kind of sponsored content piece for beer companies to enjoy free advertising.
If that train had come off the tracks just a few cars earlier than it did, the butane tankers would likely have been damaged and begun leaking into the river. What kind of behavior could we expect from the industry at that point?
For starters, if anything toxic were ever released into the environment at this location, Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort would be forced to close their doors because nobody wants their trip to the spa to leave them feeling sick from chemical exposure. While it’s true that the Clark Fork River might already be polluted with hexavalent Chromium and other contaminants from the Butte superfund site upriver, that doesn’t justify minimizing the further poisoning of our watersheds. It should be a top priority to keep them from becoming further polluted, because it takes a lot longer to clean them up than it does to contaminate them.
Because Earth’s river systems have settled into mountains with gradual and winding curves, the modern rail system could not exist without the ancient river networks due to the navigational limitations of locomotives. Since freight trains are designed to haul gargantuan proportions of tonnage, they cannot safely climb or descend steep grades. But in this era of chemical carelessness, most of the country’s rail now directly threatens local watersheds because chemical spills are tragically becoming more and more commonplace.
How do the owners of Quinn’s Resort feel knowing that a chemical smell emanating from the river could cripple their business? How anyone feels after realizing a monopoly industry can poison entire communities and ecosystems with impunity.
Rail Link got lucky this time, but how long can they maintain their streak? It seems obvious that it’s only a matter of time before we can all expect another derailment. Since America sustains three derailments a day and a major chemical spill every other day, more chemical disasters seem like an inevitability. Even after the catastrophe in Ohio permanently contaminated a large area with forever chemicals, nobody in the industry is sincerely considering updating America’s crumbling, Civil War era rail system. We’re left asking when the next derailment will happen, where the next chemical spill might occur, and what kind of chemicals we can expect to be released next time. Because there will definitely be a next time. It’s just a matter of how long we have to wait.
The environmental catastrophe unfolding in East Palestine, Ohio has helped remove doubt about withdrawing misplaced faith in a failing system. The repeated bold-faced lying of officials, from EPA Administrator Regan to Ohio Governor DeWine and Transportation Secretary Buttigieg, has laid bare Democrats’ appalling indifference to the preservation of the natural world. All of the statements and actions by the industry and their puppets have made the indifference, contempt and hostility of the political class and their donors toward poor and working class Americans, not only perfectly obvious, but impossible to ignore. While God fearing, tax paying, rule following citizens continue obeying laws that are selectively enforced and naively asking their representatives to “do something about this,” the industrialists who own those politicians are slowly killing our children and laughing all the way to the bank.
Anyone remotely close to Ground Zero East Palestine knows that their loved ones are under attack, that the criminals responsible are lying right to their faces, and the responses predictably benefit those in power. Does anybody honestly expect daddy government to come and take care of them at this late stage of the game? Recent polls suggest that a majority are indeed savvy to the harsh reality that Daddy Government only caters to rich donors. Those in power can be depended upon to look the other way as long as they’re getting paid to. That means they’re complicit in helping these companies poison you and everyone you know.
Many Americans are beginning to discover that peaceful protest only works if your enemy has a conscience.
The people of East Palestine (and surrounding affected areas) are rightfully very pissed off right now, because they know they’re being lied to. They’re puking blood while bureaucrats tell them the air is clean. Jackals are swooping in with gaslight fairy tales written by criminal negligence. The locals are getting sicker and sicker and are well aware that the regulators and politicians are in the back pocket of big business.
When criminals write laws, people of conscience must stop cooperating. Lest they become criminals as well by aiding and abetting criminal activity through the implied consent of perpetual silence. The Nuremberg defense that “I was just following orders” has never been an adequate one and those who used it in the trial for which it is named were hung for their complacency. On the ethical question of who ultimately bears the karmic weight between the executioner and his political bosses who order the executions, courts have historically ruled against the former.
But what are we supposed to do about it?
Friedrich Nietzche famously observed that, “To predict the behavior of ordinary people in advance, you only have to assume that they will always try to escape a disagreeable situation with the smallest possible expenditure of intelligence.” The oligarchs running the country know this as well. And they test the obedience of their citizen subjects daily through our willingness to act against our own interests.
Anger is the appropriate response to violation. There is nothing more fearsome than a mother bear defending her young, but human society has become so inundated with propaganda messaging that we’ve actually been conditioned to feel shame and guilt for having an angry response to a violation. Our politically correct corral has cowed the surfs into thinking we aren’t “allowed” to get upset about injustice because that’s just unnecessary “negativity.” By this logic, poisoning entire regions isn’t considered negative, but calling out the fact that it happened is.
Americans’ pathological aversion to conflict has caused us to conflate cowardice with pacifism.
What are you supposed to do when your family are suffering and dying from untreatable illnesses that were deliberately imposed into the environment by greedy executives who then profit from the disaster? If someone comes into a house with a weapon and looking to rob and rape, are the residents of that home not allowed to defend themselves? And if so, what about when a corporation robs them of their health and finances and future?
MORE REGULATIONS WON’T SOLVE ANYTHING
The problem isn’t that there aren’t enough laws. The problem is they’re selectively enforced. Writing more laws disproportionately impacts small businesses and the non-wealthy. Mafioso oligarchs and corporate criminals have no respect for existing laws, and they aren’t about to obey new laws that don’t favor their interests. And when regulators have done their job and taken the maximum actions they’re allowed by law against the big companies responsible for horrible disasters and deliberate exploitation, nobody ever goes to jail. Instead, companies are given relatively inconsequential fines that amount to nothing more than a drop in the bucket – the cost of doing business – and the wheels of industry keep chugging right along. Since industry began infiltrating and capturing regulatory agencies, the revolving door policy corrupts regulatory power as a matter of standard policy.
The system isn’t broken. It’s fixed.
As this system is currently structured, nobody in power has any obligation to follow any of the laws, whether its cops, judges, lawyers, politicians or corporations. If your neighbor decides to burn a pile of tires on their property, the enforcement boot of the state would show up instantly to stomp on their throat. But a railroad corporation is allowed to do something thousands of times as harmful and maybe pay a little fine later on down the line.
Why do the citizens of the “freest country in the world” continue to bear the brunt of such evident tyranny?
If a poor food service worker makes a mistake on their income taxes (which are unlawful to begin with), they’re smashed in the face with a sledgehammer and branded a “tax cheat” while huge companies like Verizon and General Electric don’t pay a cent into the same kitty. If citizens continue to remain calm and follow the rules of this rigged game while their children literally puke blood, the criminals have already won.
We cannot solve these problems politically. We got here by thinking that the citizen’s obligation to the management of their communities begins and ends in the voting booth. It doesn’t. Industry controls the outcome of every election by donating to both mainstream political parties. It’s not broken. It’s fixed. And we must stop voting ourselves further into tyranny.
Citizens must stop pretending we can solve our problems incrementally or by piecemeal reform when all the levers of democratic power have been seized by snakes in suits.
Cancer cells can only thrive in our bodies when our immune systems drop the ball and fail to identify and exterminate them. In exactly the same way, America’s metaphorical immune system of the warrior class has been severely weakened by decades of endless wars that have sent the defenders of our communities overseas to fight and die at the behest of the same corporate forces now attacking the midwest. Those who had the instinct to protect their homes and survived that effort came back so broken that huge numbers of them took their own lives. How can communities defend themselves now? The cancer of corporatism has completely taken over the country, just like Thomas Jefferson said it would.
Train workers have voiced concern for years and even predicted something like this would happen. And it doesn’t take an advanced degree in engineering to understand that heavier trains carrying longer loads with fewer employees on tracks that aren’t being maintained properly constitutes a perfect-storm recipe for disaster. When railroad workers planned a strike to get the word out about these concerns, the Biden Administration passed legislation to stop them.
“US commentators also point to a possible link between the train disaster and the ongoing conflict between US railroad workers’ unions and the Biden administration. The unions have been on strike for months, one of the main reasons being rationalization measures associated with the acronym PSR: Precision Scheduled Railroading. According to railroad workers, PSR results in fewer staff, less maintenance, fewer vacation days, longer trains and questionable business practices, with railroad companies being forced to keep their trains moving as much as possible for profit reasons.”
But Biden is just the latest Wall Street puppet to sit ceremoniously in the Oval Office. Both corporate parties did this over a period of the past three decades at the behest of the unified engine of industry that has seized control of the government by paying off both sides. Both wall-street sponsored teams bear responsibility for the mushroom cloud of poison death, including Biden, Trump, and Obama. Administration after administration characterized by industry lobbying and deregulation. There used to be a law requiring the labeling and declaration of hazardous materials on transportation manifests, but the industry lobbied congress to get that law nixed. Train 32N that derailed in East Palestine, Ohio was carrying highly toxic chemicals that nobody in a position of power was aware of because it wasn’t declared; it wasn’t declared because the industry had successfully lobbied congress to remove the requirement. And these aren’t partisan decisions.
Norfolk Southern gave millions of dollars to dozens of politicians in key strategic locations to exert maximum and absolute influence over the governing policies. The result yielded mass layoffs amid share buybacks and executive bonuses. It’s also part of the reason Norfolk Southern exists as a regional monopoly. Nobody can compete with them. And while they bragged about electronic braking systems to excite their shareholders, they simultaneously fought against government regulations requiring them.
Interestingly, the Bezos-owned Washington Post could not find “a single regulatory change made by the Trump administration [that] caused the derailment to happen.” Of the several administrative decisions analyzed by Glenn Kessler, the only one that’s even remotely relevant has to do with Electronically Controlled Pneumatic brakes (ECP). While it is true that the Trump Administration’s Department of Transportation found the costs of EPC brakes “outweighed the benefits,” the liberal WaPo shares the conclusions made by the current NTSB Chairwoman:
NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy said on Twitterthat the repealed rule was not relevant to the accident. “The ECP braking rule would’ve applied ONLY to HIGH HAZARD FLAMMABLE TRAINS. The train that derailed in East Palestine was a MIXED FREIGHT TRAIN containing only 3 placarded Class 3 flammable liquids cars,” she wrote. “This means even if the rule had gone into effect, this train wouldn’t have had ECP brakes.”
And while it is certainly true that Trump bragged quite a bit to industry donors about his administration’s efforts to remove the pesky burden of regulations, it’s also true that his predecessor bragged about it too:
“Now there’s no question that some regulations are outdated, unnecessary or too costly. In fact I have approved fewer regulations in the first three years of my presidency than my republican predecessor did in his. I’ve ordered every federal agency to eliminate rules that don’t make sense. We’ve already announced over 500 reforms and just a fraction of them will save business and citizens over ten billion dollars over the next five years.” ~President Obama
Biden’s Administration have ignored the crisis in Ohio and daily make their priorities clear by not even mentioning it. In fact, when the crisis initially reared its ugly head, Joe Biden’s handlers got him out of the United States, launching his demented face to Ukraine, scuttling him as far away as humanly possible while the toxic dioxin cloud began to settle over the east coast. Biden arrived in Ukraine to midwife the exchange of billions of dollars in foreign aid that could otherwise be spent assisting with the domestic disaster. Meanwhile, the presidential tweets and statements seem to reveal that the official POTUS handlers may not have even let him become aware of the tragedy, as every single statement uttered from the White House drips with inconsequential nonsense.
We cannot solve this problem with the same level of thinking that created it.
The belief that we can outsource the management of our communities by electing venal politicians who consistently deliver similar results has led our civilization down a blind alley where we are led by the least capable and most corrupt among us. Unless and until we put appropriate pressure on the captains of industry who own the politicians through the legalized bribery laundering program of campaign financing, nothing can ever get better for America’s poor and working class.
As was the case with Wal-Mart’s dead peasant insurance policies, the corporate state profits off of our death free of consequence by paying the watchdogs to look the other way. Norfolk Southern lobbied the 2022 midterm elections with $1.8 million. Shortly after the East Palestine disaster, Michigan Governor Whitmer announced plans to give $15 million of taxpayer dollars to Norfolk Southern, officially so they can expand their operations. Undoubtedly the company could sure use the cash right now to help pay off those fines they’ll be on the hook for soon.
Governor DeWine too must act in the interests of Norfolk Southern, but so many people are afraid of having their reputation ridiculed by notions of “conspiracy theory.” The sobering fact remains that Governor DeWine is obligated to serve his donors. Industry captains bribe politicians to squash worker strikes. The system isn’t broken. It’s fixed.
There are no political solutions.
Railroad Workers United had planned a strike at the beginning of this year to protest this very problem, but the Biden Administration declared the strike illegal. More than ever our collective survival requires people of conscience disobey unjust laws written by irrational authorities.
It is the duty and obligation of relevant workers to stop this from happening anymore and to cease working until reforms are made. Resign your office. Abandon your post.
If employees know that showing up to work might cost thousands of innocent lives, it is their duty to stop the potential of further harm, and it is the responsibility of their colleagues to support them. If rail workers are armed with the knowledge that clocking in will permanently poison an entire ecosystem as well as the drinking water of millions of people, it would be inconceivable to show up for work until drastic changes occur, no matter what the legal consequences may be. Those in power made the general strike illegal for a reason. It remains the obligation of freedom loving people to defy unjust laws.
Communities can and ought to adopt local ordinances that make this kind of corporate pillaging impossible. East Palestine could adopt a temporary injunction on the rail, shutting it down until the cleanup has been completed and verified by third party companies lacking industry ties. They could supplant industry preemption clauses by implementing community ordinances with force that’s exerted by residents who are deputized to enforce the anti-corporate laws. There’s also been talk of nationalizing the rail in a similar way to the US Highway system.
But none of the good ideas can ever take root unless the barriers to reform are forcibly removed, and that’s never going to happen in the voting booth. Waiting for the world to get better every four years has consistently resulted in more corruption, more pollution, and more tyranny.
Status Coup News interviewed an East Palestine grandmother named Stella who told them the railroad is worth $58 billion:
“And they’ve already bought and paid for the government. They are the government. You know the billions of dollars that their lobbyists have spent buying our officials? … There is nobody to save us from this. We are going to be buried under a rock just like every other place that this ever happened to. And the ramifications from it are going to go way further than East Palestine. … We’re just another sacrifice that they’re willing to make.”
And now after nearly two months of ongoing reports from Ground Zero Ohio, the corporate media have stepped up the damage control efforts into full overdrive mode with a new round of Russiaphobia.
The Associated Press further minimize the situation by accusing anyone reporting the truth as an anti-American propaganda stooge attempting to destabilize the country through fear. If someone opposes the regime publicly the corporate media push their damage control operations into overdrive with ad hominem attacks accusing the disloyal sympathizer of betraying their country to America’s officially declared enemies, whether they be communists or terrorists or Russians. Even Bernie Sanders was accused of colluding with Russian interests and Rachel Maddow’s broadcast of fear made Russian attacks on North Dakotan infrastructure seem imminent: “What would happen if Russia killed the power in Fargo today?” When backed into a corner, corporate sociopaths triple down on their lies with easily disprovable logical fallacies, transparent political attacks and feeble misdirection. Among the most truly pathetic responses is the McCarthyite tendency.
Given the present late-stage of America’s infrastructural decay, and given the out-of-control greed exhibited by the captains of late-stage capitalism, and given the impotence of our bought-and-paid-for bureaucrats helpless to respond in the face of a crisis that was created by their campaign donors, this latest chapter in America’s ongoing disaster saga seems like a canary in the proverbial coal mine that if we choose to ignore, we do so at our peril. The people making the world worse have names and addresses. Since they own the mechanisms of enforcement, different kinds of incentives will be required if their behavior is ever to be adjusted.
In the context of bomb trains, it’s ultimately up to rail workers to defend the lives of their neighbors’ children and strike. Because the next toxic contamination could very easily happen in your back yard, and then it will be too late to protect your loved ones from exposure. Go on strike, for the love of God.
The ongoing catastrophe in East Palestine, Ohio, dubbed America’s Chernobyl, isn’t just the result of greedy profiteering. The arrest of News Nation journalist Evan Lambert at the Governor’s press conference following the apocalyptic chemical fireball was not just a mistake. The characterization of celebrity activist Erin Brockovich as a “special interest terrorism threat” following her visit to Ohio’s Ground Zero isn’t an accident. The patrolling of East Palestine by a garrison of private railroad police is no longer considered unusual. The Netflix adaptation of Don DeLillo’s 1985 book White Noise airing three months prior to the event isn’t just predictive programming. The rushed roll out of the biometric My-ID program in the weeks leading up to the disaster isn’t just a coincidence. And that iconic black mushroom cloud of death generated by the million-gallon cocktail of poisonous chemical carcinogens that was visible from space wasn’t just the largest single dioxin plume in history. Since the Department of Defense “Unified Command” decision to burn toxic vinyl chloride into the atmosphere generated a great deal of poisonous gases in the forms of phosgene and acrolein – literal chemical weapons employed during the First World War – this explosion and subsequent cover up represents one of the most heinous acts of state terrorism against a domestic population on record. A single event has rendered the drinking water of 25 million Americans as well as the arability of thousands of farms potentially compromised with bio-accumulative forever chemicals.
East Palestine (pronounced “Pal-Ess-Teen”) is a rural town 50 miles west of Pittsburgh. The once thriving community of 4,700+ now feels like an eerie ghost town. Businesses are closed. Many residents never returned following the mandatory evacuation. Delivery drivers refuse to come anywhere near the town out of concern for their health. Surrounding school sports teams that were scheduled to compete in East Palestine are forfeiting games and events for the same reason. Many drivers passing through the area reported the sudden onset of nose bleeds, cloudy eyes and rashes after doing so. Locals say they they now feel drunk and mentally altered after spending short periods of time in their homes and businesses. School children universally report pink eye and upset stomachs. Communities throughout the region are reporting an oily sheen on the water, translating to the thousands of empty plastic bottles of water piling up as locals no longer trust the tap. Norfolk’s trains continue to scream through town, kicking up visible clouds of toxic fallout dust along their way.
Many residents reported their symptoms immediately after the derailment and continue to grow sicker, yet authorities have insisted since day one that the air is safe to breathe and the water is safe to drink. How can this be? EPA officials, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, and US Transportation Secretary “Pothole Pete” Buttigieg universally signaled the “all clear” loudly, emphatically, and repeatedly throughout every phase of this disaster’s first chapter. They’ve drug their feet and made excuses on behalf of the industry in a vane attempt to gaslight the locals into questioning their own sanity. The industry-funded clinic told locals that the skin rashes now affecting more than half of the remaining residents are likely due to stress, not chemicals. They’ve also told locals with a straight face that the symptoms they’ve suffered from since the explosion “could be from a wide variety of causes” including “springtime allergies.” But the locals aren’t buying it because they can smell the toxins and feel the dissonance.
“People wouldn’t be getting sick if it was OK,” said resident Shelby Walker to the Post Gazette.
Resident Wade Lovett told reporters on 25 February that his voice actually changed pitch after the accident to a kind of high-pitched helium-voice: “My voice sounds like Mickey Mouse. My normal voice is low. It’s hard to breathe, especially at night. My chest hurts so much at night I feel like I’m drowning. I cough up phlegm a lot. I lost my job because the doctor won’t release me to go to work.”
Ashley McCollum says her home is so toxic with chemicals that she is vomiting whenever she spends too much time there. She also says her children have all developed a kind of pink eye since the explosion: “I know that I have no home because it is too unsafe. I mean I’m in and out there and it’s too much. You vomit when you’re in there too long. You have numbness, tingling in your mouth. You taste it when you leave. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get that out of my house or make it safe enough. And honestly if I would try to sell my house I have to disclose that to any buyer.”
Jerry Hughes told Democracy Now! “I don’t feel safe taking my kids into town. Especially to the house. My neighbor right across the street from me literally got diagnosed yesterday with chemical pneumonia.”
Toma Rhodes is co-owner of the Enchanted Salon in East Palestine who told News Nation, “We’re closing again because most of my clientele are from Pennsylvania. No one wants to come near us.”
“East Palestine feels like a war-zone,” says Gia Delisio, who describes getting splitting headaches from the chemical smell hanging over the town. “I’m drinking bottled water even though they told us the water is safe. People are having symptoms in town so that doesn’t seem to be the truth.”
PhD chemist Dr. David Manuta told Headline USA that, “The dirty little secret is they probably took static samples, meaning they didn’t do any mixing; they didn’t do any stirring,” he said. “A static sample is only representative of where it was taken, whereas a mixed sample would stir up all the toxins and be captured in the measurement.”
Among the first authentic journalists with boots on the ground was political strategist Nick Sortor who reported a “sweet smelling chemical smell, like burning rubber” hanging over the town. Residents in neighboring Pennsylvania have documented that chemicals began showing up in their rivers and streams, as evidenced by the strong “butane smell” emitting from them. Louis DeAngelis of Status Coup News interviewed a woman named Therese who lives 11 miles northwest of East Palestine and described an “ozone” smell akin to “burning electronics” following the explosion. Others still have describe the smell lingering in their homes as like “living in a gas station” with “constant smell of burning plastics and chemicals in the air”. Another said the air stinks of “nail polish mixed with gasoline.” And instead of dissipating, the asphyxiating stench only continues to grow more intense.
As of this writing, more than 45,000 animals have been found dead from lethal chemical exposure in and around Ohio following the explosion. The carnage thus far includes fish,frogs, crayfish, birds, snakes, foxes,cats, dogs,horses,rabbits, minks, muskrats, skunks, squirrels, raccoon, deer and elk. Many of these animals dropped dead in areas that are several miles from the blast zone.
On the morning of 27 February, Ben Bergquam with Real America’s Voice News found three dead deer within fifty yards of each other whose lifeless bodies were collapsed near the Ohio River yet undisturbed by bugs and absent any indications of physical trauma. Farmers found their chickens dead in the coops and fish dead in the creeks in the immediate aftermath. Residents’ pets began succumbing to seizures, projectile vomiting, and death. Local fox keeper Taylor Holzer reported sick and dead foxes. Surrounding communities experienced similar problems with their pets. Wildlife carcasses began piling up in at least two of Ohio’s National Forests as well as surrounding counties and townships in the weeks following.
Governor DeWine has attempted to block the independent testing of wildlife but legitimate scientists are finding ways around the blockades to reveal these animals indeed perished with postmortem toxicities that are literally off the charts. “These highly toxic levels are the exact chemicals that were released from East Palestine. Wayne National Forest and Shawnee State Forest in Ohio, are downriver from East Palestine and are two parks where samples are from,” one report reads.
Even the rail workers assigned to the cleanup are falling ill. Jonathon Long, general chairman of the American Rail System Federation of the Teamsters union, wrote a letter stating, among other things, that NFS workers “reported that they continue to experience migraines and nausea, days after the derailment, and they all suspect that they were willingly exposed to these chemicals at the directions of [Norfolk Southern].” Long goes on to describe how the company ignores the pleas of their workers, and how none of those working at the spill site were provided with proper personal protective equipment.
Of all the agencies and organizations present at the disaster site, a private police force appears to have supreme authority. The EPA, Governor, Mayor, Sheriff’s Department, local police and Department of Transportation have universally deferred enforcement authority and roadblock jurisdiction to Norfolk Southern Police Department (NSPD). TheGrey Zonereports on the company’s private police force, and captured footage of the black, unmarked Dodge Durangos complete with lights and a siren being used to patrol the streets of East Palestine:
“The fact that a billion dollar company’s own private police force is patrolling the streets of a tiny village where the company just committed an act of environmental terrorism is troubling, but true. … The department supports 49 field offices, 5 special investigation units, 3 special operations response teams, 12 K9 units, a police communications center and a headquarters in Atlanta.”
Images courtesy of the Grey Zone
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
How do a million gallons of cancer-causing toxic chemicals spill and burn up into the atmosphere all at once near a populated area and release a gigantic mushroom cloud of death that blankets the region in pollutants that subsequently kills thousands of animals? The Norfolk Southern train that derailed on its way to Conway, Pennsylvania the night of Friday, 03 February 2023 didn’t have to become the single worst land-based environmental disaster in US history. But instead of taking effort to remove the wrecked tankers full of toxins and disposing of the waste properly, the decision was made to empty the remaining tankers and burn off the toxins directly into the local environment.
“Train 32N comprised 2 head-end locomotives, 149 railcars, and 1 distributed power locomotive located between railcars 109 and 110. The consist included 20 placarded hazardous materials tank cars transporting combustible liquids, flammable liquids, and flammable gas, including vinyl chloride.”
At approximately 8:12 p.m. surveillance video from an equipment manufacturing plant in Salem, Ohio (20 miles prior to and west of the derailment) captured a light show of sparks and flames showering from beneath car #23. NTSB would later describe these sparks as the telltale sign of an overheated wheel bearing that was ultimately responsible for the derailment.
The NTSB’s report goes on to say that the three employees on board, including an engineer, a conductor and a trainee, tried but failed to stop the train after the wheel bearing overheated. The train passed by multiple “wayside defect detectors” that failed to alert the crew of the danger until it was too late. Workers hit the brakes, but the train weighed 18,000 metric tons and needed many miles of track to decelerate.
“8:54 p.m. local time, eastbound Norfolk Southern Railway (NS) general merchandise freight train 32N derailed 38 cars on main track 1 of NS Fort Wayne Line of the Keystone Division in East Palestine, Ohio. The derailed equipment included 11 tank cars carrying hazardous materials that subsequently ignited, fueling fires that damaged an additional 12 non-derailed railcars.”
A standard DOT111 tanker unit has maximum capacity of 30,000 gallons. A total of 1,109,400 gallons of toxic chemicals were mixed together and ignited, including 5 tankers of Vinyl chloride yielding 150,000 gallons along with an additional 4 tankers of petroleum lube oil, one tanker of Diethylene glycol, one tanker of Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, one tanker of Ethyl hexyl acelate, one tanker of Butyl acrylate, and two hoppers of polyvinyl. The fiery wreck burned for days releasing chemicals into air, soil and water.
At around 10 p.m. local authorities began evacuating locals living within 1 mile of the derailment site.
By 10:53 p.m. Norfolk finally reported the incident to the National Response Center. They’re supposed to report chemicals spills to federal operators immediately, but chose to delay the call for two hours.
The fire raged on into the following afternoon of Saturday, 04 February. East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway declared a state of emergency, the NTSB held their first press conference and the EPA detected contaminated water in streams known as Sulphur Run and Leslie Run. Despite the thick, black clouds of smoke emanating from the fire, the Ohio EPA issued a statement claiming no harmful chemicals had been detected in the air.
By Sunday, 05 February, the NTSB held their second press conference and released their drone footage.
The fires continued burning into the night and at 8:30 p.m. Governor DeWine issued an evacuation order for everyone within 1 mile of the derailment. Norfolk planned to intentionally vent and ignite all 5 of the cars carrying vinyl chloride. Residents received alerts on their phones informing them that the fire continued to burn out of control.
Further complicating matters is the fact that the volatile railcars had already been emptied of their contents, meaning there was no longer any risk of explosion. Concerns allegedly grew among officials behind the scenes as vinyl chloride was likely to cause a massive explosion if it continued to increase in temperature. It would later come out that only one of the five tankers containing vinyl chloride was leaking after the derailment, yet officials used explosives to blow holes in all the others after digging a giant pit for the chemical pond so they could set it ablaze all at once. The “forced depressurization” or “controlled venting” of the railcars was performed to prevent the vinyl chloride from catching fire while under pressure and exploding railcar-sized shrapnel. Once this “forced depressurization” was complete, the tanks were no longer at risk of explosion, and the spilled chemicals could have been properly removed. But officials decided to light a match instead.
On Monday, 06 February, officials made the decision to move forward with the chemical explosion often referred to as the “controlled release.” Governor DeWine announced at a press conference that the event would go off at around 3:30 p.m. to get ahead of a forecasted wind storm, but he was suddenly rushed away by security who thought an explosion imminent. Reporters were told they had five minutes to get as far away as possible. Authorities issued a mandatory evacuation for everyone within 1 mile and a ‘shelter in place’ order for everyone within 2. The great big burn finally began at approximately 4:30 p.m. Norfolk told residents over the weekend that they planned to blow the site up in a “controlled breach,” admitting that, “this will be loud and visible.” Governor Mike DeWine said “officers knocked on doors three times to order residents within the one-mile radius of the incident to evacuate because they were moving forward with the controlled release.”
The massive chemical burn releasing a black mushroom cloud that was visible from space was touted as a “success” by Norkfolk’s CEO Alan Shaw. The cloud emitted fallout over four counties and six states, including Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. This is in addition to reports of acid rain which were observed “as far away as Durham, Canada, Boston, Massachusetts, Kentucky and Lafayette, Indiana.”
Authorities lifted the evacuation just 48 hours later on Wednesday 08 February, telling residents it was now safe for them to return home. But as residents attempted to return, they found themselves stuck at the tracks waiting for endless freight trains the pass through. Norfolk trains with cargo shipments belated by the shutdown were now double stacking their loads to make up for lost time. As locals waited patiently in their cars for the trains to pass, it became obvious to many that authorities had lifted the evacuation order prematurely to cater to big business. Since Norfolk couldn’t legally run goods on the rail with an evacuation order in place, the only way to keep the gravy train rolling was to signal the “all clear” even though everyone knew it was a lie.
Multiple sampling sites along the Ohio River began detecting butyl acrylate early on, but state and local officials repeated over and over again that there was “no impact to drinking water” in East Palestine. Residents were repeatedly told the water had been tested and was safe to consume.
One of the strangest moments of the entire episode took place in a school gymnasium containing the Governor’s 5:00 p.m. press conference. News Nation correspondent Evan Lambert was accosted by Major General John Harris of the Ohio National Guard and other military personnel who told him to leave the school gym, even though he’d been invited to the press event as a correspondent for a major network. When he refused to leave, Lambert was forced to the floor, handcuffed in full view of fellow reporters and placed under arrest on charges of disorderly conduct, criminal trespassing and resisting arrest.
On Friday, 10 February, the EPA issued a letter reporting the detection of four toxic chemicals in the air, soil and water. The following Monday, 13 February, Norfolk Southern’s CEO Alan Shaw publicized a letter pledging “a $1 million community support fund as a down payment on our commitment to help rebuild”. But two days later neither Shaw nor anyone from his company were present for the 15 February Town Hall meeting to discuss the very disaster their company had caused. And as the excuse for their conspicuous absence from the meeting, Norfolk actually professed themselves as the victim with the following statement: “Unfortunately, after consulting with community leaders, we have become increasingly concerned about the growing physical threat to our employees.” Though there would certainly be justification for it, there is no record of any threats whatsoever to Norfolk employees.
On Thursday, 16 February, both Governor DeWine and the Ohio EPA confirmed the detection of “a chemical plume of butyl acrylate” moving down the Ohio River toward Virginia. The EPA confirmed the plume had entered the Ohio River Basin, which is home to 25 million people. Federal EPA Administrator Michael Regan told residents: “All families need to know that they are safe.” That same day, Ohio senator J.D. Vance visited a local stream affected by the spill called Leslie’s Run, and shot video of the bubbling chemicals popping out of the water in rainbow-vision.
Following his strongly worded letter, “Pothole Pete” Buttigieg finally showed up for the first time on Thursday, 23 February. Pausing in the middle of a statement, “Pothole Pete” unironically admitted to the press team that he’d lost his train of thought. That same day, the NTSB chairwoman Jennifer Homendy publicly stated the disaster was “100% preventable” She went on to say, “We call things accidents. There is no accident.”
The week concluded with a spirited Town Hall meeting hosted by Erin Brockovich on the evening of Friday, 24 February. “I can’t tell you how many communities feel that these moments are the biggest gaslight of their life,” she said. “Because you experienced it. You have symptoms. But you’re going to be told it’s safe. You’re going to be told not to worry. Well that’s just rubbish.”
BLATANT CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
EPA officials and the Governor were telling locals that the water was safe to drink when the Ohio Department of Natural Resources had simultaneously reported that an estimated 3,500 fish in nearby creeks and rivers had died instantly from chemical contamination, the total of which has since grown to more than 43,700.
Governor DeWine told Wolf Blitzer with a straight face on CNN, “There’s people who are reporting symptoms and we don’t know what those causes were. Many of them believe that it came about because of the train derailment.”
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoof is the bow-tie wearing Director of the Ohio Department of Health who said at a press conference in East Palestine, “The symptoms that they’re describing have a whole variety of potential sources.” He further patronized the locals by saying, “I wouldn’t be walking around the community if I didn’t think it was safe,” to which he was met with audible ‘booing’. After several moments of vociferous backlash from the crowd, Vanderhoof finally shrugged and said, “I don’t know what more I can do to assure you all,” to which a woman in audience immediately shouted, “Stop lying to us!”
How can authorities declare “the air and water are clean” when everyone is so obviously sick from the chemicals that were spilled and burned? -when the creeks are visibly contaminated? -when the air is obviously toxic? Furthermore, how can authorities declare “all clear” without sufficient data to do so?
Jessica Helpy asked rhetorically, “Why am I having this headache? Why do I feel so lightheaded that I need to sit down when I’m showering? It’s not okay for people to be here right now. I know that the evacuation order has been lifted but the air quality is not okay. … The way this is being handled right now, in my opinion, is unethical. It’s immoral.”
Gaslighting is defined as “a psychological manipulation of a person usually over an extended period of time that causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perceptions of reality, or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, uncertainty of one’s emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator.”
Nick Sortor observed early on that, “People of the town don’t know what to do and feel abandoned by the government.” He went on to describe how the locals fear the disaster will be totally covered up. They’ve been told everything is safe even though they’re vomitingblood. When they call their local officials they’re given the run around and recordings. The clinic set up by Governor DeWine has overwhelmingly minimized their symptoms, with clinicians actually telling residents that their skin rashes were likely due to stress. Additionally, the clinic had absolutely no way of testing for any contaminants, nor any doctors in its employ. It does not prescribe treatments or provide diagnoses.
The damage control response by authorities and officials smacks of Flint, Michigan. In Flint, Obama attempted to assure the locals that their leaded water was safe by pretending to drink a glass of tap at a press conference while making a crack about doing his own stunts. In Ohio, Governor DeWine and EPA Administrator Regan attempted to assure locals their rainbow water was safe by pretending to drink a glass of tap in a resident’s kitchen while making a crack about how “good” it tastes. In Flint EPA officials were caught perverting and falsifying water testing results by telling locals to run their taps for long periods before testing. In Ohio EPA officials continue denying what everyone feels, smells and tastes by abdicating their testing duties to controversial contracting firms that fail to test for relevant toxins. Flint was ultimately denied FEMA support because their emergency wasn’t one of natural causes, and the same thing happened in Ohio.
Attorney Michael Barasch, who advocated on behalf of 9/11 illness victims, told News Nation,
“When I heard the EPA tell everybody, ‘Oh don’t worry, the air in East Palestine is safe to breathe,’ shivers went down my spine. I distinctly remember Christine Todd Whitman using those exact same words 21 years ago… Well I gotta tell ya: it wasn’t safe. We know now from NIOSH [National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health] that 69 cancers have been linked to the World Trade Center toxins. Not a day goes by without two of my clients dying.…They’re treating us like children, like we can’t handle the news.”
Ohio Senator J.D. Vance disputed the declaration as well. “People say that the air is clean,” Vance explained. “I would like to believe that that’s true. I also have been here for all of three hours and it doesn’t smell great to me… I took a stick and I stuck it in the bed of the creek and pulled it along and chemicals bubbled out of the ground.”
The EPA sunk as low as holding a youth town hall meeting where officials told teenage kids the water and air were completely safe, in spite of the glaring fact that the school drinking fountains were all locked up to prevent their use. They sunk the lie even deeper, telling teens to encourage other students to come into town to play sporting events.
In mid February when Federal EPA Administrator Michael Regan was asked if he would allow his children to bathe in the water, he responded, “As a parent, I would.” Regan told residents he would even raise his children in East Palestine. He went on to condescendingly remark, “I trust science.”
Courtney Miller, who lives in a property adjacent to the contaminated creek, told News Nation, “I trust science, too. But you can’t find what you’re not looking for. They’re not looking for the dioxins… So they’re not testing for what they need to be testing for is why they’re saying that it’s fine. And they just don’t want to hear it because they’re trying to save money.”
A few weeks later Administrator Regan had changed his tune completely, saying that as a parent, he definitely would not allow his children to play anywhere near the creeks in East Palestine. Nick Sortor asked Regan, “We’ve seen the rainbow sheen, all these chemicals popping up from the bottom of the streams that these kids used to play in. Would you allow your kids anywhere near these streams right now?”
“I would not,” Regan responded. “I’m the father of a nine year old. I think we have to all agree that we wish this accident didn’t occur. The accident occurred, and as a result two of our creeks and our streams have pollution in them.”
And after a month of repeatedly assuring residents their town was safe, Governor Mike DeWine finally admitted what everyone had already known from the very beginning: “The whole goal here is to make the community safe and it can’t happen overnight. We can’t get all the stuff outta here overnight.”
In spite of his verbal commitments to “make the community safe,” DeWine remains reticent to officially declare a state of emergency. Perhaps because doing so would upset his donors, for whom a disaster declaration would cost the “legal primacy” to call all the shots as they’ve come to expect.
JUST FOLLOWING ORDERS?
We’ve all been told that the railroad company had to light a match to keep the vinyl chloride from exploding, because vinyl chloride is volatile with a boiling point of 7.9 degrees Fahrenheit. So they had to detonate it in a “controlled release” to prevent an explosion. But there was already a huge fire that burned for days. Wouldn’t a deliberate effort to further ignite it all then raise the temperature well above 7.9 degrees, making a subsequent explosion inevitable?
The fact remains that the volatile railcars had already been emptied of their contents, meaning there was no longer any risk of explosion.
Retired Fire Chief Sil Caggiano is considered one of the most knowledgeable experts on hazardous materials in the area. When interviewed he told reporters straightaway, “We basically nuked a town with chemicals so we could get a railroad open.”Caggiano went on to explain that Norfolk Southern “did not have to blow up the chemicals and only did so because it was the cheapest option.” And the trains were not only back on schedule within 48 hours of the disaster, they were also double stacked as the railroad attempted to make up for lost time.
Multiple reports confirm that firefighters had no clue what they were up against because the railroad hadn’t effectively communicated the severity of the situation. Had fire crews been informed they were dealing with a chemical fire involving several volatile compounds, they would have employed foam instead of water and the situation could have been contained.
After realizing they’d made the situation worse, fire crews withdrew and waited for the cavalry to show. Twenty-four hours later, 78 departments had responded, but everyone ultimately deferred to the company’s authority and Norfolk Southern insisted that the vinyl chloride tanks constituted a ticking time bomb – even though they’d already made the decision to empty all five tankers. So they made their choice, and a deadly mushroom cloud formed a nightmare chemical weapons factory in the sky that rained toxins into the environment sending flocks of dead birds plummeting to the earth.
Local resident Kathy Dyke told reporters, “I honestly feel that the police department, the fire department, all the first responders, they don’t have the answers to give us because I don’t think they know.”
Since chemistry knowledge is not exactly common, companies can take advantage of collective ignorance about the subject to present their feeble contradictory arguments. We’ve all heard about the five railcars of vinyl chloride because the volatility associated with that chemical is essential to the official story. Because vinyl chloride boils at 7.9 degrees Fahrenheit, we’re told these railcars were likely to explode. But the premise that the potential cause of a catastrophic explosion would have been heat seems self-contradictory since igniting a burn makes it more likely to explode because it raises the temperature. And again, the inconvenient fact that the tankers were empty when they finally lit the match means there wasn’t actually any danger of an explosion.
Norfolk Southern claim to have detected rising temperature readings in one of the pressurized railcars. If they’re telling the truth, the situation threatened to release a tremendous amount of chemical energy all at once which would have probably wiped East Palestine off the map instantly. But we know that Norfolk Southern sought permission from the feds to depressurize the tanks. Once the tanks were depressurized, the threat of imminent explosion was over because empty tanks cannot explode. So Norfolk are telling a twisted truth, which is another way of saying that they’re lying. It goes without saying that the company had much to gain by burning the evidence, which also allowed them to reopen the track as quickly as possible.
TESTING FOR WHAT?
Norfolk Southern’s CEO Alan Shaw defended his “safety culture” to PBS News Hour, insisting to viewers that the air and water are clean because “the science” says so:
“We’ve stood up a lot of testing. Within an hour of the derailment we had air testing. Within a couple hours of the derailment we had water testing. There is independent testing going on right now at the Ohio EPA and with local health officials. You know, there’s been hundreds of tests and there have been thousands of data points and they’ve all come back with the same result that says the air and the water are clean. … We’re extremely focused on safety. And over the long term we’ve seen reductions in derailments and hazardous material releases and in injuries. This is clearly a situation where our safety culture and our investments in safety did not prevent this accident.”
Peter DeCarlo is an associate professor of environmental health from Johns Hopkins who appeared on ABCThis Week to reveal that, “The monitoring equipment they’re using to determine things are safe doesn’t give us chemical specificity – it doesn’t tell us what chemicals are present. It just says they’re below some level. There’s plenty of chemicals that can be created from that fire that can be toxic at much lower levels.” DeCarlo went on to describe how EPA monitoring data is from handheld monitors not designed to measure outside air quality.
Elected officials like Governor DeWine relied on biased and faulty data from industry contractors in making statements assuring residents that water and air were safe for human consumption. In a blatant conflict of interest, said testing was performed by several consulting firms on Norfolk Southern’s payroll – alongside and in impersonation of EPA officials inside residents’ homes – and the samples they utilized to carry out their so-called “testing” were deeply compromised. Probably deliberately so.
Chris DeAngelo of the Huffington Post reported that a company subcontractor called AECOM improperly preserved and mishandled municipal water samples rendering test results utterly useless.
Norfolk also hired the Center of Toxicology and Environmental Health (CTEH) and Tetra Tech. Both of these companies have an awful track record, and have been caught falsifying test information in other major US disasters including the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Tetra Tech specifically is guilty of the biggest Eco Fraud case in US history.
CTEH has a history of minimizing the effects of environmental disasters to protect their corporate clients. According to the New York Times,“They’re paid to say everything’s okay.” Chemical corporations consistently use this company’s “findings” to assure us that there is never any cause for alarm. CTEH was accused of mishandling data related to the hurricane Katrina oil spill, covering up a coal ash spill in Tennessee, mismanaging Florida’s drywall crisis, and whitewashing the 2010 BP oil spill. And the last time Norfolk Southern found themselves in hot water, after a derailment in Graniteville, South Carolina released 90 tons of chlorine gas, killing 9 and injuring 500, guess who was hired to manage the PR nightmare? That’s right. CTEH.
A fox guarding the hen house is a great way to exert control over a crime scene so corporate fat cats can have their cake and eat it too. Numerous reports of children projectile vomiting immediately following the “controlled release” can be instantly nullified by so-called “experts” who use the public relations spin of tobacco science to hypnotize their audience into believing that there’s nothing to see here. Tetra Tech and CTEH are both hatchet-man operations hired by polluters to cover their tracks.
Residents have observed private contractors testing for the wrong chemicals and cleaning with disinfectants rather than neutralizing the chemical agents.
Robert Bowcock is an environmental investigator working with Erin Brockovich. Standing near a creek in East Palestine, Bob described the response as “pathetic” and “out of control”:
“What’s been the response? The railroad sent in a clean up crew who came in with commercial grade organic Lysol to disinfect the homes. That’s about as pathetic as it gets. The response is absolutely out of control. Nothing is going right in any way, shape or form. If you look behind me here they’re actually aerating a creek. Where do you think those chemicals are going in an aeration process? They are literally going back up in to the air and recontaminating these people. This is not something that happened overnight. This is something that’s ongoing. They are literally taking the chemicals from this creek and reintroducing them into the air, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
These contractors also reassured locals by announcing they’ve not detected vinyl chloride in the air. This point is moot, of course, given that vinyl chloride transforms into a whole host of other chemicals when burned. “It’s not just what was in the tanker cars,” explained Eric F. Coppolino of PlanetWaves FM. “It’s what happens when they burn and combine. This may be the largest dioxin plume in world history. I know of no more serious release, ever.”
Dioxins are a group of toxic compounds classified as Persistent Organic Pollutants, meaning they don’t break down the way other things do. They can cause cancer, reproductive harm, birth defects, developmental harm, immune damage and hormonal imbalances. Dioxins also bioaccumulate and remain in the children and grandchildren of those affected because they alter DNA.
If officials admitted that the “magic dust” that fell from the sky as far east as Connecticut in the days following Ohio’s chemical nuke was 1) poisonous and 2) related in any way to the East Palestine derailment, the potential liability claims from millions of people in multiple states could cripple their profit engine. Meteorologists have insisted that the white ash that fell from the sky in New England wasn’t from the chemical explosion, but from a dust storm in Oklahoma. Noting that the dust had settled on Philadelphia, AccuWeather reporter Bill Deger chose to find the silver lining by telling his audience that the atmospheric particulates made sunsets “more photogenic.”
“Corbin and his wife returned to their house on Feb. 9, which was his 73rd birthday. During an initial phone conversation, the EPA said the ash on Corbin’s property was not from the derailment.”
Government officials have deferred to Norfolk Southern’s line, telling residents that if they want to front the $4,500 to test for dioxins they will be reimbursed eventually. Once again the industry doesn’t have to prove that it’s safe, but those injured by its pillaging must prove that it’s dangerous. Even if the victims are financially capable of leaping through such prohibitive hoops to prove on their own dime that specific chemical compounds exist in their homes, the industry knows they won’t be able to prove these contaminants weren’t present before the derailment.
DIOXIN FACTOR SPELLS DOOM FOR NORTH AMERICAN FOOD PRODUCTION
According to the Health RangerMike Adams, dioxins eclipse the toxicity of pesticides, glyphosate, lead, arsenic and even mercury. “Nothing comes close to the toxicity of dioxins, other than something like VX nerve gas, or Xyklon B, or Cesium 137 radiation,” he says. “That might be comparable. That’s how dangerous dioxins are…. One quadrillionth of a gram exposure to dioxin can yield negative effects. … It’s toxic at femtograms.”
Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxins (PBT) like dioxin become more concentrated as they move up the food chain causing increasing rates of cancer, spontaneous abortion and deformities. They do not degrade or vanish or dilute over time. Tens of thousands of farms are directly affected by the contaminated waterways and toxic airborne fallout from East Palestine, including the largest Amish farm in North America.
Significant percentages of America’s corn, soy, wheat, beef, diary and pork are sourced from Ohio. 80% of world’s livestock grain is irrigated by the watershed that’s now contaminated. Likewise, 25% of America’s fish live in that waterway. Even if the farmers in this area decide to continue working their land, this may prove to be a Silent Spring scenario if insect pollinators fail to survive the contamination. We can see evidence of this in the recent glut of dead wildlife around East Palestine that aren’t being devoured by insects. The largest Amish farm in North America, if not the world, may no longer be viable after the contamination incurred by the chemical nuke. How much of the northern hemisphere was affected remains an open question.
Likewise, the extent of the damage to the regional watersheds continues to unfold. At ground zero the drainage ditches running alongside the railroad tracks flow directly into the nearest creek which then runs through three other towns before entering the Ohio River on its way into the Mississippi River and toward the Gulf of Mexico. The aforementioned drainage ditches were blocked with makeshift dams following the derailment, which have repeatedly overflown into the rivers following heavy rain. Some officials have warned communities along the waterway to cease swimming in it.
PREMONITIONS, PREDICTIVE PROGRAMMING OR PRE-DRILL EXERCISES?
It seems strange enough that on 2/3/’23 train 32N derailed after car #23 sparked off the track igniting and damaging a total of 23 railcars. But this story goes completely off the rails with the combination of coincidental occurrences leading up to the event, including a Netflix movie that seemed to predict the catastrophe, an experimental health identification program introduced specifically to the affected town, and an Orwellian omission of information by the Center for Disease Control and prevention.
A Netflix movie called White Noisereleased in September of 2022 (just five months prior to the real-world event)just so happens to feature a train crash with chemical tankers that stack up, catch fire, and explode, releasing a “toxic airborne event” that forces locals to evacuate. White Noise was even filmed in the same area, a few miles from ground zero. And some East Palestineresidents played as extras in this movie that predicted their own future quagmire. Should it surprise us to learn that the co-founder and original CEO of Netflix is Marc Bernays Randolph, the great nephew of propaganda “godfather” Edward Bernays?
Then there was that mysterious plane crash outside of Little Rock, Arkansas that killed everyone on board. And everyone on board, including the pilot, just happened to be employees of CTEH on their way to Ohio, but not East Palestine, Ohio. The CTEH crew were on their way to Oakwood Village, Ohio to assist in the investigation of the “unrelated” metal plant explosion that occurred there just days after the East Palestine chemical nuke. Then there was the “unrelated” Norfolk derailment outside of Detroit that involved hazardous materials. And the 09 March derailment in Alabama that took place during CEO Alan Shaw’s appearance before Congress on the event in East Palestine. The list of “coincidences” goes on and on, in part because the US is averaging a major chemical spill every two days, according to The Guardian.
“WHO IS JOHN GALT?”
This story reads like a parody directly from the pages of Atlas Shrugged. America’s modern freight trains remain outfitted with laughably outdated, Civil War-era air braking systems. It is atop this antiquated technology from 1868 that we’re running longer trains with heavier loads at faster speeds. All of this acceleration hurries along with fewer employees and less maintenance. While train loads got longer and heavier, the railroad work force shrunk by nearly 40% over the last six years. As cutbacks to the railroad labor force intensified, executives chose to fill the void by outsourcing the work to subcontractors.
Rail workers attempted to warn the American people about this very disaster potential and were organizing a strike in the autumn of 2022. Then a legislation came down from the Biden White House on 02 December 2022 preemptively declaring the strike illegal and forcing workers to get back to work in the unsafe conditions they were protesting against.
Locomotive engineer Ron Kaminkow is General Secretary of Rail Workers United, who organized the strike. Appearing on The Jimmy Dore Show, Kaminkow said,
“There was a huge huge pent up anger and frustration that has been building for at least two decades now. Draconian attendance policies, massive furloughs, layoffs, job consolidations, all of us going to work knowing we don’t have the proper tools to do the job, lack of maintenance, lack of inspection. I know signal maintainers and car inspectors that are just furious and very demoralized with the inability to do the job as they were trained to do it and as they understand that the law says they are to do it, to say nothing of rail carrier policy and procedure. But there’s all this pressure from the top to cut corners. Don’t inspect. Don’t maintain. We don’t have enough staff to do the job properly.”
Senior employees charged with preventing derailments have all left and their positions were eliminated by Norfolk Southern. The company also fought against the implementation of their own revolutionary “electronic braking” technology. According to the Upper Echelon youtube channel:
“In a 2007 investor document, Norfolk Southern actually bragged about their electronic braking system. They used it as a method of exciting their shareholders and stated that the technology was so safe it would soon be included in dozens more of their trains. Flash forward, not so much. Even though they admitted that Electronically Controlled Pneutmatic (ECP) brakes could decrease the track needed to stop a train by as much as 60%, they fought the government so this massively superior and safer technology would not be required in trains.”
Democracy Now! featured Matthew Cunningham-Cook of Lever Newswho stated, “Norfolk Southern has one of the worst safety records on the rails.” He went on to say, “Fines and class actions lawsuits are ultimately a drop in the bucket compared to the extraordinary profit that these railroads collect from their workforce that’s overworked and in large part burnt out.”
According to the Rail Workers Union: “Wall Street backed policies such as ‘precision-scheduled railroading’ have made the US rail system more dangerous … prioritizing profits over safety and health, cutting maintenance, equipment inspection and personnel in all crafts while increasing the average train size to three miles or more.”
The industry’s one-track mind chugging on nothing but dollars and dividends has laid off 33% of their workforce in the last 5 years while increasing shareholder payouts by 4,500%. Their Wall Street owners (Blackrock, Vanguard, JP Morgan and Wells Fargo) want to go completely automated with driverless trains and ditch the remaining employees. The only reason there are still crew members on board is that the industry hasn’t figured out how to automate their jobs away yet. Never mind the fact that the very train that derailed in East Palestine broke down just days prior to the derailment, yet employees concerns about the length and weight of Norfolk’s trains went ignored. Another classic example of a large corporation exploiting weak regulations to transport dangerous chemicals on the cheap until inevitably something broke down and it blew up in their faces. Except it won’t be their faces responsible for the cleanup, because they can just declare bankruptcy and put it all on the taxpayers.
Norfolk Southern can’t seem to keep track of all the chemicals involved in and released from the chemical nuke they unleashed. As reported by the Daily Mail, “Independent testing by Texas A&M and Carnegie Mellon University published last week found that the air in East Palestine contains ‘higher than normal’ concentrations of nine potentially harmful chemicals” including acrolein, benzene, Vinyl chloride, butadiene, naphthalene, o-Xylene, trichloroethylene, trichloroethane and p-Xylene. This is in addition to the Vinyl chloride, Butyl acrylate, Ethylhexyl acrylate, Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, and Isobutylene that spilled into the ground and contaminated the watershed. It is also in addition to the formaldehyde, phosgene, Hydrogen chloride and dioxins produced as a result of the burn.
Independent Journalist Millie Weaver identifies how the potential defendants aren’t necessarily who you’d expect. “We’ve had a lot of focus on Norfolk Southern, but according to a source I spoke with that’s an incident commander, they said if it’s a wheel bearing failure, that means this is going to be the fault of the car owner.” Weaver revealed that railcar #23 carrying polypropylene was owned by Aristech Chemical Corporation, and Aristech has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Sunocosince November of 2000 when they purchased it from Mitsubishi for $695 million.
Some liability may fall on those tied up with the circumstances of the derailment, but what about the decision to nuke the region with an unnecessary but cost-saving explosion?
Big business has known since the 1970’s that vinyl chloride causes a rare form of liver cancer known as angiosarcoma as well as lymphoma, leukemia, brain cancer, lung cancer and neurological symptoms like dizziness and lightheadedness. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “Vinyl chloride in the air breaks down in a few days resulting in the formation of several other chemicals including hydrochloric acid, formaldahyde and carbon dioxide.”
But of the many byproducts created by burning vinyl chloride one is hydrogen chloride which bonded with water in the atmosphere and became the hydrochloric acid that damaged property throughout the region when it came down in the form of acid rain. Another is phosgene, which was employed in the First World War as a chemical weapon that induces vomiting and breathing difficulties. Since Norfolk Southern and its obedient accomplices deliberately released chemical weapons, perhaps they’re liable for action under the Geneva Convention.
And how about hiding evidence in other states under the cover of darkness? Neither Texas nor Michigan officials knew about the shipments of contaminated fire-fighting water to their states via a company called Texas Molecular. And while corporate media could have helped make relevant announcements, they instead got sidetracked with war propaganda and UFO stories. And when they were finally forced to give it some air time, mainstream broadcasts universally minimized the disaster and repeated what the industry told them to say. And the inter-agency cover up didn’t end there. Even the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Air Resources Lab modeled the distribution of particles from the East Palestine train derailment before suddenly taking them down without reason.
When the media are owned by the same companies that own Norfolk Southern, we’re beyond the need to break up the conglomerates who exert control over the politicians through the legalized bribery of campaign contributions. So it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that the Biden Administration is currently siding with Norfolk Southern in a case against a former rail worker now pending before the Supreme Court that could allow corporations to restrict where people can file suit against them, including the victims of the East Palestine disaster.
In 2012 a Norfolk Southern train derailed in Polesburo, New Jersey spilling 23,000 gallons of vinyl chloride that they didn’t set on fire, and it still killed nine people. Even after injuring an additional 500, the company was allowed to continue chugging along. Business as usual.
Emily Wright is the development director for River Valley Organizing and lives near East Palestine. Appearing on Democracy Now! Emily told viewers,
“The most important thing is that this is not a conspiracy theory. This is Standard Operating Procedure for Norfolk Southern. They have $70 million in safety violations since 2000 and $21 million in environmental. 25 million Americans live on an oil train blast zone. … We told them 10 years ago. We told the EPA that bomb trains, this was going to happen. We had several collaborative organizations appeal to the EPA. And it happened.”
There’s little question that the ongoing catastrophe in East Palestine represents a unique humanitarian disaster. With residents left to fend for themselves as their children puke up blood, outrage is growing. This may be the biggest and most obvious government cover up Americans have witnessed yet. The only reason the evacuation was lifted was to get the rail road open and get the money flowing again. And they continue to lie to keep the flow going. Industry makes statements, politicians parrot those lines, and talking heads in the media follow suit.
Elected officials can choose to declare a state of emergency to deploy government resources to this disaster. But if no state of emergency is declared, the EPA has no jurisdiction. If no state of emergency is declared, NorfolkSouthern enjoys complete legal primacy over the situation. What could be a more obvious “state of emergency” than an act of terrorism that directly impacts millions of Americans? Critical infrastructure was again weaponized against Americans, but whereas New Yorkers were traumatized by commercial aircraft, Ohioans were traumatized by a commercial rail.
Stokely Carmichael has observed that, “In order for nonviolence to work, your opponent must have a conscience.” If the fight is never taken to the owners, nothing will ever change. Instead of blowing off steam in a rigged political system, people could choose to pull back the curtain and meet the wizard for themselves. Alan Shaw is the CEO of Norfolk Southern, but he doesn’t own it.
Larry Fink is the CEO of Blackrock Investment Group, who in-turn own Norfolk Southern and exert a great deal of control over what executives like Alan Shaw are allowed to do. These companies spend millions of dollars bribing politicians to act as their public relations liaisons and millions more to media groups who parrot the bureaucrats. A government complicit to it’s corporate owners cannot respond to the people.
While there are actions we can take to cleanse our bodies (activated charcoal, Bentonite clay, Zeolite powder, matcha powder, broccoli powder, chlorophyll, etc.) and the environment (shelf mushrooms, poplar trees, etc.) of toxic chemicals, stopping the unnecessary introduction of these substances into the environment preempts the need for such efforts. Those interested in getting society back on track would do well to note that seeking political solutions to these problems will result in more of the same, as it always has. Unless there is some kind of concerted effort to outlaw corporations entirely – as was the case for a good deal of America’s history – they will only grow more powerful. There’s been talk of nationalizing the rails in a similar way to how the highway system is nationalized. But without a general strike or similar action that thoroughly inconveniences the captains of industry, all that talk is just blowing off steam. In the first 10 weeks of 2022 several other trains carrying hazardous materials derailed at the same time as a plethora of industrial explosions, including incidents in Detroit, Springfield,Cleveland,Bedford, La Salle, Kissimmee.