Replacement: Powderfinger lyrics and Barn Burning

Last night I wrote something as I was feeling it.  This morning I took it down.

If you read it the Post (Revelation:  Vermont Won't Back Down Recycling Racism), what follows is an apology and a long explanation.   As I hit the "enter key" to post it, I was listening to this song, by Neil Young, called PowderFinger.

Cover me with the thought that pulled the trigger...

Powderfinger by Neil Young
Look out, Mama, there's a white boat comin' up the river
With a big red beacon, and a flag, and a man on the rail
I think you'd better call John,
'Cause it don't look like they're here to deliver 
the mail
And it's less than a mile away
I hope they didn't come to stay
It's got numbers on the side and a gun
And it's makin' big waves.
Daddy's gone, my brother's out hunting in the mountains
Big John's been drinking since the river took Emmy-Lou
So the Powers That Be left me here to do the thinkin'
And I just turned twenty-two
I was wonderin' what to do
And the closer they got,
The more those feelings grew.
Daddy's rifle in my hand felt reassurin'
He told me, Red means run, son, numbers add up to nothin'
But when the first shot hit the docks I saw it comin'
Raised my rifle to my eye
Never stopped to wonder why.
Then I saw black,
And my face splashed in the sky.
Shelter me from the powder and the finger
Cover me with the thought that pulled the trigger
Think of me as one you'd never figured
Would fade away so young
With so much left undone
Remember me to my love,
I know I'll miss her.

Yesterday, we had a sight visit by a USA steel shredder, who said the ZORBA dust is more valuable when there's more circuit boards shredded into it.  And we had a visitor, born in Beijing, who has been buying our plastics.  The Chinese buyer told me about the virgin petroleum refining in China (if you want to see some REAL pollution), and the textile factories surrounding Guiyu, China, upstream.  Both visitors showed up while I was on a conference call, in emergency session, trying to salvage my company's "R2 Certification".

It seems a third party PJR auditor doesn't like Retroworks de Mexico.

I spent a great deal of the day with consultants we hired to help us navigate through the 'reject' recommendation from the PJR auditor.   Much of the conversation about R2 Certification was trying to come up with the right ways to apologize for, and rationalize, the diminishing quantity (now way under 10%) of intact material (vs. shredded or disassembled) we export.    Even our own consultants seem driven towards "the safe thing to do", abandon the Retroworks de Mexico operation.  "Is it worth it?"

Oh, and in the process, I failed to say "goodbye" in person to Hector, a junior employee at Retroworks de Mexico, who was here to train... he had to catch a flight to Phoenix.  He'll stay at his Mexican uncle's house there.

By the time I got home, the Mexican and Chinese and Shredder visits, and long auditor conversations, had taken up my whole day.  My wife's in Africa for two weeks, so I had to make dinner for the kids (one of whom is leaving to United World College at the end of the summer.  I'm negotiating how I can bring him to New Mexico and combine it with a trip to AZ and RDM).  When I wrote the angry blog, I really felt pressure, from all sides, to deny people I believe in.

My company isn't really making any money at Retroworks de Mexico.  But they are family.  They want to create jobs for Mexicans in Mexico, something I think red and blue states can find consensus on.  They are opening a new environmentally sound destination for CRT cullet, at the copper smelter.  The smelter wants to use CRT glass to replace the mined ore, lead, and silica the smelter needs in its fluxing agent.  The primary barrier to taking more CRT glass through there, to ease American Recycling glass gluts?


And here I was, on the consultant-about-the-auditor call, listening to someone I actually respect, asking me "Is it worth it?"  What's my reputation worth?   The consultant was telling me that if the Chicas are dismantling and returning to the USA the intact CRT tubes to the USA, to be processed by the USA before delivery to the smelter, that maybe the PJR auditor is right, and they have been "exported for recycling".  

I'm showing the definition of CRT processing - breaking the tube - in the EPA rules.  I'm showing the definition of export, and the difference legally between maquila (temporary transboundary movement) and export.  It's like tourism vs. immigration.  And the Mexico officials are saying that we can only deliver to the smelter if we process the glass in Mexico... but we cannot import it via the maquila, maquilas cannot by law "import" anything.   So on one side of the border they insist it's "export for recycling", and the red tape on the other side of the border says the opposite.

The safe thing, it seems, is to abandon innovation.   And since R2 auditors are programmed to recommend the safe thing, and to avoid having said "yes" to something they don't quite understand (which poses a risk to their brand brand of certification), they are telling me to abandon the Chicas, abandon opening the CRT glass project at the smelter.  And since Vermont law requires us to be R2 certified, these auditors are really playing a role of regulator.  If they insist we stop shipping to Mexico, and refuse to renew our certification... then we lose everything.

For that reason, I suspect there is shredder money in here somewhere.  The "Big Shred" companies, and the "Planned Obsolescence" companies, are trying to corner the market.  MOST of the money these auditors for E-Stewards and R2 take in their palms comes from people who do NOT want to compete with Mexicans working in Mexico.

That makes them somewhat different from a regulator.  They have the power to shut the company down, by virtue of the mandatory Vermont certification.  But they have a visceral conflict of interest.

The system of R2 and e-Stewards is rigged.

It is because the system is rigged, that people keep bandying about the fake, false, hoax statistic that 80% of USA televisions are exported to be burned in Africa and China.

There has NEVER been a TV scrap market moving that way.  It's mathematically impossible.  No Chinese scrapper or African scrapper will repeatedly pay thousands of dollars to transport junk TVs in order to "externalize" our Vermont recycling cost.  They have no interest in that.  And because that market doesn't exist, there are massive piles of CRT glass everywhere in the USA, and no one knows what to do with them.

The creator of the fake statistic, Jim Puckett, has tried to take credit for "solving" the export or TVs problem, saying "before" the Nigerians were doing this but now they aren't, thanks to him.   Thank you for your donation.  Now keep sending his non-profit money so he can point his camera at the big piles of CRT glass in the USA... the TV glass which shouldn't be here if he was right about it being 80% exported in the first place.

The longer I spend in my "dream job" of being my own boss, doing work that avoids mining and protects the environment, the more disgusted I get with the environmental racism that has been injected into our regulations and conversations.  The more I have to apologize and kowtow to auditors raising questions about primitive monkey-people in Mexico who desperately need white TV repairmen to test and fix the 32" Sony before selling it to them.

The CRT problem is going away.  The USA isn't really an important supplier anymore.  The refurbishing, repair, and reuse markets in developing cities can buy used TCL and Craig TVs from ports like Shanghai.

The exports are shrinking.  Not just from my Vermont operation.

To me it's sad.  As I sit at the table of "certified" companies, raising their glasses to toast the "great improvement" in the decline of USA exports, paying for their drinks with shredded pieces of chips in the shredded mess of ZORBA, via my blog, I had a "Faulkner moment".   I'd been invited to this august group's home, to be certified, and they raised a glass to toast my company's declining exports.
The store in which the Justice of the Peace’s court was sitting smelled of cheese.  The boy, crouched on his nail keg at the back of the crowded room, knew he smelled cheese, and more:  from where he sat he could see the ranked shelves close-packed with the solid, squat, dynamic shapes of tin cans whose labels his stomach read, not from the lettering which meant nothing to his mind but from the scarlet devils and the silver curve of fish – this, the cheese which he knew he smelled and the hermetic meat which his intestines believed he smelled coming in intermittent gusts momentary and brief between the other constant one, the smell and sense just a little of fear because mostly of despair and grief, the old fierce pull of blood.  He could not see the table where the Justice sat and before which his father and his father’s enemy (our enemy he thought in that despair; ourn!  mine and hisn both!  He’s my father!) stood, but he could hear them, the two of them that is, because his father had said no word yet:
Last night, I posted a blog with some bad words in it.  It was read by 9 people.  I apologize.  I'm not going to close my Vermont company, even if we are forced into this new environmentalist apartheid system.  The less we are allowed to export for reuse, the less money we make, and the fewer jobs we can support.  It's Econ 101.  But the shredders are probably going to win
“You’re getting to be a man.  You got to learn.  You got to learn to stick to your own blood or you ain’t going to have any blood to stick to you.  Do you think either of them, any man there this morning, would?  Don’t you know all they wanted was a chance to get at me because they knew I had them beat?  Eh?”  
Lookout mama, there's a white boat comin down the river.  But that don't justify no Barn Burning.  A good analysis of the 1939 Faulkner story (from where I copied the quotes above) can be found at Gogol's Overcoat, reviewed by Larry Nolen.
These words are ironic in context of the latter half of the story.  After a simple but callous faux pas (the tracking of horse dung across an expensive blond rug in the house) is compounded by the permanent stain caused by the use of harsh lye soap by the Snopes in an attempt to rectify this mistake, the father is left burdened with the cost of an extra ten bushels of corn to pay for the damages.  Irate and feeling threatened, his threat to burn down the barn, compounded with Major de Spain’s tracking him down after Sarty warns him of his father’s intent, serves as a culmination of the bitterness and hatred on the part of Abner Snopes and the derision and contempt that the local gentry and townspeople have for Snopes that goes far beyond the immediate events of the story.  It is a clash of wills and conceptions of how the world should be.  It ends, inconclusively, in violence.
It's weird.  My blog keeps coming back to my hillbilly roots.  The pride I have, and the shame I have, in the Abner Snopes roots I have.   I live in New England, and my kids are surrounded by people so sure they "know" what my roots in Arkansas were.   I see my kids taught how "red state" southerners are.  And there is a certain amount of truth in it, but also, they don't get it.  My Freeland family left New England in the mid 1800s to vote in Kansas, to keep it a free state.   They moved from Kansas to work with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, where they learned to hate government solutions to social problems.  And they moved to Taney County Missouri, and married into a hillbilly family of authors and lawyers, named Ingenthron.  The Freeland-Ingenthrons married the Fisher-Youngbloods, a smart set of subsistence farmers.

And none of them had much contact with African Americans.  Taney County Missouri fought with the North during the Civil War, but was among the least integrated parts of America right up until WalMart happened (Bentonville Arkansas).   I grew up around people who were thinking interracial marriage was controversial.

Anyway, this is a long excuse for a short post that only 9 people saw, framed in William Faulkner short story which is probably way to esotheric and showy for a scrap blog audience.  Sometimes I raise the blog rifle to my eye, never stop to wonder why, and then I saw black, and my face splashed to the sky.

Peace be unto you, certification auditors.   You are trying to make the world right.  You are just doing it based on a lie that 80% of televisions exported were dumped, and that 80% of the TVs filmed in African dumps got there out of a sea container Jim Puckett and Greenpeace filmed.   I encourage you to watch BAN and Greenpeace films in slow motion then read the UN Environmental Programme reports showing 91% reuse, then read the World Bank statistics (6,900,000 households with televisions in Nigeria, mostly in Lagos), and then ask yourselves what Nigerians, Egyptians, and Indonesian names are doing named on websites, decorated with Pieter Hugo's pictures of scrap boys burning wires.

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