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Derailed: Trains, Stores, Schools & Inadequate Covid Tests Evidence Of U.S. Empire’s Rapid Decline

A member of the media picks up a shredded box at a section of the Union Pacific train tracks in downtown Los Angeles, Jan. 14, 2022 CBSLA reported Thursday. AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu

On the same day that I could not get pictures of littered tracks and derailed trains in downtown Los Angeles out of my head, the federal government finally announced free covid test kits for each household can be ordered from a U.S. Postal Service website

How many of the tests, which we’re told won’t ship until the end of January, will end up on the tracks?  Journalists reported seeing covid tests discarded amid the debris presumably deemed “not worth stealing.” Corporate journalism focused, predictably, on property crimes rather than the underlying conditions of mass deaths in the U.S. amid a public health crisis managed on behalf of commercial interests under late stage capitalism.

Both the trains and the tests are evidence of accelerating imperial decline. Despite loyal Democrats tweeting that we must “thank @POTUS” for finally doing something other countries have been doing better for months, nay, years into this pandemic, the test distribution scheme is already an epic fail.

Here’s a whole thread on Twitter explaining how to get around that problem.

My favorite emblematic message so far is corporate mouthpiece Portland Press Herald tweeting from its editors’ white and professional class privileged point of view:

“Super easy” — until the package ends up on the tracks, I suppose.

What’s up with the trains anyway? Rampant omicron infections in a nation lacking universal healthcare, paid sick leave, and adequate child care have signficantly reduced the available labor force. 

Container ships off of the coast of the Port of Long Beach | Getty

Shipping and trucking are similarly backed up and have been for months.

Union Pacific train derailment in downtown Los Angeles

Trains are slowed down or backed up and as such are soft targets for theft (hey, maybe some of these packages contain food!). It’s unclear whether the 17 car derailment of a Union Pacific train was caused by massive litter on the tracks fouling the switch as some have speculated.

For reference, here’s what trains in China look like:

Source: International Business Times “High speed trains in China”

Also Japan (I rode many trains there in the early 1980’s and they were fantastic even back then):


Also Germany (I’ll stop now):

Source: Train of Thought blog “Frequent service makes Germany’s train travel incredibly convenient, and competitive with other modes of transportation. Here, trains prepare to leave Cologne.” 
Photo by David Lassesn

All over the U.S. people are sharing photos of empty grocery store shelves 

Source: “Heads Up Moms, Grocery Stores Have Empty Shelves Again” 

amid widespread and prolonged shortage of items as various as cat food and dental floss.

Teachers at United for Success Academy Middle School walk out in support of Oakland, California students. (WSWS Media, January 18, 2021)

Staffing shortages are affecting schools nationwide. Some have responded by herding students into large holding areas during in-person school during the worst surge of the pandemic. Students in Oakland, NYC, Boston and elsewhere have walked out demanding remote learning be reinstated, and the Chicago Teachers Union refused to return in person after the holidays.

The decline of empires is often rapid once they get rolling, often ugly, and nearly always dangerous.

Think of the Ottoman Empire whose dissolution sparked WWI, or the Japanese imperialism that ended with starvation and suicide bombers in kamikaze planes built with no landing gear to save on costs.

Boasting and claims of superiority typically go hand in hand with imperial decline. So we are told the economy is doing great while low income people are being devastasted by inflation and loss of income with minimal support from the government. Meanwhile, U.S.-led NATO announces its overarching policy plan for militarizing outer space to protect…banking.

Voting will not fix this. Both corporate parties have failed to respond effectively to widespread infection and its consequences.

Workers withholding their labor is already widespread and likely the only power the people still have to get us on track to a minimal quality of life for all.

The silver lining in this cloud: maybe I will live to see that general strike I’ve been dreaming of after all.

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