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Poultry Plants

[ 41 ] April 29, 2014 |

The Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a federal complaint against conditions in an Alabama poultry factory.

Beatriz Navedo began to feel dizzy as she worked a processing line at the Wayne Farms poultry plant.

As the line zipped by, her chest also began to hurt. It was a heart attack.

But Navedo wasn’t sure what was happening. She just knew she needed help. She went to the plant’s nurse, but the nurse wouldn’t call the hospital, instead offering aspirin. Navedo’s daughter, who also works at the plant, left her shift early to take her mother to the hospital. Both women were punished by having points added to their employee files. Workers who accrue too many of these points are automatically fired.

It was another example of the abuse workers endure at the plant. Navedo had previously been threatened with firing for reporting on-the-job injuries. “We were promised a dream, but what we really got was a nightmare,” said Navedo, who no longer works at the plant. “I felt like a slave.”

The SPLC filed a complaint with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) today charging that workers at the Enterprise, Ala., plant have been forced to either endure unsafe and abusive conditions or lose their jobs.

OSHA is so underfunded and the meat industry so politically powerful that the largely immigrant workforce in these once unionized and now union-free jobs are treated like garbage, effectively bringing the dangerous working conditions of the Gilded Age of past America to the present and the outsourced dangerous factories of the developing world back to the United States.

It’s also worth remembering that every meal you eat has a labor history to it and if you are eating pretty much any meat, it’s extremely likely it is produced on the back on dangerous labor. That’s not to say don’t eat meat. It is to say that lending your voice to the fight for safe working conditions in food processing needs to be central to any food movement.

Jack Ramsay, RIP

[ 29 ] April 28, 2014 |


An icon in both coaching and fashion. I was a huge Blazers fan as a kid so I grew up expecting success on the court and on the runway.

A Completely Legal Act

[ 276 ] April 27, 2014 |

Repeal the Second Amendment:

A Georgia man panicked parents and children at a local park and baseball field by randomly walking around and displaying his gun to anyone he encountered in the parking lot.

According to witnesses who spoke with WSB-TV, the man wandered around the Forsythe County park last Tuesday night showing his gun to strangers, telling them “there’s nothing you can do about it.”

“Anyone who was just walking by – you had parents and children coming in for the game – and he’s just standing here, walking around [saying] ‘You want to see my gun? Look, I got a gun and there’s nothing you can do about it.’ He knew he was frightening people. He knew exactly what he was doing,” said parent Karen Rabb.

Rabb said that the man’s intimidating behavior panicked parents causing them to hustle children who were there to play baseball to safety after the man refused to leave.

“It got to the point where we took the kids and brought them into the dugout and the parents lined up in front of the dugout,” Rabb said.

Police report they received 22 calls to 911 reporting the man.

After deputies arrived, they questioned the man who produced a permit for the handgun. According to authorities, since the man made no verbal threats or gestures, they couldn’t arrest him or ask him to leave.

Sterling in the Lead

[ 130 ] April 26, 2014 |

You have to give Dan Snyder credit. He’s really given it his all in the race to become the Biggest Scumbag among American Sports Owners. Under normal circumstances he’d be the consensus winner. But Donald Sterling has held this title for three decades and has really upped his game to put the young whippersnappeer in Washington in the runner-up position.

I wonder if the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP is still going to give their Lifetime Achievement Award to Donald Sterling?

The Albuquerque Police Really Likes Shooting People

[ 120 ] April 25, 2014 |

Albuquerque’s police is so notorious for shooting people that the Department of Justice recently ripped the department for its tactics.

Not that this stopped the APD. A woman named Mary Hawkes was just killed by an Albuquerque police officer. Who was this officer? Why, an officer specifically called out by the DOJ report for killing before and then telling conflicting stories about the event.

Mary Hawkes spoke out about her life before she was gunned down.

I lived in Albuquerque for 5 years. If you went downtown on a Friday or Saturday night, the place would be flooded with cops on horses swinging batons. I saw blood literally flowing in the streets on multiple occasions after white police officers beat the living hell out of young brown people. It was crazy.

And look, Albuquerque is a hard town. Breaking Bad is what Burquenos call a “documentary.” But that said, the APD legal thugs police only make these problems worse through their systematic shoot first policy.

Castro On The Ball (1959)

[ 21 ] April 24, 2014 |

Tonight’s Pathe film is a short bit on Fidel Castro shortly after

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the revolution.

Fashions of the Future, 1893

[ 21 ] April 24, 2014 |


The fashions of the 20th century, as imagined in 1893

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More or less what Motley Crue was wearing on the Girls Girls Girls tour.

Chinese Water

[ 26 ] April 24, 2014 |

Hard to see the problem:

Beijing’s water authorities have defended their plan to ease the capital’s water shortage by processing seawater from the highly polluted Bohai Gulf, a mainland newspaper reported.

The capital’s municipal government has announced a project to build a desalination plan in Tangshan in Hebei province to process one million tonnes of water a day by 2019 to ease Beijing’s water crisis.

Wang Xiaoshui, the general manager of the project, told The Beijing News the plan was feasible and dismissed concerns the water would be undrinkable. The water will be treated to strip it of salt, heavy metals and bacteria and will be drinkable straight from the tap.

The plan has prompted public concerns because Bohai, the innermost gulf of the Yellow Sea, has some of China’s most polluted waters.

I have said before that the greatest challenge both China and India face in continuing their rise as world powers is the ability to manage their environmental issues. I tend to believe China has a better chance of this than India, but sending polluted water to your capital for consumption does make me think twice. I suppose the Chinese could develop systems that truly make this drinkable, but somehow I’m skeptical.

Unpaid Internships

[ 47 ] April 24, 2014 |

Indeed, unpaid internships should be illegal. Stolen labor is never acceptable.

Chicken Plays Baseball

[ 14 ] April 23, 2014 |

Tonight’s Pathe film shows a psychological experiment from 1960 revolving around teaching a chicken to play baseball. Sound is lost.

Really, this chicken would be in the upper half of the players who have graced a Cubs uniform in the last century.

In Your Heart You Know He’s Right

[ 170 ] April 23, 2014 |

A reminder of the loveliness of

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the Goldwater campaign.


From Ludlow to Upper Big Branch

[ 16 ] April 23, 2014 |

I have a piece up at Bill Moyers’ site connecting the exploitation that led to the Ludlow Massacre of 1914 with coal companies exploitation of labor and degradation of nature today:

In recent years, American mining companies have undermined the effectiveness of many of these reforms. West Virginia mandates that the state legislature must approve all environmental regulations, making meaningful regulation all but impossible. The companies managed to influence the scientific testing of black lung claims. Miners suffering from black lung need to have their cases confirmed by doctors, but a single pro-coal scientist at Johns Hopkins University denied all 1,500 cases he saw between 2000 and 2013. After the Center for Public Integrity exposed this travesty — winning a Pulitzer Prize in the process — Johns Hopkins suspended its black lung testing program.

Today, mountaintop removal mining reshapes West Virginia and Kentucky, dumping millions of tons of contaminated soil into valleys, poisoning waterways and sickening residents. Coal companies claim it is the most cost-effective process, but it forces the long-term costs of mining onto local communities. It poisons waterways with mercury, lead, arsenic and selenium. Improper storage of coal waste also leads to polluted waterways. A Duke Energy coal ash leak in North Carolina earlier this year turned at least 27 million gallons of water in the Dan River into a toxic soup, polluting the water source for Danville, Va.

In 2010, 29 miners died at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, the nation’s deadliest mine explosion since 1970. Don Blakenship, CEO of the mine’s owner, Massey Energy, had long fought against safety and environmental regulations. The mine’s operation was officially and notoriously unsafe, having racked up over 500 safety violations in the year before the explosion. After the disaster, Massey denied time off for miners to go to their friends’ funerals. Blankenship called the explosion an “act of God” and denied all responsibility.

Upper Big Branch was a non-union mine. The coal companies have managed to reduce the UMWA to a shell of its former strength by closing union mines while investing in new non-union mines in the West, and automating jobs that allow them to lay off union members. And when workers lack a voice to fight for their own safety, the results can be disastrous. The UMWA only has 75,000 members today, down from 500,000 in 1946 and 240,000 in 1998. In 2006, an explosion at the non-union Sago Mine in West Virginia killed 13 miners, but the mine was only fined $71,800 for safety violations. Robert Murray, owner of the non-union Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah blew off the safety violations his operation received in 2006 as trivialities. The next year a mine collapse killed six miners and, later, three rescue workers searching for their bodies. When the UMWA criticized Murray’s safety record, he told family members of the dead, “the union is your enemy.” The coal industry is now fighting to reduce the already limited inspections

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of its mines.

The UMWA struggles to keep up its fight against black lung disease. The number of miners afflicted with the illness has risen in recent years, especially among younger miners. Fifty-two percent of the 113,000 mine dust samples turned into government regulators by coal companies since 1987 exceeded federal standards. Seventy-one percent of the miners who died at Upper Big Branch had already developed the lung lesions that are typical of black lung.

Like John D. Rockefeller Jr., a century ago, Blankenship, Murray and other coal mining CEOs destroy lives and ecosystems without consequences.

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