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How Long Until a Government Land Manager Dies?

[ 181 ] May 9, 2014 |

The government using kid gloves with Cliven Bundy has just encouraged others in the West to step up their aggression against government land managers. First, Utah:

After two armed men threatened a Bureau of Land Management wrangler on Tuesday in western Utah, workers are removing BLM logos from their vehicles to help avoid additional incidents, the Salt Lake Tribune reported on Thursday.

The wrangler was driving on a highway near Mills, Utah when two people in a pick-up truck pulled up along side the vehicle. The occupants “told him he was No. 1 with that certain gesture,” Eric Reid, the wrangler’s supervisor at the BLM Fillmore Field Office, told the Tribune.

The men then reappeared in the pick-up truck a few minutes later wearing hoods and holding up a sign that read, “You need to die.” One of the men pointed a Glock handgun at the wrangler.

And then, New Mexico:

The water is drying up, making every stream worth a fight.

Ranchers in Otero County are wrangling with the Forest Service over a patch of land where a creek called Agua Chiquita runs.

The Forest Service says it built a new, sturdy fence to keep cattle away from a recovering river habitat, but cattlemen say the new fence and locked gates infringe on long-standing water rights.

The battle goes beyond a single stream and the single ranching family directly affected, say ranchers and county officials, and rests on the principle that even on federal land, ranchers holding water rights dating to before 1907 – as often happens in Otero County – should have access to the water, including the portion downstream of the fenced-in area.

The Forest Service says

it has a right to manage the land, including where water flows.

After the Forest Service refused to open the gates, the Otero County commissioners this week demanded the sheriff cut the locks, potentially igniting a confrontation on the order of Nevada’s Cliven Bundy, the rancher who has rallied armed supporters in a fight against federal land managers. So far cooler heads have prevailed in New Mexico.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has agreed to mediate the conflict next week, according to Otero County attorney Blair Dunn and a spokeswoman for Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M. The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment.

“I really, truly believe the U.S. Attorney is going to be able to facilitate this in a fashion that prevents it from escalating to what happened in Nevada,” Dunn said. “That is where things feel like they are headed.”

Well, we will see about that.

The increased aggression of these angry white men in the rural West is quite worrisome. I know no one wants another Ruby Ridge or Waco but at the same time, government land managers are going to start getting injured or killed if it

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becomes clear to rural westerners that they can intimidate without consequence. Some sort of these people are just jokers and bullies, but a continued escalation of aggression will probably not end well.

The Most Dangerous State for Workers

[ 35 ] May 8, 2014 |

North Dakota, thanks to an oil industry that continues to shirk on workplace safety.

According to the AFL-CIO, the most dangerous U.S. state for workers is North Dakota, which the report calls “an exceptionally dangerous and deadly place to work.” Its fatality rate — almost 18 deaths per 100,000 workers — is five times higher than the national average. It’s also double the state’s 2007 rate, when it stood at 7 deaths per 100,000 workers.

North Dakota’s spike in workplace deaths illustrates the dark side of the state’s booming energy industry, which has brought both high-paying jobs and problems such as rising crime rates and homelessness, thanks to a lack of housing. The rising rate of workplace deaths suffered in the oil and gas industry was called “unacceptable” by Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez last year.

“A particular focus is needed on the oil and gas industry,” said Peg Seminario, director of safety and health for the AFL-CIO, on a conference call with reporters. “With that industry growing and expanding, we’ve seen an expansion of fatalities not just in North Dakota, but in other states. It needs much more attention by employers, OSHA, and other state and federal agencies.”

GMOs

[ 331 ] May 8, 2014 |

I’ve long thought GMOs were the most overrated scary issue current liberals care about. But I never quite had the right words. Mark Bittman does:

Then there are G.M.O.’s: OMG (the palindrome is irresistible). Someone recently said to me, “The important issues are food policy, sustainability and G.M.O.’s.” That’s like saying, “The important issues are poverty, war and dynamite.” G.M.O.’s are cogs in industrial agriculture, the way dynamite is in war; take either away, and you have solved virtually nothing.

By themselves and in their current primitive form, G.M.O.s are probably harmless; the technology itself is not even a little bit nervous making. (Neither we nor plants would be possible without “foreign DNA” in our cells.) But to date G.M.O.’s have been used by companies like Monsanto to maximize profits and further removing the accumulated expertise of generations of farmers from agriculture; in those goals, they’ve succeeded brilliantly. They have not been successful in moving sustainable agriculture forward (which is relevant because that was their claim), nor has their deployment been harmless: It’s helped accelerate industrial agriculture and its problems and strengthened the positions of unprincipled companies.

But the technology itself has not been found to be harmful, and we should recognize the possibility that the underlying science could well be useful (as dynamite can be useful for good), particularly with greater public investment and oversight.

Let’s be clear: Biotech in agriculture has been overrated both in its benefits and in its dangers. And by overrating its dangers, the otherwise generally rational “food movement” allows itself to be framed as “anti-science.”

Right–technology is neither a miracle nor evil. GMOs are part of the larger problem with modern agribusiness but it’s not like monstrous Frankenfood is going to destroy your body or put chips in your brain so that Obama can follow your thoughts. The actual evidence that GMOs are harmful is pretty much nil and while I do think there are problems around patents and non-reproducing plants that are serious, this is one left of center issue I just can’t relate to.

This Day in Labor History: May 8, 1970

[ 87 ] May 8, 2014 |

On May 8, 1970, 200 unionized construction workers attacked an anti-war march in the wake of the Kent State shooting a few days before. The so-called Hard Hat Riot placed an image in the American mind of right-wing workers opposed to social justice that sadly remains far too prevalent today.

Unfortunately, the actions of a small number of unionists are used 44 years later as evidence of why unions can’t be trusted by otherwise progressive people. Although the national AFL-CIO supported the Vietnam War, the reality is that the union movement is very ideologically diverse and was so even more at that time, when there were many more unions than the present. Many union members and union leaders opposed the Vietnam War. Many had fought there and came back bitter. Others fought there and were die-hard supporters.

But the building trades have long been bastions of conservatism in the labor movement, whether the United Brotherhood of Carpenters not endorsing a Democratic candidate for president until 1964 (and mostly not endorsing Dems today) or the Laborers supporting the Keystone XL Pipeline. There are exceptions to this–the Painters tend to be quite a bit more liberal. But the building traders generally supported the war. That was especially true of Peter Brennan, president of the powerful Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York and vice-president of the state AFL-CIO. Brennan was moving significantly to the right in these years, around Vietnam and other issues. Hating hippies was pretty easy for Brennan.

On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard killed 4 students at Kent State University, leading to the largest protests of the war. Protests continued after the Kent State massacre. New York mayor John Lindsey ordered flags to be flown at half mast to honor the 4 dead. On the morning of May 8, hundreds of young people gathered at Federal Hall in Lower Manhattan for a protest. Brennan coordinated construction workers to attack them. The construction unions were largely white male unions that had resisted desegregation and gender equality; they felt themselves and their cultural values under attack from many forces and that included those protesting the war in Vietnam.

Around noon, about 200 construction workers attacked them from all four directions. There was a police presence but it was thin and the police didn’t try very hard anyway. The construction workers, carrying American flags and patriotic slogans, singled out the men with the longest hair and beat them. They began tearing up nearby buildings as well as the attacks verged nearly out of control. One of the first things the construction workers did was to raise the flags back to full mast, a direct rebuke to Lindsay, who many saw as unmanly and cowardly for kowtowing to antiwar protestors and hippies. About 70 people were sent to the hospital, mostly students but including 4 policemen. Brennan claimed it was a spontaneous demonstration by workers sick of hippies desecrating the American flag. This was an obvious lie.

The construction unions were largely white male unions that had resisted desegregation and gender equality; they felt themselves and their cultural values under attack from many forces and that included those protesting the war in Vietnam.Around noon, about 200 construction workers attacked them from all four directions. There was a police presence but it was thin and the police didn’t try very hard anyway.

hardhat

Throughout the rest of May, building trades workers continued to rally. On May 20, the rallies became officially sponsored by the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, with 100,000 people festooned with flags and signs reading “God Bless the Establishment” and “We Support Nixon and Agnew.” Construction workers in St. Louis held similar rallies. Very quickly, the hippies began distrusting labor unions as part of the corrupted establishment. In the 1971 hippie dystopian film Punishment Park, about a world where the hippies are rounded up, tried in kangaroo courts, and then given the option of fleeing from the army for their freedom in the eponymous park, one of the key figures on the courts is a unionist, masking his evil in vague language of workers’ interests but in fact just being a tool of the man. Such images of labor unions became all too common on the American left, sometimes not without reason, as we see in this post.

But again, it’s important that we today push back against “labor” being pro-Vietnam. Polls showed that manual laborers were more opposed to the war than the college-educated. These were not public sector unionists or industrial unionists or even all building trades unionists. This was a small sector of labor. Moreover, what galled many of the working-class people at the protest was not the lack of support for the war itself, but rather the privilege of the anti-war protestors who were using college deferments to avoid the war while they sent their sons and themselves to Vietnam. There were lots of tensions at work here, but they were more complex than presented at the time. And they are basically irrelevant today. People talking about this today with any relevance to the present might as well pull any event from the American movement 44 years ago. It would be relevant if American labor unionists began beating Occupy protestors or environmentalists rallying against Keystone. But even if such a horrible thing happened, it would be one very labor union acting very badly, not all of organized labor. We need to recognize this and place it in context of who is the problem here. In 1970, it was the New York building trades and their ambitious hippie-hating leader, not the United Auto Workers or United Steel Workers of America.

Of course Richard Nixon thought of all this was great. All his talk about “law and order” did not apply at all to rioting construction workers. Nixon repaid Brennan for his actions by naming him Secretary of Labor. Brennan continued in the job into the Ford Administration. Ford replaced him in 1975 whereupon he returned to his old post in the Building Trades Council. Brennan died in 1996. Congressmen Peter King, a man wrapped up in the politics that drove Brennan nearly a half-century ago, saluted him for “standing up to the antiwar protesters who tried to take over our streets.”

Bits of this are taken from Jefferson Cowie’s Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the American Working Class, although he doesn’t talk about this event much. Joshua Freeman’s “Hardhats: Construction Workers, Manliness, and the 1970 Pro-War Demonstrations” from the Summer 1993 issue of Journal of Social History was also used. I understand that Penny Lewis’ recent book is quite good on this history, but I have not read it.

This is the 105th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

Rootless Cosmopolitans

[ 24 ] May 8, 2014 |

This song by the great Jewish guitarist Marc Ribot

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(who I saw play in New York in January and oh my god) goes out to scumbag anti-Semitic blog trolls who would be better off gagging themselves everywhere. It comes off his Rootless Cosmopolitans album which is really great.

….Also, Ribot’s Yo! I Killed Your God is the greatest album title of all time.

Johnny Cash as John Brown

[ 45 ] May 7, 2014 |

For the 1985 miniseries North and South, the producers hired the greatest actor of his generation to play John Brown. His name? Mr. John R. Cash.

Via

Temporary Work is Dangerous Work

[ 26 ] May 7, 2014 |

On July 29, 2013, a Florida propane plant owned by Blue Rhino, who makes those big propane tanks you can buy at Wal-Mart, exploded. 5 workers were severely burned. OSHA claims Blue Rhino broke 26 workplace safety rules and fined it $73,000. Which is almost nothing considering the size of Blue Rhino and the injuries involved. Blue Rhino of course denies everything and blames careless employees, i.e., what almost every single employer has said about almost every single workplace accident for the entire history of industrialization. But for me, the lede is buried.

Many of Blue Rhino’s employees were temporary workers from a staffing agency, which is also facing OSHA fines for failing to properly train the laborers to work with hazardous materials.

While it’s unclear whether any of the injured workers were temp workers, the fines strongly suggest they were involved. It’s not surprising at all that these workers would be poorly trained for the dangerous labor they were engaged in. And of course, these should have been Blue Rhino employees. But manufacturers use temp labor all the time, sometimes to solve a short-term staffing problem, but quite often to offload the risk and cost of a new employee onto a contractor, allowing the company to pay them very little while trying them out on the job. It’s an exploitative system and one that can be quite dangerous.

Republicans Celebrate WPA Day by Honoring the Nation’s Infrastructure

[ 83 ] May 7, 2014 |

As we discussed, yesterday was the 79th birthday of the Works Progress Administration, a huge government program to employ the nation’s unemployed while building a modern infrastructure.

How did the Republicans celebrate the occasion?

Republicans controlling the House unveiled legislation on Tuesday that proposes a huge cut to a transportation grant program championed by President Barack Obama that funds road and bridge projects, light rail networks, port construction and bike paths.

The so-called TIGER grant program dates to Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus bill and was funded at $600 million this year. Obama wants to nearly double the program’s budget, but the newly released spending bill covering federal transportation and housing programs offers the administration just $100 million, an 83 percent cut from current levels.

The $52 billion measure maintains funding for community development block grants popular with local governments and fully funds an upgrade to the Federal Aviation Administration’s NextGen air traffic control system. But it proposes cuts to Amtrak capital construction and slices $1.2 billion from Obama’s request for housing subsidies for the poor.

The Republican Party, as forward thinking as always.

Cheerleader Wages

[ 92 ] May 7, 2014 |

I guess I always assumed that NFL cheerleaders were reasonably well-compensated for the rather significant role they play for most teams. Of course I was wrong.

The Jets are Gang “Not a Lot of” Green when it comes to paying their cheerleaders, a new lawsuit charges.

The suit, filed by a former Jets cheerleader identified in court papers as Krystal C., says she was paid an average of $3.77 an hour for her time on the Flight Crew — or $1.50 an hour after out-of-pocket expenses.

“The Jets, while paying millions of dollars to its male athletes for a single season of work, have historically and currently pay less than minimum wage to its cheerleading staff,” the Bergen County, N.J. lawsuit says.

“We didn’t complain because we were always told how lucky we were to be able to perform and we were lucky,” Krystal told the Daily News. “But I didn’t think it was right to pay us so little when we all worked so hard and we were 100% there all the time.”

Her deal called for her to be paid $150 per game and $100 for special events — but that didn’t take into account the full cheer schedule.

She loved the fans and her fellow Flight Crew members. She gave a lot of thought to taking this step.

“The cheerleaders are required to work ‘off the clock’ at home, attend rehearsals three days a week from May through December without pay, attend ‘charity events’ without pay, and are required to spend their own money on travel, uniform maintenance and cosmetic and hairstyling requirements set by the Jets,” the suit says.

They’re also required to show up three and a half hours before game time, and to stay 30 minutes after the end of the game, the suit says.

Practices were held three times a week, and lasted about three hours, and the cheerleaders were required to keep practicing at home, the suit says.

They were also required “to maintain a specific personal appearance, including hair style, make up and nail appearance,” all at their own “personal expense,” the suit says.


Cheerleaders for the Buffalo Bills are also suing over their low wages.

And the lesson is to always assume workers are getting screwed over. Always. Because you are rarely going to be wrong.

The Cost of Violating OSHA Regulations

[ 125 ] May 6, 2014 |

You violate OSHA regulations, you may become a superhero:

In “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) is a mild-mannered electrical engineer with an inferiority complex. That is, until he becomes Electro in one of the most blatant series of workplace safety-protocol violations ever committed to film.

He’s forced to stay behind after hours to fix a circuit. Without a buddy or spot — and thus not complying with Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulation 1910.120 — Max climbs to the top of a catwalk above several tanks of genetically modified electrical eels. He does so without the proper use of a standard harness, infringing OSHA fall-protection guidelines. He is unable to get another employee to shut off power, in blatant violation of rudimentary OSHA electrical guidelines. He balances on top of the catwalk railing and — without the use of standard work-issue insulted rubber gloves (see OSHA 1910.137(a)(1) for voltage-class requirements) — reconnects the cable. He then pushes the cable back into its slot, is severely shocked, falls a long distance into one of the eel tanks, is shocked by those eels and eventually becomes Electro.

This sequence of events — and essentially the entire plot of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ — could have been avoided if Max’s employer, Oscorp Industries, complied with even the most basic workplace health and safety standards.

You have been warned.

Kick Stacey Campfield Out of the Tennessee Senate

[ 27 ] May 6, 2014 |

As I mentioned in the comments on the Stacey Campfield post where he compared Obamacare to the Holocaust, I lived in east Tennessee in the late 90s when he was getting his start. He’s always been a lunatic. I still have friends in the Knoxville area who are deeply involved in liberal politics there. And based upon their support, I urge you to donate to Cheri Siler, who is running against Campfield.

This was Siler’s response to Campfield:

cheriquote.jpg

It’s not often that I endorse a specific candidate on the blog, but this is a special case.

Stimulus

[ 34 ] May 6, 2014 |

The obvious reason we should build the Keystone XL Pipeline is that the inevitable spills will stimulate the economy since we have to clean them up.

Kinder Morgan wants to spend $5.4 billion tripling the capacity of an oil pipeline between the tar sands of Alberta and the Vancouver, B.C., area. Yes, the company acknowledges, there’s always the chance of a “large pipeline spill.” But it says the “probability” of such an accident is “low.” And anyway, if a spill does happen, it could be an economic boon.

“Spill response and cleanup” after oil pipeline ruptures, such as the emergency operations near Kalamazoo, Mich., in 2010 and in the Arkansas community of Mayflower last year, create “business and employment opportunities for affected communities, regions, and cleanup service providers,” the company argues.

Those aren’t the outrageous comments of a company executive shooting off his mouth while a reporter happened to be neaby. Those are quotes taken from an official document provided to the Canadian government in support of the company’s efforts to expand its pipeline.

I don’t want those hosers to get all the good economic opportunity. Now I want all the pipelines to come through the U.S. Make ‘em nice and leaky!

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