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The Southern Thing

[ 23 ] August 21, 2013 |

Patterson Hood with a long essay on what has become his lasting statement, as much as he might not always be comfortable with it, the duality of the southern thing, particularly in the context of a South that is changing rapidly.

The song begins at about 3:20 in the clip.

Also, Hood correctly notes that Cooley wrote the two best songs on Southern Rock Opera, by which I assume he means this

and this

Immigration Reform Not Happening

[ 40 ] August 21, 2013 |

I have to admit that I was optimistic that meaningful immigration reform would happen in 2013. Although I didn’t think I could underestimate the Republican commitment to white supremacy, I thought political reality and changing demographics would force just enough Republicans out of insanity to vote for some kind of package that had a pathway to citizenship.

Alas, no.

And there’s almost no chance for immigration reform in 2014 either, not with primary challenges to every Republican to the left of Benito Mussolini.

It’s all incredibly depressing. It’s basically going to be up to President Obama to take executive actions on immigration, which will have the political benefit of reminding everyone in 2016 which party is the party of New Jim Crow and white supremacy and which is not. On the down side, it takes actual laws to create meaningful, long-term change and that pretty much isn’t happening until at least 2015 and probably 2017.

Silver Lining

[ 15 ] August 21, 2013 |

The Obama Administration has made some positive moves in the wake of the West fertilizer plant explosion that killed at least 15 people in April, which is good because the state of Texas certainly wasn’t going to do anything:

Although it seems incongruous to say that anything good could come from such a tragedy, the fact is West has been the catalyst for a more systematic approach to chemical safety. An executive order from President Obama establishes a new Chemical Facility Safety and Security Working Group and creates a series of deadlines that a team of Cabinet members and agency heads must meet for updating best safety practices, data-sharing and emergency response. The first deadline is set for mid-September, when the team must develop a pilot program to determine best practices for agency collaboration. Other improvements include making sure that state and local governments better coordinate their emergency-response efforts. The final deadline, set for next spring, will create a unified federal approach for identifying and responding to potential dangers at chemical facilities. The directive calls for a specific evaluation on how to improve the handling of ammonium nitrate because it is so volatile. Although the U.S. chemical industry has regularly fought such efforts, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue an alert on the hazards of ammonium nitrate, its first since 1997.

West relied on an emergency plan that assumed there was no risk of an explosion. Texas regulators hadn’t inspected the fertilizer plant in five years. Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors had not been on site since 1985. That sort of inattention and unawareness is what the executive order seeks to prevent, in light of the fact that ammonium nitrate is stockpiled in hundreds of depots and warehouses around the country. They, too, are accidents waiting to happen.

It will be worth monitoring to see what this all leads over the next few years.

….Mike Elk noted to me that the Houston Chronicle claim about the plant not being inspected was not quite accurate and pointed me here for clarification.

On Tanning Salons

[ 92 ] August 20, 2013 |

Not that fashion is exactly my wheelhouse, but this piece on the growth of tanning salon use among white teenage women and the very real health risks involved is worth a mention, not only because it is a growing public health problem that exists for no good reason, but because tanning salons are stupid. When I was at the University of Oregon in the 1990s, along about February you’d see 95% of students looking as pasty as can be after 4 months of gloom. And then there would be the 5% of young women (although a few guys too) who would be almost obscenely bronzed. They looked ridiculous. Obviously, I wasn’t the target demographic here, but they were putting their health at risk and making themselves look like alien freaks at the same time. Every time I hear about tanning salons, I think of these students.

I’m glad Obamacare forces a 10% tax on tanning salon use. It should probably be regulated as tightly as smoking and highly discouraged.

Lead and Fracking

[ 20 ] August 20, 2013 |

Industry fought against all evidence that lead exposure hurt people since at least 1767. Robin Russell-Jones rightfully compares that to the battle against fracking today, with industry saying that there are no major environmental problems at all with the process, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The lesson is to never trust industry positions on the environmental or health effects of their products. In fact, we’d be better off assuming they are lying and forcing corporations to convince us they are not.

Today in Duh

[ 32 ] August 20, 2013 |

It’s sad that we still need major scientific panels to determine whether humans caused global warming. I’m sure this won’t stop Jim Inhofe and his Merry Band of Corporate Hacks in Congress from claiming this was just a bunch of liberal commie treehuggers instead of real scientists, you know the kind who cash their checks and create findings to fit current Republican policy points.

The Cherished Principle of Amateurism

[ 45 ] August 18, 2013 |

It is obviously extremely important for the purity of the NCAA to not allow this guy to play college football:

A Middle Tennessee freshman who finished five years of active service in the Marines this summer is appealing an NCAA rule preventing him from playing this season because he played in a recreational league in the military.

According to The Daily News Journal, the rule essentially says student-athletes that do not enroll in college within a year of graduating high school will be charged one year of collegiate eligibility for every academic year they participate in organized competition.

By NCAA standards, Steven Rhodes’ play at the Marine base counted as “organized competition” because there were game officials, team uniforms and the score was kept.

But the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Marine sergeant said the recreational league was nothing close to organized.

“Man, it was like intramurals for us,” said the 24-year-old. “There were guys out there anywhere from 18 to 40-something years old. The games were spread out. We once went six weeks between games.”

If you let former Marines play college football after participating in glorified scrimmages, the next thing you know schools will be making hundreds of millions of dollars off the game, turning the snow-white purity of the NCAA into an exploitative system that makes a mockery of amateur athletics. And we can’t have that.

Labor and Nature in the Fields

[ 28 ] August 18, 2013 |

Mark Bittman is making sense:

Oddly, affordability is not the problem; in fact, the tomatoes are too cheap. If they cost more, farmers like Rominger would be more inclined to grow tomatoes organically; to pay his workers better or offer benefits to more of them; to make a better living himself.

But the processed tomato market is international, with increasing pressure from Italy, China and Mexico. California has advantages, but it still must compete on price. Producers also compete with one another, making it tough for even the most principled ones to increase worker pay. To see change, then, all workers, globally, must be paid better, so that the price of tomatoes goes up across the board.

How does this happen? Unionization, or an increase in the minimum wage, or both. No one would argue that canned tomatoes should be too expensive for poor people, but by increasing minimum wage in the fields and elsewhere, we raise standards of living and increase purchasing power.

The issue is paying enough for food so that everything involved in producing it — land, water, energy and labor — is treated well. And since sustainability is a journey, progress is essential. It would be foolish to assert that we’re anywhere near the destination, but there is progress — even in those areas appropriately called “industrial.”

I agree with everything in this article. I suppose he could have talked to a worker or two to investigate the conditions a bit more, but the overall point about making the food system more fair to the land and to people is excellent.

Saturday Night

[ 28 ] August 17, 2013 |

For this Saturday night, we need to have as much fun as Bobby Grich did when pouring beer on Richard Nixon’s head after the California Angels won the 1979 AL West title.

Gene Autry, “The Death of Old Mother Jones”

[ 9 ] August 17, 2013 |

One doesn’t exactly think of future Reaganite and California Angels owner Gene Autry as a crazy radical, but he did record “The Death of Old Mother Jones” in 1931.

Fracking and Water

[ 34 ] August 17, 2013 |

Among the many problems with fracking is how we have prioritized the fossil fuel industry’s access to precious water supplies over that of regular citizens. In Texas, where fracking goes unchallenged and where extraordinary drought has challenged all users of water, towns are losing their water supply while water-intensive fracking operations drive precious water far underground.

I mean, when you are praying for a hurricane to replenish your aquifer, you know you are at the end of the line as a town. Although I’m sure David Petraeus would happily tell these Texans why losing their water is a good idea, and at a very reasonable price.


[ 9 ] August 17, 2013 |

Say what you will about Jacques Vergès, but everyone deserves the best defense possible, even if it is Klaus Barbie or your long-time friend Pol Pot.

If you’ve never seen Terror’s Advocate, do so.