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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.

Vergès

[ 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.

Ackley

[ 7 ] August 16, 2013 |

This is pretty close to the most devastating critique I’ve ever read of a baseball player.

Comply

[ 78 ] August 16, 2013 |

I’m not particularly comfortable with the idea of boycotting the Winter Olympics in Russia because of the nation’s anti-gay laws. Mostly, I don’t think it’s fair to athletes to be used as pawns in a political game and I do think that athletes can become Tommie Smith and John Carlos, protesting in very powerful ways. What would be more powerful, a boycott or athletes on the medal stand making clear statements in solidarity with gay Russians? The latter by far.

That said, the idea that U.S. athletes should “comply” with Russia’s anti-gay laws, as suggested by United States Olympic Committee chief executive Scott Blackmun, is deeply offensive. His point is that athletes should always comply with the laws of the country where they visit. 99% of the time that is absolutely correct. Complying with laws that violate basic standards of decency and discriminate against people, well that’s a whole other thing.

Foxconn Labor Strife

[ 16 ] August 16, 2013 |

Glad to see workers in China fighting back against their conditions of work at Foxconn. Of course, I’m sure that the computer industry will move the factory to Vietnam or Cambodia. After all, given the lack of profits made by Apple and Foxconn, there’s no way they companies can afford to pay these workers enough to eat.

Mining Sacred Spaces

[ 24 ] August 15, 2013 |

What’s more important, Kiowa sacred spaces or the whims of a mining capitalist who wants to tear up a sacred Kiowa mountain in order to mine limestone? I think we know which. The state could get involved, but it is in Oklahoma, so there’s little hope.

Seniority

[ 118 ] August 15, 2013 |

The Philadelphia school system has decided to use a classic union-busting tactic: destroy seniority provisions:

There’s something about seniority that really rubs a lot of people the wrong way. It challenges our national mythology about meritocracy, a myth that ignores the race, gender, and class privileges that underlie a system where I as a white dude just happen to succeed where others don’t. Unions defend seniority not because it is perfect. No system is perfect. They defend it because it is the only system that is fair to workers.* Otherwise, how do we decide who has job preference? Like the Philadelphia schools, it is employers who want to decide. Employers are going to favor those they like, those who don’t support the union, those that are toadies. It is also an illegal labor action and let’s hope this pernicious union-busting gets fought off.

*Obviously the one exception to this was with affirmative action. That’s a complex story. The exception is noted before someone brings it up.

Today in American Corporations Using Slave Labor

[ 30 ] August 15, 2013 |

Shipbuilding corporation Signal International has some very special labor practices, policies that more corporations would emulate if they could get away it:

The lawsuits allege that Signal and its agents defrauded guest workers out of millions of dollars in exorbitant “recruitment fees” and falsely promised help in applying for and obtaining permanent US residence.

The guest workers sold family property and heirlooms, and incurred crippling debt, to each pay as much as $25,000 to Signal, they charged.

Once these workers were lured to Signal’s shipyards in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and Orange, Texas, they were forced to live in overcrowded, unsanitary and racially segregated labour camps, the news release alleged.

Signal, used the US government’s H-2B visa guest worker programme to import these employees from India to work as welders and pipefitters after Hurricane Katrina scattered its workforce, SPLC said.

Usually capital mobility moves to other nations in order to exploit labor. But sometimes it draws workers from afar to its manufacturing sites, keeps them in social isolation so they can’t complain, and treats them as if they actually had moved to Vietnam or India or Honduras.