“What Should the Captain Do?” by Alpha Unit

 

Look, Cromie,  this isn’t a ship. You don’t have to go down with it!

  • from “Reilly: Ace of Spies”

In the popular imagination, there has been the idea that a captain is supposed to do everything in his power to save his passengers or die trying. But the answer to the question is “No.”  If a ship is sinking, and everything possible has been done to evacuate crew and passengers, the captain is under no obligation to remain at the helm and go to a watery grave. So where does this idea that a captain goes down with the ship come from?

Throughout history ships’ masters have shown this resolve to stay with sinking vessels, and it had less to do with lofty principle than with concerns over salvage rights. Under ancient maritime law, an abandoned ship could be salvaged by anyone able to put a line on it and bring it safely into port, according to Craig Allen, a Professor of Maritime Studies at the US Coast Guard and at Yale Law School.

The salvor may then be entitled to a substantial salvage award from the owners, based on the value of the abandoned ship and its cargo. So long as the captain or crew remained on the stricken vessel, however, the terms of any salvage arrangement can be negotiated, likely resulting in a lower salvage award.

So traditionally the captain stayed with a damaged ship to protect the ship owners’ interests. Even in the absence of potential salvors, with a captain on the ship it was easier for owners to arrange a towing contract to get the vessel back to port.

Maritime law holds that a captain is responsible for his or her vessel no matter what its condition. If his ship is in imminent peril, his responsibility includes executing the evacuation plan, which requires his presence for the duration. Out of a sense of duty, captains have believed that they must, if it can be managed, be the last person to get off the ship.

Although captains feel a moral duty to do so, it is usually not written that a captain must be the last person to leave the ship. The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), adopted in response to the sinking of the Titanic, does not specify that the captain remain on the ship throughout the emergency.

In 1948 the United Nations created the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Its International Safety Code has been adopted by most maritime nations (including the US), but it doesn’t mandate that a captain be the last one off the ship.

Individual countries pass their own laws about the conduct of ships’ masters during catastrophes within their jurisdictions. “Abandonment” of a ship can be prosecuted in some jurisdictions; other countries have prosecuted captains for negligence, or if there are deaths, manslaughter.

Some captains have defended leaving their vessels during evacuation by pointing out that nothing required them to stay until the end. Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t help.

“LaborFest 2019,” by Alpha Unit

The annual celebration called LaborFest has been going on since July 2 in San Francisco. Various cities across the country have their own LaborFest celebrations, but in San Francisco it is a monthlong series of cultural and arts events, including a film festival, to educate the public about the history of organized labor in America.

LaborFest commemorates the 1934 San Francisco General Strike, a key episode in the rise of organized labor in the United States. It was the first time that a major US port city was completely shut down by a strike. The result of the strike was the unionization of all ports on the West Coast.

On May 9, 1934, roughly 10,000 longshoremen went on strike all along the West Coast, to protest below-subsistence wages and the humiliating daily hiring experience known as the “shapeup.” Writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, Fred Glass explains:

In this exercise in employer absolutism, workers gathered early in the morning on the foggy docks along the Embarcadero, competing with one another in a desperate race to the bottom of the Depression wage scale.  Once at work, the worker might remain there for 10, 12, 16 or more hours. Injuries accumulated faster than cargo on the dock because of the frantic pace of the work. And should they imagine complaining, there were always more workers waiting to take their place.

Among those who’d had enough was Australian immigrant seaman Harry Bridges, who had started working the San Francisco docks in 1921. Bridges reached out to other maritime unions – including sailors’ unions and Teamsters – in May 1934 and within weeks, the number of striking workers increased to 40,000. Almost every West Coast port was shut down.

Employers had the support of San Francisco government officials, the police, and the local press. Police and employers’ armed “thugs” sent hundreds of strikers and their sympathizers to hospital emergency rooms.

On July 5, known ever since as Bloody Thursday, police shot and killed two strikers near the longshoremen’s union hall – World War I veteran and longshoreman Howard Sperry and marine cook Nicholas Bordoise. After lying in state their bodies were moved to the front of an enormous, silent funeral parade, writes Fred Glass. The discipline of the marchers inspired solidarity among other groups of workers and an outpouring of sympathy from San Francisco’s middle class, “scaring the bejesus out of San Francisco’s ruling elite.” Glass continues:

The conflict escalated into a four-day mostly peaceful…citywide general strike. The work stoppage  brought virtually all industrial and commercial operations of San Francisco to a halt. Although the San Francisco Labor Council assumed leadership of the general strike, its heart was the maritime workers unions’ headquarters. After the display of determined collective power, the maritime workers gained union recognition, substantial increase in wages, and control over their hiring halls.

Every year on July 5 the International Longshore and Warehouse Union honors Bloody Thursday, as a memorial to the lives lost during the strike and as a celebration of what they achieved. For Harry Bridges, the real fruit of the General Strike wasn’t the winning of any particular demand, according to the ILWU website, but an ever-expanding union.

The longshoremen turned San Francisco into a union town and embarked on a warehouse organizing drive that didn’t stop until it reached Baltimore on the East Coast. The ILWU went on to organize the entire state of Hawaii and expanded into Alaska and western Canada.

Now consider the words of William H. Crocker, a prominent San Francisco banker during the time of the General Strike. Crocker had served as a leader and strategist for the employers.

This strike is the best thing that ever happened to San Francisco…Mark my words. When this nonsense is out of the way and the men have been driven back to their jobs, we won’t have to worry about them anymore. They’ll have learned their lesson. Not only do I believe we’ll never have another general strike, but I don’t think we’ll have a strike of any kind in San Francisco during this generation. Labor is licked.

Not yet.

 

 

"They’re Not Oysters," by Alpha Unit

Connecticut, West Virginia, Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, Idaho, Nebraska, and Alaska have at least one thing in common: each has a Panhandle (WV has two). The Nebraska Panhandle is the westernmost part of Nebraska, where the prairie turns into rocky mesas, buttes, and pillars, such as Chimney Rock. It’s where the Midwest becomes the West.

Cattle outnumber people by about three to one in Nebraska. While Eastern Nebraska has excellent cropland for corn, the rest of the state is abundant with grassland for cattle grazing. In the semi-arid Panhandle, cattle ranching dominates. That means Rocky Mountain Oysters are a celebrated delicacy.

This past April the Sidney Shooting Park held its 8th Annual Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry and Fundraiser at the Cheyenne County Fairgrounds west of Sidney, Nebraska. At the Silver Dollar Bar and Grill, also in Sidney, you can stop in for cold beer, onion rings, and Rocky Mountain Oysters – described by one satisfied customer as hot, fresh, and tender.

They might have been hot, fresh, and tender, but you and I know that there aren’t any oyster reefs in Nebraska. These Oysters are bull testicles – or, more accurately, calf testicles. In spring or early summer, ranchers dehorn and castrate bull calves that they won’t be using as breeding stock. They call these non-breeding stock steers. The males that keep their testicles and are later used as breeding stock they call bulls. The main purpose of castration is to calm their tempers, says Dr. Jake Geis, cattle rancher and veterinarian.

Simply put, bulls like to fight. They fight to establish dominance and even after they settle the hierarchy, they fight to re-assert dominance. Dr. Geis says that he’s worked on bulls that have been banged up fighting each other; sometimes the animal is so badly injured that a rancher has no choice but to put it down. Breeding bulls are essential so the problem can’t be entirely avoided, but castrating the non-breeding animals reduces the number of bulls from half the calf crop to three or four.

Also, bulls are more aggressive toward people than steers. Castrating bulls makes them mellower and safer to work with. A herdsman could be seriously injured or killed by a bull while loading or unloading them via trailers.

Another problem, says Dr. Geis, is that when bull calves reach puberty, they want to start breeding. Young females, or heifers, on the other hand, aren’t ready to breed. They can get pregnant but they can’t yet safely deliver and raise a calf. Castration eliminates this problem.

Arguably the most important reason for castrating bull calves is that Americans prefer the taste of steer meat to that of bull meat. The hormone profile of steers with their reduced testosterone changes the flavor of the meat. Dr. Geis says that not all cultures share this preference. He mentions that in Italian culture bull meat is preferred. This means they raise the bulls to harvest weight but have to manage all the problems with aggressiveness and fighting.

With a pair of organs coming off each calf, ranchers could easily end up with scores of them in a day’s work. The dogs get their share before the ranchers, herdsmen, and their families cook the rest just as they would any other part of the animal. The same as cattlemen have done for centuries all over the world.

When they’re not castrating bulls, beef cattle herdsmen are doing various other things with cattle such as feeding, giving vaccinations, tagging or branding, trimming hooves, assisting with births, performing artificial insemination, loading animals onto trailers, driving feed trucks, maintaining pastures, mending fences, and just about anything else that needs to be done on the ranch or feedlot.

"From the Mississippi Delta to South Australia," by Alpha Unit

Don Morrison salvages old galvanized sheet metal from sheds and farms throughout Australia. The older the metal, the better, he says; some of this reclaimed metal is over 100 years old. He takes it to his workshop in Summertown, South Australia, where he fashions it into metal-bodied acoustic guitars. Of his material he says:

Galvanised iron, or Galvo, is now an integral part of the Australian landscape and it seemed natural (to me at least!) to try it in a resonator guitar. The result is a truly awesome sound, very loud but with a surprisingly rounded tone. I should call it the Transcontinental guitar – genuine Aussie material, genuine Delta sound!

That “Delta sound” refers to Delta blues, one of the early forms of blues. This music arose in the Mississippi Delta, which, despite its name, is not a part of the actual delta of the Mississippi River. Rather, it is located in the northwestern part of Mississippi, bounded by the Mississippi River on the west and the Yazoo River on the east.

This alluvial floodplain is one of the most fertile agricultural regions in the world. It was here that Black field hands created the music we call blues, using chants, “field hollers,” and songs to make their work go faster. Ed Kopp writes:

While blues lyrics often deal with personal adversity, the music itself goes far beyond self-pity. The blues is also about overcoming hard luck, saying what you feel, ridding yourself of frustration, letting your hair down, and simply having fun.
The best blues is visceral, cathartic, and starkly emotional. From unbridled joy to deep sadness, no form of music communicates more genuine emotion.

Although the sound of a resonator guitar is iconic to blues, blues musicians didn’t start out playing the resonator. The earliest bluesmen played an instrument called the diddley bow.
The diddley bow has been called “the godfather of American roots instruments.” It is the simplest form of the guitar and is the first type of slide guitar used in America. It was very easy to make, consisting of a string of wire tensioned between two nails on a board. A bottle or can wedged under the wire would create tension for pitch. The player would pluck the string while sliding a piece of metal or glass on it to produce notes.

One-stringed bow instruments date back to antiquity and developed in various parts of East Asia and in the west coast and Congo regions of Africa. Rural Black Southerners crafted these instruments and taught their children to play them. They would sometimes build one-stringed zithers on a wall, “with a strand of baling wire, two thread spools for bridges, and a half-pint whiskey bottle for a slider,” as slide guitar player Big Joe Williams recalled to one researcher.

Boys who showed promise on the diddley bow could graduate to a guitar if they were lucky enough to get a hold of one. Musicians such as Lightnin’ Hopkins, Elmore James, and B. B. King all first learned to play on the diddley bow.

Once musicians could afford guitars they quickly abandoned the diddley bow. And when the resonator guitar came along, they had a way to present their music to even larger audiences. The resonator, with its crisp metallic ring, created the signature sound of Delta blues. When you listen to Charley Patton, Robert Johnson, Son House, or Bukka White – among many others – you’re listening to Delta blues. Others, such as John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters, started out playing Delta blues.

This Delta sound is what craftsmen like Don Morrison aim to re-create. His resonators, like the very first of their kind, have built-in amplification – a feature that came about by demand.

Back in the early 1920s guitar players performing with dance orchestras couldn’t really stand out from the other players. Since there were no amplifiers, guitars were considered a part of the rhythm section instead of lead instruments. A vaudeville performer and promoter named George Beauchamp wanted an acoustic guitar that could play melodies over the orchestral instruments. He turned to John Dopyera, a violin repairman and luthier whose workshop was close to Beauchamp’s Los Angeles home.

John Dopyera and his brother Rudy experimented with various designs to achieve a smooth and balanced amplified sound and decided to mount cone-like aluminum resonators, similar to speaker cones, inside a metal guitar body. Dopyera found that using three smaller cones instead of one big cone gave the guitar the sound he’d been looking for. The tri-cone resonator guitar was born.

Beauchamp was impressed with the new design and proposed a business venture to Dopyera, who agreed. They created the National String Instrument Corporation in 1927. National guitars quickly became best sellers. The company soon created a wood-bodied model.

There were differences, though, between Beauchamp and Dopyera. Beauchamp preferred a single-cone resonator, not only because it was louder but because it was cheaper to make. For Dopyera, excellent sound and quality were top priorities. The two men finally went their separate ways when Dopyera found out that Beauchamp had claimed the patent for the single-cone resonator. In 1928 Dopyera quit National, with the intention of manufacturing his own single-cone resonator. John and his brother Emil formed the Dobro Manufacturing Company (named for the Dopyera Brothers).

Because National held the patent for his single-cone resonator, John Dopyera had to develop a new style of single-cone resonator. The single biggest change that he made was to the bridge of the guitar.

On a standard acoustic guitar, the bridge is glued directly to the top of the guitar. It has several functions: it holds the strings securely, sets the spacing of the strings, and acts as an external brace to the guitar body. Its other important job is transferring vibrations from the strings to the soundboard of the guitar. On a resonator guitar, the bridge is a part of the resonator cone.
For single-cone resonators, the cone has either a “biscuit” bridge or a “spider” bridge.
The National resonator used a biscuit cone, which is convex (pointing outward). Inside the tip of the cone sits a round wooden bridge (the biscuit), and set into the bridge is a small piece typically found on a guitar bridge – the saddle. The saddle keeps the strings elevated at the preferred height above the fretboard. The saddle transfers the string vibrations to the bridge and the bridge transfers them to the cone. The cone in turn vibrates, moving the air volume inside the guitar out through the sound holes.

For his Dobro resonator, John Dopyera decided to make his cone concave (pointing inward) and used an eight-legged “spider” bridge which straddled the cone. The vibrations from the strings travel from the saddle and down the spider “legs,” providing the cone with eight contact rods for vibration. The result is a loud, full-bodied tone.

Resonator guitars became popular in both blues and bluegrass. Dobro-style guitars, especially wood-bodied ones, were preferred by many bluegrass players. Blues players tended toward National-style tri-cone resonators. But plenty of guitarists break with tradition and use resonators in their own preferred ways.

Players liked resonators because, being louder than regular acoustic guitars, they could play for larger crowds in rural areas that didn’t have electricity for amplifiers. Street musicians, who had to set up without amplifiers, liked resonator guitars for the same reason.

Don Morrison makes both single-cone and tri-cone resonators. For his popular Rustbucket model, he says he flattens the corrugated steel sheets by walking on them so he can fit them through his ancient set of sheet metal rollers. Some of this old metal will still bear the makers’ stamps: Trademark Redcliffe, for example, or Lysaght Queen’s Head Australia or Emu Best. You’ll see these stamps on the backs of his guitars.

On some Rustbuckets he takes naturally weathered Galvo and adds an artificially rusted cone and sound holes, giving the guitar a distinctive, vintage look.

When he isn’t building resonators, Don Morrison is performing music, often Delta blues. During the ’90s his band, The Elmores, played blues classics by Elmore James and John Lee Hooker. He and his band Prawnhead are also a part of a “roots revolution” in popular music.

We honed our style on the streets and markets of Adelaide. We found the faster we played, the more money we made. We don’t play blues or folk, we don’t play country, we don’t play bluegrass, nor do we play rockabilly. But we play a mixture of all of those. We call it bluebilly.

Image courtesy of Slide Guitar for Beginners

"Fishing on the Big Black," by Alpha Unit

The Big Black River, flowing southwest across Mississippi, is the site of a pivotal battle during the Vicksburg Campaign of the Civil War. After a decisive loss at Champion Hill, the Confederates reached the Big Black River on the night of May 16, 1863, under the command of Lt. Gen. John Pemberton, commander of the Confederate Army of Mississippi.

The Confederates constructed earthworks on the river’s east bank and placed 18 guns behind the works. Large sections of Pemberton’s line were protected by a bayou of waist-deep water. A planked-over railroad bridge and another makeshift bridge provided access to additional artillery overlooking the river on its west bank.

Union forces led by Maj. Gen. John McClernand encountered the Confederates early on the morning of May 17. It just so happened that the men led by Brig. Gen. Michael Lawler actually got to the Rebels first, wading through the bayou to overrun the Confederates on the east bank of the river. Inspired by Lawler’s attack, other Union formations surged forward.

Overwhelmed, the Confederates broke for the makeshift bridges to get to the west bank. Most of Pemberton’s men made it across, but Pemberton’s chief engineer set fire to both bridges to cut off any Union pursuit. Many of the Confederates tried to swim across the river and drowned. About 1,700 Rebels were stranded on the east bank and subsequently captured. It was the final battle before the Siege of Vicksburg.

After floods you can still sometimes find artifacts from the gunboat battles that took place on the Big Black River during the War. But most people on the river nowadays aren’t really interested in Civil War artifacts. The big payoff during springtime on the Big Black are flathead catfish – also called tabby cats, shovelhead cats, yellow cats, flatties, and who knows how many other names. The Big Black River will overflow her banks that time of year. As Cliff Covington tells it:

Foraging catfish move into the flooded timber in large numbers. Catfish anglers take advantage of this feeding frenzy by setting multiple trotlines in likely spots along the main channel. Chicken livers, cut skipjack, live goldfish, and pond perch are the baits of choice when a boatload of catfish is the big objective.

Muddy and slow-flowing due to the large amount of sediment it carries, the Big Black River is renowned for yielding blue, channel, and flathead catfish of what Covington calls “mythical proportions.” It is one of the premier handgrabbing destinations in the South. A handgrabber catches fish by placing his hands directly into a catfish hole, and some anglers are very good at it. Covington refers to Woodie Reaves, who says there is no better place for handgrabbing catfish than the shallow waters of the Big Black.

While Reaves’ personal best is a 93-pound whale of a catfish that he wrestled from its underwater bed just a few years ago, his group routinely lands up to 25 big cats, averaging 50 pounds each, every time they venture out on this stream.

Sportsmen say that the Big Black River is also a good place for bowfishing. Bowfishers use highly specialized bows to catch fish, usually on a boat set up just for bowfishing. Hunting fish using a bow and arrow isn’t new at all and is a traditional way of fishing all over the world. Bert Turcotte of Vicksburg has been an avid bowfisher since high school and says that anyone with a regular bow can also fish this way. As he told Phillip Gentry:

All kinds of bows can be used for bowfishing. People who like traditional archery can easily equip a recurve bow for fishing. Any compound bow can also easily be set up, but the range of draw weight is the key. Forty pounds of draw weight or less will get the job done here in Mississippi.

Unlike hunting bows, fishing bows come with reels for retrieving your prey.

In Mississippi you can legally catch carp, buffalo, gar, shad, bowfin, and catfish with a bow. There are restrictions, however, on when and where you can catch catfish in this way.
Gentry says that nearly all bowfishing is done at night when carp, buffalo, and gar can be found hiding in extremely shallow water. Buffalo and carp feed on aquatic vegetation and are especially fond of newly planted areas that have recently flooded from spring rain. Gar are the most commonly sought daytime species, he says, and can be found “sunning” in shallow water or lurking near the surface in deeper water.

Sean Ford of Madison, Mississippi, uses a gas generator on his bowfishing boat to power either sodium or halogen lights for night fishing. He says:

The platform will allow two of us to fish at the same time from the front as we ease along in shallow water with the trolling motor, looking for fish to shoot.

An angler will use a trolling motor on his boat in order to move quietly through the water. You don’t want to spook the fish.

"Networking Marketing is Capitalist Exploitation on Steroids," by Magneto

Networking Marketing is Capitalist Exploitation on Steroids

By Magneto

Many of you may have had the misfortune of getting caught up in a network marketing multi-level marketing scam in the past. My own involvement in such an MLM scam is what eventually caused me to reject capitalism outright and start believing in socialism. Network marketing is capitalism on steroids. Normal capitalism is exploitation but at least in normal capitalism the worker class gets paid at least something. In network marketing you are working to make the top 1 percent rich and you are doing this for free.
Usually it starts out that an old friend will call you up and talk about how excited they are about their new business. A few days later they will call you again and see if you are interested in meeting to discuss their new “business”. If you agree to meet, they will typically show you a bunch of graphs and charts which claim you can become a millionaire within 5 years by following their program. What they don’t tell you is that 99% of people who sign up into MLM scams do not make any money at all from it. It’s literally only one out of a hundred people that profits from this.
Even worse is that most MLM companies use cult mind-control tactics to keep you from leaving their pyramid scheme. They use guilt programming and are constantly saying “Only losers quit this business”. That is a sure-fire sign that an organization is a cult when the leaders are constantly telling their followers to never leave the organization.
Network marketing companies thrive on naive young people who have never come in contact with an MLM pyramid scheme before. Older people are more mature and knowledgeable and know that pyramid schemes are wrong. But young people are easy to trick into these things because they have no experience of it. That’s why it is the duty of older people to warn younger people to never fall into these scams. No adult ever took the time to warn me when I was younger about the dangers of MLM’s, so I was just another victim of these pyramid scams.
I finally realized how immoral these types of businesses are, and I left the scam company and cut off all contact with the members of it. Donald Trump himself has a network marketing company, so that is another sign that he is just a greedy bastard who doesn’t give a shit about the common man and will do anything to exploit them so he can become rich. I realized that the logic that the MLM leaders use to justify their actions is entirely wrong. Society cannot function like this – where 1 percent manipulates the other 99 percent so that the 1 percent have all the money and the 99 percent have nothing.
Life is about more than money, but if you hear MLM leaders talk in their public speeches, you get the impression that money is all they care about. All they talk about is their expensive houses, cars and gadgets. What they don’t tell you is that 99 people had to fail in order for one person to get rich. The dreams of the MLM leaders are built on the blood, sweat, and tears of the 99 losers in the pyramid scheme.
A few common MLM’s that you should be very careful of are as followers:

  • Amway
  • Empower Network
  • Mary Kay
  • Herbalife
  • Nu Skin
  • Avon
  • Forever Living
  • Young Living

If you ever get invited or tricked into attending an MLM meeting, leave immediately. Do not even entertain the words of the MLM presenter. He will try to use a lot of logic and tricks to brainwash you into joining. Network Marketing and MLM’s are evil cults that thrive on manipulating ignorant people into joining. If we become active in warning people to avoid wasting their time and lives by joining such cults, we can save a lot of people and also stop the MLM’s because without a constant supply of new members, such pyramid schemes would collapse overnight.

Something Wrong with America? or Why Is America Hated? By A. J. Harvey-Hall

An interesting piece from a reader and financial supporter (thank you!) of this website. Hope you enjoy it.

Something Wrong With America? or Why is America hated?

By A. J. Harvey-Hall, Australia

Where do I start?
I originally wrote this in 2013 when I was mad as hell, and here we are in 2015, and I am still mad as hell at you guys. Most of what I have written has come true.
Don’t believe me – ask your Remote Viewing (Project Stargate) people to drop in and check me out. It works both ways in case you are unaware.
Coming from Australia I can tell you a hell of a lot of where America “went wrong”. I am not saying Australia is/was perfect – it’s just a fact we were the last large island/continent settled by the so-called enlightened Westerners – due to distance we saw where everyone else stuffed up and decided as a whole not to do that (Commonwealth knowledge?).
Canada is very similar to Australia, so look to them as well. One thing’s for certain – everyone gets a fair go in this country. We are multicultural and tolerant. Early Western settlers did not treat the Aboriginals appropriately, but in summary, it was probably no different to any superior culture that overtook another at some time in history. It’s easy to look back and say what the Westerners did to Aboriginals was disgraceful.
I have a right to tell you how it is because Australia is the only country that has fought every war alongside America all through WW1 and WW2 and several “police” actions.
Let’s revisit some words spoken by one of your greatest presidents in the course of the America’s Cup back in 1962 when Australia was still a country of 10 million:
Quoting Kennedy –

Ambassador, Lady Beale, Ambassador and Mrs. Berckmeyer, Ambassador and Lady Ormsby Gore, the Ambassador from Portugal, our distinguished Ministers from Australia, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I know that all of us take the greatest pleasure in being here, first of all because whether we are Australian or American, we are all joined by a common interest, a common devotion and love for the sea.
And I am particularly glad to be here because this Cup is being challenged by our friends from Australia, this extraordinary group of men and women numbering some 10 million, who have demonstrated on many occasions, on many fields, in many countries, that they are the most extraordinarily athletic group in the world today, and that this extraordinary demonstration of physical vigor and skill has come not by the dictates of the state because the Australians are among the freest citizens in the world, but because of their choice…
Australia became committed to physical fitness, and it has been disastrous for the rest of us. We have the highest regard for Australia, Ambassador. As you said, we regard them as very satisfactory friends in peace and the best of friends in war. And I know there are a good many Americans of my generation who have the greatest possible reason to be grateful to the Australians who wrote a most distinguished record all the way from the desert of North Africa, and most particularly in the islands of the South Pacific, where their particular courage and gallantry I think met the strongest response in all of us in this country.
But I really don’t look to the past. I look to the present. The United States and Australia are most intimately bound together today, and I think that — and I speak as one who has had some experience in friendship and some experience in those who are not our friends — we value very much the fact that on the other side of the Pacific, the Australians inhabit a very key and crucial area and that the United States is most intimately associated with them. So beyond this race, beyond the result, rests this happy relationship between two great people.
– President John F. Kennedy, Newport, Rhode Island, September 14, 1962

Let’s go back to the (your) War of Independence:
The English were wrong in what they were doing – hence independence – not a problem. In gaining independence however you put in place the building blocks that as of today are not crumbling – they have already crumbled.
Every builder in the world knows that unless your foundations are spot on and repaired when cracks appear, a structure cannot live for hundreds of years. You must update and repair as you go to ensure the building is viable for hundreds of years ongoing – not just paper over it.
The building I am referring to is the “United States of America”. It has now crumbled as a result of a demarcation dispute between your two political parties that act worse than our Australian Parliament. Each party is only out to make a name for itself and has lost the understanding of “serving the people”.
Let’s talk about your constitution – ohhh – am I upsetting you already? Remember I am an outsider who is looking in giving you an unbiased opinion.
When your Constitution was framed it was OK, for the day!
It is now the oldest ‘out of date’ Constitution in the world. Don’t stand behind your outdated constitution. Start again. Be bold.
Yes – you have made amendments, but those amendments are just papering over extensions – you need to go back and look at the foundations and do the work there.
Take one example – a right to bear arms.
It was OK 200 years ago when things were a bit rough – it is not acceptable in the 20th or 21st Centuries, but you will not remove that right. How many people have died in your country as a result of that one so called right?
Your gun culture is one of the bases (not basis) that has crumbled. This is ultimately why you have numerous police forces that are happy to shoot first and ask questions later.
Your children and work colleagues will continue to die in massacres as a result of this “right“. They will continue to die in soft target areas such as schools, mass transport, malls, parades (early days – wait for it).
Hang on – maybe the British, Russians or Communists are still coming to invade. Pity you don’t update your Constitution the same way you enforce updates to laws you force upon people who want to trade with you.
You allow gun lobbyists to “set the course” with government officials, senators and the public.
Since when did lobbyists of any ilk run the government? Since when did they represent “the people”?
You continue to think of arms as a gun – they are no longer guns – instead are bombs, viruses or maybe even the Internet itself. But it’s OK because you have a right” to bear arms.
Let’s talk about your medical care.
Actually let’s save time and refer to Michael Moore. He is spot on. How can you allow your own citizens suffer and even die on the streets because they don’t have medical insurance? And some of your citizens applaud this stance.
How about your returned veterans – even wounded veterans have to fight to get medical assistance upon return – why – because you outsourced the process and someone applied expiry dates that wounded veterans were not aware of. It then requires an act of Congress or a law to be passed to allowed them back into the system.
More veterans have committed suicide upon return that you lost in actual combat. That is an absolute disgrace.
Even that poor, small country across from Florida – Cuba – does it better than you. A pissant island makes you look like a disgrace. Ohhh that’s right…you won’t interact with them because they put one over you in the Cuban Missile crisis. Get over it – you eventually did with Vietnam. And that leads me to another chapter – Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia…or shouldn’t I mention all the “minor” illegal wars you waged?
You lost LOST the Vietnam War – admit it. You will also lose the Afghanistan and Iraqi Wars. The Middle Eastern wars are also bankrupting your country – why can’t day to day Americans see this? No one (starting with Alexander the Great) has ever conquered Afghanistan – get real or get out.
If you think those wars are over, and as G. W. Bush said, “Mission completed”…think again. You have effectively put people in charge who are far worse than the dictators that were already there in Egypt, Iraq, Tunisia, Afghanistan etc. and now you are trying to do the same in Crimea via the Ukraine. You are responsible for the extremists that are now running around the Middle East, and I don’t mean Al Qaeda. You are responsible for the creation of ISIS.
Let’s look at all those African refugees (including Syrians, Lebanese etc.) who are risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe. The USA is totally responsible for all these simply because of WMD lies that resulted in the invasion of Iraq. All Middle East actions from thereon are his fault. He is a war criminal – oopps did I break one of your laws saying he is a war criminal in the land of the free and home of the brave? The land of free speech?
Fact – history is written by the victors.
The USA is trying to run the Middle East like a corporation – all the top executives from the G. W. Bush era on are criminals lining their own pockets.
Starting wars in the 21st century will no longer get a country out of a recession. It’s simply profit-making. Why don’t you take Saudi Arabia to task for 9/11? Ohhh that’s right, they control the oil flow. Don’t upset them – why don’t you find an alternative to Middle East oil?
Are you getting a message here?
The entire world dislikes and even hates you. You have acted the bully for many years after The Korean War, effectively destroying the good will you established in the early 20th century. You are hated across all lines – economic, religious, social, political and otherwise.
What is your obsession with Israel?
Fact – Israel was founded by Jewish terrorists. They set off bombs, killed people and destroyed property to achieve their aims. Because the world had ‘sympathy’ for Jews after WW2, it happened and a blind eye was turned. Today Middle America strongly believes in the Bible literally and as such wants to see Israel succeed in order the “Second Coming” results.
People – the Bible is a guide. It is not Gospel.
Why? In the early centuries, the Roman Catholic Church held conferences and decided which books, writings and teachings ended up in “The Bible”. God did not decide which early Christian books ended up in The Bible – so it is absolute rubbish for someone to state that the Bible guides what the United States should do. Too many real accounts of Jesus’ workings were excluded. The Roman Catholic Church is responsible for closing our eyes to the real Christ.
Hopefully Pope Francis can arrest this BS.
There are numerous United Nations resolutions that Israel has refused to comply with. By the way – are you (USA) financially paid up with the UN, or do you still refuse to pay in a timely manner in order to attempt to remind them that you rule over them?
How about the Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq that lead to invasion? Colin Powell held up a drawing and said – here is the proof. You never found proof and never admitted you were wrong. Yes – Saddam Hussein was a bastard but he had the warring clans under control. It was all ALL about oil and nothing else. When the mud got too deep, you changed tact and said it was all about democracy. How far is Greece from Iraq? – damn closer that the USA. If the Greeks could not influence them – you sure in Hell can’t.
You can resolve the Palestinian problem in a matter of weeks, but you won’t due to that “minority” in the Middle East. This bullshit has been going on for 60 years.
Everyone knows (sorry – obviously you don’t) – the longer a problem festers, the harder and more costly it is to resolve.
I worked in the finance industry for many years and can only say that the number of times “we” (non-Americans) had to change our processes and rules etc. because the USA had set ‘”new standards” makes me sick. The standards set were not improvements – they were changed to line your pockets.
Look at Sarbanes Oxley for example – the world spent hundreds of billions of $’s attempting to comply because the USA would not do business with another country unless they did so only to see the USA itself found it too costly to implement itself! What a joke!
We now have many European countries in dire straits as a direct result of the exporting of American ways.
You destroyed the financial industry with your Subprime rubbish.
What about changes to financial models and makes etc. of any product or service that demand that people buy the “updated” version to reline your pockets. This is simply to keep the money wheel turning. You are desperately trying to ensure it keeps turning long enough for your problems to be passed to some other country or the next generation.
Ever thought about how much you spend on items such as defense, spying, war, inventing, manufacturing and using machines of war? Just imagine if only half of that was diverted to your health programs, science or to the benefit of other countries less fortunate? What about converting the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines into an international force for peace and relief of local and international disasters?
How can you allow a company to have a patent on the human breast cancer gene? You have to be kidding the world – but then again that’s your Constitution at work. No one owns human genes!
What happened to the “United States” that I remember as a child? That far-off country whose technology was so far advanced we could never dream of equaling.
What happened to that country that every county – even Russia in the old days – feared  -a form of respect?
Oh – and how long before I get the FBI, CIA, and all your other bullshit muscle agencies to frame me for some rubbish and shut me down…
A parting true story:
In late 1978/early 1979 my family traveled to Washington state where my father was working on behalf of a company in Australia. Unfortunately, departing Auckland NZ they had an emergency which meant we had to go back, dumping fuel on the way. 24 hours later we took off again after repairs and finally landed in Honolulu. My mother was pretty savvy and said get to the front of the Customs line so we can get to the connecting flight to LA.
Well – I was at the front of the queue, 18 years old, looking at an overweight female Customs officer wearing a gun strutting back and forwards. Her welcoming words to the Australians and New Zealanders were, “If you step over that yellow line, I will shoot you!” What a fucking joke – in 1978! No wonder you have a gun problem.
Welcome to America!
Congratulations to the NRA who lobby the most congressman/women on both sides.
Fact – I was born in July 1960, and in November 1963 I still vividly recall my parents being very upset when they heard of the news of Kennedy’s death despite my being three years old. All the more remarkable is the fact that we lived in Papua New Guinea – a protectorate of Australia at the time – literally a colonial backwater. I was too young to understand but remembered the words Kennedy and death and vaguely remembered the Cuba Crisis. We cried in the backwaters of the Pacific!
I fully understand that the Kennedys had their dalliances. Small beer in the scheme of things.
He and his brother are the standard you must return to.
Did Kennedy not say “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country?”
And in closing, written on the base of the Statue of Liberty…

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Emma Lazurus

My country totally lacks world-shaking oratory ,but I think we more than make up with it in our actions.

"Old-Fashioned Pig Farming," by Alpha Unit

Woodlands are a pig’s natural habitat. But pigs are adaptable to just about any environment. They live on every continent (except Antarctica).

In the forests and woodlands where wild pigs live, trees and vegetation provide them with shelter and their preferred foods. They like places where they’ll have year-round access to water and moist ground for wallowing, such as swamps and marshes.

In spring they graze on grasses and clover. Throughout the year they’ll forage for berries, nuts, acorns, mushrooms, insects, and sometimes small rodents. But one thing a pig was designed to do is root. A pig’s snout allows it to navigate and interact with its environment – sort of like a cat’s whiskers.

The nasal disc of a pig’s snout, while rigid enough to be used for digging, has numerous sensory receptors. In addition to being useful as a fine and powerful tool for manipulating objects, the extensive innervation in the snout provides pigs with an extremely well-developed sense of smell.

Pigs can smell roots and tubers that are deep underground and in the wild can spend up to 75 percent of their day rooting and foraging. Some homesteaders put pigs’ rooting instinct to work for them and use pigs to “till” garden plots.

Daniel MacPhee and his wife use Guinea Hog piglets on their New England farm, but unlike some farmers, they don’t plan to eat their pigs.

Instead, the piglets are meant as an environmentally- and -budget-friendly cleanup crew of sorts, rooting around to clean out tough, tangled roots after a small flock of sheep has grazed at the couple’s farm, Blackbird Rise in Palermo [Maine].
By having the animals do the work, “we’re not buying machinery and we’re not wasting fossil fuels,” said MacPhee, 35. “They’re eating the roots and vegetable matter, processing that and putting nutrients back in the soil through manure. They’re doing all the same things a tractor does but without the environmental impact.”

The Guinea Hogs on their farm are a “heritage breed,” the name given to any of the distinct breeds that can be traced back to the period before industrial farming. Generations ago, there were hundreds of pig breeds on homesteads in Europe and the United States. But a lot of the historic breeds fell out of favor as the pork industry moved toward leaner carcasses and began large-scale confinement operations. This was in part the result of corn production.

As the larger settled farms of the Midwest began to produce excess corn, the availability and low cost of this feed attracted pig production and processing to the region. By the mid-1800s the states that produced the most corn also produced the most pigs, and production declined in the East and New England. The industry was becoming geographically centralized as well and the number of breeds of pigs began to decline. Several breeds became extinct by the early 1900s.

Pigs are for the most part no longer produced and sold by independent producers on open markets. Since the late 20th century, pig production in the United States has come to be dominated by a few large, vertically-integrated corporations that control every step along the way from the selection of breeding stock to the retailing of pork. A lot of the farmers who are still in the business are contract growers for the corporations. But there are independent pig farmers who are dedicated to bringing back the old breeds and are raising them in the traditional way, on pasture and in woodlands.

Some heritage breeds are very rare and are listed as critically endangered by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Among heritage breeds is the very popular Berkshire pig, a black pig designated “first class”. Farmers say that Berkshires have an excellent disposition and are very friendly and curious.

The Tamworth is a golden-red pig and a direct descendant of the wild boars that roamed the forests of Staffordshire. They are considered very outdoorsy and athletic. (They make the best bacon in the United States, according to some fans.)

The Large Black retains the traits of its ancestors that lived on the pastures and woods of England in the 16th and 17th centuries. They are hardy animals that can withstand cold and heat. They are well-known as docile hogs.

The Hereford is a medium-size pig that is unique to the United States. Its name is inspired by its striking color pattern of intense red with white trim, the same as that of Hereford cattle. These pigs also have a reputation for being easy-going.

The Red Wattle is especially in danger of extinction. It is a large red hog with a fleshy wattle attached to each side of the neck. These pigs are very hardy with an especially mild temperament.

There are other heritage breeds, some of which number as low as a few hundred worldwide. Heritage pig farmers want to increase demand for their breeds, because to eat them is to preserve them, they say. There is, in fact, a growing market for heritage pork, which is more tender and tastes much better than mass-produced pork. Just looking at a cut of heritage pork you see a striking difference. It’s typically darker than pork from industrial farms, some as red as beef.

Of course, there are heritage pig farmers like the MacPhees, who just like having pigs on the farm, performing those unique tasks that pigs do.

If you’ve got children, there are heritage pig breeds they would easily get along with. Brian Wright raises heritage pigs and says that some are considered docile while others are seen as “evil, killer hogs” – in other words, very aggressive. You’ve got to do your homework before picking a breed.

The Rossi Farm in Rhode Island began breeding Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs several years ago and the pigs have become a favorite. Nicknamed Orchard Hogs, these pigs originally foraged for windfall apples and are distinguished by the black spots on their white coats.
The Rossis say Gloucestershire Old Spots are extremely friendly and laid-back. When the pigs are in the pasture, the children are often out there with them. And the pigs love having their ears scratched by the kids.

"In Black and White," by Phil

As a guest author, I’ve figured for a while that I would either plan or be forced for my sanity to write an article focusing my “politics”, having more faith in the latter.
The lack of clarity regarding them has, to my disadvantage, sparked claims or suspicions of me being a White Supremacist in disguised or bordering such ideology despite being Black. Though when repeatedly queried, said accusers couldn’t cite a legit case of me showing clear, non-statistical or subjective bias against Blacks (consistent with my actual politics to be mentioned further on).
At the same time, regulars in the comment section such as William or Tulio have expressed curiosity in whatever “path” has drawn me to my current thoughts. These questions caused me to drift back towards my own agenda in HBD towards a recurring dilemma dating since my initial exposure to modern research of racial differences. Both challenged and conflicted, I’ve decided to devote time and energy into a subject matter that I’ve found, honestly, was not even that clear to me prior to typing this.


Why I’m not a online “Stormer”
1. I have a deep intolerance towards self-hate. Being blunt with shortcomings of your background and reflecting it in your character is one thing, but complaining about it to the point where you reject your own and try to emulate another group is rather pathetic and treacherous to me regardless of one’s race or culture . With that said, it became apparent to me that many people have had experiences where they witness these shortcomings up front with a profound effect that forces them out of it, ones I’ve never had. Regardless, I’m not ignorant of “Negro vices,” and I’ll address that afterwards.
2. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t commit to a “new White identity”. This is largely due to me having physical traits that obviously wouldn’t pass the “Ubermensch” test, which is to be expected when I’m about 82-84% Black. My only features that deviate me from the typical “Negro” look would be my skin tone, head size, and some isolated facial features, and even then, they could still be within a typical range in certain subgroups. Second would be mental and personality traits.
3. Though we could argue the extent of the stereotypes in their general application to Blacks, I’m simply going to point out the ones that apply to me. One would be laziness, which had actually cost me a semester of Advanced Calculus, but I’ve fortunately managed to make it up. Another match would be my emotion. Often I find myself invested in sadness, excitement, anger, and ponderousness for little or no reason. The third would be how simplified I try to make my daily activities, often in favor of my own leisure. There may be more, but I these traits pretty much match with what one would read from such titles such as Among the Ibos by G. T. Basden. Even then, I don’t actually hate myself as much as I discourage these tendencies in me.
4. As far as mental differences goes, what separates me from other Blacks is my lack of a gregarious nature, being more inclined to individualism. While it often results in me having more White friends, it doesn’t actually correlate with me having a deep desire to be White.
5. I hate Black-bashing with a passion. Criticism, sure, but modern Internet-Nazi mantra makes my blood boil more than reading Europeans in the past actually comparing Blacks to apes. That reason is because, as blunt as they were, the early Europeans could articulate that intelligently and others even tried to give better context to it, one I remember rejecting it in favor of “Paleolithic Man”. Needless to say, the type of Black- bashers that anger me are little like these early explorers.


Why I Bother with HBD

As said before, I have an agenda like most who acknowledge race realism. Before even researching the specifics, I thought that I could use my knowledge and experiences of personal vices that hold people back, making me an efficient adviser and communicator towards individuals that could use my help. Particularly, ones like my cousin Zachary who failed high school, has no job, and has a record for burglary.
At face value, I have no good reason to help him. While I barely know him and once when he visited me, he treated me like crap, my mother who cared about him when he was younger has already accepted his current fate, and currently his father has had enough and kicked him out after years of caring (and admittedly spoiling) him. The real reason I want to help him can be found when you look deeper into the situation.
When he respected my mother when he was younger, she was likely placeholder for his mother who barely acknowledged. Being both updated in his habits and having experience in knowing “real” thugs, she asserts that Zachary wasn’t one. She explains how a thug at his luck would be selling dope or on the streets or whatever crime to get by, but Zachary isn’t hardened like them and he only hangs out with them for “face”. He hadn’t done much else since the one burglary, leading me to suspect he did it out of peer pressure.
Instead he has been borrowing money and making empty promises of either school or work, really never sticking to anything. More evidence for his non-thug nature is that he actually does want to invest in his son, but currently the mother and her family are trying to find a “sugar daddy” to support the mother.
As far as I see it, my cousin is in a position where the Left isn’t actually going to the tackle his issues, and the Right wouldn’t even bother. It makes me stop and wonder how many are like him. With that said, I’m not stupid. While lacking in real life experience, reports from others now and in the past have given me a clear idea of dangers in engaging this too lightly. Unlike the active Left, I don’t generalize the situation of unfortunate Blacks from  my cousin’s plight. I use HBD to understand my limitations and reassess my goals.


Am I Smart Because I’m Part White?

While I find my partly White background it a likely contributor, I would like to point out regardless that I’m more of the “sloppy Black genius” Robert has written about in the past. To roughly understand my psychology, I’ll refer to my personality type and trends in behavior of different Black tribes that would be likely candidates.
INFP’s tend to improvise more than plan, like blacks when “nigger-rigging” as Robert once elaborated. INFP’s are also have bias towards feelings and are led by virtues. While blacks have been noted to be somewhat endowed in observing emotions, how to actually consider them and respond with intuition was noted to be a separate skill. I’m unsure if this would be due to IQ or personality, likely both because I believe this would be a common vice in extroversion. Still, I wouldn’t pass off a Black component, which could be likely in my case.
Certain Blacks, like the Krumen or the Eboe, were noted for a more gentle nature than other Blacks during slavery, Eboes in particular being prone to suicide (an extreme extroverted trait). The latter were wanted for tobacco plantations, and as luck would find it, my mother’s side (where I owe my introversion) were tobacco sharecroppers, and my admixture results have me as 30% Nigerian, the largest single ethnicity out of all my ancestry results. On top of that, I’m rather sure both tribes had a form of a “mediator” as well as being noted for their fidelity, basically fitting a INFP caricature.
My father’s side is where I get my analytical skills. While my father is light skinned with a flatter face and more pointed nose than me, those are the only remotely White things about him. His cranial and body shape and other facial features are “Negro”. I suppose he would either fit the Congolese Bantu or Senegambian background. I would say likely Senegambian due to foresight, traditionalism and organization which overlap with some Bantus.
He’s not really that sensitive, which actually is a rather common thing in Black tribes aside from Eboes sand Krumen. This spawns from a combination of extroversion and logic such that he is not much of a feeler. He somewhat reminds me of a pastoralist in facial appearance and character, like a Tuareg or Fulani. I would say that he emulates some White Southerner traits right off the bat though, but I’m unsure if that’s through admixture or selection for certain traits when adapting to Southern society. Maybe a paternal lineage, like the pastoralists that were already mentioned.
So in summary, my White ancestry would play as a boost to latent traits which likely may come from certain Black backgrounds since I’m 82% Black. Another mechanism may be outbreeding, which increases individualism, if not “Whiteness” itself. If I knew my father’s specific components, I may have a better picture. As well I would encourage any info from Jm8 on behaviors of African tribes.

"Black Women and Beauty," by Phil

This article shall partake in an investigation of “attractive traits” with females of West African extraction in terms of their effects with regard to appearance, along with a discussion of their development. Such an endeavor is undertaken due to Satoshi Kanazawa’s controversial work in analyzing differences in perceived beauty among races.
Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?
In my honest opinion, this was something that I had trouble going through when thinking of women. I mean sure, I could think of attractive black women but typically they were mixed noticeably.
However, it wasn’t until I read and saw pictures of Native African women that I noticed four appealing physical aspects of African women.
Traits:
1. Eye Shape – Defining eye shape of Blacks is sort of weird, for there are various caricatures. The type encompasses the big “wide eyes”, “sad eyes” (almost like triangles, giving a sad look to them), small slits, etc. The big eyes I find to be more common in deeper jungle Blacks, I believe, sad eyes and slits to those that came from the desert. Medium/almond eyes, that are sometimes considered “pseudo Asian” eyes on black women, were among the one I found rather appealing.
2. Lips – While “Big lips” are sometimes seen as unattractive as opposed to small or lips that are just full, depending on the actually shape of the lips themselves they look nice as well. The thing is though is that they are less of a sexual appeal of beauty and just more of a comely feature when they are big but well shaped.
3. Contrast of features against skin – In the case of having attractive features they become more pronounced. Not a huge necessity for standard beauty, but a nice trait at least – though its effect depends on the presence of pre-existing features. The trend was present, although further examining led me to conclude it wasn’t that uncommon.
4. The fourth one has at first a bit of a dubious nature to it. Basically it deals with cases where typically discouraged traits like prognathism and prominent cheek bones look good when coupled with a slimmer face, prominent chin, and not as exaggerated. Basically what this does is further draw attention to these features in an organized and pleasing composition. The issue is that I was unsure of how significantly “common” this trend was, though further examining led me to conclude it wasn’t that uncommon.
Here. This would be a decent example of what I’m talking about.
However, it’s time to get to cons.
1. Head shape – From what I read, at least for the average African American female, they tend to get a wider face. Personally, a face that’s more pointed or oval – that is, having a thinner lower face – is more attractive on women. In the case of Black women this is caused by the larger Jaws of Blacks generally, more prominent cheek bones, and emphasized with a narrower forehead amongst blacks. However, I believe this is more of a male trait than female.
2. Nose – Basically more angular noses are preferred but I think it is more of its relative size and how much the nostrils flare.
3. Body – Reading info from Steve Sailor, while Black men in America have narrower hips than Whites or Latinos, Black women have the widest waists of women and even wider waists than Black men.
This is basically due to a combination of earlier development of female fat distribution in females and Blacks being on average more impulsive, in this case particularly with food. In some African cultures it’s a sign of beauty. Often before marriage ceremonies the women go through a fattening period.
Examination:
While many are probably familiar with European-mix progression, examples of African progression can be seen here amongst these Igbo women, an ethnic group of various looks.
Igbo Women
The two on the right and the second from the left are overall better looking than the one in the middle or on the left end (though the one in the middle is of course notably older). The causes are more noticeable in the one second from the left and the one on the far right, having less prominent cheek bones, more expressive eyes, and smaller lower lips. The eye traits are present in the one second from the right, though she has prominent cheekbones. This trait is complimented with a wider forehead and what I believed to be a more prominent chin.
More African women.
Compared to the one on the far left, the other two look more appealing due to having smaller jaws. But overall none look hideous, just more “ethnic looking” in which they have the traits to a noticeable but not to an exaggerated degree. All three, however, show the cheekbone trait (which I may add looks actually nice when coupled with a smaller jaw) but they seem to have “better” facial proportions where their faces don’t look unpleasingly wide. Their eye shapes seem to vary, too.
Ibo women.
The one on the far left shows African achievement of a face highly reduced of maxillary prognathism, while the one on the right shows one that is only partially reduced but is at a point that displays that unique “attractive” jutting I mentioned earlier. The one second from the right when compared to the one second from the left has wider (more almond) eyes and less prominent cheekbones, appearing more attractive due to a slimmer looking face and more expressive eyes. The one in the very middle is blurry but appears to resemble the type on the far right.
Young Ibo Women of Ibuza
Each of these girls, in my opinion, deviate a fair amount from typical vices due to the lower jaws with smaller lips and noses, though the one on the left seems to have a lower forehead (a vice that I forgot to add as well as possessing more slit eyes. The one on the right is quite the opposite, having quite a wider and higher forehead with bigger eyes.)
Igbo Women
This is a favorite of mine in which it shows a very good example of African progression that I speak of, being prognathism that is subtle and pronounces the fullness of the lips, not extending further than nose length, an overall smaller nose, what appear to be almond eyes, cheek bones that are showing but not overly prominent, with a forehead that is round.
The only concerning “flaw” it the forehead’s height but it’s not that big of a deal.
Biafrans.
The one on the right has the smallest jaw, thinnest lower face, intermediate nose and eyes size, and least exaggerated cheekbones. Still, all are rather pretty in my opinion anyway.
Though we’ve seen many examples of well-formed faces, actual specimens of body shapes yield little variation (from what I could find) to offer in forms of images. Most were slim, lanky forms that, while not truly unpleasing in my opinion, I must admit I would be biased in saying that it wouldn’t have limited appeal. Among African-American women these forms seems occasional but not that common, at least to me. Thus, it is likely due to nutritional factors if not wholly due to admixture, for native Africans were often recorded to be vegetarians, meat being held more commonly as a luxury rather than a given.
However, I’m fortunately in possession of positive commentary of European comments on Gold Coast women of both the Fanti and Ashanti tribes.
“The women when young are ugly in face and beautiful in form, when old they are in both.” (This is likely due to R/K breeding, causing faster maturation and possible loss in the retaining of younger traits).
“In general appearance the Ashanti much resemble the Fanti though they are not perhaps so strongly built. They are however quite as good looking and according to Mr Bowdieh the women are handsomer than those of the Fanti.”
The Uncivilized Races of Men in All Countries of the World Volume 1. by J. G. Wood
Discussion:
Now that we are familiar with the identification of African progression of attractive female traits, what possible mechanisms in Africa caused the common (without influence of modern opinions) stereotype type to prevail?
Well, Satoshi, after ruling out BMI and intellect differences, claims testosterone differences. The reasoning behind this is due to his findings that, net of intelligence, Black men were rated higher than men of other races. This led him to suggest that difference in testosterone, which produces masculine features and being recorded to being highest in blacks, resulted in Black males deemed more attractive and females not.
I’m unsure of this inference, but it does draw attention to the stronger association between “beauty” and intellect in Black males compared to females. The topic between his research of beauty and intellect can be accessed here for others to discuss in the comments, for now I’m going into some knowledge of why the results are the way they are.
Beautiful People Really Are More Intelligent
One possible reason for these results is social roles in regards to sexual selection. From reading Among the Ibos by George Thomas Basden:

“In the majority of cases young man makes his own choice. He happens to a girl who attracts his attention and he immediately inquiries as to her parents and whether she be engaged or not. If she is free he endeavors to through her friends information concerning her in cooking trading and other useful and profitable accomplishments. He also inquires about her whether she be of good temper quiet industrious and so forth. Should these investigations prove satisfactory he lays his case before his parents or his friend for he cannot make the first advances personally.”

According to this, while initial notice (likely attraction) starts courtship, it is actual character that causes union to follow. Some HBD’rs claim that populations in Eurasia had a more directed course of selection, often described as self-domestication. It’s possible that in cases like here with some African tribes different standards in selection caused for different measures of association of intellect – for example, a proxy of character – that caused the weaker association in black women. It is worth mentioning, however, that based on Satoshi’s research that the correlation between attractiveness and intellect is higher in men than women by about 2.4 IQ points. I believe the association becomes stronger as a society develops. The Ashanti have often been commented to have a higher culture than Fanti, and the women of the Ashanti were commented to be more beautiful as well, though the margin between men was regarded as relatively smaller, with the Fanti males having a better build but the Ashanti being superior in facial features.
Regardless, I’m an amateur at best with the topic and I urge anyone else knowledgeable on the topic to share in the comment section.

"Southern Sweet Potatoes," by Alpha Unit

Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard was a military officer who became the first brigadier general of the Confederate States Army. In 1987 at Louisiana State University Dr. Larry Rolston, an entomologist and Civil War enthusiast, came up with a high-yielding, disease-resistant strain of sweet potato that saved the sweet potato industry in Louisiana. He named his variety after General Beauregard, of St. Bernard Parish. It remains one of the most popular varieties.

Sweet potatoes, a type of morning glory, come in over 400 varieties grown around the world. Louisiana’s soil and climate are ideal for growing sweet potatoes. But Louisiana sweet potato growers have some great competition in Mississippi. The Mississippi Sweet Potato Council will tell you.

No other sweet potato can compare to the ones we grow in Mississippi. We produce premium Number One sweet potatoes bursting with flavor and freshness. The rich, fertile soils of North Mississippi make our sweet potatoes appealing both inside and out.

Last year Mississippi planted just over 23,000 acres of sweet potatoes. About 500 of those acres produced organic sweet potatoes, mostly for baby food. Ricky and Jamie Earp are second-generation sweet potato farmers who run the operation their father started in 1968 near Houlka in Chickasaw County. About 60 percent of their crop are Beauregards.

As with almost all other growers in the country, labor is of prime concern to the Earp brothers (pronounced ARP, as in “sharp”). But unlike so many other growers you talk to, the Earps say they have a reliable local labor supply made up of people who have worked with them consistently over the years. Jamie Earp says that his wife and Ricky’s wife also help in the business.

Sweet potato farming is not highly mechanized. About his labor force Jamie says:

For planting, we’ll need 20 to 22 workers for about two and a half weeks, and at harvest 30 workers for about eight weeks. We have three harvester machines, each requiring eight workers. Then there are those who run the tractors and forklifts and other operations. Some of those same people help out in packing and shipping throughout the year.

Danny Clark of Vardaman, Mississippi, is in the same business. He is a third-generation sweet potato farmer. He says that sweet potato production is very hands-on labor-intensive, and that a lot of growers in the area use H2A workers, who are mostly Hispanic and work seasonally. But like the Earps, he says that most of his labor is local, mostly women who have been with his operation for many years.

At harvest time he operates digging rigs that move through the field at less than 1 mph, scooping sweet potatoes onto conveyor belts on each side of a trailer, where an eight-person crew sorts them into bins according to grade. It’s still going to be a while, though, before the sweet potatoes are ready for market.

The thing about sweet potatoes is that you don’t want them “green.” If you eat a green sweet potato you might be convinced that you don’t like sweet potatoes. Between 15 and 20 percent of the sweet potato harvest in the US is washed, packed, and shipped immediately after harvesting. These freshly dug sweet potatoes aren’t very sweet or moist.

Unlike a lot of other freshly harvested produce, sweet potatoes have to “set up” to be really enjoyable. They are cured by storing them at 85-90 degrees F and about 90 percent humidity, for 5 to 10 days. This is when they start developing their sugar-creating enzymes. This process also heals any bruises or skinning that occurred during harvest and allows the sweet potatoes to be washed and packed with less outer damage.

Afterwards the sweet potatoes are stored at 55-60 degrees F for six to eight weeks. The sugars continue to come to life. In due time the harvest is ready for packing and shipping. When you get them home and put them in the oven, the sugars really kick in.

You can’t tell by looking at a sweet potato whether or not it’s been cured. But a lot of growers assure you that they only ship cured sweet potatoes – especially those sold from September to the end of the year, when they sell the most. Edmondson Farms of Vardaman says through their highly advanced storage method they can provide consistent and exceptional quality sweet potatoes year-round.

Edmondson grows mostly Beauregard sweet potatoes in northern Mississippi and in Oak Grove, Louisiana. They’ve clearly got the best of both worlds.

"Picking Blueberries Isn’t What It Used to Be," by Alpha Unit

People from Washington County, Maine, which borders the Canadian province of New Brunswick, will readily tell you about the natural beauty of the area – and about how friendly and hardworking the people are. But some of them will also tell you not to move there unless you don’t need to work.

Maine’s six “Rim Counties,” the rural counties just south of the Canadian border, are among the poorest counties in New England. Washington County has more unemployment and poverty than the rest. Paul Constant, who hails from Maine, says that the popular conception of Maine as nothing but lighthouses and lobsters is far from the truth. Once you get away from the relatively affluent parts of southern Maine, you see how tough it can really be to live there.

But Washington County, the poorest part of Maine, is special. It is the wild blueberry capital of the world.

Maine has 44,000 acres of wild blueberries that bring in about $250 million in annual revenue. Cultivated blueberries from other states dwarf the production of wild blueberries that grow on Washington County’s “barrens,” says Philip Conkling. These areas got their name because only blueberries and a few other plants could grow on the sandy soils left by the receding glacier. A spokeswoman for the Maine Wild Blueberry Commission told him that Maine grows a very special product but most people don’t know the difference between a wild blueberry and a cultivated one.

Philip Conkling offers a hint: the fat watery ones with less flavor are the cultivated ones.

In the summer of 1974 Conkling jumped at the chance to make some money raking blueberries at the Deblois barrens in Washington County, as part of a crew assembled by some neighbors who also owned blueberry land. He says that the wild blueberry harvest was the one time of year when just about anyone between six and 60 could earn a small pile of cash “to spend like a grasshopper or save for the coming winter.”

One week later I was in the back of Ralph Jr.’s two-ton, stake-body truck with a motley crew of neighbors, lurching off Highway 193 onto dirt roads that curved around endless vistas of blueberry fields on the barrens. When we stopped, Ralph handed me a bucket and a blueberry rake. He explained that when I had filled my bucket, I was to bring it over to a hand-cranked winnowing machine to separate the leaves and stems from the berries and then pour the berries carefully into wooden boxes. For this, I would make $2.50 a box. Seemed simple enough.

It turned out to be back-breaking work.

For generations most of the laborers in the blueberry fields were Native Americans, from the local Passamaquoddy tribe and Mi’kmaq from Canada. But with the expansion of the industry, blueberry farmers started hiring migrant workers to increase their labor force. Since the 1960s the harvest has been picked mainly by migrants, most of whom are Mexican, Mexican-American, Filipino-American, Jamaican, Haitian, Honduran, and Guatemalan. They work alongside Passamaquoddy and Mi’kmaq families.

Still, there are fewer migrant laborers in the barrens than there used to be. Since the 1990s growers have been using mechanical harvesters. Some blueberry operations are almost completely mechanized, and others are planning to make the transition. These machines can harvest about 10 times what a typical person can harvest with a hand-held blueberry rake.
Some analysts say that mechanization is the consequence of uncertainty over immigration reform. Without any long-term clarity on what the law will be, growers can’t easily plan for even five years ahead.

What about hiring native Mainers to replace migrant workers? Not really an option, according to some growers.

“There are people who say if we just paid more, Americans would do the work. But that’s a joke,” said Ed Flanagan, president of Jasper Wyman & Son Inc., Maine’s second-largest blueberry grower. Flanagan says hard-working pickers make as much as $20 an hour here, almost three times Maine’s minimum wage of $7.50.

Even though Washington County has high unemployment, the seasonal jobs in the blueberry fields find few takers among local residents.

Another grower works with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to make sure its seasonal staff are in the US legally, but a spokesman says every year it’s a gamble. “You never know if enough people are going to show up to get the job done,” he says.

“The Last Trip From Jacksonville to San Juan,” by Alpha Unit

A US Navy salvage unit is headed to the debris fields near the last known location of the SS El Faro, a US-flagged cargo ship that sank last week during Hurricane Joaquin. What they want to recover immediately is the voyage data recorder, which captured the ship’s course and speed as well as onboard audio from the bridge. Once submerged, the recorder would have begun pinging. It has a battery life of 30 days.

The El Faro is a “roll-on/roll-off” cargo vessel designed to carry vehicles that are driven on and off the ship. It left Jacksonville, Florida, last Tuesday on its weekly run from Jacksonville to San Juan, Puerto Rico. It held 294 cars, trucks, and trailers below deck and 391 containers topside carrying groceries and other retail products.

There were 33 crew members, including Captain Michael Davidson, a veteran mariner of over 25 years’ experience. Twenty-eight of the crew members were from the United States and five were from Poland.

TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico operated the El Faro and says the 40-year-old vessel was sound and well-maintained and that it had passed its annual Coast Guard inspection in March. The question that has been floating around for the past week is “Why did the captain set sail in the face of a hurricane?”

Experienced mariners say that it isn’t at all unusual for a captain to head out under those conditions. One Merchant Marine captain, Laurence Wade, told the Portland Press Herald that sailing in bad weather, even in hurricanes, is part of the way of life for mariners.

You do the best you can. You ride it out. If the [El Faro] hadn’t lost power it would have been in San Juan by Friday and back in Jacksonville today.

Others remind us that the decision to sail rests with the captain, not with the company, and that no captain would take a ship and its crew into harm’s way. Wade says that he never likes to see people questioning a captain’s decision, particularly those with no experience at sea.

A former merchant mariner and current maritime lawyer named Rod Sullivan told the South Florida Business Journal that the El Faro probably sailed due to routine.

People get wedded to their schedule. There are vendors, stevedores, truckers who are all expecting the ship to arrive. There’s pressure to keep on schedule.

That’s putting it charitably. Other mariners say that pressure from the shipping office is intense. On all kinds of forums where people are discussing this disaster, you’ll find sea veterans making comments like this:

To answer your question, the most likely reason that the El Faro sailed when and where she did was because she had a schedule to keep at San Juan’s container port, and that was paramount over the concern of risking the ship and the lives of those serving on her…

Some flunky at a desk in an office building somewhere scheduled a particular vessel to be at a certain place within a specified time window, and that’s pretty much it…details like war or weather or other such things are treated as just another thing that the crew is expected to “deal with.”

Executives at the parent company of TOTE Maritime acknowledged on Monday that the company could have vetoed the captain’s decision to set sail but say that Captain Davidson had a sound plan that would have enabled him to pass clearly ahead of the storm. Had the El Faro not lost propulsion, Davidson would most likely have succeeded.

Why the ship lost propulsion is still unknown. The ship left Jacksonville on Tuesday, September 29. At 7:15 AM on Thursday, October 1, the Coast Guard received distress alerts from the El Faro. Just before the alerts went out, Captain Davidson had notified TOTE Maritime that the ship had lost propulsion and was listing 15 degrees in the midst of Hurricane Joaquin. The captain also noted that the ship had taken on some flooding but that the crew had the situation under control. This was the last contact anyone had with the ship.

According to Rick Spilman of The Old Salt Blog, these vehicle carriers have an inherent weakness that might have doomed the El Faro.

Ro/ros have wide vehicle decks. They are essentially parking lots at sea. The wide and open decks are necessary for efficiently driving vehicles on and off ships. The problem is that even moderate flooding of the vehicle deck can dramatically destabilize a ro/ro. The sloshing of water on the vehicle deck, referred to as the “free surface effect,” can cause the ship to capsize rapidly and without warning.

In addition to the sloshing water in the vehicle deck, vehicles can become unsecured in heavy seas and slide to one side, causing a ship to list even more. That is what happened when the Korean ferry Sewol capsized in 2014.

The El Faro‘s emergency beacon sent out a signal briefly and then stopped. The beacon is designed to float away from the ship and continue sending a signal. If the El Faro capsized, the beacon could have been trapped underneath the ship, says Spilman.

In the estimation of Captain Joseph Murphy of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, two essential things to the survival of the ship were its ability to maintain propulsion and its power. He explains:

Propulsion so they can maneuver it and power so they can maintain communication. The other one is watertight integrity so that the ship is able to float. By all reports, she had a 15-degree list, which would have made it difficult for them to launch lifeboats. And she had lost power and communication so my suspicion is that they did not have either propulsion or power.

My personal belief – and I don’t have anything to go on other than experience, years of going to sea – is that the ship actually did capsize and sank very, very quickly.

Most people don’t think that much about mariners or the vessels they work on until tragedies like these occur. The fact is, almost everything we use and consume every day arrives to us by ship. The goods flow day and night, but transporting them is a risky enterprise. In addition to the grueling work schedules and battles over pay, there is the fact that mariners work in a wilderness as deadly as any other on Earth.

“Mother Nature is merciless and more powerful than we give her credit,” says a former maritime instructor to those who wonder why this happened. In a discussion at the Service Academy Forums, he says there is an evolution you go through.

Stage 1 is, I’m a little scared, but I trust you guys. Stage 2 is, I’m strong, I’m invincible, I can handle anything, BRING IT. A lot of people stop there. A lot of people LIVE under the illusion that because they can turn up a thermostat, turn on a faucet, flip a switch and cook a meal, that they have bested nature. Technology only takes you so far.

Forty-foot seas, 140-knot winds, no port to enter, no way off the ship, no one to negotiate with, no alternatives. Human beings can adapt to and overcome a lot of things, but sometimes there is a confluence of nature that makes it NOT POSSIBLE. And those people get to Stage 3: I am strong, I am trained, I am clever, and I have my wits – but I am a speck of dust on a capricious planet, and I am at its mercy.

"The Last Trip From Jacksonville to San Juan," by Alpha Unit

A US Navy salvage unit is headed to the debris fields near the last known location of the SS El Faro, a US-flagged cargo ship that sank last week during Hurricane Joaquin. What they want to recover immediately is the voyage data recorder, which captured the ship’s course and speed as well as onboard audio from the bridge. Once submerged, the recorder would have begun pinging. It has a battery life of 30 days.
The El Faro is a “roll-on/roll-off” cargo vessel designed to carry vehicles that are driven on and off the ship. It left Jacksonville, Florida, last Tuesday on its weekly run from Jacksonville to San Juan, Puerto Rico. It held 294 cars, trucks, and trailers below deck and 391 containers topside carrying groceries and other retail products.
There were 33 crew members, including Captain Michael Davidson, a veteran mariner of over 25 years’ experience. Twenty-eight of the crew members were from the United States and five were from Poland.
TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico operated the El Faro and says the 40-year-old vessel was sound and well-maintained and that it had passed its annual Coast Guard inspection in March. The question that has been floating around for the past week is “Why did the captain set sail in the face of a hurricane?”
Experienced mariners say that it isn’t at all unusual for a captain to head out under those conditions. One Merchant Marine captain, Laurence Wade, told the Portland Press Herald that sailing in bad weather, even in hurricanes, is part of the way of life for mariners.

You do the best you can. You ride it out. If the [El Faro] hadn’t lost power it would have been in San Juan by Friday and back in Jacksonville today.

Others remind us that the decision to sail rests with the captain, not with the company, and that no captain would take a ship and its crew into harm’s way. Wade says that he never likes to see people questioning a captain’s decision, particularly those with no experience at sea.
A former merchant mariner and current maritime lawyer named Rod Sullivan told the South Florida Business Journal that the El Faro probably sailed due to routine.

People get wedded to their schedule. There are vendors, stevedores, truckers who are all expecting the ship to arrive. There’s pressure to keep on schedule.

That’s putting it charitably. Other mariners say that pressure from the shipping office is intense. On all kinds of forums where people are discussing this disaster, you’ll find sea veterans making comments like this:

To answer your question, the most likely reason that the El Faro sailed when and where she did was because she had a schedule to keep at San Juan’s container port, and that was paramount over the concern of risking the ship and the lives of those serving on her…
Some flunky at a desk in an office building somewhere scheduled a particular vessel to be at a certain place within a specified time window, and that’s pretty much it…details like war or weather or other such things are treated as just another thing that the crew is expected to “deal with.”

Executives at the parent company of TOTE Maritime acknowledged on Monday that the company could have vetoed the captain’s decision to set sail but say that Captain Davidson had a sound plan that would have enabled him to pass clearly ahead of the storm. Had the El Faro not lost propulsion, Davidson would most likely have succeeded.
Why the ship lost propulsion is still unknown. The ship left Jacksonville on Tuesday, September 29. At 7:15 AM on Thursday, October 1, the Coast Guard received distress alerts from the El Faro. Just before the alerts went out, Captain Davidson had notified TOTE Maritime that the ship had lost propulsion and was listing 15 degrees in the midst of Hurricane Joaquin. The captain also noted that the ship had taken on some flooding but that the crew had the situation under control. This was the last contact anyone had with the ship.
According to Rick Spilman of The Old Salt Blog, these vehicle carriers have an inherent weakness that might have doomed the El Faro.

Ro/ros have wide vehicle decks. They are essentially parking lots at sea. The wide and open decks are necessary for efficiently driving vehicles on and off ships. The problem is that even moderate flooding of the vehicle deck can dramatically destabilize a ro/ro. The sloshing of water on the vehicle deck, referred to as the “free surface effect,” can cause the ship to capsize rapidly and without warning.

In addition to the sloshing water in the vehicle deck, vehicles can become unsecured in heavy seas and slide to one side, causing a ship to list even more. That is what happened when the Korean ferry Sewol capsized in 2014.
The El Faro‘s emergency beacon sent out a signal briefly and then stopped. The beacon is designed to float away from the ship and continue sending a signal. If the El Faro capsized, the beacon could have been trapped underneath the ship, says Spilman.
In the estimation of Captain Joseph Murphy of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, two essential things to the survival of the ship were its ability to maintain propulsion and its power. He explains:

Propulsion so they can maneuver it and power so they can maintain communication. The other one is watertight integrity so that the ship is able to float. By all reports, she had a 15-degree list, which would have made it difficult for them to launch lifeboats. And she had lost power and communication so my suspicion is that they did not have either propulsion or power.
My personal belief – and I don’t have anything to go on other than experience, years of going to sea – is that the ship actually did capsize and sank very, very quickly.

Most people don’t think that much about mariners or the vessels they work on until tragedies like these occur. The fact is, almost everything we use and consume every day arrives to us by ship. The goods flow day and night, but transporting them is a risky enterprise. In addition to the grueling work schedules and battles over pay, there is the fact that mariners work in a wilderness as deadly as any other on Earth.
“Mother Nature is merciless and more powerful than we give her credit,” says a former maritime instructor to those who wonder why this happened. In a discussion at the Service Academy Forums, he says there is an evolution you go through.

Stage 1 is, I’m a little scared, but I trust you guys. Stage 2 is, I’m strong, I’m invincible, I can handle anything, BRING IT. A lot of people stop there. A lot of people LIVE under the illusion that because they can turn up a thermostat, turn on a faucet, flip a switch and cook a meal, that they have bested nature. Technology only takes you so far.
Forty-foot seas, 140-knot winds, no port to enter, no way off the ship, no one to negotiate with, no alternatives. Human beings can adapt to and overcome a lot of things, but sometimes there is a confluence of nature that makes it NOT POSSIBLE. And those people get to Stage 3: I am strong, I am trained, I am clever, and I have my wits – but I am a speck of dust on a capricious planet, and I am at its mercy.

"Rodbusters," by Alpha Unit

For millenia humans have created structures out of concrete. The Romans preferred concrete to all other construction materials, and their unique formula is the reason so many of ancient Rome’s monuments are still standing. The concrete we use today, while different from Roman concrete, is an excellent building material but as strong as it is, it has almost no tensile strength: it can’t withstand much pulling or stretching. For that reason builders reinforce it with rebar.

These metal rods, which have spaced patterns of bumps or swirls to help the concrete grip them, allow concrete to bend and flex without cracking or breaking. Rodbusters, the ironworkers who install rebar, have one of the most physically demanding jobs in construction.

Rodbusters will tell you that their shoulders especially take a pounding. They do a lot of lifting, and routinely carry heavy rebar on their shoulders. During hot weather, shoulder burns from hoisting hot steel rods are common. Here’s how one rodbuster describes his work:

Your back is shot, shoulders are raped, you can’t walk from being in the SLDL position all day long, and you literally have no free time aside from our [mandated] breaks.

Another rodbuster has pretty much the same view:

It’s good clean work…but it’s hell on the body. Carrying 150-180 pounds of 30′ rods all day gives your lower back, shoulders, and legs a beating. Not to mention tying [rebar] all day long as well. Picture being in the SLDL start position for five minutes at a time.

SLDL stands for Stiff Legged Deadlift.

Once a rodbuster positions the rebar, he ties it together with wire. He has to wrap wire securely around any area with two or more rebar sections that intersect or overlap. Tied corners are weak, so he installs bent rebar at corners. A job might involve cutting or welding.

Tying rebar requires fast, repetitive hand and arm movements while applying a lot of force. When a rodbuster ties rebar at ground level, he typically works in a stooped position, with his body bent deeply forward. A rodbuster informs us:

For a career as a rodbuster, you’re always bunched forward. You can always tell a rodbuster by how he looks.

Ironworkers in the United States have been represented since 1896 by the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, and Reinforcing Iron Workers. But throughout the country there are rodbusters working without a union contract.

Some non-union rodbusters have walked off the job to protest working conditions. They report making significantly less than the national average for reinforcing ironworkers. They say they can work 18-hour days sometimes, without warning. There are no health benefits, and if there is an accident, it might not get reported to OSHA. Such protests have taken place in Vancouver, Washington; in Houston, Texas; and in Manchester, Tennessee.

Union or non-union, if you can set and tie rebar, you have a skill that’s in demand. Some ironworkers say that in their line of work, the sooner you get in and get out, the better off you are. As one of them put it:

I was a rodbuster for over 30 years, and if you go that route you will find out GOD fucking hates you. The first two weeks every muscle in your body will fucking hate you. But remember this, you are not the only one that will do it or has been through it, and you will survive.

"Is a Meal Break This Big a Deal?" by Alpha Unit

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 was a landmark piece of legislation that changed life as working Americans knew it. Among the things it brought about are the 40-hour work week, the national minimum wage, guaranteed “time and a half” for overtime, and the end of what it called “oppressive child labor.”
But progressives in California were ahead of the federal government on worker protections. Twenty-five years before Congress passed the FLSA, California created the Industrial Welfare Commission to establish regular wages, hours, and working conditions in California. The state continues to enforce Wage Orders mandated by the IWC.
What most people would consider obvious requirements for workers has been the subject of intense litigation in California for years: providing meal periods and rest breaks. It’s common sense that people working all day need breaks. But workers and employers have been fighting it out in court over this issue regularly in California. Employers say that providing a meal break isn’t as straightforward as it sounds.
Under California law, workers are allowed:

  • a 30-minute meal period for every work period of more than 5 hours
  • two 30-minute meal periods for every work period of more than 10 hours
  • rest periods at the rate of 10 minutes per 4 hours worked, in the middle of the work period if possible
  • an additional hour of pay for each day that the employer fails to permit the meal period or rest break

Employers, however, find these rules cumbersome and vague, says Allen Matkins. The issues confronted by employers are:

  • What does it mean to “provide” a meal period?
  • Do meal periods have to be provided in rolling 5-hour increments?
  • Are early (or late) lunches allowed?
  • Must employers ensure that their employees actually take these mandated breaks?
  • Are meal and rest period claims suitable for class action adjudication?

According to the California Restaurant Association, these regulations can be a headache for supervisors, who feel they have to play lunchroom cop. Clocking in after a break even one minute early subjects restaurant operators to class action lawsuits. It also says these laws are inconvenient for employees.

  • Many table servers are forced onto mandatory breaks in the midst of the busiest times of day when many would prefer to delay or forego a break to collect more tips.
  • Others would prefer to work through their break to be able to leave 30 minutes early to go to school, pick up kids, and so forth.

But employees aren’t of one mind on how inconvenient these regulations are.
In 2004 five employees of Chili’s restaurant filed a case, Hohnbaum v. Brinker Restaurant Corporation, in which they claimed the restaurant illegally denied them meal and rest breaks. They said that the restaurant would have them take “early lunches” shortly after starting work and then work them another 5 to 10 hours without receiving another meal break.
They also said that they should have received a rest break before the first meal period and that they worked “off the clock” during meal periods.
Brinker argued that meal periods need only be “provided” as set forth in the Labor Code. Whether or not any particular manager discouraged or prohibited breaks should be decided on an individual basis and not as a class action.
The case was indeed certified as a class action involving more than 60,000 current and former employees. Brinker appealed this order and prevailed, with the Court of Appeal vacating each subclass. The California Supreme Court accepted review and agreed to settle the uncertainty over meal and rest breaks and the suitability of these claims for class action.
The California Supreme Court finally ruled in 2012, siding with Brinker. It stated:

  1. An employer’s obligation to “provide” a meal period is satisfied if the employee is relieved of all duty for an uninterrupted 30-minute period and is free to leave the work premises. The employee can use the meal period for whatever purpose he or she desires.
  2. An employer does not have to ensure that no work is done during a meal period. Nor is the employer liable for a meal period premium if the employee chooses to work (unless he or she is pressured to work).
  3. The first meal period must be provided after no more than 5 hours of work. The second meal period must be provided after no more than 10 hours of work.
  4. Rest breaks and meal periods do not need to be taken in a certain order.
  5. A 10-minute rest period is owed for every major portion of 4 hours after an employee works 3 and a half hours. Thus, an employee is entitled to 10 minutes rest for shifts from 3 and a half to 6 hours, 20 minutes for shifts of more than 6 hours up to 10 hours, and so on.
  6. Meal and rest period claims can be suitable for class action litigation if the employer has a uniform policy that conflicts with break requirements.

So you would think that the issue of meal and rest breaks in California was made simple by the Brinker case. But it wasn’t. Companies can claim that they are exempt altogether from complying with meal and break regulations. This was the issue in Dilts v. Penske Logistics.
Mickey Lee Dilts, Ray Rios, and Donny Dushaj worked for Penske Logistics and Penske Truck Leasing. At the time in question, Penske provided transportation and warehouse management services to Whirlpool Corporation in California. Employees inventoried appliances and loaded them onto trucks for delivery and installation.
Dilts was a “driver/installer.” Rios and Dushaj were “installers” whose job was to unload and install appliances at their destinations.
Penske had a systematic policy of automatically deducting 30 minutes of work time to account for daily meal periods. It didn’t ask whether workers actually had a 30-minute meal period. Furthermore, company policy didn’t permit the driver/installer to leave the truck unattended. Workers had cellphones for communicating with dispatchers, supervisors, and customers during the day but Penske didn’t allow workers to turn off the cellphones during breaks.
In spite of all this, the issue wasn’t simply whether Penske violated California law but whether those laws were preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994.
The FAAA Act declares that a state cannot enact or enforce any law involving prices, routes, or services of any motor carrier that transports property. Penske argued:

  • California’s law would force drivers to alter their routes. They would have to look for a place to exit the highway and locate stopping places that safely and lawfully accommodated their vehicles.
  • The law would require 1 or 2 fewer deliveries per day to schedule off-duty meal periods.
  • Off-duty meal periods and rest breaks would reduce driver flexibility and interfere with customer service.
  • The law would significantly impact prices. The company would incur the cost of additional drivers, helpers, trackers, and trailers to ensure off-duty breaks and maintain the same level of service.

The US District Court ruled for Penske in October 2011. But the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the ruling, saying that meal and rest break laws are not preempted because they are not the sorts of laws related to price, routes, or service that Congress intended to preempt. Instead they are normal background rules for all employers doing business in California.
The Obama administration had filed a brief supporting the workers in this case, saying that the FAAA Act did not preempt state break requirements because it is squarely within the states’ traditional power to regulate the employment relationship and to protect worker health and safety.
Penske appealed to the United States Supreme Court. Among those who filed in support of Penske were the American Trucking Associations and the United States Chamber of Commerce. But the Supreme Court denied the petition. Dilts, Rios, and Dushaj prevailed after 6 years.
Does this mean there won’t be any more litigation in California over meal and rest breaks for workers? If only it were that simple. Employers and workers have a hard time seeing eye-to-eye on when and how a worker should take a break.

"The Rise, Fall, and Reinvention of an American Company," by Alpha Unit

Overseas competition mortally wounded the Faribault Woolen Mill Company. It finally died in 2009 and joined the ranks of similarly disposed of American companies, all casualties of the ongoing quest for “cheaper” manufacturing.
At the time of its demise, the company was nearly 150 years old. It had been created in 1865 when a German immigrant, Carl Henry Klemer, entered the woolen mill business after arriving in the village of Faribault, Minnesota. Prior to the Civil War, most woolen goods in this country were imported. Says Peter J. de Carlo:

After the war, domestic wool manufacturing increased as the country became more industrialized. The growth of wool production was aided by the Tariff Acts of 1867. The acts provided protection for domestic wool makers and made them more competitive. In Minnesota, the 1860s saw the beginning of many woolen manufacturing companies.

In 1882 Klemer moved his business to a building on the Straight River, in Rice County, Minnesota. A succession of fires over the next ten years ultimately destroyed the facility. In 1892 Klemer bought property on the Cannon River, built a fireproof brick building, and replaced the wooden dam that powered the mill with one made of stone.
During this period, the Faribault mill picked up a military contract with West Point that allowed the business to expand.
The company grew slowly during the early 1900s but built on its success with the military after being awarded a contract with the US Army in 1917 for 100,000 blankets. It also manufactured blankets for the military during World War II. In the postwar years Faribault led its industry with new products like washable wool and moth-proofed wool, with its profits peaking during the 1970s.
Things began to change during the 1990s. A lot of woolen manufacturing had moved offshore, and high-tech synthetics were beginning to inundate the market. Faribault was struggling. In 1998 a majority of its stock was acquired by a businessman named Peter Lytle who was based in the Twin Cities. The company became a subsidiary of a new entity, North American Heritage Brands, which also bought a cotton mill as a hedge.
North American Heritage Brands wasn’t up to the task of saving Faribault. The entity went bankrupt, taking both mills down with it. The Faribault Woolen Mill Company was finished.
The owners shut the mill down abruptly. Employees were asked to leave their posts; blankets were still on the looms half-woven. Nearly everything, from office supplies to spinning machines, was left behind.
To make matters worse, the mill flooded in 2010. The entire lower level had been filled with unattended machinery. According to John Mooty, everything that was still working was tagged to be shipped to a manufacturer in Pakistan. The rest was to be liquidated, and the facility would finally be emptied.
What was left of the once-thriving company was the empty building and the rights to its name and brand. Someone came along and decided that these were worth holding onto. That was John Mooty’s uncle, Paul Mooty, and Paul’s cousin Chuck Mooty. After consulting with the mill’s former controller, the Mootys decided that reviving the mill would deliver a good return on investment. They reopened the mill in September of 2011 and brought back many of the employees who had been let go.
“In less than six months, we went from not having a single usable restroom to selling goods in 50 states,” says Paul Mooty.
The new owners had decided at the outset on a particular strategy, according to Adam Platt. They were going to get the acrylic out of their products, for starters. But more importantly, they saw no point in trying to compete with output from India and China. They were going to bring their products back as a brand.
A major selling point was that Faribault’s products were American-made. Paul Mooty says that a lot of people are seeing now that the country has paid a price for shipping so many jobs overseas. The Mootys see great value in reviving a historic Minnesota business that they don’t want to see tossed by the wayside. In addition, they believe the art of textile manufacturing should be kept alive in America.
The Faribault Woolen Mill Company creates its products from start to finish under one roof, making it one of the last fully vertically integrated manufacturers in the United States.
Some analysts, including the Mootys, say that small manufacturers are going to be the key to bringing back jobs to the United States that big businesses sent overseas. Says Chuck Mooty:

The Chinas of the world were wonderful places for people to get value, but the middle market players are frustrated with rising costs of labor, energy, and transporting products. This is the time for people to step up and take some risks and invest in ventures that produce and manufacture products domestically.

It’s true that manufacturing in America includes many small businesses. Will the “Made in America” movement be the job creator people expect it to be?

"Shipyard Workers in Demand," by Alpha Unit

Ships are crucial to the day-to-day living most of us take for granted. But for some, sailing is in the blood, as they put it. Ships and shipyards loom large in the life of Jimmy Buffett.
Jimmy Buffett’s grandfather ran away from home at the age of 13. In the liner notes to his album Far Side of the World, Buffett tells how his grandfather jumped out of a second story window of his family home in Sydney, Nova Scotia, never to return. Three years later James Delaney Buffett became a whaling-ship cabin boy and went looking for his older brother, who had supposedly been shipwrecked. He eventually became a sea captain.
During the course of his travels he ended up on the Gulf Coast of the United States, living in a boarding house for sailors in Pascagoula, Mississippi. He got married to a local girl and began to raise a family. Their oldest was Jimmy Buffett’s father, J.D. Buffett. After serving as a mechanic in the Army Air Corps in World War II, J.D. Buffett moved his family to Mobile, Alabama, where he worked as a naval architect for the Alabama Dry Dock and Shipbuilding Company.
J.D. Buffett had met his wife while both worked at another Gulf Coast shipbuilding company, Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula. Ship production had begun there in 1939, just in time for World War II, when the shipyard put commercial production on hold and started building military vessels.
Ingalls has built troopships, destroyers, tankers, submarines, and aircraft carriers for the Navy and cutters for the Coast Guard. The company has been saying for some time now that there is a need on the Gulf Coast and nationwide for first class level craftsmen, especially welders, pipe welders, pipefitters, and shipfitters.
Shipfitters make molds and patterns for construction, basing their designs on the blueprints and schematics produced by the ship’s architects and drafters. They then make walls and structural parts and brace them in position for welding or riveting. Essential skills, indeed.
Companies and the military are so eager to recruit shipyard workers that they are investing in apprenticeship programs to grow a workforce for the industry. They find that plenty of their applicants require remedial math and English classes along with their blueprint-reading classes.
Hiring managers say meeting short- and long-term hiring goals is a challenge. The vocational pipeline from high school to industry has narrowed over the years, mainly because of the emphasis placed on college degrees. It’s the same thing they’ve been saying in the skilled trades for years now.
The investment does pay off, though, with more awareness being raised about the shortage of skilled tradesmen all over the country – and awareness being raised about good shipbuilding jobs, in particular.

"Who Wants to Work in the Logging Business?" by Alpha Unit

The logging business in Arkansas has been down so long, says Jan Cottingham, that people are skeptical of any predictions of an upturn. And yet some observers are that confident. What they wonder is whether or not the workers will be there to meet the demand.
Labor concerns in Arkansas reflect what’s going on nationwide: the lumber industry workforce is reaching retirement age and employers don’t know if they’ll see new recruitment coming in. Even with some modest increases in the labor force, challenges remain in drawing young people to the industry.
Much like farming, the logging industry is often multi-generational and family-run, says Matt Jensen. He is the vice president of the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, and a third-generation logger. He says:

This is a business that is really hard to learn and it’s really a lifestyle. If you don’t teach your children the work ethic, they’re not going to continue.

One of the biggest challenges facing the forestry industry is the negative perception about wood usage, according to Scott Bowe of the University of Wisconsin. He thinks it’s hypocritical, because people use wood everyday. “We need fresh, young people to carry the business forward,” he says. “We consume more wood every year. The wood’s got to come from somewhere.”
The question is, who will replace the current generation of loggers?
Logging is capital-intensive, requiring an initial investment of roughly $1 million for heavy equipment like fellers, which cut the trees; skidders, which move the felled trees; processors, which de-limb the trees; and loaders, which lift the logs from piles to trucks. Lenders are reluctant to provide money for new logging businesses.
Whether the businesses are new or established, the amount of work you do depends on the weather. In Arkansas, logging time can be about 40 weeks out of the year. So you’re not going to make a lot of money working in this business. The appeal just isn’t there for a lot of young people.
Steve Richardson owns a logging business in Arkansas and says that every logger has either gotten more productive with fewer people or has gone out of business. Some timber companies are considering forming their own logging crews, a practice that largely disappeared when workers’ compensation insurance rates soared. Vertical integration, in which a company owns the supply chain for its products, used to be typical in the industry, but Richardson is skeptical of its reinstation, saying that those companies don’t know how to work this labor.

These folks that work for me are fiercely independent. They’re not college graduates. They want to make a living, they want to go hunting and fishing on the weekend, and some of them want to start getting drunk on Friday afternoon.

And that mindset doesn’t fit with most business plans, Cottingham says.
Marvin Larrabee of Elk Mound, Wisconsin, says that logging almost has to be passed down in the family. He has four sons assisting him in the business but knows how hard it would be for them to strike out on their own. The expensive equipment is just the start of it. Loggers also have high fuel costs and extremely high insurance premiums. The occupation is consistently ranked one of the most hazardous in the country.
Larry Altman of Vermont was a logger for 20 years. He has pins in his ankle from the time a tree fell on him. On another occasion, his arm was crushed between two logs, but luckily he was working that day with a friend who freed him 45 minutes later.
“You’ll get hurt bad at least one time logging,” he says.
Altman says he’d still do it if you could make money at it, but you can’t.

In this whole picture, there’s a ceiling, and that ceiling is the price paid at the mill. There’s very little wiggle room for the individual logger.

The roots of logging run deep in Vermont. Its first sawmill opened in 1739, and by the middle of the 19th century logging had become Vermont’s largest and most lucrative industry. But today, says Larry Altman, many people, especially in Burlington, have no idea that logging still goes on in Vermont.
Those that become aware of it lump the local timber industry in with large-scale, ecologically devastating logging operations in the Pacific Northwest, Canada, South America, and Asia. The fact is, the vast majority of local loggers are sole proprietors, working alone in the woods, usually equipped with little more than a chainsaw, skidder, bulldozer, and truck.
Some young people are drawn, nevertheless, to the logging business. Will Coleman, 26, and his brother Wesley, 24, started Coleman Brothers Logging LLC, in December 2012. They operate out of Richburg, South Carolina, harvesting pulpwood and saw timber.
The Coleman brothers were able to buy a used Tigercat skidder and feller/buncher with a loan from Natural Capital Investment Fund’s Logging Initiative. NCIF is a business loan fund that provides debt financing to small businesses in West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, south Georgia, and the Appalachian regions of Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio.
The Coleman brothers say they doubled their loads in the first week after running the equipment they purchased with their loan.
Out on the West Coast, Billy Zimmerman, 25, has launched his own company, Zimmerman Logging LLC, in Rainier, Oregon. Zimmerman was raised on a tree farm his great-grandfather bought in the 1920s, and discovered his love of tree farming at age 10, when his father let him set chokers – setting cables around logs so they can be hauled away – for the first time. He helped his father with farming before and after school and after football practice.
In December of last year he decided to go into business for himself. His father gave him a bulldozer, saving him the $160,000 he might have needed for a new one, and his parents gave him $3,000 in seed money. He was in business by March, with a company consisting of Zimmerman, his best friend, and his father Ron.
Zimmerman works 11-hour days and is willing to underbid others so he can build a client base and his reputation. And his specialty are small jobs. As he puts it:

There are a ton of little 5- and 10-acre jobs that the guys with big machines cannot justify bringing out there to work that job. But we can. We found our niche in smaller jobs, at least for now, and for what we have it’s been working well.

"Railroad Workers to Union Leaders: This Deal Is Unacceptable," by Alpha Unit

Back in 2008, there was a head-on collision between a Metrolink commuter train and a Union Pacific freight train near Chatsworth, California. Twenty-five people were killed, including an engineer, who was evidently texting at the time and may have missed a stop signal.
After this collision Congress mandated Positive Train Control. This system monitors trains by computer and satellite GPS. It will stop the train if the crew doesn’t brake or slow down correctly. Had it been in place in 2008, the commuter train would have stopped before crossing into the path of the freight train.
With this new collision-avoidance system, rail carriers have found yet another way to cut labor costs. They now want one-man crews on freight trains. Currently in the United States, trains operate with at least two crew members, one engineer and one conductor. Some trains are over 10,000 feet long and more than 15,000 tons. Engineers drive and take care of the engines but conductors do everything else.
Engineers and conductors are licensed by the Federal Railroad Administration and undergo continual re-training and testing. But many of them – and their families – oppose the idea of one-man crews. They consider it an unacceptable safety hazard, and one of the main factors in their opposition is the grueling fatigue that train crews have to deal with.
Train crews are usually on duty around the clock and may get only two or three hours’ notice to report for work, any time of day or night. They can be called to work again after only 10 hours off. Their shifts can be for up to 12 hours. Some of the duties of a conductor:

  • hopping off the train to throw the switch that moves the train to another track
  • adding or removing cars
  • updating the list of cars that carry hazardous materials – crucial for first responders in case of a wreck
  • problem solving if a mechanical problem stops the train
  • conferring with the engineer about hazards, speed reductions, or crossings coming up

Opponents of one-man crews cite the case of a disaster that occurred in July of 2013. An unattended crude oil train broke loose and rolled down a hill, derailing in the middle of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, igniting fires and explosions that killed 47 people. A sole engineer had been in charge of the train.
Last month, thousands of railroad workers found out that their union officers had negotiated with one of the biggest freight carriers in the country to allow one-man crews. The union is SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (formerly the United Transportation Union), which represents conductors. The rail carrier is Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway (BNSF).
Currently a SMART agreement requires a minimum of one conductor and one engineer in the cab on Class I railroads. But that agreement will soon expire. Conductors could lose jobs if railroads implement engineer-only operation.The deal struck by the General Committee of SMART would have a designated master conductor working either from a fixed or mobile location other than the train. It would be the first time that a conductor is in charge of train operation.
The deal would boost the pay of conductors and other ground service workers, such as brakemen, switchmen, helpers, and yardmen. All these workers are eligible for promotion to conductor.
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, which represents engineers, has clashed with SMART over the years. Many engineers’ jobs were eliminated several years ago when railroads introduced Remote Control Operation technology for railyards. As J.P. Wright and Ed Michael explain, inbound train cars can come to the yard to be received, separated, and regrouped into tracks so that outbound trains are built with cars all going to the same destination. A yard crew used to consist of engineer, brakeman, and conductor.
Now yard crews have been reduced to a lone conductor with a remote control device strapped to his or her body. He operates the engine’s throttle and brakes to move cars, uncouples cars, and throws switches, talking by radio to the yardmaster and incoming engineers.
At first BLET and UTU (representing conductors at the time) stood united against remote control, but an attempt to merge the two unions failed. The UTU broke ranks and agreed to remote control, eliminating engineers’ jobs.
SMART is now trying to hold on to conductors’ jobs since this new industry move toward engineer-only crews.
Rank and file members of SMART have to approve of the new deal, and a campaign is underway to get them to vote no on one-man crews. Both SMART and BLET are officially against one-man crews, but each union is willing to cut whichever deal benefits its members.
Railroad Workers United was organized to bring all workers in the industry together to oppose one-man crews, regardless of their craft or union affiliation.
As for the federal government, the National Transportation Safety Board has no objection to eliminating conductors on PTC-run trains. Amtrak, commuter railroads, and some smaller freight carriers already operate with lone engineers in the cab and haven’t found any reduction in train safety.

"Kurt Cobain and the End of Grunge," by Nominay

Kurt Cobain, 1994, and the End of Grunge

by Nominay

The 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death this past April was given some media attention, and this triggered untapped feelings in me. When he died, I was not much bothered by it personally, although I was 20 at the time and liked Nirvana. But now that 20 years has gone by, I miss him and am finally grieving over his passing.
No one else has really ever represented my generation. That’s not to say that Kurt Cobain was the spokesperson of a generation, as his popular image in recent years has suggested. Indeed, he was tagged with this title even before his death. One prominent media figure said that at the very least he was his generation’s most somber poet laureate. That’s closer to the truth, but American youth demographics have been broad for quite long a time.
Kurt Cobain, Nirvana, and grunge, did not appeal so much to blacks, Hispanics, and the whites who loved country music. But for those of us who had been turned on by punk rock and then alternative rock, Kurt Cobain became our ambassador to the mainstream. He was not a star (as his contemporaries Chris Cornell, Layne Staley, and Scott Leiland were), he was an icon that not even his rival Eddie Vedder could hold a flame to.
For a short time, in the form of Seattle punk rock, my generation was given a voice, culturally. For Kurt Cobain, however, this was not such a sweet renaissance. For a number of reasons, he took the extraordinary step of killing himself. For years, those reasons had stirred like a cauldron within him. Millions were left wondering what those reasons really were, and how he got to that point. Over years of research, the answers have surfaced. It happened in 7 weeks that swiftly spiraled out of control.
Up through January of 1994, things had been about as usual as they could be for Kurt Cobain (if his life could ever have been described as usual). For months, he had been stoked on the record he had made with his band. As Nirvana’s songwriter, Kurt saw it as artistic vindication over their groundbreaking Nevermind album which he had been dissatisfied with. As a proud punk rocker who obsessed over artistic integrity, Kurt had been self-critical over anything that could be perceived as “selling out.” He was irritated over what he saw as the slick production of Nevermind, and for this reason didn’t see his songs as having stood on their own true merit.
When Nevermind‘s follow up, In Utero, came out in the fall of 1993, Kurt seemed as close to happy as he’d been since childhood. By the end of 1993 however, his strength was sapping, the effects of years of abuse on his psyche and body. Still, as the In Utero tour careened through America through the new year, his spirits remained up in the promotion of the album. The final US tour dates, on the 7th and 8th of January, found him in his hometown of Seattle, and by all reports, he was in a good mood.
In spite of having nearly a month to regroup before the start of Nirvana’s European tour, from the outset of February, Kurt resisted having to go on tour, but the pressures of rock stardom cajoled him into it.
For the first week in Europe, Kurt was fine, but as week one turned into week two, something went seriously awry. In the accumulation of stress brought on by fame, the obligations of his career, and the additional responsibilities that came with being a new father and husband, Kurt had grown more dependent on heroin in the past year.
All this was in addition to the litany of medical problems he had suffered over the years – from scoliosis to agonizing stomach pains – all of which led him to use heroin to begin with. Now his heroin dependency was exploding in his face. Stuck in Europe with little recourse to sustain his habit, drug withdrawal ensued. Hard drug withdrawal by itself can be excruciating and for Kurt, it was. His health issues added only more potency to it as he could not dull their symptoms without the heroin.
Meanwhile, it was becoming undeniable to Kurt that his wife, Courtney, was falling out of love with him. Kurt had a profound love for Courtney, but she saw him as choosing heroin over her. And as if this weren’t enough to exacerbate his condition, he caught wind that she was having an affair. In phone calls to each other from overseas, they already had not been getting along. Now, the fighting intensified.
Signs of desperation peppered dates leading up to his demise. The band’s photo shoot on February 13th was made unnerving by Kurt’s antics. On February 25th and again on the 27th Kurt requested to end the tour (he was rebuffed outright by band and management). On March 1st, after playing in Munich, Kurt quit the tour.

On March 4th, while on break in Italy, Kurt intentionally overdosed on a massive amount of Rohypnol, and although it didn’t kill him, it probably left him brain damaged. Back in Seattle, on March 18th, Courtney called the cops, claiming Kurt was threatening suicide. Officers were dispatched to the Cobain residence where they confiscated Kurt’s guns along with a bottle of unidentified pills.
On March 25th, a heavy intervention was staged by Kurt’s band, management, wife, and best friend. The band threatened to disband, and Courtney threatened to walk out on him with their two year old daughter, Frances. March 30th saw him checking into Exodus Recovery Center in Los Angeles. Then, on the evening of April 1st, Kurt escaped Exodus and took the next flight back to Seattle.
For the next 3 days, Kurt wandered around Seattle on a heroin binge, and on the 5th of April, he shot himself.

"Fracked Gas Exports," by Juliette Zephyr

Our excellent young female guest writer Juliette Zephyr shows up for another guest post about a subject that has unfortunately been neglected on this blog.

Fracked Gas Exports

by Juliette Zephyr

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you have heard of the disturbing prevalence of a natural gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” all across the country. It’s been happening in rural areas, where residents have to cope with the effects it has on their groundwater as well as the air quality. In Pennsylvania, the problem got so out of hand that it inspired a groundbreaking documentary, Gasland (2010), which highlights the grim consequences of this dirty method of extracting fuels.
The percentage of fracked gas actually kept and sold in the U.S. is marginal – after the fuel is fracked, it is then typically sent for export to countries in Latin America, Asia, and Europe. Anywhere corporations have undertaken fracking projects, the result has been very real and large-scale contamination of surrounding water and air. Yet corporate powers lobby for more projects in states that can ill afford the environmental upheaval, the destruction of plant and animal habitats, and the pollution of the area that would ensue.
Shale basins in this country which contain natural gas are especially vulnerable to opportunistic corporations which will try to convince a local jurisdiction that taking advantage of these natural resources would lead to more jobs for Americans and less reliance on foreign oil.
Anyone who tries to come forward with an alternate view is silenced, with groups such as Marcellus Shale Earth First being targeted by the government as a “terrorist group,” and victims of water and air contamination being labeled and dismissed as delusional nutcases. Since it doesn’t appear that such projects are creating new jobs for Americans or helping us to rely less on foreign oil, it seems that the only authentic benefit of exporting these fuels is the profit reaped by oil companies.
In layman’s terms, the process of fracking involves these three steps:
1. Drilling a fracking well. A well of sorts must be drilled into a geological formation, such as shale. A pipe is inserted in preparation for the Step 2.
2. Fracturing the rock/sediment/tight sands. Let us continue to use shale as an example. In order to fracture the shale rock, “fracking fluid” is pumped into the well. In addition to water and sand, this fracking fluid can contain up to 600 chemical additives. The high pressure injection of these chemicals eventually causes the rock to fracture.
3. Natural gas from the rock then flows back up the well.
This is what fracking is, in a nutshell. Studies show that more than 90% of fracking fluid remains underground, posing a threat to both the environment and drinking water used by locals. In rural communities such as Dimock, PA, footage online shows residents holding a lighter to a faucet of running water. The water stream then catches fire. There are unexplained ailments and health concerns cropping up in these places, symptoms which had not been seen in the community prior to the introduction of fracking wells.
Any fracking fluid that returns to the surface is called “flowback,” and can pollute the surrounding areas and threaten indigenous species and their habitats. Research has also determined that methane is a significant byproduct of fracking. In most cases, and certainly in Pennsylvania, methane leak rates into the atmosphere are occurring at 100-1,000 times what the EPA initially estimated.
Now, solely for the purposes of full disclosure, I, as a Maryland resident who resides where the Susquehanna River meets the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay, have a personal bias when it comes to my desire to see all fracking projects, both in my home state as well as the entire country, fail.
I live in a natural scenic area, marred only by a nearly nuclear power plant, that attracts tourists year-round. The Chesapeake Bay is already extremely polluted, and any export facilities on the bay would be a catastrophe. I lament that our own governor, Martin O’Malley, is planning to approve an export terminal in Cove Point (southern Maryland), which would be situated right on the bay. It would be the first of its kind here on the East Coast.
As bay ecologists are observing, any fracking chemicals present in one part of the bay are going to turn up in other parts of the bay too. It is a perilous scenario. Even more ghastly, experts have issued warnings that the proposed facility could be at risk for serious fires and explosions because of the explosive chemicals required to liquefy the gas.
This area has residential neighborhoods, schools, and businesses. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has rubber-stamped the project, which is being managed by a Virginia-based company called Dominion Resources. Fracked gas from Appalachia is going to be liquefied and then sent for export right here on the water. It will apparently end up in Asia when all is said and done. For people in our area, this has turned into a battle that no one wanted to fight, but FERC and these Dominion scumbags have forced our hand.

Juliette Zephyr, guest author.
Juliette Zephyr, guest author.

"The Taoist Influence on Japanese Martial Arts," by Dota

New essay from Dota. Very nice!

The Taoist Influence on Japanese Martial Arts

By Dota

The Japanese Samurai Miyamoto Musashi acknowledged a number of influences on Japanese thought, chief among which were Confucianism and Buddhism. Yet not once does he directly mention the Old Master whose philosophy is so entrenched in the martial arts that the Samurai once pursued with inexhaustible zeal. Yet despite this seeming negligence, Mushashi’s epic martial arts treatise, “A Book of 5 Rings“, is laden with Taoist ideas and analogies. Indeed the very nature of the Japanese martial arts has been shaped and molded by Taoist thinking.
In the interest of brevity one can sum up Taoist thought as being primarily concerned with conforming to nature by finding “the way.” According to the very first verse of the Tao te Ching (the poem attributed to Lao Tzu): “The Tao (way) that can be described is not the real Tao.” Indeed, Lao Tzu devoted considerable energy into conveying the indescribable nature of the way. One could not describe the way, one merely walked it or one didn’t. Could one verbally instruct another on how to ride a bicycle? One either knew how to or didn’t.
Philosopher Arthur Danto astutely observed that the Taoists had a deep mistrust of prepositional knowledge, or what one would refer to as the discursive intellect. Taoism isn’t concerned with the knowledge of the scholar, but rather, with what we would refer to as “intuitive knowledge.” Those that knew the way were able to execute the perfect brush stroke or carve a pumpkin with exceptional ability.
To further illustrate this point, Chuang Tzu narrates the story of the old wheel maker. The latter approached a King and told him that reading his book was a waste of time. He explained to the King that true knowledge couldn’t be expressed in words but could only be grasped. He illustrated this point by describing his own trade as thus:

The other secret of my trade has to do with the roundness of the wheel. If I chisel away at the wheel too quickly, I may be able to complete the work in a short time, but the wheel won’t be perfectly round. Even though it may look quite acceptable upon casual inspection, in actual usage it will cause excessive shaking of the carriage…In order to create the best wheels possible in a timely manner, I must chisel at just the right speed – not too fast and not too slow. This speed is also guided by a feeling, which again can only be acquired through many years of experience.

He then concluded his lesson with the following observation:

Your Majesty, the ancient sages possessed the feelings that were at the heart of their mastery. Using words, they could set down the mechanics of their mastery in the form of books, but just as it is impossible for me to pass on my experience to anyone else, it is equally impossible for them to transmit their essence of wisdom to you. Their feelings died when they passed away. The only things they left behind were their words. This is why I said Your Majesty was reading the leftovers of a dead man.

Karate is taught via instruction and perfected through rigorous practice. Form, movement, and balance can be learned by executing a sequence of gestures and movements known as Kata. The master guides the student to the way but the student is tasked with walking on it and not deviating from it. In the first Karate Kid film Mr Miyagi scoffs at Daniel Larusso’s attempt to “learn Karate from book.” Musashi similarly stated in his treatise that “Language does not extend to explaining the Way in detail, but it can be grasped intuitively,” (Water Book).
But what is the difference between those men that follow the way and those that don’t? Those that follow the way properly are able to execute actions with minimal effort. But while effort is minimized the outcome of their actions is maximized.
This is known as the principle of WuWei (literally non doing). WuWei is also often understood as carefully calibrated action. Consider for example, a perfectly executed Karate shoulder throw. By using a lunging opponents force against him, one can disable an opponent with a shoulder throw; a move that would ordinarily require considerable effort to execute. Actions become effortless for those that know the way.
Musashi’s duels typically lasted only a few seconds. Consider his duel with Kojiro for example. He charged at his opponent and provoked Kojiro into making the first attack. Musashi effortlessly dodged the attack and decisively struck his opponent on the head killing him in a single blow. Musashi almost echoes Lao Tzu when he urges martial artists to be like water which is gentle yet destructive. It is the principle of WuWei that gives the Japanese martial arts their characteristic finesse that many have come to admire. The ancient masters would be repulsed by the drawn out UFC slug fests and would dismiss these fighters as not truly knowing the way.
The Japanese word for way is michi, which literally refers to a path through the Cosmos. The Way has no destination, and simply finding the way is an end in itself. Since Taoism is primarily concerned with each pursuing his own way, it stands to reason that every one of us is (potentially) a wanderer. The wanderer is also a common motif in Taoist art – he who walks a path without apparent destination.
I must point out that many of Japan’s cherished heroes were wanderers too, such as Musashi and Yagyu Jubei. Both of these individuals refused to hang up their swords and become artisans during the largely peaceful Tokugawa Period of Japanese history. They wandered the countryside (the Samurai had no restrictions on travel) and dueled several opponents that crossed their paths.
Musashi is said to have won 80 duels during his lifetime. So entrenched is the image of the wandering martial artist that it has left its imprint on contemporary Japanese pop culture as well. The characters Ryu and Akuma of the Street Fighter franchise are wanderers pursuing the way of the martial artist. In a statement saturated with Taoist overtones Akuma proclaims: “For some, it is the path, not the goal,” (Street Fighter Alpha 1).
Ultimately, while the spirit of the Japanese martial arts is obviously Japanese, their character is clearly Chinese.

"The Death of a Young Sailor," by Alpha Unit

Ashtabula, Ohio, is a major coal port on Lake Erie. The coal dock at Ashtabula Harbor is a transload point for coals destined for electricity-generating plants and cement producers in Canada and the Great Lakes area. Coals from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia arrive at Ashtabula by train before being sent on their way. Other commodities coming through the port include iron ore, sand, gravel, and stone.

Among the ships you could see at Ashtabula Harbor was the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald, a lake freighter that carried iron ore from mines near Duluth, Minnesota, to iron works near cities like Detroit and Toledo. A young man named Karl Peckol, barely out of Ashtabula High School, signed on to work on the Edmund Fitzgerald. He became a watchman.

Most of the crew on the Fitzgerald were veteran seamen. But there were some novices, including Karl Peckol, who didn’t necessarily aspire to a life as a sailor. Stacy Millberg says that Peckol was working on going to college. He didn’t get to go to college. He died on November 10, 1975, when the Fitzgerald sank in a storm on Lake Superior. At 20 years old, he was the youngest man on board.

"Tugboat Workers and Corporate Angst," by Alpha Unit

Iron ore is critical for modern civilization – and critical for corporate profits.
Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake right now as mining companies, shipping companies, and employees stake out their positions in a bargaining dispute. At issue are pay and work hours for deckhands, masters, and engineers on tugboats at Port Hedland in the Pilbara district of Western Australia.
The tugboats guide iron ore ships in and out of the port, and if the workers strike it could cost companies $100 million a day in lost iron ore sales. The tugboat workers are employed by Teekay Shipping and represented by the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA).
This labor dispute involves the world’s largest mining company, BHP Billiton, which has a contract with Teekay for tug services. BHP is the Anglo-Australian multinational mining, metals, and petroleum company, with headquarters in Melbourne. BHP would be directly affected by a strike, as would Fortescue Metals Group, the third largest iron ore producer in Australia, after BHP and Rio Tinto.
Nev Power, the Chief Executive of Fortescue, was not in a mood to negotiate with the MUA when he released this statement:

There is something wrong with our industrial relations laws when a small group of 45 people who would like to only work 22 weeks a year and be paid a base rate about three times the base wage of a nurse…can hold to ransom an industry that generates more export earnings than any other.

Actually, no, says Will Tracey. He is the Western Australia branch secretary of the MUA, which is seeking a 12% pay increase over four years and wants working time to be cut to five months a year down from the current six. He stated:

Over the course of a year, tugboat workers work six swings of 28 days, at an average of 12 hours a day, and sometimes up to 20 hours a day, depending on the volume of iron ore going through the port.
Total number of hours worked by a tugboat deckhand in a year equates to almost 54 weeks of a standard 37.5-hour working week.

It turns out that the MUA has just agreed to suspend taking industrial action against Teekay Shipping for a 30-day period while negotiations continue. Port Hedland is the world’s biggest export terminal for iron ore, and there would be huge losses for BHP, which ships about a million tons of iron ore a day.
It isn’t just corporate profits that are at stake. Mining royalties and tax revenues are also at risk. Iron ore is a major Australian export and Hamersley Province in Western Australia is one of the world’s best sources. The ores from the major mines are hauled to screening and crushing plants via truck and then transported for further treatment to port sites by train. After arriving at Port Hedland much of the ore is shipped to the Chinese port of Tianjin and then delivered to steel mills in China.

"Made Mostly in America," by Alpha Unit

Waterford Precision Cycles manufactures custom, hand-built bicycles 30 miles from downtown Milwaukee. It was founded by Marc Muller and Richard Schwinn, both formerly of Schwinn Bicycle Company. Richard Schwinn is the great-grandson, in fact, of the founder of Schwinn.
Waterford, established in 1993, is one of the few bicycle manufacturers left in the United States. The vast majority of bikes sold here are made in Asia, including Schwinn bikes, which are fabricated entirely in China. In 2012 another bike manufacturer began operations in America, in midtown Detroit. That company is Shinola, which started out producing hand-crafted watches and leather goods.
The company makes 80 to 100 bikes each month on a three-person assembly line. Waterford Precision Cycles provides the frames and forks. The company reveals on its website that the wheels are assembled in California, the frame tubings are made in Mississippi, the spokes are from Colorado, and the brand decals are made in North Carolina.
Other small parts of their bicycles come from Asia and Europe. The company says that right now there isn’t any at-scale manufacturing in the United States for some of the components they need. But no matter where the parts come from, their bicycles are assembled completely in their Detroit factory.
Shinola, says John Arlidge, is the creation of Tom Kartsotis, who founded Fossil, a watches and accessories brand. He poured much of his fortune into his venture capital firm, Bedrock, which invests in US-based manufacturers. He got the idea to set up Shinola after one of Bedrock’s managers made the “You don’t know shit from Shinola” reference when kidding around with an office colleague.
Shinola was the name of a shoe polish sold in the United States until 1960. According to Arlidge:

The joke turned into a discussion about restoring the brand. Kartsotis bought the name from the defunct shoe polish company with the idea of using it as a catch-all brand for domestic cottage industries.

In June 2011 executives from Shinola were scouting out locations for factory space in Detroit to manufacture high-end watches, says J.D. Booth. They found 60,000 square feet of empty space at 485 West Milwaukee, in what was originally a research and design laboratory for General Motors. The building is on the National Register of Historic Sites.
Shinola parts are produced in Switzerland by Ronda AG, which manufactures watch movements for a number of famous brands. The final timepieces are assembled on the fifth floor of the Detroit building. Shinola brought in watchmaking experts from Switzerland to train their workers – none of whom had experience as watchmakers – and imported a manager from Ronda to run their production facility.
When Shinola decided to branch out into bikes they hired Sky Yaeger, who joined the company two years ago. She had spent 25 years designing bicycles for companies such as Bianchi, Swobo, and Spot. Shinola produces two lines – the Runwell and the Bixby. As R. J. King tells it:

Inspired by the French style of Porteur bicycles, as well as American models that slightly mimic motorcycles with a faux, elongated gas tank, the urban cruisers retail for $1,950 for a 3-speed version and $2,950 for an 11-speed model.

Who among us will buy them?
The number one “frequently asked question” for Shinola is, indeed, why its bikes cost so much more than a lot of other bikes. The company points to the quality of the components and the craftsmanship that goes into production. “The value they represent is absolutely worth the asking price,” they declare.
And another question they’ve been asked is “Why Detroit?” Their rejoinder:

Why not accept that manufacturing is gone from this country? Why not let the rust and weeds finish what they started? Why not just embrace the era of disposability? And why didn’t we buy a warmer coat before we moved here?

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"Online Thieves and Corporate Puppets," by Alpha Unit

A musician spends time and energy creating a work of music – time and energy he or she can never get back. What is his effort worth? How do you place a value on what a musician has created?
The argument over this question goes back for years – probably to the beginning of commercial music, actually. I’m sure plenty of you can remember the battles over file sharing with companies like Napster, Limewire, and Grokster that have lost court battles over copyright infringement. While musicians are serious about protecting their intellectual property, many of them point out that they have no beef with their fans. The fans aren’t the enemy. Corporate America is. As Ellen Seidler puts it:

Online piracy isn’t about altruism, it’s about income. Today’s technology allows web pirates to steal content and monetize that content with a click of a mouse. Meanwhile, “legit” companies encourage and facilitate this theft while also profiting from it (ad service providers, advertisers, and payment processors).

Ms. Seidler explains that companies like Sony, Radio Shack, Pixar, ATT, Chase, Auto-Zone, and Netflix are generating an enormous amount of income by placing advertising on websites featuring streams and links to pirated content.
Of course the ads also generate income for those operating the pirate websites. Says Ms. Seidler:

This dubious connection to piracy is not limited to the companies whose ads appear on various pirate sites. Even more problematic are those companies, like Google (via AdSense), that generate their own robust revenue stream by providing the interface for the pirate-site pop-up ads themselves. In this equation everyone except the actual content creator makes money from this theft.

According to The Trichordist, this piracy isn’t about fans sharing music. It’s about illegally operating businesses making millions of dollars a year from the exploitation of artists’ work and not sharing any of the revenue with artists.

To the uninitiated, it might seem odd that what seems like a simple question of right or wrong is even being debated, but these sites that exploit artists are supported and promoted by faux civil liberties groups opposed to protecting creators’ rights – and internet giants are happy to throw their support behind them.
Together they have crafted a narrative of creator rights as quaint and outdated, offering artists a brave new online world where they can throw off the shackles of labels (or publishers, or studios, etc.) and give away their work to find fame and fortune. However, after a decade of half-baked ideas, faulty business models, and outright lies, we know this is simply untrue.

The artists at The Trichordist say they might not always be a fan of record labels, but at least the labels negotiate contracts, pay advances, market and promote artists, and are contractually accountable for wrongdoing. A musician has no such enforceable rights in what they call the Exploitation Economy.
As for the view that the internet is a powerful tool for distributing music more cheaply, these guys are adamant that pirate sites have no place in this scheme. They say that nothing is stopping musicians from sharing or giving away their music through legitimate sites like SoundCloud and Bandcamp. As far as they’re concerned, there simply is no justification for the existence of pirate sites.
Major companies such as American Express, Citibank, Direct TV, Levi’s, Macy’s, Princess Cruises, Target, United Airlines, and dozens of others have been cited as placing ads on sites that are receiving notices for copyright infringement. David Newhoff points out that this is about large American corporations supporting and legitimizing the exploitation of American workers.

I’ll say it again without equivocation. These sites are in the business of exploiting workers. Period. Don’t let’s get distracted by the fact that copies of files don’t cost anything to produce or distribute or that you think WMG is evil or you don’t like the RIAA. That’s all that bullshit again, and it has nothing to do with the way in which these sites generate revenue. All that “free” media represents hours or years or even decades of labor, either by one person or by hundreds of people.

And the idea that by downloading files illegally you’re “sticking it to the Man”? The truth, he says, is that the ardent file sharer is a corporate puppet that has no idea which companies are pulling its strings.
If you think this website is valuable to you, please consider a contribution to support the continuation of the site. – RL

"Auto Unions Moving Forward in Tennessee," by Alpha Unit

Industriegewerkschaft Metall was the largest labor union in Germany, and the largest union in any democratic country in the world, between 1950 and 2001. It represents workers in the motor vehicle industry. Half of the 20 seats on Volkswagen’s supervisory board are occupied by members of IG Metall.
Blue-collar and white-collar workers are represented in a works council. This is an integral part of Volkswagen’s corporate structure and gives workers a say in plant and company operations. This system of joint decision-making among employer, workers, and works council – known as Mitbestimmung – is accompanied by the usual negotiations between IG Metall and management over wages and benefits.
Berthold Huber, the former head of IG Metall, says Mitbestimmung keeps an eye on the system as a whole – the health of industrial employers as well as workers. “If you give people rights, they take on responsibility – that’s what Mitbestimmung has taught us,” he says.
IG Metall wants to establish a works council at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and has joined with the United Auto Workers to bring this about. The hurdle for the unions is that US labor law does not allow for company-sponsored unions. In order to have anything like a works council in the United States the company has to operate in conjunction with a labor union. Hence the push to organize workers at the plant in Chattanooga.
The UAW says that a majority of the workers at Chattanooga have signed cards supporting unionization. Some of the workers have said that the UAW and Volkswagen acted unlawfully in the solicitation and handling of authorization cards and filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB just determined, however, that neither organization violated US labor laws in their unionization push.
Volkswagen said in a statement that the decision by the NLRB confirms its legal position. It also stated:

Furthermore, we wish to reiterate that as a general principle, Volkswagen supports the right of employees to representation at all its plants and is in favor of good cooperation with the trade union or unions represented at its plants….For this reason, Volkswagen is currently working on an innovative model for the representation of employees’ interests which will be suitable for the USA. This model will be based on positive experience in Germany and other countries where the Volkswagen Group is active.

Naturally not everyone is happy with what’s going on in Chattanooga. Business interests, Republican politicians, and anti-union organizations have been doing everything they can to stop unionization at the plant. Politicians say that if the UAW prevails it would hurt the state’s business climate. They want Volkswagen to disregard the card signings and insist on a secret ballot election instead.
If the UAW is successful, it would be the union’s first victory at organizing a foreign-owned assembly plant in the South in 30 years of trying.
If you think this website is valuable to you, please consider a contribution to support the continuation of the site. – RL

"He's Still a Mariner," by Alpha Unit

Richard Phillips is no hero. He himself said so. He was captain of the Maersk Alabama when it was seized by Somali pirates back in 2009 and says that the real heroes of the whole incident are the US Navy, the Navy SEALs, and the merchant mariners who sailed with him.
Some of the crew members who sailed with him swear he’s no hero. They’ve been telling the media that it was his recklessness that got the ship into the hands of the pirates in the first place. Nine of them have filed a lawsuit against the Waterman Steamship Corporation and Maersk Line Limited alleging that the companies willfully sent their employees into an area where pirates were attacking merchant vessels and showed a willful disregard for their safety – mostly for financial gain.
In their lawsuit they detail some of the physical injuries and mental anguish they’ve suffered as a result.
Captain Phillips admits that he ignored calls to stay at least 600 miles off the coast of Somalia, but he told ABC News that it didn’t matter. He had never been that far from Somalia before and ships are sometimes taken 1,000 miles out.
He also said that everyone in the Merchant Marine has to face pirates at some point, adding, “If you don’t want to deal with piracy, you need to get another job.”
Captain Phillips has the support of his union, the International Organization of Masters, Mates, and Pilots. Steve Werse, a union executive and a sea captain, told ABC that warnings of pirates off the Somali coast were so numerous in 2009 that if you listened to all of them you’d have never left port.
He also explained that the warnings were just advisories of suspected pirate activity and carried no legal weight or authority. There is nothing “magical” about sailing 600 miles off the coast, he said, because pirate attacks have occurred even beyond 1,000 miles off the coast.
The Masters, Mates, and Pilots union represents licensed deck officers, marine engineers, state pilots, unlicensed seafarers, and shore side clerical and service workers in the maritime industry. Captain Phillips and his union have taken advantage of the publicity surrounding the movie about his kidnapping to draw attention to the Maritime Security Program (MSP), which is run by the Department of Transportation.
The program keeps 60 ships ready to carry cargo for the US military at war, and it carried 95 percent of Defense Department cargo during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, from tanks to food. In return, the federal government provides the ship owners with an operating stipend to offset the increased costs of maintaining their ships under US registry. (It’s cheaper to register elsewhere, because of US labor and environmental regulations.)
Budget cuts due to sequestration were scheduled to reduce funding to MSP next year, which led the US Maritime Administration to warn ship owners that a third of the vessels in the fleet could be eliminated. But the fleet has been preserved now that President Obama has signed into law the bill to reopen the government. MSP funding is to remain at a level sufficient to maintain the entire 60-ship fleet. Congress has to approve funding every year.
The Maritime Security Program provides vital services to the military, but for mariners, it’s really about preserving jobs. He’s famous, but Captain Phillips remains a working seaman.

The White Hole, by Joseph Hirsch

A short story by Mr. Hirsch. This story deals explicitly with race. It was controversial at the time, but the editor liked it and I think it has held up well with time. It first appeared in 3 AM Magazine in 2007. – Robert Lindsay.

The White Hole

By Joseph Hirsch

Before his death, Anton Walters III had been one of the most powerful and influential voices in the White Power movement (though he would have preferred the term ‘Separatist’). In fact, Federal sources revealed that he had taken part in a telephone conference from within the confines of his compound in Spokane, Washington, concerning the Nazi Low Riders, a notorious prison gang, and whether or not they should allow members with Latin blood into their ranks.
His vote had been a predictable ‘Nay’, but it had fallen on deaf ears. The drug trade and changing times had drowned out his vote, and it was best he died when he did before having to witness any further decline within the movement he had helped build.
Walters had first made his presence felt in the mid-Eighties. Before that, his writings mostly concerned big game hunting and the best methods for defense against nuclear fallout. He printed his manuals at his own expense, though the costs must have been offset or eaten by his bread and butter enterprise, which was, conveniently, running a printing press.
His works frequently showed up at Gun Shows and Trade Expos, though they weren’t displayed prominently, and he didn’t begin to receive feedback until his thoughts, and his pen, turned to the question of Apartheid during the height of the tumult in South Africa. He gained his fair share of supporters, and a few critics, after calling for the assassination of Nelson Mandela.
But he continued on, undeterred, until he contracted throat cancer in 1986 after a lifetime of indulging in both smoking and chew tobacco. He underwent radiation therapy and beat the disease despite his advancing years. And maybe the brush with death could explain the shift from hard-line essays to the dreamy speculation of his fantasies, which would go on to arouse the minds of his extremist readership.
His flagship character made his first appearance in a book entitled, simply, The Norseman. The book concerns a put-upon farmer whose wife leaves him for a strapping young black man, taking both of their daughters with her in tow. The distraught farmer, after having lost everything, goes into his backyard, falls among the furrowed ranks of corn and beseeches Christ for mercy. The farmer’s crop turns fallow the next day, leaving him without a harvest.
Embittered now, and dark of mind, the farmer turns to the Old Gods, and he summons Odin, pleading not for mercy, but for revenge. Against all logic, and told in a prose that keeps it from becoming laughable, a galleon with twenty-four oarsman rows its way onto his farm, a Viking to match the greatest of black virility at its helm. Cloaked in the pelts of fierce beasts and wearing a horned helmet, the Norseman vows to succor the poor farmer’s hatred.
The Viking then goes on a tear across the plains, until he finds the wife and the ‘moor’, as the Viking refers to him. Happening upon the couple as they are in congress in a sleazy motel, the Viking proceeds to decapitate the black man and then orders the wife to fellate him, after which she joins her lover in a heap at the foot of the bed. The novel ends with the Norseman returning to the farm, the farmer’s children in tow, clinging to his strong body…
The Norseman became a runaway success and went through five printings before Walters realized he would need to find a legitimate publisher to handle the demand. The first installment was followed by five sequels, all of which were equally successful and relied heavily on the same formula of a white nuclear family disrupted by an outside influence, usually in the form of a black man.
All of the follow-up novels sold just as well, or close. Walters’ proudest hour came when the original installment appeared in a reversible omnibus with The Turner Diaries, the only other Separatist/ Supremacist tract to surpass his own books in sales.
The success of the series allowed him to move from his single-wide trailer to a log and cedar split-level situated on ten acres of verdant wilds, with enough room for a shooting range and a small tribe of deer, each of whom was assigned an appropriately Nordic name. His favorite, was, of course, Odin….
****
Walters had a younger brother, Edgar, who lived some few-hundred miles away in Missouri. Walters the Eldest had tried to impress upon his brother the perils white womanhood would face in the coming century, but Edgar was a happily married and well-adjusted state trooper with two sons of his own whose beliefs ended at the Methodist Church he and his family attended every Sunday. He regarded his brother with some fear, and couldn’t for the life of him understand where he had gotten his ideas, as their parents had been of tolerant stock, especially considering the time and place from whence they came.
Unfortunately, Edgar’s wife left him (though not for a black man, as he repeatedly assured his older brother), and he contracted the cancer which was a part of their shared heredity. When it spread to the lymph nodes, and it became clear that he wasn’t going to beat the disease as easily as his brother had, Edgar found himself with no choice but to remand his children over to his older brother’s care.
John and Eric Walters came to live with their uncle in the Spring of 1995. John had been twelve at the time, Eric eight. After showing each of the boys their rooms, and making them feel at home, Anton proceeded to indoctrinate the children in such a way that Edgar, if he could hear it from within the confines of his coffin, would have probably rolled over in his grave.
No one knows for certain what went on at Compound Walters, but if we were to speculate, certain shows of youthful normalcy such as hunting and sports were allowed. But the pickup basketball games and the laps swam around the lake were probably greeted with caveats from the sideline: “Good, grow strong for the white race.” And the outings with the shotgun might have been prefaced: “Pretend that deer’s a black man,” or something along those lines.
The boys were home-schooled. Most of the outside world was filtered out. The one exception may have been the satellite TV, which Anton couldn’t resist, with its constant stream of damnation that fed his mind whatever thoughts of impending apocalypse or greed it needed for confirmation of Society’s collapse, everything from the spinning Wheel of Fortune to the wild fires in Arizona, Armageddon spelled out on the big-screen with closed-captions to boot.
The extent of the abuse the children suffered, or even if there was abuse, is unknown. We can assume there was some form of abuse, else why would Anton Walters the Third’s body have been found tied to a chair in front of the television? As to how the children took their White Pride education, when Walters was found, dead and starved, attached to the chair in front of the TV, the screen was blaring BET, an assault of Rap Videos in surround sound, gloating in front of his incontinent body. No one could mistake this ironic finish for an accident. When you consider that the Satellite package included more than three-hundred channels, the erstwhile Walters brothers had obviously intended to send a message to whoever found the old man, his body lighter a few credit cards.
The trail of the aforementioned credit cards stopped somewhere in Seattle, and no one had seen or heard from the brothers for at least a year. If they were alive, or where they were…it was all an unknown….
….But that wasn’t the bank’s business. Their job was to foreclose on the house, and bury its history. After the injunction was waived, a crew was ordered to restore the inside, another crew to handle the grounds outside, before the log mansion was to be set on the auction block; for Walters, in the white-heat of his creativity, had neglected to give the federal government its due.
The under-the-table atmosphere of the conventions where his books were sold only encouraged his dodgy behavior, and it was only after the IRS discovered that he owed eight years of back taxes that the body had been discovered. God knows the state of decomposition it might have been found in had it taken longer to uncover his fraud.
As it stood, the body had been taken out of the house months ago. After they removed the SS regalia and everything else that flew in the face of the man’s repeated statements that he was merely a ‘Separatist’, the rest of the home’s contents were auctioned off. The final detail was the lawn, which still needed cutting.
The two foreman, both beefy white men, stood posted on the side of the pickup where they kept all the landscaping tools. Their six-man Salvadoran work crew had undone the flatbed, pulled out the mowers and weed whackers and had gone to work. The two men shouted over the sound of their crew. Grass as fine as dust blew out from under the rusty machines, groaning out a stream of fuel that mixed with the sun and spelled Spring.
“D’ ya hear they found the kid?”
“Who?” The other one asked, lighting a cigarette and wondering if it was a safe thing to do with all the fuel residue around here.
“The nephew. You know the story here right?” The boss looked irritated, quizzically staring his friend down and wondering if he was going to have to explain the whole fuggin’ thing again.
“Yeah, yeah. I know. Crazy-ass clansman.”
“No. Wasn’t no clansman. But close.”
“Yeah, so anyway. The nephew.” The second one said, prompting him again.
“Yeah, right.” The first one said, picking it back up. “They caught his ass in Arizona. Dumb fuck was using his uncle’s credit cards to buy himself lunch at a Burger King.”
“Huh.” The other one said, leaning his elbows against the side of the truck. He noted that only one of the Salvadoran crew was wearing a mask to protect himself from the fumes. Was he some sort of foreman among them? he wondered. The hierarchy for him ended right here. He didn’t know anything about them. The Salvadorans were Mexican to him. Among these musings, the light bulb went off.
“Wait.” The second one said.
“What?” His boss said. His friend’s voice sounded contradictory. He didn’t know they were having an argument here.
“I thought there was two of them.”
“Two what?”
“Nephews.” The second one, whose name was Chet, said.
His boss, Harmon, wanted to argue, but knew he was right. It was his turn to say it. “Huh.” He said.
Huh, it hung in the space between them. Which was alright, since it was too hot to speak anymore. The chips of grass flecked up and stung their faces, like thorns or mosquitoes, pesky inanimate insects unearthed as the ground was brought back to proper manicured form. It was too hot to even look at those Mexicans, Salvadorans, let alone do what they were doing, God bless them, working without a sound usually, except for the one now, coming toward them, the one wearing a mask.
He spoke in rapid-fire Spanish. They wouldn’t have understood him even without the mask, but that only made it worse. “Good God, man, what?”
The man overcame his panic enough to pull the mask from his face, let it slide down to his sweating neck. He pointed to a spot where his countrymen were gaggled together. “Aqui!” He shouted. The foreman and his underboss brought themselves up from their sticky idle alongside the pickup truck and headed over to the point where the men were gathered like mourners around their dead.
“Okay. What the fuck?” The first white man said.
“Aqui.”
“Yeah. A key. A key to what, man?”
A nuclear symbol, the black and yellow triangles, a yellow jacket warning harkening from the Cold War days, stood out on a metal bubble, protruding from the ground, a circle riveted with steel bolts, like a shield. Around the circumference of the steel bubble, were the words White Power, traced like the outlines of reflected smiles or the most primitive of fish.
Both of the men exchanged glances. What the hell? With the bank’s consent, and with two of its representatives present, a welder was called in, a friend of the foreman’s. All in attendance gave him and his torch a respectful berth, the Salvadorans marking the furthest reaches of the perimeter, the foremen a little closer, the two bank reps the closest, as this promised to be of the most relevance to them. Whatever it was, it would either raise or lower the value of the property as a whole. They wouldn’t know until the man with the torch, faceless beneath the mask, had burned a hole in the bubble.
The sparks reached their apex as it popped, then yielded. The welder gripped the manhole cover in his gloved hands and threw it to the side. He pulled the lid of his mask from his face, revealing sweaty eyes that could barely do more than squint.
“Who’s going in?”
No one had to. Someone was coming out, stooped, mistaken for a midget, since the gait was that of age, but it was the cramped space that had wizened the boy. They all stood and watched him. He visored his eyes with his hand, stared at the circle of people around him, and spun three-hundred and sixty-degrees. It overwhelmed him, and he fell in his dizzy spell onto the grass. Two of the Salvadorans ran to him. Another one went for the water in the trunk of the pickup. The boy’s chest was heaving. He was hyperventilating.
One of the bank reps, the woman in her mid-thirties, stepped around the boy and the group gathered around him, and she peered inside. It was cool, a dank cave, counterpoint to the heat outside; the cool, mixed with her own curiosity, beckoned her further, and she descended within.
A motion sensor triggered and brought her out of the dark. The subterranean eight by six world illuminated, and she saw what the boy had seen for…how long? The answer was there, above a shelf where a bible, a bottle of vitamins, and a 9mm Beretta semi-auto handgun were resting. Fortunately the gun (which looked loaded from here) seemed untouched. The teddy bear, on the other hand, appeared to have been snuggled until mangled, a source for the child’s fear that had endured until one of the black sequins that was its eye fell from the socket, under the wear of spit when it wasn’t wrapped around a sucked thumb. Better the teddy-bear than the gun, she thought, before marveling at the digital face which was precise down to the second….
13:10:05:23:09
Thirteen months, ten days, five hours, twenty three minutes and nine…no ten…now eleven seconds the boy had been down here, alone. With foodstuffs, a teddy bear, vitamins, and a handgun. A pulley hung from the ceiling. She clutched the base of the square knot, and walked from one end of the six by eight cell to the other. She immediately felt a breeze as slats yielded in the ceiling, revealing a most-primitive form of cross ventilation, which sent her to the other side of the room, and the child’s only other form of entertainment: a military-issue, World War One style gas mask.
Up above, the other man cradled the boy who had been forced to grow to pubescence in a space too small to even use the bathroom. The boy stared into his eyes, looking like he was about to die, more probably about to pass out. He mustered some words for the man, too faint to hear without reaching down.
“What, son?”
The boy repeated it. “Did the n—— take over?”
The man winced and drew back, maybe because he was black, and the boy had spoken in commiserate tones, as if they were on the same team. The man fought his repulsion, looked up to make sure no one else had heard, then leaned back in. The boy didn’t know what the word meant. Or, if he had at some point, he had somehow forgotten in the intervening year. The man cradled him and knew the words meant nothing, didn’t know whether the boy’s brother or the boy’s uncle had locked him down here. But he wanted to kill somebody.