Aug 022012

Homegrown labor trafficking

By Beth Connors-Manke

In part one of this series, Beth discussed sex trafficking, especially in the imagination of middle class American culture. Here, she turns her attention to forced labor. 

On May 25, Marco Antonio Flores-Benitez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion. This is the first conviction for human trafficking in Kentucky, and not surprisingly it was for the sex side of human trafficking and related to illegal immigration. Flores-Benitez and three others orchestrated a commercial sex delivery service that shuttled women between Lexington and Louisville and then stretched further to Indiana, Ohio, and Tennessee. According to the March 2 indictment, two of the four defendants had been previously deported; the other two had entered the U.S. illegally.

While burgeoning popular understandings of human trafficking often associate it with commercial sex and illegal immigration, it may be more useful to see it through an economics and labor lens: this is a shadow economy that’s has been growing, and continues to grow, amidst the humdrum of our daily lives. Continue reading »

Aug 022012

Comments on the aftermath of the Aurora shooting

By Michael Dean Benton

On July 20, James Holmes, dressed in protective armor, unleashed a violent attack with assault weapons on a capacity audience during the opening night screening of the Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado. 71 people were shot, 12 dead.  The worst shooting attack in American history.

In his assault, Holmes utilized smoke grenades, a 12 gauge Remington 870 Express Tactical shotgun, a Smith & Wesson M & P 15 semi-automatic rifle with a 100 round magazine, and a 40 caliber Glock 22 handgun.  In the theater parking lot, his car held more guns. At his apartment, Aurora police found a home wired with over 30 homemade grenades. Continue reading »

Aug 022012

The leek: a satirical take

By Horace Heller Hedley, IV

The U.S. health care system, long criticized for poor accessibility, lackluster overall outcomes, and low health benefits per dollar spent, now ranks sixth among the world’s developing countries. These results from a recent World Health Organization (WHO) survey covering nearly all national health care systems place the U.S. among the top four percent of developing nations—trailing only Columbia, Morocco, Chile, Dominica, and Costa Rica. These findings from the WHO’s paper “Measuring Overall Health System Performance for 191 Countries” are expected to vindicate defenders of the U.S. health care system.

“The 96th percentile among two-thirds of the world’s nations,” said Richard Johansen, Deputy Director of the conservative Heritage Foundation, a staunch opponent of the Affordable Care Act. “Does that sound like a system desperate for a costly overhaul?”  Continue reading »

Aug 022012

By Marcus Flores

 Tomas Lopez, a lifeguard of Hallandale Beach, is a rule breaker. The young Floridian was fired because, try as he might, he simply could not suffer the rule that would have condemned a man to drown who was swimming in the “At Your Own Risk” area a few hundred feet away. Lopez was “out of his protected area,” said Susan Ellis, his former supervisor, “we have liability issues.” Continue reading »

Aug 022012

Harlan and Bell radicals

Thanks so much for enlightening me of the strife felt in the early twentieth century and the radicalism shown by those in Harlan and Bell counties (“Mine strikes and commie songs,” Feb 2012). I spent, all told, about two years working on reclamation sites (this was the mid-80′s when there was money available for reclamation) and was run off by one landowner after the other. I was mistaken many times as a coal operator “goon” sent there to destroy even more of the land and water. When the opposite was true.

Today it’s Blair mountain, tomorrow the whole eastern part of our state (Kentucky) and the southwestern portion of West Virginia will be flattened.
I once did a site in Pike county that had only one point of reference, that being a survey control point saved by the coal company for future work. The rest of the land was flattened and had taken on the look of a moonscape. The maps I had showed no resemblance to the devastation created by the surface mining. I spent many days around Evarts, and the forks of the Upper Cumberland river, including Poor fork.
Man, I love reading this stuff. Keep it coming. You have my e-mail address.

Norman E. Goldie, Jr.
Mount sterling, KY Continue reading »

Aug 012012

Trayvon Martin

I appreciate your raising the question “was this [killing of Trayvon Martin] a hate crime?”, but in my opinion your editorial is as skewed as you portray the media to be. From the many inaccuracies and misstatements in your piece, here are a couple of the most critical ones that I hope will cause you to take a second look at your analysis of the Trayvon Martin case. First, you put quotes around the words “profiled and stalked” as if Zimmerman did not actually profile or stalk Martin. We know for a fact that he profiled Martin as a suspicious person, in his words “up to no good”, who Zimmerman thought may have been high (refer to the 911 recording). We know that Martin was stalked because Zimmerman got out of his car, told the dispatcher that Martin was running, and finally caught up with Martin several yards away. Next, you mention only two pieces of physical evidence recovered from the crime scene. What you fail to notice is that the bullet lodged in Martin’s chest is a piece of physical evidence- in fact, the most important one. The last error I will point out, is the point at which you contradict your own viewpoint (where you believe there is no solid evidence in anyone’s favor) by introducing a “possible scenario”. Here, the words you choose make a solid case for Zimmerman having committed murder. By saying that Martin was “confronted” by a “follower” (another word for stalker), you create a scenario where Zimmerman was the aggressor and that Martin was rightly defending himself. This is no doubt a case of murder (in the second degree). Whether or not it is a hate crime depends on how you interpret Zimmerman’s comment to the dispatcher “they always get away”.

Sean McElroy, website

Author responds

I appreciate the criticism of the piece, though I think you have misread a few points. My use of quotes for “profiled and stalked” is not to excuse Zimmerman for following Martin, but the events immediately after the 911 call are subject to witness testimony which has changed several times, see my link in the piece. Zimmerman was indeed reckless to disregard the 911 dispatcher. However, “profiled and stalked” suggests far more predatory behavior than investigating/following a person who looks “up to no good,” which is why I compared Martin’s death to Anderson’s hate-murder (a wholly malicious crime not in the least concerned with stopping a potential criminal).

I only mention the two pieces of evidence relative to my editorial. I did not think it necessary to mention the bullet since no one has disputed that Zimmerman killed Martin with a pistol. The key question is this: to what extent was the killing self defense and by how much, if any, will those circumstances ameliorate Zimmerman’s sentence? I included the physical wounds to show that Zimmerman may have been injured in one of two ways: 1) he may have been assaulted by Martin and fired in “self defense” or 2) he may have assaulted Martin, was on the losing end of a fight he chose, and so fired in “self defense.” The latter will carry a far heavier sentence than the former.

My goal with the piece was to challenge the idea of this killing as a “hate crime.” I would say no sane observer believes Zimmerman is wholly innocent. But when you suggest that I contradict my own viewpoint, I am using the unknown exchange between Zimmerman and Martin to impugn the idea of interpreting this killing as somehow racially motivated. We don’t know what was said or what happened between them. (I also never once questioned the idea of this as a case of second degree murder.) Lastly, I find it rather difficult to take seriously your idea that interpretation of Zimmerman’s comment (“they always get away”) carries the weight of a hate crime. If Zimmerman believed Martin was a burglar, then his statement that “they always get away” is overwhelmingly true–the FBI claims that roughly 1 in 10 burglaries are ever solved. Either way, “they always get away” is not in any way slanderous to any race and therefore not indicative of a racial killing.


Wealth distribution

Many of the “Occupy Groups” are decried for their claimed “Wealth Redistribution” aims. Most who decry them don’t really have an idea what the actual wealth distribution is in the United States. Answer this question before you read further. How much wealth (meaning money, land and assets) are controlled by the wealthiest 20% in our nation? If you guessed 50%, you are too low. If you guessed 80% you are still too low. It is actually 88%!

We live on a limited resource in the middle of nowhere. Sustainability, living sustainably, is the most direct, simplest behavior that we can enact to assure the near term survival of the human species. Make no mistake, we are at risk. This is in essence what the majority of participants in the various “Occupy” movements recognize.

Charles A. Bowsher

Southbend Drive

Be like Don Pratt

I am a fairly well known conservative analyst, and veteran. I knew Don Pratt from 1964 through his wife who was a classmate of mine. By 1968 anti-war protesters were generally separated into those who had deep convictions about the war, many with no marxist leanings whatsoever, and those with other items on their agenda, including a general fear of the inconveniences of military service (bill Clinton comes to mind.)…a kind of moral cowardice. And a few skipped to Canada.

I never knew Don Pratt’s politics, but that was a time a when one could stand for a thing, ending racial bias, or the war, without having any greater political agenda. I doubt that’s possible now, but he was (is) a man of courage, and quiet dignity. Everyone who ever met him wanted to be just like him.

Vassar Bushmils, online

Don responds

Damn, now more to live up to! I thank you, Vassar, and am still NOTHING but a human being and being for justice and more.
Off racing to get prepared for another foster son coming into my home and to pick up a sign protesting the local governments waste on a phony “Arts District”. WOW, how life is exciting!
And I must take time to say SINCERE thanks.

FUC Proud

You didn’t even mention the lameness of “Big Blue”, that UK blue colored horse that is supposed to be our mascot or something. And in the long list of embarrassing historical mentions you left out the bluegrass conspiracy. Everybody knows about Henry Clay and Jefferson Davis, but what mention do you see of Cassius Clay (the original)? Maybe there is a historical marker somewhere, but this dude ought to have a statue!

College sport citizens

Hard to add any meaningful words to this well-written, prize worthy article.

Crane Station, Smirking Chimp blog

You have it absolutely one hundred per cent correct.The booster of a brand.The kind of citizen who, even if he becomes politically aware or engaged,goes no further than putting on a team jersey and cheering for ”his side”—no matter what ”his side” is actually doing.Civil liberties can be gutted, for example and the practitioners of such politics are outraged–if it isn’t their team doing it, but when it is, they cheer for their team/party, leader/coach, make excuses, and keep shut.

The kind of citizen who can become a cheap hooligan at a moment’s notice.

Hardly the kind of citizen Thomas Jefferson hoped the republic would have.

MizzGrizz, Smirking Chimp blog


Michael Marchman, our man in Amsterdam, dropped a line to let us know of some corrections:

A couple of minor clarifications/corrections…
1. Romao is not exactly an “amateur filmmaker” as the article suggests. He has, in fact, worked in journalism for many years although this is his first documentary film.
2. The article implies that the film was made on a very small budget. In fact, Romao was supported/funded (in part) by Portuguese public television, which has aired the film.

Apologies to Romao for these mischaracterizations.