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Pork and Blue 

We practice blogging on Smithfield Foods, Blue Cross and some Democrats.

The very worst thing about sprawl, of course, is that it's just about impossible to put your Independent Weekly in enough places that everybody gets to see it every week. But now, with the online edition at www.indyweek.com, everybody can! And what comes after an online edition? That's right, we're getting ready to blog. Because, hey, we are paying attention, and stuff's happening every darned day, every darned hour, in fact, which means it will be our duty to keep you up-to-date on a minute-to-minute basis with every new twist and turn in Raleigh, Washington, the world.... Uh-oh. Seriously, though, we do try to point readers in the direction of news worth caring about, good or bad, and make connections with the people and organizations that are working for the public good. With an Indy blog, we can do that faster, better, and perhaps with a pithy comment that reveals the heart of each matter (and won't later prove to be clueless or insipid).

This will require some practice, obviously:

Giving Pigs a Bad Name. The Smithfield Foods factory in Tar Heel, N.C., epitomizes what's wrong with "globalism" when it's all about the capitalists and nothing for labor except a race to the bottom. The huge plant, the biggest of its kind in the country, employs more than 5,000 workers, who slaughter and process some 34,000 hogs a day. It's tough, dangerous duty for starting pay of about $8 an hour, which is more than the overwhelmingly minority workforce (about half of whom are Spanish-speaking immigrants) can make elsewhere in Bladen County, but is much less than Smithfield pays at 19 other plants in the United States, where the workers belong to a union.

Do the Tar Heel workers need a union? Yes, and they need strong government oversight of their working conditions, too, says Human Rights Watch in a 2004 report entitled "Blood, Sweat and Fear: Workers' Rights in U.S. Meat and Poultry Plants." But what they get is government looking the other way while Smithfield fights dirty against union organizers--as the National Labor Relations Board finally decided, seven years later, had occurred in the United Food and Commercial Workers Union's organizing drive in 1997. The NLRB has ordered a new election. Link to the decision at www.smithfieldjustice.com , then plan to attend a public forum at Pullen Baptist Church, 1801 Hillsborough St., Raleigh, on Thursday, July 14. Food (free) at 6, workers and UFCW reps talk at 7.

Remember Mt. Olive Pickle? The new "Justice at Smithfield" campaign is patterned after the one--based in churches and community groups--that finally shamed/persuaded our favorite picklers to talk to the union organizing its immigrant pickers. Overcoming Mt. Olive's "Never!" took five years. How long will it take for Smithfield to see the light? Props to the N.C. Council of Churches, N.C. Justice Center, Sen. Janet Cowell, D-Wake, and Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, who are lending their help to the new effort.

Our Congressmen: 0-for-3. What could be easier for a Democrat than this one? Congress is voting money for homeland security, and Rep. Rose DeLauro, D-Conn., offers an amendment: No contracts for American companies who've "moved offshore"--incorporated themselves in the Bahamas, Panama, the Cayman Islands, etc. --to avoid paying U.S. taxes. Enough Republicans vote yes (including the born-again French-fries lover Walter Jones, R-N.C.) that if Democrats hold together, her amendment will pass. But 28 Dems say no, and it fails 231-190. And the dissenters include the Triangle's own trio of Democratic representatives Bob Etheridge, Brad Miller and David Price. Which corporation(s) are they protecting? (See the beauty of this? I picked this news up off a listserv, confirmed it by looking at www.workingforchange.org, and then at the House Web site, and while I don't have time to call our members' offices, why should I? This is insane. As David Sirota says in his Sirotablog, "Do Democrats really wonder why America thinks they stand for nothing?")

Later Update: Here's where blogging can really work. A reader calls Price, say, or better, e-mails his office, and back comes a statement, and she sends it to us, and we post it for y'all. Or Miller's press secretary calls to say, next time we have a fundraiser for Joyce Kekas at his and Esther's house, you're not invited. Just kidding.

Blue Cross, Red Face. How stupid is it for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (www.bcbsnc.com) to be suing ProCare over the latter's revelations concerning the putative nonprofit insurer's profligate spending in the Caribbean and at the U.S. Open? Very stupid, but it does remind us to bring to your attention www.ProCare.org . It isn't the last word on reforming Blue Cross, but it's got a lot of great first words. And did you see where Rep. Bill Faison, D-Orange, plans to have his own Blue Cross study commissioned if the General Assembly doesn't put up the money to pay for one? Good move for a guy--a rich guy--who plans to be the next governor.

Another Good Blog Thing: Last week, we at the Indy were scalding Faison for his opposition to higher cigarettes taxes; this week, we pass him our tobacco-free peace pipe.

Speaking of Stupid: If President Bush is smart, he'll nominate a woman nobody's ever heard of, and who's never said a public word about abortions, to replace Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Alberto Gonzales? That's Gitmo and Abu Ghraib all over again. A true winger, like J. Michael Luttig? It's Schiavo II, with O'Connor as the standard the winger's judged against. Does the ever-less-popular Bush really want to get crossways with America over yet another huge issue, which in this case is what happens if it's my daughter? But then, nobody ever said Bush was smart.

Text Me, Please: For real-time alerts on your cellphone, sign up at www.savethecourt.org, People For the American Way's new site.

Meeker Frames the Issues. (See, on a blog, you jump around.) Our Raleigh mayor filed for re-election Friday, and we asked him what's the next big thing? Protecting the water quality at Falls Lake, he said. And "fair development fees." State Fair fees? we thought, before realizing, aha, Charles has been studying his George Lakoff (Don't Think of an Elephant, Chelsea Green Publishing). Oh, you mean "impact fees," we said. Well, he gently corrected us, better to express the issue (or, as Lakoff would say, frame the issue) as asking new development to pay a fairer share of the costs it imposes on us already-here taxpayers. Will he campaign for fellow Democrats? Again, he corrected us. He will campaign on a nonpartisan basis for candidates "who will do a good job," he said, including at-large candidates Joyce Kekas and Russ Stephenson and the Rev. Paul Anderson, who's running in District A. All Democrats.

Blount Street Update? Nope, don't have one. We hear the State Property Office picked Lennar Partners, a Florida developer, to dicker with, eliminating (among others) the favored partnership of former Raleigh Mayor Smedes York's firm and Roger Perry, he of Meadowmont (Chapel Hill) and Falls River (Raleigh) fame. But no wisp of white smoke from the SPO offices, 10 weeks past the target date for reaching a deal with somebody, which isn't surprising given the conflicting aims of the state, the city and any big-time builder. For background, see www.blountstreet.org, and read our own account ("Imagine Blount Street," Feb. 16) at www.indyweek.com/durham/2005-02-16/citizen.html.

Dix Hill? Meeker says he'll take a position on the future of Dorothea Dix after the state's consultant finishes later this month. Our take so far ("What should Dix be?" April 27) is at www.indyweek.com/durham/2005-04-27/citizen.html.

What, I'm out of room? With a blog, this could go on indefinitely--what about Wesley Clark running again? And Philip Isley's urgent need for money to hold off his nonexistent opponent? And another nuke at Shearon Harris, for God's sake! Write me: rjgeary@mac.com .


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