by Lindsay Beyerstein
How our blog got its name
Sidney Hillman was a powerful national figure during the Great Depression, a key supporter of the New Deal, and a close ally of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
When the rumor spread that President Roosevelt ordered his party leaders to “clear it with Sidney” before announcing Harry S. Truman as his 1944 running mate, conservative critics turned on the phrase, trumpeting it as proof that the president was under the thumb of “Big Labor.”
Over the years, the phrase lost its sting and became a testament to Hillman's influence.
It's hard to imagine a labor leader wielding that kind clout today, but we like the idea—and we hope Sidney would give thumbs up to our blog.
Clear It With Sidney
This is going to sound like a George Saunders short story, but it really happened.
As you may have heard, a man in Southern New Mexico was subjected to a series of increasingly invasive and degrading medical procedures to search for non-existent drugs in his lower GI tract, all because a police officer thought he was standing funny during a traffic stop. Chris Ramirez of KOB4, the local TV station that broke this story, investigates how a routine traffic stop turned into a forced colonoscopy.
David Eckert's nightmare began on January 2, 2013 with an incomplete stop at a stop sign on his way home from a WalMart in Luna County. The officer who pulled Eckert over thought he was clenching his buttocks suspiciously and obtained a warrant to perform an anal cavity search.
Eckert was taken to a nearby hospital, but the doctor refused to perform the procedure, citing an obscure concept known as "ethics." Undeterred, the officer took Eckert to Gila Regional Medical Center in neighboring Grant County (near Truth or Consequences). According to Eckert's medical records, obtained by KOB4, the following indignities were visited upon him:
1. Eckert's abdominal area was x-rayed; no narcotics were found.
2. Doctors then performed an exam of Eckert's anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.
3. Doctors performed a second exam of Eckert's anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.
4. Doctors penetrated Eckert's anus to insert an enema. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
5. Doctors penetrated Eckert's anus to insert an enema a second time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
6. Doctors penetrated Eckert's anus to insert an enema a third time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
7. Doctors then x-rayed Eckert again; no narcotics were found.
8. Doctors prepared Eckert for surgery, sedated him, and then performed a colonoscopy where a scope with a camera was inserted into Eckert's anus, rectum, colon, and large intestines. No narcotics were found.
As Eckert's civil rights lawsuit puts it, "The colonoscopy targeted an area of the Plaintiff which is highly personal and private," all because he was supposedly standing "with an erect posture," "keeping his legs together." Eckert didn't consent to any of these procedures, but the hospital billed him anyway. He's still gets bills for thousands of dollars, according to the lawsuit.
Eckert's lawyers say that the warrant was invalid because it was only good for Luna County and the Gila Medical Center is located in Grant County, and because the initial search lacked probable cause. The police justified the search of Eckert's car on the grounds that their police dog, Leo, had "alerted" them to the presence of drugs in the vehicle, but no drugs were found. In 2012, Leo "alerted" officers to drugs in Eckert's car during a traffic stop for a cracked windshield, but no drugs were found then, either, according to the lawsuit.
How 'bout that war on drugs, eh?
New Republic writer Julia Ioffe came down with whooping cough at the age of 31. So far, pertussis has caused her 72 days of hacking misery and counting. Unlike some people we could name, Ioffe's parents had the sense to vaccinate against pertussis as a child. The vaccine doesn't last forever, but until recently, it hasn't been necessary for adults to get whooping cough booster shots because parents had the good sense to vaccinate their children against this onetime mass-killer of infants. As vaccination rates have fallen, pertussis incidence has more than tripled in 21 states between 2011 and 2012.
Jenny McCarthy, aka "The Girl with the Whooping Cough," is a B-movie actress turned anti-vaccine crusader who, unaccountably, co-hosts The View on ABC. She has become the most recognizable face of the anti-vaccination movement. McCarthy has done more than anyone to hype baseless theories about the non-existent link between vaccines and autism. (The original "Girl With the Whooping Cough" was a 1910 farce about a woman who spreads pertussis to all the men she kisses, until her victims finally drag her to court. Imagine the pitch: It's like Typhoid Mary, but funny!)
The anti-vaccine movement wraps itself in the mantle of "personal choice," but Ioffe reminds us that their choices endanger other people. The most vulnerable population are infants who are too young to be vaccinated, but who can't write eloquently about their misery. Babies are dying because anti-vaxxers are imposing their crackpot theories on society by allowing their medically neglected children to become tiny vectors for disease.
The Best of the Week's News:
- More than 50 people were arrested in downtown LA while protesting WalMart's poverty wages.
- Three men, including a Rutherford County commissioner, have been indicted in Tennessee for allegedly torturing a man who sold them counterfeit Justin Bieber tickets.
- An innocent man in Arizona was subjected to an increasingly invasive series of medical procedures to look for drugs in his anus because a cop thought he was standing funny during a traffic stop.
- The mass shooting you probably didn't hear about.
- Journalistic conundrum: How do you cover a compulsive liar in a position of power without spreading his lies?
Join us on Dec 2 for a lively panel discusion on the future of the union movement with guests Bruce Raynor, Andy Stern, Rich Yeselson, and Sarita Gupta, and moderator Raj Goyle.
Panelists will discuss Yeselson's controversial prescription for the union movement, outlined in his essay Fortress Unionism, and Stern and Raynor's counter-proposal, spelled out in their essay, Build Bridges, Not Fortresses. The panel will also discuss how campaigns by low-wage workers in the fast food and big box retail are reshaping the labor movement.
This event is co-sponsored by the Sidney Hillman Foundation and the Rubin Foundation.
When: Dec 2, 6-8pm.
Where: 17 W. 17th St, Manhattan, NY. (8th Floor)
Emily Bazelon digs deep to uncover the hidden history of anatomical science in the Third Reich, where the decapitated corpses of political prisoners were mapped to reveal the secrets of human anatomy.
[Photo credit: Fireezdragon, Creative Commons.]
The Best of the Week's News
- The 5th Circuit just put up to one third of the abortion clinics in Texas out of business.
- Coal-company-funded doctors deny black lung compensation to dying miners.
- Dodgy dealings in America's non-profits.
- Food stamp cuts start today for millions of Americans.
A massive explosion shook the Dulces Blueberry factory in Ciudad Juarez last week, and a fire ripped through the plant, killing at least four workers and injuring dozens of others. Dulces Blueberry specializes in candy corn, sugar pumpkins, and other cheap Halloween candy for the U.S. market. The families of the injured workers say that poor safety conditions contributed to the blast. The factory is associated with Sunrise Confections, a division of the El Paso-based Mount Franklin Foods. This week, Mount Franklin declined to answer questions from In These Times labor reporter Michelle Chen. Prior to Chen's investigation, the blast had received little or no coverage in the English-language press, even though Juarez is the twin city of El Paso.
[Photo credit: Deb T, Creative Commons.]
Breathless media claims about the stateside spread of a cut-rate heroin substitute known as "krokodil" may have been overblown, according to the Chicago Tribune. The drug is notorious for causing leathery skin lesions that can degenerate into gangrene. The lesions are caused by toxic byproducts of the synthesis of krokodil (desomorphine) from coedine, and maybe by residual traces of gasoline or other solvents used in the synthesis.
Despite a handful of highly publicized case reports, there is little firm evidence that krokodil is being widely sold in the United States. The drug got its name from the skin lesions that heavy users develop around their injection sites. However, skin lesions are a perennial risk for all kinds of injection drug users, and some U.S. reports of "krokodil" lesions in heroin addicts turn out to be ordinary infections mistaken for krokodil toxicity.
Krokodil caught on in Russia a decade ago because impoverished addicts were unable to afford heroin. Krokodil seems unlikely to catch on in the U.S. market because heroin is cheap and widely available.
[Photo credit: Melissa, Creative Commons.]
When standardized test scores make of break a school, there's a huge incentive to kick out the low-scoring kids. The illegal shunting of poor performers from public school to GED programs has become so common that it has earned the nickname "pushout." Debbie Nathan follows three Texas teenagers who were pushed out and examines the toll this exclusion has taken on their lives.
[Photo credit: Biologycorner, Creative Commons.]
The best of the week's news:
- Major Owens, retired Democratic Congressman and anti-poverty crusader, has died at the age of 77.
- Minimum wage hikes won't appease Bangladeshi workers.
- New York's hidden homelessness crisis.
- Stay classy, crisis pregnancy centers.