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Sunday Bloody NYT Sunday: Child Labor's Still Pretty Cool For Tobacco Growers
We depend on our Sunday New York Times for in-depth reporting on stuff that we may or may not care about, and on a good day we might even learn about something we had no idea we should have to care about, and now we can sound like a big know it all. Into that last column, let's drop today's story about teenagers who work 12-hour shifts on tobacco farms, like the 13-year-old we meet in the lede. But don't worry, the growers provide safety equipment, of a sort:
Saray Cambray Alvarez pulls a black plastic garbage bag over her 13-year-old body to protect her skin from leaves dripping with nicotine-tinged dew.
When Saray and other workers — including several more teenagers — get to the fields at 6, they punch holes through the bags for their arms. They are trying to avoid what is known as “green tobacco sickness,” or nicotine poisoning, which can cause vomiting, dizziness and irregular heart rates, among other symptoms.
Another girl, 16, has been working in the fields since she was 13, and her Hefty Brand hazmat suit didn't help much:
“Last week, they made us work when it was raining, and I got water in my mouth and I felt dizziness and nausea,” Ana Flores said of exposure to wet tobacco leaves — the plants’ nicotine often dissolves in rain and dew ... “I didn’t throw up, but other people did.”
We have some awesome laws against child labor in factories, but when it comes to agriculture, they're a bit more accommodating to the needs of "family farms" -- and also giant agribusinesses that can hire kids as young as 12, as long as they aren't working in "hazardous" conditions. And the tobacco biz has declared that hand-picking tobacco isn't hazardous, never mind the nicotine poisoning. And yes, Obama's agriculture secretary proposed a rule change in 2011 that would have kept children under 16 from working in tobacco fields, but then withdrew it after complaints from industry groups and Republican lawmakers, who recognize the value of hard work (and nicotine poisoning for 13-year-olds). Some socialist dictator!
The Times also brings us a pretty interesting piece on how several young Minnesota men ended up travelling to Somalia and Syria to fight with jihadi groups; we can hardly wait to see how Garrison Keillor weaves that bit of Minnesota life into a Lake Wobegon story. There's also a serious, in-depth chunk of investigative journalism about the influence of foreign nations giving donations to think tanks, which then write policy reports and recommendations that just happen to parallel their donors' interests. But it's definitely not lobbying. We know we should probably be a lot more outraged and disappointed by this, but darn it, there's just something about the words "Brookings Institution" that makes us start nodding off. We do at least feel vaguely disappointed in ourselves for not harrumphing, "This shall not stand!"
Instead, we just gave in to our morbid curiosity and finally read one of those notorious NYT Sunday Real Estate Porn pieces. Turns out that we are at a unique moment in High-end New York housing! A whole bunch of turn-of-the-century mansions are coming on the market and are ready to be converted from the subdivided offices for foundations that they had been back into single-family residences!
Besides being for sale to the highest (preferably cash) bidder, they will likely undergo the exacting transformation necessary for a return to their original use as privately owned residences.
“It’s like a return to the Gilded Age,” said Sharon Baum of the Corcoran Group, who, along with her Corcoran partner, David H. Enloe, and Timothy Sheehan of CBRE Group, listed the Codman mansion.
The catalyst that has put these mansions and townhouses back in play is the steady escalation of incredibly wealthy buyers, many of them foreign, intent on acquiring one-of-a-kind homes that offer a level of privacy impossible to find at the city’s most exclusive co-ops and condos.
Lucky you! One of these historic homes can be had for between $15 million and a tad over $50 million, plus renovation costs that start at the equivalent of the purchase price and go up from there. Depends on whether you want the top floor to include a "glass conservatory."
And then there's Sunday Styles, where they tell us all about fabulous rich people being fabulously rich, as well as the unique problems inherent to being fabulously rich. It is apparently Fashion Week, which we provincials in Boise Goddamned Idaho somehow missed, and now we feel at least seven kinds of sad about that. The slideshow of Fashion Week Parties made us feel a bit better, if only for this caption on the first photo:
If there is one thing we’ve learned from awards shows, it is that if you offer to give talented, creative and insecure people accolades, most will show up.
On Friday, The Daily Front Row held its second annual Fashion Media Awards, and a slew of very powerful fashion people did just that.
There is also a "Modern Love" column about the odd dynamics of marriage in a two-porn-star family. Insight, from author Kayden Kross:
Porn is a business of surprising contradictions. Many of the roles women play are submissive and subservient: We are the bored housewife, the penniless pizza customer (who must pay her bill in other ways) and the vulnerable secretary. But unlike in the real world, women in porn usually make more money than men for the same work, and with that can come a liberating power, both financially and sexually.
But doesn't she know or care that she's destroying the American Family?
And then there's the advice column, where the first question is, for a change, not actually horrific. A woman is worried that her godfather is being scammed by bogus charities and gets some practical suggestions about how to broach the subject. The second question makes up for it by involving the seemingly insoluble urban danger of bicyclists riding the wrong way on one-way streets' bike lanes. There is no good one-on-one solution, says our columnist, who calls for the police to just issue more tickets. This being the NYT, he didn't suggest the obvious small-government approach: Get a gun. Finally, we get to the Horrible People: There's a fight over Grandma's Comfy Chair and who can sit in it when Grandma isn't in it, and then there's this dilemma, for which an actual human being is seeking advice in America's Newspaper of Record:
My sister is starting college at the same school where I will be a junior this fall. She wears only clothes from thrift shops: tight velvet jackets, embroidered blouses, wild-colored jeans. I’ve tried telling her she is not going to fit in; it’s a preppy school. But she won’t listen. What should I do?
And OK, the columnist's advice is good and sane:
Your sister may not fit into yours, but I’m guessing that a creative and independent young woman will fit in somewhere. Don’t sweat it. No one will judge you for your sister’s wardrobe.
But we still want to just scream "Are you fucking out of your mind worrying about THIS, you vapid idiot?" We are probably not going to get recruited to write an advice column.
Enough. On to Sunday Review. All the bastards are here today. We have a full load of Friedman, Douthat, and Dowd, so we are just going to set this draft aside for a moment to brew more coffee.
As another delaying tactic, we will also read Frank Bruni's perfectly serviceable column about the True Purpose of College, which Bruni wishes could be more broadening and not just one more place where Americans divide themselves into demographic and political tribes. That would be nice, just as long as Wonkette readers remember that they should stick to what is familiar, right here at Wonkette, where we all agree. You guys are the bestest choir a blogger could preach to.
We can also put off our visit to the Three Terribles with a quick read of Nicholas Kristof, who brings us "When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 2," a continuation of his columnlast week about how Whites Just Don't Get it, which we very often don't. This time around, Kristof looks at reader reactions to his astonishing assertion that black Americans and white Americans live in fundamentally different Americas. Astonishingly, a fair number of readers decided Kristof had to be wrong, mostly because The Blacks' problems are all their own fault.
“Probably has something to do with their unwillingness to work,” Nils tweeted.
Nancy protested on my Facebook page: “We can’t fix their problems. It’s up to every black individual to stop the cycle of fatherless homes, stop the cycle of generations on welfare.”
Mr. Kristof, if you would like to borrow the term "Dear ShitFerBrains," you just go right ahead. We'll even make you a pony .gif if you'd like.
Kristof finds three flavors of "white delusion," each exemplified by a reader comment, then dissects why they're so wrong. They boil down to 1) The problems of blacks in America are all "their own fault," because dysfunctional choices and culture; 2) Why can't blacks be more like Asians, and go be achievers, dammit; and 3) "The root problem isn’t racism. It’s criminality." We would summarize Kristof's thoughtful debunking, but space prevents. Go read this one. It's good.
OK, no more avoiding it. Let us put on our waders and read FriedDowdHat.
Tom Friedman leads off by bludgeoning us with his humility:
I DON’T know what action will be sufficient to roll back both the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, and Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, but I do know what’s necessary. And it’s not “leading from behind,” which didn’t really work for President Obama in Libya, and it isn’t simply leading a lonely and unpopular charge from in front, which certainly didn’t work for President Bush in Iraq. It’s actually reviving America’s greatest strategy: leading from within.
Oh, Christ. Coffee was the wrong choice. To be a world leader again, we need to be worthy of following, and so we need to fix a whole bunch of problems at home that will make us admirable and be good for everyone. All we have to do is boost oil exports (thereby reducing the price of oil worldwide), reform our tax code, and institute a "carbon tax that is completely offset by lowering personal income, payroll and corporate taxes." Piece of cake. Reducing the price of oil will undercut the power of both Putin and ISIS, and will make Europe love us again, and surely oil companies will love the combination of lower prices, a carbon tax, and an end to subsidies, so god knows they and their pet legislators will be on board:
if we shift tax revenue to money collected from a carbon tax, we can slash income, payroll and corporate taxes, incentivize investment and hiring and unleash our economic competitiveness. That is a strategy hawks and doves, greens and big oil could all support.
Can't possibly go wrong.
Next, we have Ross Douthat talking about gang rapes in Rotherham, England, where local police ignored some 1400 rapes of working-class white girls, mostly by groups of Pakistani men. At first, the topic struck us as all the incentive Yr Doktor Zoom needs to get "Sundays With the Christianists" out of mothballs right quick, but ultimately turns out not to be nearly as horrible as the phrase "Ross Douthat writes about rape" might make you think. And in fact, we can't really take much issue with this observation:
So instead of looking for ideological vindication in these stories, it’s better to draw a general lesson. Show me what a culture values, prizes, puts on a pedestal, and I’ll tell you who is likely to get away with rape.
In Catholic Boston or Catholic Ireland, that meant men robed in the vestments of the church.
In Joe Paterno’s pigskin-mad Happy Valley, it meant a beloved football coach [...]
And in Rotherham, it meant men whose ethnic and religious background made them seem politically untouchable, and whose victims belonged to a class that both liberal and conservative elements in British society regard with condescension or contempt.
Yes, there's some blaming of "political correctness" for the cops' fear of being called racist for prosecuting ethnic Pakistanis for rape, but Douthat's with the victims, which is where he needs to be, so count us astonished -- once again we read a Douthat column that didn't make us gag.
And finally, Maureen Dowd seems to think that Homeland offers some useful insights into Barack Obama's foreign policy, because the teevee story about CIA spooks "vividly shows our fungible moral choices and the disruptive power of social media." Ooh, fungible. Can't really disagree too much with a paragraph like this:
So many gigantic blunders have been made since 9/11, so many historical fault lines have erupted, that no matter which path the Obama administration takes, it runs into a “No Exit” sign. Any choice seems like a bad choice.
But then we find out how all that is affecting Mandy Patinkin's character on Homeland, and we start imagining how nice it must be to get paid for that sort of twaddle. There's also some stuff in there about how Barack Obama is wrong -- or is he right? -- to say that the world has always been a messy, intractable place, but social media just makes us more aware of how messy it is, maybe. Also, why on earth did the man go to Stonehenge, anyway?
His “bucket list” visit Friday to the alien-looking Stonehenge was the perfect backdrop for his strange pattern of detachment, and his adamantine belief that his Solomonic wisdom and Spocky calm help him resist the siren songs to disaster.
Joe Biden was the one connecting with Americans, promising to chase the ISIS savages “to the gates of hell,” while Obama’s subliminal, or not so subliminal, message was that before certain atrocities, the heart must muzzle itself, rejecting flights of anxiety, worry and horror as enemies of lucid analysis.
Also, says Dowd, sometimes a good panic is
a sign of clear thinking. Reality is reality, whether it’s tweeted or not. And the truth doesn’t always set you free. The mind and the will don’t always act in concert. You can know a lot of things and still not act. And as we saw with the Iraq invasion, you can not know a lot of things and still act.
AND THAT WORKED OUT SO WELL, DIDN'T IT, MAUREEN? Jesus. Still, we'd all feel a lot better if the president would just go all Johnny get Angry -- and finally, Dowd breaks her three weeks' record of not mentioning her favorite guy:
Bill Clinton couldn’t stop biting his lip. Now we’d kill to see Obama baring his teeth.
Yes. Let's go bomb somebody. Can we please bomb somebody? A nice new war is just the thing we need to get past Obama's dangerous Spockiness.