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PARIS, THE NEW NORMAL? — Diana Johnstone files an in-depth report from Paris on the political reaction to the Charlie Hebdo shootings; The Treachery of the Black Political Class: Margaret Kimberley charts the rise and fall of the Congressional Black Caucus; The New Great Game: Pepe Escobar assays the game-changing new alliance between Russia and Turkey; Will the Frackers Go Bust? Joshua Frank reports on how the collapse of global oil prices might spell the end of the fracking frenzy in the Bakken Shale; The Future of the Giraffe: Ecologist Monica Bond reports from Tanzania on the frantic efforts to save one of the world’s most iconic species. Plus: Jeffrey St. Clair on Satire in the Service of Power; Chris Floyd on the Age of Terrorism and Absurdity; Mike Whitney on the Drop Dead Fed; John Wight on the rampant racism of Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper;” John Walsh on Hillary Clinton and Lee Ballinger on the Gift of Anger.
Catfish Blues SOB's From Out of Town

Catfish Blues

by JOHN L. HESS

I’m haunted by an interview Molly Ivins had with a young woman in Mississippi. She’d been skinning catfish, 12 a minute, all day long. And behind her stood a man with a stopwatch, checking to see if she was keeping up, and whether he might speed up the assembly line. She told Molly her bones hurt, and she would have to quit before she was permanently disabled, like so many others. Molly repeats the anecdote in her book, Bushwhacked, because one of the first things Dubya did when he seized power was to block a regulation to reduce workplace injuries from repetitive motions.

The anecdote hit me especially because as a youth I worked in a canning factory. It was not as cold and wet as that catfish plant, but I remember the guy in the suit coming around with a stopwatch. We were told he was an efficiency expert. Somebody asked, what’s an efficiency expert? An older man replied, "It’s a son-of-a-bitch from out of town."

Well, Dubya likes to claim he’s from out of town. Did it again yesterday when he bragged that he didn’t read the big-city press — forgetting that he grew up here and diddled his way through our fanciest schools – though he doesn’t seem to have done much reading. His family has always had deep connections in Washington, and Wall Street..

His conduct in office, as tracked by Molly Ivins, has been so horrendous as to make Bill Clinton look good — if you don’t look close. For example, I think Molly overlooks the fact that it took eight years for Clinton to get around to approving that regulation about repetitive motion syndrome He handed the country, and his party over to the Republicans in a helluva shape. That indeed is why the Bushwackers have been in control. We have a lot of catfish that need skinning.

JOHN L. HESS used to write for the New York Times. Now he does radio commentary for WBAI in New York.