Decedent was inside the trench when the earth collapsed

It amounts to a grim sort of hypnotic poetry

Occasionally I post an issue of my newsletter Welcome to Hell World here. Here’s the latest.

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Did you miss this paid-subscriber-only piece from earlier in the week because it’s a really good one. It’s about how a corporate lobbying group in West Virginia representing Dow Chemical, DuPont, Proctor & Gamble and others successfully lobbied the state legislature not to reduce pollutant standards in the water since, as they argued, the residents there are too fat and don’t drink enough water to get cancer. Very cool!

Jose Martin Paz Flores was working as a drywaller for a company called Tara Construction in Boston when he fell off a ladder and broke his leg in March of 2017. While he was in the hospital his boss Pedro Pirez visited him which is very nice of him to do I think that is safe to say. Assurance Quality Passion is the company’s slogan after all.

Despite the fact that Paz was undocumented he was nonetheless still entitled to workers’ compensation under the law which is surprising to hear I didn’t expect that to be the case did you? You would think they would have closed that decent and reasonable loophole somehow by now and maybe they will and they just haven’t gotten around to it.

About a month after the fall the workers’ compensation insurance denied any coverage related to Paz’s injury because they said the policy had been canceled. They said they hadn’t been paid a premium they were owed by Tara so fuck you. Pirez must have thought he was going to be on the hook himself for the money somehow so he did what any of us would do in this situation which is he snitched on Paz to the feds in order to get him deported.

Surprisingly this week the Department of Labor announced that they’re suing Tara Construction and Pirez and the fact that a Trump-appointed Labor Secretary like Alexander Acosta is actually doing something seemingly good is pretty surprising isn’t it? Almost makes you wonder what the catch is.

If you recognize Acosta’s name it might be because the Department of Justice recently opened their own investigation into him due to while he was a U.S. attorney in 2008 he arranged a shockingly lenient plea deal for billionaire pedophile rapist and Trump and Bill Clinton pal Jeffrey Epstein.

According to the suit “Pirez contacted Boston Police Detective Juan Seoane approximately two to three weeks after Paz’s injury, and asked Detective Seoane to look into Paz’s identity. As part of that process, Pirez provided Detective Seoane with certain of Paz’s identifying documents.”

Seoane then passed the information along to Sergeant Detective Gregory Gallagher a Boston cop who works on an ICE/Boston Police Department task force which is rather weird to learn exists because Boston police aren’t supposed to be cooperating with ICE unless someone has committed a very serious crime. Mayor Marty Walsh has continued to insist that Boston is a sanctuary city after the passage of the Trust Act in 2014 that prevented police from detaining immigrants for ICE.

ICE and the Boston cops had some trouble tracking Paz down so they asked Pirez for help in finding him. He got in touch with Paz and said he had some money for him to help him out while he was recovering and why not come by the office and pick it up and woops turns out he also told the cops the day and time he would be coming and they arrested him.

In the meantime Paz has obtained authorization to remain in the country but one of the things the DOL is trying to do besides get him back pay and some other money they think he deserves is to reinforce the message that companies like Tara Construction cannot hold the threat of retaliation and deportation over the heads of workers who are injured on the job which is something that probably happens a lot more often then we hear about it because why would we hear about it.

“BPD’s alleged action dramatically increases the vulnerability of immigrant workers to exploitation and abuse, and it is highly inconsistent with the message that the City otherwise sends,” Audrey Richardson the lawyer representing Paz said.

“It is shocking that the BPD allegedly played a central role in helping an employer retaliate against a seriously injured worker, who simply sought medical care and workers’ compensation benefits that the law provides regardless of immigration status.”

I don’t know why you would have ever done this but have you ever combed through the catalogue of ways people have died on the job in America? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration compiles a list of all of them or at least they used to I’m not sure if they do anymore but you can go through and read them all. I did a a while back and wrote about it and it amounts to a grim sort of hypnotic poetry.

FY 2010,10/02/09,09/28/09, “Jacoby Feed & Seed, Melvin, TX 76858”, Employees were installing a tilt-wall into a trench. Decedent was inside the trench when the earth collapsed.

FY 2010,10/02/09,09/28/09, “Zachary Construction Corp., Mansfield, LA 71052”, Decedent was walking across a tank and fell through a hatch into a tank of boiling water. He either drowned or died of thermal burns.

In 2018 the number of OSHA investigations after a death or serious injury on the job was the highest it’s been in ten years according to the National Employment Law Project. That comes as worksite safety enforcement is declining and the number of safety inspectors is the lowest it’s ever been in its entire history.

“The latest data from OSHA is very alarming,” writes Debbie Berkowitz the program director at the NELP and a former OSHA official. “We’re seeing huge red flags in the continued drop in enforcement and staffing at OSHA, while the number of workplace fatality investigations is at a decade high. That’s a clear indication that workplace deaths are on the rise.”

Five thousand workers were killed at work in 2018 and nearly three million were injured or had an illness that required them to miss time Berkowitz says.

“Alarmingly, the number of OSHA inspections due to workplace fatalities or catastrophes in FY 2018 rose dramatically — a strong sign that workplace fatalities are increasing under this administration. At the same time, as if it were trying to disappear, the agency has all but stopped issuing enforcement-related press releases, abandoning the deterrent effect that this kind of publicity produces.”

FY 2010,10/02/09,09/30/09, “Weight Farm, Bellfonte, PA 16823”, Decedent was inside a silo loading the feeder from a ladder. He became wedged within the ladder cage in a fetal position and suffocated.

FY 2011,11/27/10,11/20/10, “American Fireworks Mfg Co. Inc., Utica, NY 13502”, Worker was struck by fireworks during a fireworks show.

Here’s a poem I just read. It’s by Naomi Shihab Nye who was born in America to a Palestinian refugee father. It seemed relevant as Israel carried out dozens of strikes on Palestine this week although I suppose that’s not much different than any other week.

Here’s another one from her I quite like.

FY 2010,09/11/10,09/08/10, “Woodwork Manufacturing & Supply, Hutchinson, KS 67501–5373”, Worker discovered a fire in a sawdust collection system and attempted to extinguish the fire by opening the dump doors on the bottom of the sawdust collector and a flash fire occurred, enveloping the worker in flames/burning sawdust.

FY 2010,09/11/10,09/07/10, “Unknown Contractor, Risingsun, OH 43467”, Worker was pulled into a tree chipper machine.

There’s a set of doors in my living room that lead out onto an enclosed front porch which would be nice to sit in but it’s where we store all sorts of shit we don’t need or want to look at anymore. It’s the place where you put things that are no longer your problem like an old couch or a picture that used to hang on the wall forever until one day you decided you didn’t need to see it you had seen it enough times.

However it is they built it it’s not very well insulated out there so the wind blows through and creates pressure that creaks the doors open and makes for a terrible draft that I sit in every day. Sometimes I push something heavy in front of it like the ottoman I just put there now but when the wind gets really strong it doesn’t matter it still blows open. I should probably have tried to do something to actually solve the problem but it’s been ten years now and it’s starting to look like I’m not going to get to the root of the issue and that this is just how I live now.

I just went outside to take a break and I saw my old friend creeping around in the bushes next to an empty whisky bottle which someone must have thrown there one night in the winter when it was all covered in snow and they thought no one was looking and it would just disappear.

Another thing to talk about is I went home to sort through all my old stuff like my mother has been asking me to for years and I thought you might enjoy this picture of me the king of the nineties at Woodstock in 1994. I’m going to write about it at length later on but it was such an unsettling feeling to be digging through the artifacts of my youth. There was little comforting about it it was more like being an archaeologist on an excavation uncovering the remnants of a civilization that was lost to time and whose language was unfamiliar.

I just read about a survey published in the American Journal of Public Health that said almost sixty percent of people who declared bankruptcy said medical expenses very much or somewhat contributed to it. According to US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau medical bills “were by far the most common cause of unpaid bills sent to collection agencies in 2014, accounting for more than half of all such debts,” it said.

“Despite gains in coverage and access to care from the ACA, our findings suggest that it did not change the proportion of bankruptcies with medical causes. That’s not surprising because the chronically poor — the group most affected by the ACA’s coverage expansion — have reduced access to credit, have few assets (such as a home) to protect, and face particular difficulty in securing the legal help needed to navigate formal bankruptcy proceedings. Moreover, medical costs continue to outpace incomes, 29 million remain uninsured, and many of those with health insurance face unpredictable and unaffordable out-of-pocket costs as copayments and deductibles ratchet up. And few Americans have adequate disability coverage, leaving them vulnerable to illness-related income loss that amplifies the financial distress caused by medical bills,” it said.

People who get hurt on the job for example.

Instead of trying to make things better the authors said the Trump administration is actively trying to make the situation worse. Sometimes you have to think Republicans aren’t just in this to make money right? Sometimes you have to think causing pain isn’t just a byproduct of unrelated greed but it’s actually the primary motivation.

I wrote about Tucker Carlson the famous racist this week for my Boston Globe columnand it already feels outdated after the vile shooting in New Zealand but here’s one thing I said about this particular brand of asshole in it:

“Fox News viewers aren’t tuning into Carlson or Hannity or Pirro’s shows in spite of the steady stream of xenophobia and racism and jingoism. They’re tuning in because of it. And efforts to boycott Carlson’s program are likely to embolden the Trump base, who are motivated by nothing more now than owning the libs, and see nothing worse than a show of weakness.”

Another thing the Trump administration has been up to is hearing from nursing homes that say it’s unfair how much they were being fined under Obama when they endangered or injured the elderly people in their care.

“The average fine dropped to $28,405 under the current administration, down from $41,260 in 2016, President Barack Obama’s final year in office,” according to Kaiser Health News.

After hearing how hard it is for them to pay such fines from the nursing home industry Trump said OK and rolled back what was fairly aggressive regulation and oversight intended to stop the homes which are often multimillion dollar companies from doing things like running out of medication or not disinfecting medical equipment in order to prevent infectious diseases from spreading.

The fucking porch doors are creaking right now and I’m so cold even though the sun is shining and I started thinking about Woodstock again. I don’t remember too much about it I would have been about seventeen and it would have been around the time that story I told about being sexually assaulted or whatever it was which we all thought was very funny was going on. I remember the mud. Everything was covered in mud and walking around and sleeping in a tent and trying to do anything was basically impossible until you came to the realization that you were going to have to stop trying to avoid the mud and that you lived in the mud now. I remember seeing Green Day and Salt-N-Pepa and Blind Melon who we all loved so much back then and then the guy died and people generally don’t talk about Blind Melon that much anymore. I guess the singer Shannon Hoon was addicted to cocaine and the band hired a counselor to travel with them but apparently he couldn’t get him to stop either so they fired him and then he overdosed a few days later in 1995 anyway.

I remember my friend Rich Cronin was there with us at Woodstock and Rich did some fun stuff later on in life like singing that song about Chinese food that everyone liked to make jokes about for a while with his band LFO. Rich died too in 2010 from leukemia and they had the funeral at the church I used to go to where we grew up in Kingston but I didn’t go to it and I don’t know why.

Rich was discovered by Lou Pearlman who was the manager of the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. Pearlman went to jail and died in jail after being exposed for running a massive Ponzi scheme. Another thing Pearlman allegedly liked to do was to get young men to have sex and to dangle the prospect of a career in music in front of them.

Rich talked about being at Pearlman’s “wonderland for guys” mansion later on on the Howard Stern show. He said “some guys allowed Pearlman to use his power to take advantage of them, because it would mean they would have better career opportunities,” MTV reported.

“Eventually he did [try and touch me sexually] … some other dudes went for it. And if you did, he took care of you. He’d buy them cars,” Rich said.

Vanity Fair reported on Pearlman’s predatory behavior years ago. One of the only people who would talk about it besides Rich was Steve Mooney who was his assistant for a time.

“Living at Pearlman’s home, Steve Mooney believed he saw firsthand the price many young men were paying. Pearlman’s bedroom lay behind a pair of double doors, and when they were closed, Mooney knew not to intrude. More than once, he says, he encountered young male singers slipping out of those doors late at night, tucking in their shirts, a sheepish look on their faces. ‘There was one guy in every band — one sacrifice — one guy in every band who takes it for Lou,’ says Mooney, echoing a sentiment I heard from several people. ‘That’s just the way it was.’”

Hmm this one might be getting away from me here vis a vis thematic consistency. Who is to say?

Here’s one more thing I wanted to mention and it’s that W.S. Merwin died. He was ninety one though so it’s not supposed to be as sad as when a younger person dies. He won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize twice and was the Poet Laureate twice which is pretty respectable in terms of a poetry career you have to allow.

Merwin was an environmentalist and worried about nuclear bombs and the Vietnam War among other things but perhaps relevant to our concern here was his eschewing punctuation in much of his later work.

“He wanted his writing to be more urgent, so, to start, Merwin decided to do away with punctuation,” NPR wrote.

“Suddenly using punctuation felt like nailing words on a page,” his friend the poet Edward Hirsch told them. “He was seeking something like the movement and lightness of the spoken word.”

Here’s one poem of his I quite like and then after that I’m going to get going. I’m going to fix the porch doors so they stop opening I think. Yes I think I’m going to do it this time for good.