1. Beginning of the Century

Halloween, Chickens, Remembering Paul Wellstone, Homegrown terrorist Eric Rudolph, fall 2002

When I began my writing/photography website, I was just getting to know New York and was inspired and amused by the visual riot that was this city. Here is my first home page (with notes from 2022).

How I learned to stop worrying about my 401K and love to bomb Iraq

Here was the Halloween costume party at the Theater for the New City in the East Village. The theater with a gallery is still going strong in 2022.

The Poultry Section.

I was inspired by the Chorus Line of Ducks at Sammy’s Noodle shop in Greenwich Village. It was a good Chinese restaurant, now gone. Click on a photo to enlarge it. The businesses where I got these photos no longer exist.

Pure Poultry 
If I don’t love you baby, 
Grits ain’t groceries, 
Eggs ain’t poultry, 
Mona Lisa was a man.
—Titus Turner

Pure Poultry, Part II 
Adolph Green’s wife, Phyllis Newman, tells of going with her songwriter husband to the movies and hearing an actor on the screen declare, “I’ve tasted death. Have you?” Green called out, “Yes, and it tastes like chicken.”
John Lahr in The New Yorker

Remembering Paul Wellstone’s “Poverty Tour

The death of Sen. Paul Wellstone in a plane crash in 2002 recalled for me an important part of his legacy that I had written about for In These Times in 1997.

It’s been 30 years since a senator from outside of the Appalachians came to Eastern Kentucky to listen to coal miners. And what Minnesota Democrat Paul Wellstone heard on a stop of his national “Poverty Tour” shocked him.

“I’m convinced that most people in this country–and I’m absolutely convinced that most people in Congress–think that what you’re describing is something that took place 50 years ago,” Wellstone told a group of eight miners and one young widow he met in Hazard, Ky., on August 29.

Rita St. Clair, the 27-year-old widow of a miner, recounted the story of how her husband was electrocuted after being told to repair a piece of equipment on which he was not certified to work. He had pleaded not to be assigned tasks for which he was not qualified, she reported. Mike Hoskins told Wellstone he was fired after 16 years as a miner simply because he took a short break in an eight-hour shift to remove an uncomfortable rubber and plastic mask. Larry Hatton said he lost his job for complaining about coal dust so thick that he could not see the remote control in front of him on the continuous mining machine he was operating. 

These conditions are typical in the largely non-union mines of Eastern Kentucky, says Tony Oppegard, an attorney who represents miners who are fired for refusing to work under unsafe conditions. Miners are afraid to speak out because they often lose their jobs, says Oppegard, who organized the meeting with Wellstone.

One of the biggest problems in the mines is coal dust. “Dust not only causes black lung, but it’s an explosion hazard,” Oppegard says. 

Currently, mine owners track their own dust levels, which they consistently report as within federal standards. Oppegard says the government uses the reports of clean air, which he calls a “farce,” as evidence that miners cannot be getting black lung. He says only 5 percent of miners collect on their claims for black lung benefits.

The visit with the miners was one stop on Wellstone’s cross-country investigation into the living conditions of poor people. Like Robert F. Kennedy’s tour in 1967, Wellstone’s trip may be a test of the presidential campaign waters. 

But the meeting galvanized the senator to support legislation funding new federal safety inspectors. Upon return to the Senate, Wellstone spoke in favor of a Labor Department appropriations bill to hire 24 federal inspectors to monitor coal dust.

The appropriations bill awaits approval. 

October 19, 1997

Another obsession that came from my years in the South:

Our So-Called Intelligence
Whatever happened to . . .Eric Rudolph?

The terrorist is one of the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted, the man suspected of planting a bomb during the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and at an Alabama abortion clinic in 1998. He remains at large. National, state and local law enforcement can’t find this homegrown English-speaking terrorist in an English-speaking land. He is probably hiding within the boundaries of just a couple of counties in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Guess who headed up the hunt for Rudolph for more than two years? The FBI man who now heads up the Department of Justice’s Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force. As if you needed another reason to worry about the competence of intelligence agencies.

P.S. In 2003, after Rudolph had been on the run for five years, he was caught, no thanks to the FBI. Sure enough, he was in the mountains of North Carolina. A local police officer found him dumpster diving for food behind a grocery store. He had a lot of weapons including a cache above the FBI’s command post. Here’s a link to the FBI’s spin: https://www.fbi.gov/history/famous-cases/eric-rudolph