Friday, August 21, 2009

Reefer Madness Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market by Eric Schlosser

Reefer Madness Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market
by Eric Schlosser
Read by the author
Produced by Simon & Schuster Audio 2003

Okay one more non-fiction book and then I'll get back to some more fiction. I picked up this audio book because I read the author's book on the meat and fast food industry, "Fast Food Nation." For a while after reading that book I would not touch fast food mainly because of the gross out factor caused by Eric Schlosser's expose' of the unsafe practices in those industries. Schlosser also exposed the greed and the lack of concern for the consumer's of those same products and the employees of the companies involved. The one thing that Schlosser excelled in was in following the money.

This book is no exception, in fact that's pretty much the gist of the book, following the money. "Reefer Madness" is a look at the three pillars of the underground economy of the U.S., estimated to be ten percent of American GDP: marijuana, migrant labor, and pornography.

In Reefer Madness, the first section of the book Schlosser argues, based on usage, historical context, and consequences, for the decriminalization of marijuana. This section revolves around Mark Young of Indiana, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole for his relatively minor role in a marijuana deal. This is one of the examples of marijuana laws being unreal, where in many states marijuana possession can get harsher penalties than committing murder.

In the Strawberry Fields, he explores the exploitation of illegal immigrants as cheap labor, arguing that there should be better living arrangements and humane treatment of the illegal immigrants America is exploiting in the fields of California. This segment seems like either an epilogue or prologue to this previous book "Fast Food Nation." In fast food nation the migrant workers/illegal immigrants are used in meat packing in extremely unsafe conditions and with very little pay. In this segment of the book those workers are trying to squeak by on very little money doing jobs no one wants to do. In one conversation the farm owner says every once in a while some college kids come looking for work but the work is so difficult they don't last half a day.

One thing I always found curious was; Why don't the farmers that employ illegals use machinery to do the harvesting and get rid of the problem of illegals sneaking across borders to do back breaking work? Schlosser explains this, and I'm summing up the explanation here, by saying for farms to do the work with the machinery an initial purchase of said machinery would cost into the millions and right now they only spend thousands paying the migrant workers, also that we Americans like for our fruit and vegetables to not be blemished and the workers can pick with care unlike the machines.

An Empire of the Obscene details the history of pornography in American culture, starting with the eventual business magnate Reuben Sturman, an enigmatic Ohio man who started out selling discarded comic books from the back of his car goes on to buil and control a formidable pornography empire. After beating a string of obscenity charges the government finally catches Sturman in the only way possible, tax evasion. Finally the government can put Sturman behind bars. But after all the court cases against Sturman bringing down religion based obscenity laws the business of pornography becomes a major business now backed by many Fortune 500 companies.

Schlosser unravels an American society that has "become alienated and at odds with itself." Like "Fast Food Nation", this is an eye-opening book with Schlosser doing some serious investigative leg work. Schlosser doesn't really come out in support of the Porn Industry or the legalization of drugs but does point out the hypocrisy that gives a marijuana user life and a murderer 10 years as sentencing and jailing obscenity while major corporations fund it, while that same America promotes indentured servitude (slavery) for the illegal immigrants. "..the price of freedom is often what freedom brings."

Schlosser closes by arguing that such a widespread black market can only undermine the law and is indicative of the discrepancy between accepted mainstream American culture and its true nature.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Gil T. @ 10:14 PM Comments: 0

Friday, April 03, 2009

"Illegal" By Paul Levine

By Paul Levine
Published by Bantam Books

J. Atticus Payne, affectionately known as "Royal" Payne by judges and law enforcement agencies, has problems. His wife has left him for a right wing tv talk show host, he's being hunted down by an internal affairs officer for skimming money from a sting operation in which he was to bribe a judge. Oh yeah he's also now hated by all judges and attorneys for bribing a judge. Things just don't seem to work out so well for Jimmy "Royal" Payne.

To make matters worse his son was killed by an illegal immigrant that was drinking while driving and smashed into Jimmy's car when he and his son were out for a father/son day. Payne is out to seek revenge on this Mexican by always threatening to hunt him down and kill him with his bare hands. Luckily his ex-wife, Sharon, has been able to stop this when he's threatened to do it before. But now it looks as though he has nothing to lose.

Oh but that's not all to this story, not by a long shot. You see, J. Atticus Payne had once helped some illegal aliens that were forced to suffer in the desert heat inside a metal tractor trailer. Some of the Illegals died but the ones that survived got to become citizens thanks to Payne. Now when Marisol and her son Tino need to cross the border and escape Mexico to the promised land of "El Norte," Marisol gives her son Payne's business card in case they get separated he should contact Payne to help him.

During their border crossing something goes wrong with the coyotes (the people transporting the immigrants) and the border patrol and Tino gets separated from his mother. When Tino finds Payne he discovers that Payne is not the great man the legends have created, but seeks his help to find his mother anyway.

Payne's ex-wife is supposed to arrest him (Payne) but after hearing the boy's story let's him go to reunite Tino and Marisol.

In an adventure that brings out the heartbreak and danger of the everyday life of an illegal immigrant Payne and Tino go back to Mexico to retrace the steps of their crossing to find Marisol. Covering the dangers of border crossing, the dangers of illegal workers in packing plants and farms and the dangers of being hunted down by the so-called patriots guarding the borders and even by those bringing in the illegals. This novel is fun, adventurous and poignant all in one. Not since I read T. C. Boyle's "Tortilla Curtain" have I absorbed a novel that covers the plight of illegal immigrants viewed from both sides of the issue.

Great book that you will not be able to put down once reading.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share
posted by Gil T. @ 9:42 PM Comments: 0