Western cattle ranchers often rail against federal government control of public lands, but aren’t averse to taking taxpayer-funded handouts whenever they can get them. Indeed, even famously insurgent Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy took help from a taxpayer-funded public defender after being arrested on 16 charges of conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States.
Tomorrow evening at 6 p.m. Donald Trump Jr. will appear in Grand Junction at the Mesa County Fairgrounds, nominally to talk to sportsmen.
Donald Jr. likes to kill rare and endangered animals in expensive trophy hunts overseas. He is supposed to be speaking about “wildlife conservation.”
Anyone who can stand to be in the presence of a human being like this, or who can manage to do it without losing their stomach, is invited to attend.
Adding to concerns about the growing undercurrent of bigotry, hatred and intolerance that runs in western Colorado, this unidentified Grand Junction-area woman cut loose with a racist rant towards a Latino family in the parking lot of the Mesa County Health Department on Monday, August 1.
The family expressed concern about a dog that was left in a hot car in the parking lot. The temperature that day was in the mid to high 90s.
One of the Latino family members filmed the woman’s rant as evidence in case the woman harmed them, then posted the video on Facebook, where as of August 4 it had gotten over 360,000 views. It’s also posted on YouTube.
The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel ran an article about the incident and the video in today’s paper.
So far, the woman engaging in the racist rant has not been identified.
UPDATE: Here is the ranting woman’s response after the video went viral. She claims she is hispanic herself so could not be racist.
Under pressure from a family member, I tried a Jimmy John’s sub shop last week. I had never eaten at one before. I tried their “Vito” Italian sub with few hot peppers on it. It turned out to be pretty decent — good enough, I thought, to go to another Jimmy John’s store few days later and order the same sandwich again. It tasted just as good as the first one, but this was probably the last Jimmy John’s sandwich I will ever eat. Here’s why:
As I stood at the cash register ordering sandwich #2, I noticed a huge, religious-theme sign posted on the wall right above the place where you wait to pick up your sandwiches. I asked the cashier why there was a religious sign on the wall of their sandwich shop. She just said “It’s a corporate thing.”
That was my first hint that something was very wrong with Jimmy John’s. It seems like businesses that go out of their way to push a god-and-country meme on their patrons (pdf) often have a slew of bad things going on behind the scenes that they are trying to hide from the public. It was just a hunch, a gut feeling I’ve gotten over years of observing these things, so I checked it out. I hit the internet and started investigating Jimmy John’s.
E-Coli, Mistreatment of Employees and Tax Avoidance…for starters
Sure enough, my suspicions about the chain were confirmed. I found article after article about a wide variety of things that are very wrong not only with Jimmy John’s sandwich stores, but also the chain’s owner, Jimmy John Liautaud. The more I read, the more horrified I got, and the less I wanted to eat there again.
In 2012, Jimmy John’s was found to be the source of a multi-state outbreak of E-coli that sickened 29 people in 11 states. Seven victims had to be hospitalized.
Liautaud makes his lowest-paid hourly employees — not just managers — sign no-compete agreements that prohibit them from working at ANY sandwich shop within three miles of the first shop where they worked for two years after leaving Jimmy John’s, and prohibits them from working at any other Jimmy John’s for 12 months after leaving. This makes it tough for high school or college student employees to get other jobs nearby after working at a Jimmy John’s. Former employees have brought a lawsuit against Liautaud over the practice.
A vocal critic of income taxes, Liautaud owes the state of Illinois over $1.4 million in taxes on his 2009 purchase of two corporate jets. Jimmy John refused to pay the taxes by arguing that the jets qualified for a commercial transportation tax exemption. The state of Illinois didn’t agree.
Jimmy John’s also recently settled a class action lawsuit in California (pdf) for falsely advertising over a 2 1/2 year-long period that their sandwiches had sprouts on them. They didn’t.
Jimmy John’s has come under fire for making financial contributions to extreme, anti-immigrant politicians in Arizona, like Joe Arpaio (the Maricopa County Sheriff known for racial profiling, arresting his critics and locking up innocent people) and failed presidential candidate John McCain, who selected Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008.
Wage Theft, Anti-Immigrant Policies, Canned Hunts
Two former Jimmy John employees from two separate store locations have also filed a lawsuit charging Jimmy John’s with committing systematic wage theft by forcing workers to work off the clock and refusing to pay them overtime. Jimmy John’s delivery drivers also sued the chain in 2013 charging that company stiffed them of wages and forced them to pay for their own vehicle insurance and maintenance. The chain has also been charged with crushing employees’ attempts to unionize.
Pretty bad stuff all around, and all of the above would have been plenty to put me off. But by far the most repulsive thing about Jimmy John Liautaud is that he loves to go on canned (fake) hunts and kill threatened species of large, wild animals. Canned hunts are hunts where shooters pay large fees to “hunt” trophy animals confined inside fenced enclosures. Sometimes the animals are pre-wounded to make the hunt even easier for a paying shooter. Website after website shows horrific photos Liautaud grinning proudly over carcasses of endangered African elephants, leopards and even an Alaskan brown bear that he reportedly killed inside a wildlife refuge.
The public response to Jimmy John’s killing of endangered animals has been visceral. The Facebook page “Boycott Jimmy Johns” urges people to stop patronizing Jimmy John’s restaurants in response to Liautaud’s pointless joy-killing of endangered large animals. A petition on Change.org asks people to boycott Jimmy John’s sub shops until Liautaud stops killing exotic animals for sport. The petition asks Liautaud to make a public apology and give a donation towards wildlife preservation in Africa. The petition is now closed, but Liautaud offered no apology nor gave a donation as requested.
The above is all I need to know about Jimmy John’s. However good, fast or cheap their sandwiches may be, my appetite for them has been completely wiped out by what I now know about the chain and the truly disgusting behavior of Jimmy John Liautaud, the chain’s founder and namesake.
The Colorado Riverfront Trail is a huge asset to Mesa County citizens’ quality of life. It beckons residents and tourist to run, walk and bike amid the beautiful scenery alongside the river.
But frequently gunfire occurs around parts of the paths located outside City limits. Many times the sound of loud gunfire next to the path has reduced my dog to a quivering, drooling mass of fear. He digs in his toenails, shakes uncontrollably, refuses to walk any more and has to be lifted or dragged away from the area. The gunfire turns an otherwise pleasant, enjoyable time on the path into a nightmare for us and our dog, and cuts short the time we usually reserve for our morning walk. We have to drag the dog back to the car, leave the area and find somewhere else to walk where he — and we — don’t feel threatened.
So many of our riverfront walks have been ruined this way, I start to wonder why we ever go back. I have quietly wondered, too, if my dog is justified in being so frightened, and whether I should be a bit more concerned for my own safety.
Based on what I found out, I absolutely should.
On the Monument View section of trail, about 1/2 mile east of the Walker Wildlife parking area, there are two small, ominous signs — one facing in either direction — that say “Active Hunting Area. Please stay on trail and respect hunter’s rights.” But what, exactly, does this mean to people using the trail? The signs don’t say what to do if gunfire comes your way. They give no assurance you will not be hit by errant gunfire while on the trail. It doesn’t say where the hunters are or in what direction they shoot. It doesn’t give the dates of hunting seasons or point to protective barriers or cover.
On its website, the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce touts green business practices. It sports photos of green leaves and solar panels on its Facebook page and offers up articles like the “Top 10 Green Practices for Landscapers” and “Top 10 Green Practices for Auto Repair.” The chamber urges businesses to take steps to reduce air pollution, protect people’s health and conserve water. Sounds pretty good, right? Like they really care about the environment, huh? So does this mean the Chamber is pro-environment?
Not by a long shot.
The Grand Junction chamber tries to put on a green face but it is one of the biggest political boosters in the state when it comes to promoting development of oil shale and tar sands — two of the most environmentally destructive and economically impractical mining practices in the world today.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is working to expose the extraordinarily cruel treatment that Tennessee Walking Horses endure at the hands of human “trainers” to get them to display their characteristic exaggerated gait of lifting their front legs high off the ground when walking. The gait is referred to in the breeding industry as the “Big Lick.” In the mid-1940’s a stallion named “Midnight Sun” had a similar but less exaggerated high-stepping gait that drew people’s attention and brought people to shows to see him. Trainers started thinking that if they could get their horses to walk like Midnight Sun, they could draw more people to shows and make more money from their horses. To produce the gait, trainers began using a torturous process called “soring.” Soring is the practice of applying caustic chemicals to the horses’ lower front legs, like mustard oil, diesel oil, or even using chemicals from an ordinary grocery store that become irritating when mixed. The chemicals are applied to the horse’s pasterns, or lower legs just above the hoof, and then wrapped in plastic wrap and then regular vet wrap, so the horse’s body heat helps the chemicals get absorbed through the skin. These wraps are left on overnight. After they are removed, and just before a training session, chains are fastened around the pasterns to further irritate the horse’s front feet. The horse tries to pick his feet up high to try to avoid the pain, resulting in the much sought-after high gait. The practice of soring violates the Horse Protection Act, but the show horse industry uses a failed system of self-policing that results in a lack of enforcement.
Rick Berman, the D.C. beltway corporate lobbyist who revels in the nickname “Dr. Evil,” is at it again, this time defending a dangerous New Hampshire “ag-gag” bill that would block the ability to build solid court cases against animal cruelty in commercial agricultural operations. Berman also penned an opinion piece in the Boston Globe opposing the “Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act,” a bill that would require federal agencies to buy food products only from farms that raise animals free from cruelty and abuse. Aside from the underlying question of why the Boston Globe would print anything by Rick Berman, a corporate sell-out who lacks completely in credibility, why does Berman persist in supporting something as distasteful and horrifically unpopular as animal abuse?
Berman operates the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCR), an industry-funded front group that relentlessly attacks do-good organizations like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Berman uses over-the-top rhetoric, calling people who research and expose the causes behind obesity “food control zealots.” He uses hyperbole and slippery-slope arguments, saying animal welfare groups like the Humane Society are “fighting to get rid of every dairy, pork, egg, beef, veal, and poultry farm across America by increasing the cost of production and hence increasing the price of food.” Hogwash. Whenever possible, HSUS works with commercial ag operations to reduce animal abuses like tail-docking of dairy cows and confinement of animals in horribly small spaces. The groups has been successful in doing so, but does pursue legislation to protect animals, too.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is sounding alarm bells about a bill introduced in New Hampshire’s House of Representatives that requires people who photograph or make video recordings of cruelty against livestock to report it to police within 24 hours and turn over their unedited video or photos to authorities. So what’s wrong with that? And why does the HSUS oppose it? After all, it sounds like it’s aimed at exposing animal abuse, right? Nope. It’s a particularly tricky form of an industry-crafted “Ag-Gag” bill meant to stifle reporting on animal cruelty in commercial livestock operations. How? When whistleblowers expose cruelty at commercial animal enterprises, a common excuse put forth by business owners is that the abuse was a one-off occurrence or a single event perpetrated by a rogue employee who has, of course, since been fired. People working to expose animal abuse in big agribusiness enterprises have learned that they must document repeated instances of cruelty in order to make a solid case against the company that will hold up in court. Such high-quality evidence is animal advocates’ only leverage to try and stop to the abuse. If people are required to turn over a video recording of a single instance of abuse the same day it was taken, it would make it virtually impossible to document a pattern of abuse to the extent necessary to make a tight enough case to stop it.
Whistleblowing employees in the food industry have been credited with exposing horrible instances of animal abuse, unsafe working conditions, and environmental and public health violations on industrial factory farms by filming these conditions and exposing them to the public. But instead of fixing the problems these workers expose, the agribusiness industry is responding by pushing through laws that effectively block the pubic from finding out about these abuses in the first place. These whistleblower suppression, or “ag-gag” bills, criminalize taking photographs or video recordings at factory farms without permission, ban the distribution of such photos or videos and make it a crime to take a job at a commercial farm operation for the purpose of exposing what goes on there. These industry-backed bills would stop undercover activity like that used by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in 2008 to expose animal cruelty at a Vermont slaughter plant that led to a felony conviction and the plant’s closure, and a landmark investigation at a cow slaughter plant the same year that prompted the largest meat recall in U.S. history and spurred a new federal law banning the slaughter of “downer” cattle.
For more info: What are Agribusiness Groups Trying to Hide with “Ag-Gag” Bills? Humane Society of the United States, January 18, 2012
The big biotechnology firm Syngenta is facing criminal charges for covering up a U.S. study that showed cows died after eating the company’s genetically-modified (GM) corn. The charges came after a long struggle by Gottfried Gloeckner, a German dairy farmer and former supporter of genetically-modified crops, agreed to participate in authorized field tests of “Bt176,” a corn variety manufactured by Syngenta that was genetically-modified to express an insect toxin and a gene that made the corn resistant to glufosinate herbicides. Gloeckner allowed the GM corn to be grown on his farm from 1997 to 2002, and fed the resulting corn to his dairy herd. By 2000, Gloeckner was feeding his cows exclusively Bt176 corn. Shortly after, several of Gloeckner’s cows became sick. Five died and others had decreased milk yields. Syngenta paid Gloeckner 40,000 euros as partial compensation for his losses and veterinary costs. Gloeckner brought a civil suit against Syngenta over the loss, but Syngenta refused to admit its GM corn could be in any way related to the illnesses and deaths of Gloeckner’s cows. The court dismissed the civil case and Gloeckner received no further payments from Syngenta, leaving him thousands of Euros in debt. Gloeckner stopped using the GM feed in 2002, but continued to lose cows. In 2009, Gloeckner discovered Syngenta had commissioned a study in the U.S. of its GM feed in 1996. In that study, four cows died within two days of eating the GM feed, and the study was abruptly ended.
Fast-food giant Burger King announced this week that it will no longer buy pork from pig producers that use gestation crates, and will now use only 100 percent cage-free eggs. Gestation crates are confinement cages that commercial pig farmers use that are so small that pigs cannot turn around inside them. Female pigs raised on factory farms spend almost their entire lives in these tiny crates. U.S. egg producers typically cram millions of chickens into cages that offer only about 67 square inches of space per bird — less space than a single sheet of paper — on which the birds spend their entire lives. Burger King’s policy changes came about in large part due to the efforts of the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS), which has been tackling cruel practices in commercial agriculture, like the use of veal crates, battery cages and tail-docking of dairy cows. HSUS is forming state Agricultural Councils across the U.S. to promote humane food production practices on farms and ranches. The group’s goal is to move agriculture away from a system that treats living creatures as biological “machines,” keeping them confined in conditions that maximize efficiency but are extremely cruel and inhumane, to a more ethical, humane and sustainable system.
A strange ad was broadcast during the Academy Awards that tried to stir up anger and mistrust against the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) by claiming HSUS spends only a paltry amount of its donors’ money to support local animal shelters. What the ad didn’t say is that the national office of the Humane Society by design doesn’t operate or fund animal shelters. Its mission is to lobby for laws that reduce animal abuse, especially in big commercial animal-abuse industries like puppy mills, confinement cattle operations and chicken houses. HSUS also pushes for enforcement of existing laws that protect animals from abuse. Local Humane Societies, which do operate shelters, do their own fundraising, often without involvement from the national HSUS. The ad took advantage of peoples’ ignorance about how the Humane Society is organized nationally to attack the Humane Society.
HSUS is very effective at what it does. It successfully pushed to end tail docking of dairy cows in California, to end commercial farmers’ cruel confinement of pigs in gestation crates, and worked to end the use of chimpanzees in biomedical testing, among other significant accomplishments in recent years. The HSUS’s remarkable effectiveness is why this misleading TV ad exists. The deceptive ad was paid for by HumaneWatch.org, a website created by the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), a front group backed by big food companies and national restaurant chains. The man behind CCF is Rick Berman, the notorious Washington lobbyist who has made a lucrative career from creating misleading ads and websites that attack consumer safety, animal welfare and environmental protection groups. Berman has created groups to advocate for minimum wage jobs; in response to the creation of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, he formed a group called “Beverage Retailers Against Drunk Driving” (BRADD) to advocate for greater tolerance of drinking. He operates a website, FishScam.com, which tells people to ignore warnings about mercury in seafood. He operates the “Center for Union Facts,” a front group for individuals and businesses that oppose unions. Berman gets paid well by businesses whose interests he protects. In recognition of his creepy reputation, in 2007 CBS’ 60 Minutes profiled Rick Berman in segment aptly titled, “Meet Rick Berman, A.K.A. ‘Dr. Evil.'”
Few people know about “Dr. Evil” and his activities, which is why he can freely continue to engaging in them, and why we see ads like the one we saw on the Academy Awards. Big businesses love Berman because they can attack consumer interest groups while hiding behind him. This way, current and potential customers won’t see their dark side and their brands will remain untarnished. But people are starting to fight back against Berman. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington created a website, BermanExposed.org, that outs Rick Berman, his activities and fake groups. CREW also asked the IRS to investigate Berman’s misuse of the so-called “charitable” nonprofit groups he has created.
Consumer interest groups that are really effective at what they do, like the Humane Society of the U.S., become targets of big business, just like the front-runners in elections become targets for the candidates who are running behind. Berman facilitates big industries’ dirty attack business, and he won’t stop attacking public interest groups until people work to stop him from doing it.
To read more about Rick Berman and his activities, click here.
In 1983, Mitt Romney took his wife, five kids and the family’s Irish setter Seamus, on a road trip to his family’s cabin in Ontario. Romney put Seamus in a dog crate and strapped the crate to the roof of the family car. Romney proceeded to drive at interstate speeds for 12 hours, until the dog — stressed, sick and afraid — came down with diarrhea, which dripped all over the car and grossed out his kids. According to the story, Romney stopped long enough to hose down the car and the dog, and then hit the road again, with the wet, scared, wind-whipped dog still strapped to the roof of the car.
Romney does not deny the story. But to hear him tell it, the dog enjoyed the fresh air of the roof — a statement that strains credulity as much as any of his varying political positions.
The story has resurfaced this election cycle and is persuading a lot of people — including Fox News contributor Lanny Davis — of Romney’s unfitness for the presidency. Davis, a Washington, D.C. attorney, wrote that anyone who would do what Romney did to his dog “shouldn’t be president of the United States.” I have to agree, but I’m far from the only one.
In 2007, Scott Crider founded Dogs Against Romney, to publicize “Crate Gate” and spread the word about Romney’s legendary form of dog abuse. Dogs Against Romney sells poignant swag like bumperstickers that say “Get ‘Ruff’ with Romney,” and “Mitt is Mean,” official doggy bandanas that say “I Ride Inside,” and T-shirts that say “Dogs Aren’t Luggage.” Dogs Against Romney even formed a super PAC to oppose Romney’s nomination for the presidency.
On Tuesday, February 14, Dogs Against Romney held a press event outside the Westminster Dog Show at Madison Square Garden to help draw attention to Crate Gate. Dogs Against Romney says it does not endorse any candidate, but held its even alongside “Pet Lovers for Obama” — another organization working to bring attention to Romney’s mistreatment of his family dog.