Daily Archives: September 9, 2008

AG Says Crime Rises to the Top

Agriprocessors execs are finally facing some music, thanks to a 9,311-count criminal complaint and affidavit filed by Attorney General Tom Miller today. I was beginning to wonder whether the top brass would skate clear, even after their plant became a glaring national symbol for our royally screwed up, exploitive immigration system. Well, wonder no more.

Read the complaint and the affidavit here. The affidavit is on the last few pages.

The Gazette’s coverage of the latest developments is here

Also, The Des Moines Register and AP.

These charges rise above the usual din of the endless immigration debate. This is about kids under 18, several under 16 and some as young as 14, who, according to the state, worked long, illegal hours – only to be stiffed out of overtime pay – used dangerous machinery such as meat-grinders and circular saws and were exposed to noxious chemicals, including chlorine solution. It’s disturbing stuff.

What’s amazing to me is that these crimes are only simple misdemeanors. But they can result in jail time, especially when piled 9,311 counts high.

The AG contends that Abraham Aaron Rubashkin, principal owner and president of Agriprocessors; Sholom Rubashkin, manager of the slaughtering and meat packing plant at Postville and an officer; Elizabeth Billmeyer, human resources manager of Agriprocessors, Inc.; and Laura Althouse and Karina Freund, management employees in the human resources division of Agriprocessors, Inc, all knew that laws were being broken at the plant.

That includes immigration laws. Not exactly a news flash.

“All of the named individual defendants possessed shared knowledge that Agriprocessors employed undocumented aliens,” according to the affidavit.

I still wonder when federal prosecutors will come to the same conclusion? Maybe they’re just too tired from rushing a 390 plant workers through swift mass trials. Or maybe they’re meticulously building an iron-clad case. I’m hoping for the second option, as an eternal optimist.

The new developments also raise questions.

How will Jewish organizations respond to this latest pile of charges against the country’s largest kosher processor? Several groups threatened to boycott Agriprocessors’  products after the ICE raid, so will those threats now re-emerge?

The answers are already coming in. From the Jewish news service JTA:

Following the filing of criminal charges against owners of the kosher meat producer Agriprocessors, the Orthodox Union says it will withdraw its kosher certification of the company within two weeks unless new management is hired.

“Within the coming days, or lets say a week or two, we will suspend our supervision unless there’s new management in place,” said Rabbi Menachem Genack, the O.U.’s head of kosher supervision.

Genack’s comments came just hours after Iowa’s attorney general filed criminal charges against Agriprocessors and its owner, Aaron Rubashkin, for child-labor violations.

Also. why has immigration reform disappeared as an election issue? Congressional candidates are getting a free pass. We need to know their ideas, or if they have nothing but soundbites to offer.

Obama and McCain rely mostly on hollow platitudes, for fear of alienating liberals or would-be minutemen. Maybe Sarah Palin can explain how she kept the Russians out of Alaska. It’s worth a shot.

 So what are your thoughts on the new charges?

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And Now for Something Completely Different

Back to the blog after a brief mental health hiatus.

And after a couple weeks of writing about politics and Palin and Pelosi and special session wrangling, It’s time to delve into the little-examined connection between hot tubs and successful potty training.

We became the reluctant owners of an outdoor hot tub when we purchased our Marion homestead. Downside — The USS Swinger takes up half our patio and is, unfortunately, completely unshielded from neighborly sight lines. That might have been fine for the younger, fitter couple who bought the tub. I, however, have not voluntarily taken off my shirt in public since the first Bush administration.

Upside — This is a luxury item that I never would have purchased sober, so I tell myself to quit being such a stiff and enjoy your good fortune. Just think, when I walk through the Varied Industries building at the State Fair, I can proudly tell all the spa-hawkers, “Sorry, I’m already in the tub club.” They might even show me the secret handshake.

The tub also came with a pantry-full of chemicals bearing daunting names such as “shock.” It did not, however, come with instructions for proper shocking. Oh well, I thought. How tough can it be?

Undaunted, we drained and filled the tub in December and used it on New Year’s Eve. Aside from the fact that our champagne froze in our glasses and our wet hair froze to our head, it was a jolly time.

We jumped in a week or so later only to be greeted by slimy algae covering every surface. So that’s why we have all those chemicals. My slime-disliking wife jumped out after just 30 seconds. “What horrible thing did he say to her?” neighborly viewers might have wondered.

Re-daunted, I put the cover on and did not open it again until August. I did use the tub’s stereo occasionally while grilling, so it became the world’s largest patio radio.

I wondered if anyone would buy this thing, cheap, BYOC. (Bring your own crane.)

But I reconsidered. You can imagine what I found as I finally unsealed the tomb, I mean, the tub, last month. To make a disgusting story short, after some vigorous scrubbing and a visit to the spa store and a water test and a load of chemicals, we re-christened the Swinger during a brief, low-key ceremony.

This was great news for our kids, who fell in love with the hot tub at first splash, wondering loudly how their thoughtless, funless parents could have delayed this life-changing moment for months. At breakfast this week, they actually sang a song praising the hot tub. Not making it up.

And that’s also when this big box of bubbly water finally got useful.

We’ve been trying to potty train my youngest daughter, Ella, 3, for months, with very mixed results. But now that potty proficiency can be rewarded with coveted hot tub time, steady progress is being made. It’s a miracle of modern aquatics.

We read books and magazines and downloaded Dora the Explorer potty charts and asked the advice of experts. We tried candy and toys and trips to the chaotic vortex that is Chuck E. Cheese’s. And all the time, the secret weapon was taking up half of our patio. Maybe I’ll write a book.

So now the hot tub has become a beloved member of the clan. Even I use it on occasion, but only late at night, when it’s very, very dark.

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