Last April, I went to visit my 25-year-old son, Armando, who lives in El Salvador. Armando – who is half Salvadoran – has been living in the capital, San Salvador, for the past two years, trying to make it as a freelance artist. When I got down there, I decided right away that I wanted to buy a car seat for cute, little three-year-old Alfonso (the son of Armando’s then-girlfriend), who was riding around in the car “freestyle” so to speak, with some pretty crazy Salvadoran drivers making me nervous.
Armando reassured me 10 ways to Sunday that he was a “careful” driver and that Salvadoran law did not require car seats for kids. Laws aside, I was determined to do the right thing and get a car seat so Alfonso could be a little safer.So began my week-long quest to find a car seat in a country where the decision to strap in your child is left to the “common sense” of the citizenry.
An apple a day and eating your peas led to good health, we once thought. Now, according to major food manufacturers, fruits and vegetables are “job killers” that will devastate the American economy.
In April of this year, the Federal Trade Commission, along with three other Federal agencies (FDA, CDC and USDA), released a set of proposed guidelines for marketing food to children to reduce sugars, fats and salts in the diets of American youth, and increase fruits, whole grains and vegetables. In 2008 Congress, led by Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Tom Harkin (D-IA), asked for these recommendations to address the nations’ growing childhood obesity crisis.
A coalition of major manufacturers of processed foods (including Fruit Loops, Lucky Charms and SpaghettiOs), fast-food chains and the media industry that depends on their advertising dollars are spending millions on lobbyists to derail the proposed voluntary guidelines.
(Editor’s Note: Yesterday Peter Dreier compared this year’s breakout film, The Help, to an earlier but more accurate Hollywood portrayal of the civil rights movement. Today Vivian Rothstein, a veteran of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, weighs in with comparisons of her own.)
From watching the recent box-office hit, The Help, you’d think the women’s liberation movement had triumphed by 1963, when the film is set. In the story, white women appear to be the primary enforcers of racial segregation; it would also seem that white and black women, working without any organizational support, can profoundly change social conditions — and that white women make the top decisions in literary publishing houses. None of which was true back when I went South to work in the 1965 Mississippi Freedom Summer project.
Men are nearly invisible in the film – so is the Jim Crow power structure that allowed Southern white men to perpetuate unequal school districts,
David Shoemaker, writing as The Masked Man on the sports site Grantland, describes a recent storyline on the professional wrestling TV show Raw, in which wrestlers and other employees walked off the job. The Masked Man sets off the fictional labor uprising against the actual – and unsurprisingly colorful – history of labor grievances in professional wrestling.
In one instance, wrestler and future Minnesota governor Jesse “The Body” Ventura attempted to organize a union, though he got little traction among fellow wrestlers. It was later revealed that Hulk Hogan had ratted him out to Vince McMahon. Ventura later won a significant lawsuit against his employers.
More recently, the Masked Man writes, “In 2008, three wrestlers — Raven, Chris Kanyon, and Mike Sanders — sued WWE for ‘cheating them out of health care and other benefits’ and insisted that the ‘independent contractor’ designation was a sham since WWE had ‘virtually complete dominion and control over its wrestlers.’”
The sham “independent contractor” designation is a serious issue for workers in more than a few industries.
(Editor’s Note: The Help, a Hollywood film set in the Deep South during the civil rights struggle, recently scored box office gold. It seemed a rare moment in which social activism was successfully married to commerce. But was historical accuracy sacrificed for popularity – especially to reach white audiences? Two veteran political activists discuss The Help and put it in context. Today Peter Dreier compares this movie with the lesser known The Long Walk Home. Tomorrow: Vivian Rothstein, who participated in the Mississippi Freedom Summer, offers another view of The Help.)
Film director Tate Taylor scored a late-summer box office smash with his adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s novel, The Help. A surprise hit with movie critics, too, The Help is set during the racial battles of 1963. It focuses on the efforts of African American maids to maintain their dignity despite the routine discrimination and vicious slights they confront while living in segregated Jackson,