I could be a hopeless optimist, but it seems that more people are thinking deeply about the kinds of lives they want to lead as life has become harder in our country. Recently I was invited to speak to students in a Nonprofit Leadership graduate program on “How to Build a Career Based on Social Justice Principles.” It gave me a chance to think about what has worked for me, and these are the guidelines I shared that evening:
1. Do the work you think needs to be done — whether you get paid for it or not. Our life “careers” are made up of the work we do for pay as well as what we choose to do in our personal time. Instead of dreaming of getting paid to do the work you truly believe in, go ahead and do it now as a volunteer. All the important justice movements of our times – civil rights,
Once again the holidays are upon us and, like everyone else, I’m running around, from one party to the next. It’s a chance to catch up with folks I haven’t seen in ages or have been meaning to see for ages. It’s also a time of numerous fundraisers. Which means I don’t have to shop.
Really? Aren’t we all supposed to be consuming to keep the economy humming? Or at least idling? So they say. I was supposed to go out and shop after 9-11 too. I didn’t take the capitalists’ advice then and I’m not taking it now. Not totally, that is. Because I do spend a ton of money during the holidays. But I spend most of my hard-earned cash on drinks and food, which I would argue feeds the local economy, and that’s more important to me in our current tough times.
Part Two of a two-part interview
I spoke with DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, before he and the association were given LAANE’s City of Justice Award at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on December 8. The first half of the interview ran yesterday in the Frying Pan.
Caroline O’Connor: Do you feel that the NFL owners had an agenda to bust the players’ union?
DeMaurice Smith: I made it perfectly clear to our players that the existence of our union was what was at stake. I believed that the day I took the job. It was important for our players to understand that this was not just a contract negotiation.
CO: It appears that there was a lot of real solidarity among the star players and all of the players. How was that achieved?
Black Friday may be a distant memory already, but as we head deeper into the holiday shopping season, there are some important lessons to be learned about the psychology of marketing and the real cost of bargain hunting.
Here’s a cautionary tale from my own life: One year on the day after Thanksgiving, my uncle, a tech geek, woke my brother and me up at an ungodly hour to get to Fry’s Electronics by 5 a.m. The doors opened at 7 a.m. Despite us ending dinner early, waking up before the crack of dawn and standing around in the dark for hours, most of the deals had already been whisked off the shelves by the time we got in the door. We wandered around a store so crowded it bordered on unsafe before finally buying some gadgets just to feel like we hadn’t wasted our time.
This year, as the recession continues,
Part One of a two-part interview
I stole DeMaurice Smith. That is, I grabbed 20 minutes with the executive director of the NFL Players Association, between poses in front of the step-and-repeat and shaking hands with enthusiastic dinner guests. Smith and the association were honorees at the December 8, LAANE City of Justice Awards Dinner, along with Culture Clash and the main guest of honor, Madeline Janis, at the Beverly Hilton. Later, Smith gave a rousing speech to a packed ballroom without looking at a single note. Just sayin’.
I wanted to know more about the guy I saw on TV during the first half of 2011 who brought all of the football players into a huddle — not to call out plays on the field, but to talk organizing strategy and give pep talks on contract negotiations.
T’is the season of the full mailbox. Every day when I pick up our mail, the box is stuffed with requests for donations. My wife Susan and I get them from everyone – from CARE to the Salvation Army to cancer research to the Red Cross. We get them just like you do because this is the time of year when people think about giving to others – and tax deductions only count if you make that donation before December 31.
Poring over some demographic materials a few years back, I realized that Susan and I are among the top three percent of givers in Southern California. I couldn’t believe my eyes. How could a low-paid Methodist minister give away enough money each year to be in the upper echelon of generosity? Especially with all the wealth in Los Angeles.
Turns out, it wasn’t hard at all. We practice the ancient religious tradition of tithing – we give away 10% of our income.
People often get pretty touchy this time of year. Maybe it’s having to go to the mall. Maybe it’s the stress of dealing with family. Maybe it’s thinking about all those broken resolutions from a year ago. But whatever the reason, Americans tend to lash out at each other more than usual.
A perennial complaint has to do with the so-called “War on Christmas.” Showing that my own people don’t have a monopoly on a persecution complex, some Christian groups are very quick to declare themselves under attack. And to be sure, our on-again-off-again national flirtation with inclusivity does lead many people to say things like “Happy Holidays.” (I know, how hateful!)
Many of these groups and individuals base their indignation on the “fact” that this is a Christian nation. Of course, we are not a Christian nation, though the Judeo-Christian tradition informed many of our earliest values and laws.
Criticized for focusing more on what it is against than what it is for, the Occupy Wall Street movement has now found an organizing issue it can embrace. Perhaps because so many Occupiers have recently been evicted from their encampments in cities across the country, they have found common cause with the growing number of American families facing foreclosure. Last week, after the Los Angeles Police Department evicted Occupy LA from the park outside City Hall, Mario Brito, one of the group’s lead organizers, said that the movement’s activists would begin to set up occupations at the homes and country clubs of major bank executives reside and to work with other groups to protest the growing wave of foreclosures.
More and more homeowners facing wrongful foreclosure evictions are taking a bold stand by resisting banks’ unfair actions. They are deciding to stay in their homes and fight. When the banks or sheriffs come knocking on their doors,
Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster and messaging guru, gave a recent talk where he described his 10 biggest Do’s and Dont’s for talking about the economy in the post-Occupy Wall Street environment. It’s worth reviewing these 10 points and reflecting on what Luntz’s insights on behalf of the 1% tell us about how we can successfully talk about the issues we care about, on behalf of the 99%.
The main thing – the frightening thing – is that Luntz has a history of actually succeeding at changing the debate in America. Why? Because Republicans like Luntz are masters of the reductive fear phrase and it comes out all over his suggestions. These are the guys, after all, who turned inheritance duties into “death taxes” and from that, advisory health committees into “death panels.” But they’re clearly on the defensive here – for the time being.
Luntz begins his talk to the Republican base by admitting,
The other day I was streaming It!, an old science fiction film, and saw something odd on my computer screen. There, in the storage hold of the rocket ship returning from Mars, sat a crate of Heinz soup cans. The box was barely visible – blurry and jammed in the corner of a locker, next to all the cartons of cigarettes the crew members were smoking on their trip back to Earth. Still, we’re trained to notice product logos and I couldn’t miss Heinz’s distinctive lettering on its case of Creole Gumbo.
I was shocked that Heinz had even sold soup in 1958, when the film was made – let alone that they would figure in the story’s Tomorrowland of 1973. I did what any futuristic earthling would and Googled “heinz soup.” Sure enough, the company did sell a supermarket line in the 1950s, but eventually got out of the business except for its current Heinz Foodservice trade of selling tub-sized containers of Tomato Florentine to institutional clients.
Recently, we noted that our friends at American Rights at Work called for a boycott of Amazon.com. As friend-of-this-blog and renaissance-man-about-town Joshua Joy Kamensky notes, however, we need to be more careful with the B-word.
Boycotts are ubiquitous. Progressives boycott Wal-Mart because of its anti-worker practices and its impact on local economies. Conservatives boycott stores that say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Los Angeles boycotts (kinda sorta) the state of Arizona over the anti-immigrant SB1070. Animal rights activists boycott Nestea for animal testing. Anti-Islamists boycott halal turkeys. Every time some politician says something idiotic or offensive, people dig up the donor list to that politician, and boycott the corporate sponsors.
But sometimes things get confusing. Are we boycotting Home Depot to get it to stop using old-growth redwoods,
It wouldn’t be Christmas without basketball. So goes the thinking in the NBA, as the players and owners reached agreement over the holiday weekend on a new six-year deal that will give us a shortened, 66-game season and the all-important marquee games on Christmas Day.
For all the discussion of the issues the past few months, writers have been quick to move from analysis of Basketball Related Income to breaking down the 2011 (barely)-2012 season. In part, that’s because all the details aren’t in, but here are a few links for your reading pleasure.
First up is a memo from National Basketball Players Association head Billy Hunter explaining the deal. Take the cheerleading with a grain of salt, of course, since Hunter’s been under fire and needs to tell players what they won after giving up some paychecks. (This is what everyone says,
“It’s not brain surgery.”
My cousin’s husband, Keith, says this to me a lot. He says it whenever he’s giving me complicated instructions on how to tackle some grueling home-repair process, usually one involving multiple steps and materials and equipment I’ve never heard of. And at that point I always picture myself standing over some inert patient on a gurney, bone saw in hand, wondering if I should go ahead and cut into their skull or wait for a trained professional, because as far as I’m concerned what he’s describing might as well be brain surgery, it sounds that difficult.
But for Keith it’s really not difficult. He’s done this kind of thing for years. He worked in residential construction for more than a decade and has remodeled every house he’s ever owned, generally more than once. He takes his own expertise and know-how completely for granted,
I don’t believe in empires. They don’t turn out well. They may last for a while – even a long while – but ultimately they collapse, and they don’t make most people’s lives much better in the process. Think Rome or the Ottoman Turks or the Spanish or the Brits. There are many reasons for the sad course of empires, but to me it’s about institutions.
We human beings organize themselves in one of two ways — as institutions or as associations. Institutions are usually big organizations that do big jobs where people get paid to do the work. Like governments and corporations. These institutions operate on protocols, make or sell lots of the same things, and need many customers or clients or constituents. Institutions run from the top down, which is why I think of them as triangles – the power of decision-making happens at the top, the rest of us follow the rules.
(This feature first appeared on L.A. Progressive. Reposted with author’s permission.)
Having captured the public’s rapt attention in just two short months but now facing increasingly well-coordinated and sometimes brutal police crackdowns, the Occupy Movement faces hard questions about its lasting impact. What will Occupy 2.0 look like, many want to know, and how will it get there?
If a meeting this past weekend between representatives from a half dozen Occupy encampments in California and perhaps 200 members of the California Progressive Caucus is any guide, the Occupy Movement has already enlisted several generations of progressive activists who are eager to support, leverage, and amplify the Occupiers’ ground-breaking work.
The meeting was, indeed, a kumbaya moment, one that suggests that the movement has embedded itself deeply into the progressive political psyche.
Gathering at the California Democratic Party’s Executive Board meeting this past weekend in Burlingame,
Zombies have long provided both escapist fare as well as incisive social commentary. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) dealt with race relations in America, while his Dawn of the Dead (1978) addressed American consumerism. We’re currently going through another zombiessance, and while AMC’s The Walking Dead may not be Exhibit A, it may be the apotheosis of the current zombie moment. (Or at least it was in season one; don’t get me started on how disappointing this current season has been.)
The show examines how we (re-)build some semblance of a civilization in the wake of a horrifying event that has decimated the country. At its best, it’s filled with the tension that marks a bare struggle for survival; it never lets you forget that death (and worse) is ever-present.
In a recent episode (minor spoiler alert!),
While the Frying Pan wholly endorses the goals and the ideals of the Occupy movement, there is considerable diversity of opinion here about how Occupy actually plays out on the streets, sidewalks and lawns across the country. Indeed, there’s quite a bit of diversity of opinion among supporters everywhere.
We worry that now — as cops in Oakland, Portland, Salt Lake City, and now New York move in on occupiers — the focus will shift from income inequality to the right to occupy. This is probably not a step forward for a movement which needs to think about its next steps as well as its end game.
Into this landscape comes a suggestion from Kalle Lasn, the founder of Adbusters and originator of the Occupy movement. He proposes that “it might be time for the protesters to “declare ‘victory’ ” and scale back the camps before winter sets in.”
First my boss at the suburban YMCA told me I was fired as a youth worker. Then he said he had been visited by a federal agent who told him I had an FBI file that was a file-drawer deep. It was 1968 Chicago, and the Democratic Convention was around the corner; parents were freaked that their teenagers would participate.
As good as Clint Eastwood’s new film, J. Edgar is, it neglects to portray the climate of fear that Hoover’s FBI historically created for ordinary American activists, particularly from the 1950s until his death in 1972. From visits to homes by suited men trying to “get information,” to intimations of “subversion” to employers, landlords and colleagues, the FBI wreaked havoc on the lives of thousands of law-abiding Americans in its single-minded campaign to weaken dissent within American society. As explained by Wikipedia,
People in our apartment building don’t have to guess the shape of my and my wife’s politics. A weathered NO WAR sign stands in front of our doorway and on one wall there’s a flag with an image of planet Earth, taken from space, on a blue field that’s hung there since 9/11. Hard to miss. So I was taken aback when a three-page printout from an NPR interview was anonymously placed under our doormat. The interview was with a self-described “venture capitalist” and fellow at a libertarian think tank.
This promoter of Ayn Rand’s philosophy argued that it was venture capitalists like himself who create jobs, not government. Like most of Rand’s ideas this is about half right. Actually, in this case, a third right. Ernesto Sirolli, who has probably helped more depressed areas of the globe produce jobs than any community developer alive, says it takes three elements to start a business: someone passionate about a dream,
A lot of people are talking about leadership these days. Different types of leaders. The need for visionary leadership. The excitement around new young leadership and ideas about when leadership begins.
In my case, I’ve been thinking about how to recruit and develop new leaders for over 30 years, even when I was a new leader. I’m 51 years old and co-founded the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE — the organization that sponsors this blog) in 1993; I have been the executive director ever since. I have recruited and developed hundreds of staff members for LAANE over the years, and many of these people have become some of the most inspirational leaders that I have ever known.
Which is why I have decided to step aside as LAANE’s executive director starting in February of next year.