The great journalist Lincoln Steffens visited the USSR shortly after the Russian Revolution and infamously declared that he had “seen the future and it works.” My wife Mickey and I recently returned from a touristic trip to Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Most of our time was spent in typically touristic ways, but inescapably (and with help from our excellent tour guides) we got a taste of policy and politics in the current Scandinavian way. What we learned makes me want to say that we saw one future that seems to be working.
Norway is still responding to the horrifying July 22 terrorist massacre—but Norwegians are likely to say, as did Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg: “You will not destroy our democracy or our commitment to a better world. We are a small but proud nation . . . but no one will ever frighten us away from being Norway . . . the answer to violence is even more democracy,
The L.A. Times had two interesting pieces on college football this last season. The second (don’t worry, I’ll get to the first), is an editorial calling on the NCAA to reform the sport by improving conditions for the so-called amateurs who generate millions of dollars every Saturday.
The piece calls for some sensible and straight-forward steps, largely echoing the basic demands of the National College Players Association, a project sponsored by the United Steelworkers.
Its heart, however, comes from a fantastic piece in The Atlantic by Taylor Branch, best known for his trilogy of books about the civil rights movement; if you haven’t read them, your life is incomplete. That gives him a certain moral authority in describing what he calls “The Shame of College Sports.” Go read this piece. It’s long, but worth it.
Okay, it’s long,
Confession time: I went to Arizona. Mea Culpa. I know I signed a pledge that I wouldn’t go there because of their anti-immigration laws, but then I got a call from my cousin asking us to join a family reunion in the mountains above Phoenix, so we went.
My wife Susan and I took the long way. We went through Flagstaff. Several years ago when we regularly drove to a retreat center in northern New Mexico, we discovered the cheap motels east of downtown, along old Route 66, across the road from train tracks that run 50 – 60 trains a day out of L.A. to the Midwest and back.
So we retraced our steps in Flagstaff and looked for one of our old motels. Except that when found, they looked worse for the wear. We tried to check into one but the manager just laughed at us, and handed us a key to look things over.
What’s fueling the ire behind the Occupy Wall Street protests that have spread from Manhattan’s financial district to cities in every state of the country and around the world? For starters, a certain corporation that 99 percent of us bailed out received $23 billion from the government but only paid one percent of its 2008 income in taxes after raking in $2.3 billion in profit.
And a new Salon.com story by Andrew Leonard, “Employers’ New Ruse: ‘Independent Contracting,” may help expose another master scheme in which Lloyd Blankfein and Goldman Sachs’ tax-avoidance maneuvering runs amok, only this time, the industry they’re manipulating isn’t banking – it’s global shipping transportation and the tens of thousands of port truck drivers that keep our economy moving.
Salon.com tells the story of Leonardo Mejia, a truck driver for Shipper’s Transport Express, a subsidiary of the massive container terminal operator SSA Marine.
I hung up the phone and got queasy. Leigh Shelton, the press spokesperson for Local 11 had just asked me if I wanted to MC the rally after the protest at the Hotel Bel-Air on Stone Canyon Road. I’m a dues -paying member of Unite Here, the hospitality workers union, but I never thought I’d be asked to do something like this.
My natural response to doing things that scare me is to say No, and then to inform the person that I would not be the right one for the job, that indeed I might be terrible. My excuse for not wanting to do this was imbedded in a traumatic comedy club experience where I thought I would give the MC position a chance. I can still see a few heckling faces in the audience to this day.
However, Leigh convinced me that it would just involve a few talking points and introducing a few key people.