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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.
Every few days I drag my trash and recyclables out to the big gray dumpster and blue bin in the back of my apartment complex. The materials get picked up, the bins emptied, and they’re out of sight and out of mind. But where does it all go? Few of us actually know where our piles of trash and recyclables end up, with whom they come into contact and whom they impact along the way. While it may seem as though our trash magically disappears each week after the point of collection, it often ends up burned or buried near schools or homes in our city – or it may take a long journey, ending up outside of our communities, regions, state or even country.
The first step in raising our consciousness about our trash problem is to track where our waste goes. Trash | Track, a project out of MIT that builds on previous work of the SENSEable City Lab and is inspired by the NYC Green Initiative,
As Janet Heinritz-Canterbury of the California Alliance for Retired Americans explains it, retirement in America has historically rested on a three-legged stool – the pension from your job, income from your own investments and assets, and Social Security.
But where are most Americans today in their ability to even contemplate retirement? Most of us no longer get pensions from our jobs; what investments we may have are losing money while home prices have declined; and now some members of Congress and possibly President Obama are out to substantially lower Social Security benefits.
According to the American Association of Retired People (AARP), a frightening 35 percent of Americans over 65 currently rely only on Social Security (an average person gets benefits of $14,000/year) to survive. On January First of this year and continuing for the next 19 years, an additional 10,000 people A DAY will be turning 65.
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.
Fun fact: L.A. leads the nation in jobs—just the kind that most people don’t think of as jobs. We’re the national leader in “nonemployers:” entities relying on independent contractors rather than employees. As economist Jack Kyser explained in 2006, “a lot of people want to have a business but don’t want the headaches of actually having to employ people.” The Times cited Kyser in explaining that “businesses become nonemployers to avoid the costs of workers’ compensation, paid leave, health insurance and state taxes.”
In many cases this sort of practice is, not to put too fine a word on it, illegal. Starting in just a few weeks, though, the state has a powerful new tool to deal with these lawbreakers. SB 459 goes into effect on January 1, 2012, and it levies large fines against employers who willfully misclassify workers as independent contractors to avoid their legal and tax responsibilities.
(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,
Earlier this month, 36 House Republicans filed an amicus court brief to support corporate America’s war on workers’ rights. They are embracing a suit filed by the Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Restaurant Association , and other business lobbies to block a new ruling by the National Labor Relations Board.
This ruling, by one of those out-of-control federal government agencies, could be devastating to the job-creating corporations that are the engine of the American economy. Just listen to those who should know:
“The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is causing great uncertainty among manufacturers at a time when our economy is struggling to recover,” Jay Timmons, President and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, recently warned.
“Just when we thought we had seen it all from the NLRB, it has reached a new low in its zeal to punish small business owners,”
A recent weekend became a lesson in the new global economy. For two days I emptied out much of the accumulated “stuff” from my garage – dishes, pots and pans that my kids used in their student days; excess furniture; framed posters, old clothes and much more. Some of it went to the Salvation Army, while I took broken things to a recycling center. Obviously I had too many possessions.
On a Saturday afternoon I ventured to Costco for the first time in 10 years. Hundreds of shoppers were busy filling their super-sized carts with large quantities of…..well…everything. Household supplies, bulk food, cleaning fluids, soda, clothing, electronics, furniture. But in quantities you never dreamed you needed (and probably don’t) and for amazingly low per-unit prices. Most of the manufactured goods seemed to come from China.
That Sunday night I rented Last Train Home,
In 1985, my parents began their journey from the rural mountains of Honduras to the United States of America—the land of opportunity. They endured six months of starvation, loneliness and fear of la migra in order to realize their own American dream of stability and prosperity.
My parents took their first job opportunities the moment they came their way — when they did not understand English, had only a Honduran elementary education and needed a source of income fast. My dad became a full-time auto mechanic and my mom a part-time waitress. Although both jobs paid relatively low, had no benefits and called for exhaustingly long hours, my parents continued to keep their heads high and managed to provide the basic necessities for my siblings and myself.
As a first-generation Honduran-American living in Northeast Los Angeles, I am constantly reminded of the struggles and injustices workers face daily. I see discrimination,
I have been a member of the L.A. Community Redevelopment Agency board of commissioners for nine years. That means I’m one of seven decision-makers overseeing the work of the city’s multimillion dollar economic development agency. All of my experience from those nine years can be summarized in the answer to one question: What is a “good deal?”
When is the investment of scarce taxpayer dollars in private development projects a good idea? I know that the answer for some is “never.” That is not – and has never — been my view, (which is why I have been derided by some as a “redevelopment thug.” Fundamentally, the question of the investment worthiness of private economic development projects is one about good government, and how our government should interact with the private market.
I bring this up now because public subsidies to private industry were in the news again recently.
Recycling may be all the rage these days, but here in L.A. and across the country vast amounts of recyclable goods end up in landfills every year.
Turns out we’re throwing away a lot more than bottles, cans and newspapers. Here’s why: recycling equals jobs.
The recent report More Jobs, Less Pollution: Growing the Recycling Economy in the U.S., commissioned by the national Blue Green Alliance and prepared by the Boston-based Tellus Institute, builds a compelling case for thinking twice before throwing that old carpet into the trash. According to the report, increasing the national diversion and recycling rate to 75 percent by 2030 would create over 2.3 million new jobs.
Reuse and recycling — from collection to processing and manufacturing — is much more labor intensive than landfilling and incineration. Take all of those aluminum cans you redeemed this year,
Editor’s Note: The Press-Telegram holds an annual awards ceremony, “Amazing Women of Long Beach.” This year, the newspaper chose to host the event at the worker-boycotted Hilton Long Beach. Responding to their choice to hold the event there, the Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community chose to host a simultaneous event outside the hotel honoring “Inspiring Activist Women of Long Beach.” Some of the activist honorees were slated to receive an award from the Press-Telegram inside the hotel but declined – choosing to support the boycott instead. Daleth Caspeta – a Dream Act Activist and honoree – shares her experience with The Frying Pan.
“When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist. When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat. When they came for the trade unionists,
Reading the L.A. Business Journal recently, I was a bit taken aback to see a Page Three piece from Charles Crumpley describing a recent trade mission by local business leaders.
These are common, of course, but their destination wasn’t. Apparently long-time LAANE and labor antagonist Carol Schatz and Chamber of Commerce head Gary Toebben took a trip to Cuba. Not only that, Schatz was a key organizer of the event.
Perhaps more shockingly, this was not her first trip. Indeed, she went back in 2003, when she was the wife of Noam Chomsky.
Okay, maybe that’s a different person, though if memory serves (and as time marches on, it does less and less), Carol’s something of a “red-diaper baby. “
Still, I’ve long wondered about the sanity of many of my friends who visit Cuba looking for inspiration.
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!),
Budget cuts are bleeding the University of California system. Tuition and fees are skyrocketing. Admission rates of California residents declined this year at all but one of the university’s 10 campuses. (California also operates 23 colleges known as state universities.) All this seems a far cry from the university’s trajectory set more than 50 years ago, and it is turning high school students like myself away from the schools that once seemed so appealing.
Now in the heat of college applications season, many seniors are wondering if the U.C.s are worth attending at all. Earlier this week the university’s regents, fearing massive demonstrations, cancelled a San Francisco meeting scheduled to discuss raising U.C. student fees. Today at Cal State University Long Beach, as protesters chanted outside the chancellor’s office, trustees voted to raise state university tuitions yet again.
When tuition hikes are regular news and corresponding student sit-ins and protests are commonplace,
When my parents started to work longer and longer hours to support their five kids, they sat me down and told me I had to start taking the bus to school. At 11 years old, this was the best news I could have imagined. Yes, I had to wake up at 6 am to get ready for school and catch the 212 and 33 bus lines, but that sense of independence I got from being able to “roam” around the city was priceless. (Well, almost…if you don’t include the price of a bus pass.) I learned to take the bus to Hollywood, the Montebello Mall, Santa Monica — places that seemed so far away from home in South LA.
It wasn’t always fun, of course: I have many memories of sitting at the La Brea/Venice bus bench for 45 minutes trying to catch the Line 212 after a long school day. I eventually learned to cope by reading a lot,
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.”