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(Our coverage of Los Angeles’ 1992 civil unrest continues with this post by Martín Hernandez, a former Bus Riders Union organizer, L.A. Weekly theater critic and a currently “overworked Social Worker with L.A. County’s Department of Public Social Services.” He is also an SEIU Local 721 shop steward.)
“Maybe we should break into Circuit City and get us some new computers.”
I remember this idea floated among me and other volunteers who worked for a cash-strapped State Assembly candidate’s campaign when the fires and “looting” erupted after the not-guilty verdict for the cops accused of beating Rodney King. Ours was a dark attempt at humor as decades of pent-up rage exploded around Los Angeles, unleashed from people too long oppressed based on the color of their skin and their lack of the color of money. Even a prominent Latina politician opined one night in our Montebello campaign office that the only time “they” pay attention to “us” was when “we” burned things down.
Heist, a new film by Frances Causey and Donald Goldmacher, joins the growing list of angry documentaries chronicling the destruction of America’s economy and its middle class by powerful corporate forces. Like Inside Job and just about any title in the Brave New Films catalog, Heist gets our blood boiling with its money-pile graphics and occasional glib comments exhaled by Wall Street fat cats. Call this genre the Cinema of Outrage.
Subtitled Who Stole the American Dream?, the film breaks away from the pack, however, by drilling deep to explain how we came to find ourselves on the verge of where Argentina was a dozen years ago. The film also eschews conspiracist viewpoints and refuses to offer up, say, Alan Greenspan or the Koch brothers as villainous piñatas for us to vicariously bash.
Instead, Causey and Goldmacher soberly state their case that a concerted,
(Photographer Ted Soqui’s account of the 1992 events, as told to Frying Pan News, appears below. He covered the violence for the L.A. Weekly and created some the unrest’s most memorable images. In 2011 his photograph of an Occupy L.A. protester was used by Shepard Fairey to produce Time magazine’s Person of the Year cover. This Wednesday afternoon, April 18, Soqui will speak at the Central Library about his experiences as part of the Los Angeles Public Library’s Photographer’s Eye lecture series.)
I was at the Simi Valley courthouse when the jury came in – nobody could believe the verdict, but no one thought the city would blow up. Later I heard something on AM radio about rocks and bottles being thrown at Florence and Normandie,
Why is this recovery different from all other recoveries?
Many of the reasons are widely known: Rebounding from a financial crisis takes an excruciatingly long time; the huge decline in housing values has reduced Americans’ purchasing power; large corporations are making do with fewer employees — at least, in this country.
But what really sets the current recovery apart from all its predecessors is this: Almost three years after economic growth resumed, the real value of Americans’ paychecks is stubbornly still shrinking. According to [April 5th’s] Bloomberg Economics Brief, “the pace of income gains is well below that of the past two jobless recoveries and real average hourly earnings continue to decline.”
The Bloomberg report cites one reason for this anomaly: Most of the jobs being created are in low-wage sectors. According to Bloomberg, fully 70 percent of all job gains in the past six months were concentrated in restaurants and hotels,
The Supreme Court’s deliberation on the Affordable Care Act goes to the heart of differing visions of the American concept of “freedom” and “liberty.” It’s a debate worth having.
In court this week, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. described what real freedom looks like. “There will be millions of people with chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease,” he said, “and as a result of the health care that they will get, they will be unshackled from the disabilities that those diseases put on them and have the opportunity to enjoy the blessings of liberty.”
Verrilli’s argument evokes FDR’s famous “Four Freedoms Speech” that included freedom from “want” and “fear.”
FDR repeatedly articulated and elaborated upon those ideals. On June 8, 1934, in a special message to Congress he said:
“[I]n the earlier days, the interdependence of members of families upon each other and of the families within a small community upon each other” [provided fulfillment and security.] “The complexities of great communities and of organized industry make less real these simple means of security.