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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,
After visiting a few times, I decided to go for broke and join the occupation to see it all first hand. It was very interesting to entertain the misconceptions people might have about this movement. Some may think it’s populated by arrogant 20-somethings looking for attention and a party atmosphere with leftovers from Burning Man and Coachella attendees. Some may think it’s a few leftist apologists and homeless people intermingling uncomfortably. Some may think it’s a breeding ground for anti-American anarchists and communists plotting the takedown of our infrastructure. Others think it’s just a passing fad like pointy shoes and Bedazzler jackets.
I had some of these misconceptions myself. I didn’t know what to expect, but I had to reject these doubts before I could really see what was taking place. I visited during a Demands Committee meeting and the General Assembly, the nightly gathering for decision-making, to get a better reading of what was taking place.
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.