Thursday, July 30, 2015
Saturday, July 25, 2015
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
|Keeping it classy.|
2) Bill Cosby's Legal Team is now back on the defense. They are trying to normalize his use of quaaludes. I'm supposed to believe that they were used in tandem with consensual sex? Apparently this was a thing in the 1970s? Yeah. I am not falling for any of this. His newest attorney has stated that it is insignificant and not newsworthy that word has come of Mr. Cosby having extramarital affairs: "it's not newsworthy; it's history."
3) Time to be worried about social security again. If Congress doesn't replenish its trust fund, benefits to those eligible for disability benefits from Social Security will face cuts in 2016.
In more uplifting news:
1) The University of California is looking at raising its campuswide minimum wage to $15 an hour, in alignment with the movement to hike the minimum wage to $15 in the City and County of Los Angeles respectively. The hike would benefit workers who are employed at least 20 hours a week; and these workers would include people who work for outside contractors. It is reported that the pay increase would come from auxiliary services, such as bookstores and parking revenue (and that would come about in the form of land rent paid for by the parking dept). I find that a bit unsettling, particularly with respect to parking. I do come from a school of thought where parking pricing should be set in order to manage supply and influence travel behavior.
2) Every Wednesday this summer, Sutter Brown issues a water saving tip through his social media presence. Today's tip is to use mulch, since it has water retention qualities!
Mom & Dad say mulch reduces evaporation. I dig it. #WaterWiseWednesday #SuttersTipOfTheWeek #CADrought #KeepSavingCA pic.twitter.com/oz1Fl8JX8h— Sutter Brown (@SutterBrown) July 22, 2015
Monday, July 20, 2015
|Via the LA Times|
Sunday, July 19, 2015
SundayReview | OP-ED COLUMNIST
La Dolce Donald Trump
IN Rome about a dozen years ago, I had a long dinner with Donald Trump.
Only his name was Silvio Berlusconi.
Aren't they essentially the same man? The same myth?
They have the same obsession with their wealth. Same need to crow about it. Same belief that it's the irrefutable measure of their genius. Same come-on to countrymen: If I enriched myself, I can enrich you.
They're priapic twins, identical in their insistence on being seen as paragons of irresistible lust. If hideously sexist utterances ensue, so be it. Loins before decency. Pheromones over good sense.
And the vanity. Oh, the vanity. During my meal with Berlusconi, who was then the prime minister of Italy, he grew most animated when complaining about Italian journalists' put-downs of him as a dwarf.
A dwarf! He stressed to me that he was taller than José María Aznar, Spain's leader at the time. A few years later, on a television talk show, he informed Italians that he was "definitely taller" than Napoleon. And a few years after that, at a political rally, he proclaimed: "I am taller than Putin and Sarkozy," referring to his Russian and French counterparts. "I don't understand why all the caricaturists portray me as a dwarf, whereas the others are allowed a normal height."
We give in, Silvio. You're a mountain among midgets.
And we admit it, Donald. No one's hair sweeps the heavens like yours.
You two are the biggest, the best, shaming all the rest.
Now will you please just let us be?
Trump shows no signs of doing that. Last week he made a new bid to be envied, once again unzipping his accounts and flashing the world his finances. This time he claimed to be worth about $10 billion, which is almost certainly a gross exaggeration. His assets expand with his ego.
His popularity with voters does, too, according to recent polls, which showed him at or near the head of the pack for the Republican presidential nomination. I don't expect this to last, but it probably means that we're stuck with him through at least a few debates.
So it's time to search for solace, and perhaps there's some in knowing that he's not a peculiarly American creation, nor is he a particular indictment of our political culture and electorate.
Trump is Berlusconi in waiting, with less cosmetic surgery. Berlusconi is Trump in senescence, with even higher alimony payments.Those Italians whose art we bow down before and whose food we fetishize have a Trump of their very own, a saucy, salty dish of Donald alla parmigiana. They repeatedly elected him, so that he could actually do what Trump is still merely auditioning to do: use his country as a gaudy throne and an adoring mirror as he ran it into the ground.
Trumpusconi is a study in the peril and pitfalls of unchecked testosterone and tumescent avarice. It's a commentary on wealth in the Western world: how ardently certain blowhards pursue it, how much the rest of us forgive in those who attain it, how thoroughly we equate money and accomplishment.
It's a comedy. It's a tragedy.
It's even a porn flick — or close to one. Trumpusconi stars overlapping cads who cultivate dovetailing images as epic playboys.
"Best Sex I Ever Had" blared a front-page headline in the New York Post in 1990. It ostensibly quoted Marla Maples, the second of Trump's three wives, but a skeptical reader wondered who really planted that story, especially as the years went by and Trump's boasts flowered:
"All of the women on 'The Apprentice' flirted with me, consciously or unconsciously. That's to be expected."
"Oftentimes when I was sleeping with one of the top women in the world I would say to myself, thinking about me as a boy from Queens, 'Can you believe what I'm getting?' "
But those are puny bleats next to Berlusconi's trumpeting. A few years ago he assessed his erotic impact, musing: "When asked if they would like to have sex with me, 30 percent of women said, 'Yes,' while the other 70 percent replied, 'What, again?' ""I've said if Ivanka weren't my daughter, perhaps I'd be dating her."
The two billionaires' tasteless words are so interchangeable that it's sometimes hard to tell who said what, but you can test your skill with a quiz, Name That Narcissist, that accompanies this column online.Continue reading the main story
Quiz: Name That Narcissist
Who said it: the brash American billionaire or the brash Italian one?
I'M not the first to notice the uncanny Trump-Berlusconi resemblance. Four years ago my Times colleague Timothy Egan mulled it, and in a Vanity Fair story, "La Dolce Viagra," Evgenia Peretz wrote: "Imagine a President Donald Trump with the media holdings of Rupert Murdoch and the sexual tastes of an aging Charlie Sheen, and you're approaching the idea of Berlusconi."
But Trump is now an even bolder presence (and threat) on the political landscape than he was then. As I gape at him afresh, I'm transported back to my two years as The Times's correspondent in Rome and my twomeetings with Berlusconi.
Like Trump, Berlusconi built his fortune with real estate. He then bought media outlet after media outlet, infiltrating people's hourly lives, imprinting himself on their very consciousness. A similar impulse animates Trump, who has emblazoned his name not just on skyscrapers and casinos but on mattresses, clothes, cologne.
They're both after omnipresence, and they both understood early on how crucial television was to that. Berlusconi took ownership of Italy's airwaves, which he used to broadcast game shows and news programs with women in various states of undress. Trump took partial control of the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, and played the lord of all capitalism on "The Apprentice."
To their profound chauvinism they add racial insensitivity, though, in fairness, Berlusconi's doesn't have Trump's calculated, meanspirited edge. Berlusconi's infamous crack about the Obamas — that the couple must have gone to the beach, because they looked tanned — pales next to Trump's anti-immigrant tantrums and xenophobic rants. In a clip from a radio interview released on Friday, Trump called for a boycott of Mexico, saying that "it's a corrupt place" that treats America "very, very badly." He pledged not to set foot there. A howl of grief rose from Guadalajara, and Ciudad Juárez wept.
Both men have learned that they can turn such cloddishness to their advantage, by casting it as unvarnished candor. Sloppy talk becomes straight talk. Insult becomes authenticity, even if it's pure theater and so long as it's a hell of a show.
And self-regard goes a long, long way. It can be mistaken for wisdom. It can masquerade as vision. With enough of it, the clown transforms himself into a ringleader. The dwarf looks like a giant.
Saturday, July 18, 2015
The Opinion Pages | OP-ED CONTRIBUTORS
Here's a Way to Control Guns
NEARLY three years ago, in the days after the mass killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, President Obama went to Newtown, Conn., to speak at a vigil for the victims. He spoke movingly, and seemed to embody the nation's outrage and its determination to reduce the number of people killed with guns in America. "Do not lose heart," he told the families of the victims. He said he would use "whatever power this office holds."
He has not done that. He tried one lever of presidential power — proposing legislation. When that didn't work, the president failed to move the other levers in a meaningful way.
For more than a year, we and fellow religious leaders across the nation have worked to persuade President Obama to use what we believe is the most powerful tool government has in this area: its purchasing power. The federal government is the nation's top gun buyer. It purchases more than a quarter of the guns and ammunition sold legally in the United States. State and local law enforcement agencies also purchase a large share. Major gun manufacturers depend on these taxpayer-funded purchases. For the government to keep buying guns from these companies — purchases meant to ensure public safety — without making demands for change is to squander its leverage.
Some of the leading brands of handguns purchased by the government — Glock, Smith & Wesson, Sig Sauer, Beretta, Colt, Sturm, Ruger & Company — are also leading brands used in crimes. Among the brands of handguns recovered by the Chicago Police Department at crime scenes between January 2012 and October 2013, all six of these companies ranked in the top 11. When police officers carrying Glocks are recovering Glocks at crime scenes on a regular basis, shouldn't this prompt questions about whether the police department could use its influence to reduce the number of guns that end up in the hands of criminals? When Smith & Wessons turn up frequently in the hands of criminals, shouldn't questions be asked when Smith & Wesson seeks a contract with the federal government?
What could gun manufacturers do to protect the public?
They could distribute their guns exclusively through dealers that sell guns responsibly, and end their relationships with the small percentage of bad-apple dealers that sell a disproportionate number of the guns used in crimes. They could produce "smart guns" that can be fired only by authorized users, and that therefore are far less likely to be used in accidental or intentional shootings. These measures, over time, would prevent many thousands of deaths.
But companies will innovate in these areas only if their major customers ask them to.
The president can push companies to compete in the area of safer guns and more responsible distribution. Here's how to start.
First, use federal purchasing power to begin a substantive conversation with gun manufacturers. The Pentagon is in the process of selecting the provider of handguns for the United States Army. It should require all bidders to provide detailed information about their gun safety technologies and distribution practices in the civilian market. No response, no contract.
Second, work with companies to develop new models of distribution, such as through dealers certified by the industry as reputable.The F.B.I. should do likewise. In his forthright statement on how Dylann Roof obtained the gun used to murder churchgoers in Charleston without having a completed background check, the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, explained that gun dealers have the discretion to execute a sale — or not — if a background check isn't completed within three days. The next logical step, in our view, is for Mr. Comey to ask the F.B.I.'s firearms suppliers to stop doing business with dealers who won't agree to use that discretion to protect the public.
Third, rescue the federal government's smart-gun research efforts from oblivion. Tens of millions of research dollars are needed to help get promising safety technologies to market.
Fourth, develop a set of metrics for measuring manufacturers' performance. We might measure, for instance, the number of a manufacturer's guns found at crime scenes, as a percentage of their overall sales.
Let's give gun manufacturers an incentive to make more smart guns and to allow fewer guns into the hands of criminals.
The Rev. David K. Brawley, the Rev. Otis Moss III, the Rev. David Benke and Rabbi Joel Mosbacher are members of the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation, aimed at building power for social change.
Trump Says He Heroically Avoided Capture in Vietnam by Staying in U.S.
Thursday, July 16, 2015
I have a master's degree in counseling, and I'm particularly good with teenagers. For ten years I had a decent career, although counselors aren't paid much. Then the economy tanked and social services were cut. I lost my job. Then another job. Nobody was hiring counselors; I got an hourly wage job. Lost my health insurance, lost my car, lost everything. I went into default on my student loans.
Things began to pick up for counselors, but there was a new question on applications: are you in default on your student loans? South Carolina and a few other red states passed a law saying that such persons cannot be hired by any agency receiving state funding, which for me and my degree, is nearly all the jobs here. Getting out of default would be feasible if I had a professional job, but on $8 an hour? No way. As a single person with no family, meager survival is nearly possible on that low of a wage.
I realized I was trapped. I read a book called Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much(Mullainathan and Shafir) in which the authors explain the effects of scarcity on the brain. I understood my thought process has been impaired by my struggle to survive in poverty for so many years. There are 45 million Americans struggling to survive just like me. Being stuck in poverty isn't about morals or character. It isn't about family structure or some "culture" of poverty. And it certainly isn't about being lazy or stupid. Most poor people are smart, hard-working, decent, kind, compassionate people. They are creative and innovative in solving their problems and creating beauty and ritual in their lives. They care for their children, disabled, and seniors with tenderness and love; they play music and write poetry and make art. They put up with a lot of bullshit from the public on a daily basis at their crappy low-wage jobs, but keep on smiling and telling you to have a great day. They take a lot of Advil and supplements in order to make up for the fact that they have little to no health care. They die sooner because of their struggle; even sooner if they live under Republican rule.
I began to think that in order to preserve my health and sanity, to use my degree in community counseling and be productive, to have a better life, I might have to leave the South.Unthinkable. I don't know anyone outside the South. I lived in California and Oregon in 1997-99. I had to come home. But I loved it there.
I turned to my online community for help, writing a diary called "Advice from my elders?" and I got excellent feedback. There was definitely consensus that I should leave. There was great practical advice that got me researching and making lists, and links to resources about student loan default, which is not as bad as I had thought, and ideas about housing such as intentional communities. As I became active with a goal and a direction, my mental fog began to lift.
I especially appreciated the Kossacks who shared their personal stories of picking up and leaving with the hope of a better future. They let me know that the problem isn't in me; I'm not defective. It's not that I lack ability or intelligence or drive, it's the system here that is broken, shutting me out at every turn, keeping me down. Nobody sells all of their belongings and says good-bye to their friends and sets out for the unknown without being in a desperate situation. I am in a desperate situation, and I will not wait for it to get worse, because I know it will. Others are trapped here, but I can't help them from inside. I have to get out.
With fresh hope and determination I began to develop a plan. After many lists and searches, I settled on Eugene, Oregon. I could write for pages about how awesome Eugene is, but the relevant points are that Oregon is a deep blue state, they are nice to their poor people, it's about the right size, and the fifth-best bicycling city in the US. It looks like a good fit for me personally and I've been there before. I wanted to stay closer, but you have to go so far to get out of the South that I might as well go back to where I felt at home, where I didn't want to leave and have always wanted to go back. For sixteen years I have been dreaming about Oregon. I'm going back, and I feel so free.
I think I can fly for about $300, and I'll ship a few boxes, but I'm going to be starting over completely fresh. I'm selling my few belongings of small value to raise a little more. I will arrive in Oregon with nothing. From what I'm seeing on Craigslist, I should be able to find a cheap room and low-wage job fairly quickly. I'm sending out resumes for professional jobs, but that kind of job search takes a while, and even if I am a cashier in Oregon, I'm still better off because I can have Medicaid. It is a risk, and I am scared. Very, very scared. But I am more scared of not changing my life. I must live. The South is killing me.
If you live in Eugene, send me a message! I could use some contacts on the ground and advice on practical details. I promise I'm going to be an asset to your community in every way that I can think of.
If you'd like to help but aren't lucky enough to live in Eugene, I have a GoFundMe here: hereand I have a PayPal account, email email@example.com and select "Send to Family & Friends." Even if you only have five dollars, well, to me that is a lot of money. To many Americans, $5 is a lot of money. Every little bit really does help and will be very much appreciated!
I'm going to keep writing about my journey and my challenges and triumphs, if any, along the way. I value your advice and feedback so very much, and I am deeply grateful to be a part of the community here. There aren't enough words to say thank you, but, as always, thanks for reading!
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
The Opinion Pages | OP-ED COLUMNIST
Haste, Hustle and Scott Walker
In the formal announcement of his presidential campaign on Monday, Scott Walker mentioned God right away, introduced himself as a preacher's son and invoked religion repeatedly, as he has throughout a perpetual candidacy that stretches back to his college days, when he told the Marquette University yearbook: "I really think there's a reason why God put all these political thoughts in my head."
But what I see in him is the kind of soullessness too common in American politicians and the kind of careerism that makes American politics such a dreary spectacle.
I see an ambition even more pronounced than any ideology. I see an interest in personal advancement that eclipses any investment in personal growth.
These are hardly unusual traits in our halls of government. But they're distilled in Walker, the governor of Wisconsin.
He's been on one Wisconsin ballot or another almost every two years over the last quarter-century, and he's only 47. Before the governorship, he was a state assemblyman and then a county executive.He's styling himself as a political outsider, but that's a fluke of geography, not professional history. While it's true that he hasn't worked in Washington, he's a political lifer, with a résumé and worldview that are almost nothing but politics.
We know from the biographies of him so far that he has been absorbed in those "political thoughts" since at least the start of college, before he could have possibly developed any fully considered, deeply informed set of beliefs or plan for what to do with power.
I suspect that we'll learn, with just a bit more digging, that he was mulling campaign slogans in the womb and ran his first race in the neighborhood wading pool, pledging to ease restrictions on squirt guns and usher in a ban on two-piece bathing suits.
He has drawn barbs for the fact that he left Marquette before graduating and was many credits shy of a degree. But I know plenty of people whose intellectual agility and erudition aren't rooted in the classroom, and his lack of a diploma isn't what's troubling.
The priorities that conspired in it are. He was apparently consumed during his sophomore year by a (failed) bid for student body president. According to a story by David Fahrenthold in The Washington Post, he was disengaged from, and cavalier about, the acquisition of knowledge. And he dropped out right around the time he commenced a (failed) candidacy for the Wisconsin State Senate — in his early 20s.
Walker's cart has a way of getting ahead of Walker's horse. Only after several flubbed interviews earlier this year were there reports that he was taking extra time to bone up on world affairs. This was supposed to be a comfort to us, but what would really be reassuring is a candidate who had pursued that mastery already, out of honest curiosity rather than last-minute need.
When allies and opponents talk about his strengths, they seem to focus not on his passion for governing but on his cunning at getting elected. "He's a sneaky-smart campaigner, they say, a polished and levelheaded tactician, a master at reading crowds," wrote Kyle Cheney and Daniel Strauss in Politico. "He learned the value of ignoring uncomfortable questions, rather than answering them."
What an inspiring lesson, and what a window into political success today.
But with his current focus on the Iowa caucuses, he no longer supports a path to citizenship, flaunts his anti-abortion credentials and has called for a constitutional amendment permitting states to outlaw same-sex marriage. He even has a newfound affection for ethanol.He tailors his persona to the race at hand. To win his second term as governor of Wisconsin and thus be able to crow, as he's doing now, about the triumph of a conservative politician "in a blue state," he played down his opposition to abortion, signaled resignation to same-sex marriage and explicitly supported a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
His advisers, meanwhile, trumpet his authenticity. Authenticity? That's in tragically short supply in the presidential race, a quality that candidates assert less through coherent records, steadfast positions or self-effacing commitments than through what they wear (look, Ma, no jacket or necktie!) and even how they motor around. Walker is scheduled to trundle through Iowa later this week in a Winnebago, and of course Hillary Clinton traveled there from New York in that Scooby van.
"I love America," Walker said in Monday's big speech. That was his opening line and an echo of what so many contenders say.
I trust that they all do love this country. But from the way they pander, shift shapes and scheme, I wonder if they love themselves just a little more.