Monthly Archives: September 2009

Coastal Cleanup Day: South L.A.

Did you participate? It was on Saturday, Sept. 19 from 9am to noon.  Since I’m based in Los Angeles, CA, I helped organize three separate cleanups in South Central L.A.: one in Watts, one in Southeast L.A., and another one in Compton.  On-the-day-of, I manned the Compton site.  Below are pictures of the cleanup/beautification volunteer activities that the parents at Washington Elementary joined in.  To view the pictures from that day, click on the picture below:
Compton hosted its own "Coastal Cleanup Day '09" at Washington Elementary.

Compton hosted its own "Coastal Cleanup Day '09" at Washington Elementary.

To learn more about “Coastal Cleanup Day”, please visit Heal the Bay’s website here.

Here‘s the link to INTERNATIONAL Coastal Cleanup Day (coordinated by the Ocean Conservancy).

So where were you on this year’s Coastal Cleanup Day?  Did you help out?


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Filed under Environment, Healthy Communities, South Central L.A.

Jim Carroll’s Death

I opened my e-mail to read this piece of sad news from Jim Carroll‘s assistant, Cassie Carter:

Dear Friends,

I am very sad to let you know that Jim Carroll died on September 11, 2009.

He was at his desk working when he passed away.

Plans for memorial services, etc., are still in progress.

I will keep you posted as I learn more.

I am so sorry to share this news. We will all miss Jim terribly.


Cassie Carter

Like many others, I first came across Jim’s work through the movie that depicted his life, “The Basketball Diaries,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio (this was prior to Leo exploding into the mega super star that he became and when not too many people knew about him).  I remember as a teenager sneaking into the movie theater to watch it (it was rated R).  Afterwards, I went out and bought the copy of the book and read it in like less than a week.  When the movie came out, I bought the VHS (which I still have) and showed it to all my friends.  It was a film about economic struggles, vices, redemption, growing up, and poetry.  I clearly remember how I wanted to be like him: the rebel boy that would find redemption in art.  His works inspired me in many ways to write poetry and to explore literature.  His artistic image shaped a lot of the personality that I now possess as an adult.  He made writing cool for me because he came from the tough slums, from the working class; not from some elitist stuffy sheltered world.  He was a symbol to me, a symbol of resilience, fighting spirit, and triumph, amid a life filled with pitfalls, demons, and tragedy. 

I always fantasized about meeting Jim Carroll in person.  I always hoped that he would come out to Los Angeles so I could meet him, because as a teenager and later on as a young adult I could never dream of having the money to travel to New York.  Back then, I was barely making it through, trying to earn some money so I could finish college.  I waited and waited but his tour trip to L.A. never came (and if it did come, I never heard about it).  In fact, I got so frustrated by that, that I stopped following his appearances as closely as I had in the past.  I just gave up and thought “what’s the point, he’s never going to come to L.A.!”  I eventually did make it out to New York (last year, actually), but the thought of trying to catch him on some appearance never crossed my mind because my trip was just too short (basically a weekend).  Just shaking his hand would have been gigantic for me … but hey, who knows? Maybe I’ll get to meet him in some other dimension should I be so lucky.

To find out more about Jim’s amazing work, click on his pic below to go to his official website:

Visit Jim Carroll's website at

Visit Jim Carroll's website at

Rest in peace Jim Carroll.  May the angels be with you.  You changed people’s lives; you certainly changed mine…


Filed under RIP

Ed Schultz: Progressive Populism vs. Conservative Populism

The Ed Schultz phenomenon: blue-collar and other working class Americans have found their voice in Ed Schultz.

As we celebrate Labor Day, populism is in the air as we honor the dignity of hard-working Americans.  I’ve been following progressive radio talk show personality and now MSNBC TV host, Ed Schultz for quite some time.  I’ve previously written here and here about him because he embodies what progressive populism looks like: pro-union, pro-worker, pro-rural, pro-football, pro-fishing progressive America … heck he’s even an advocate for catch-and-release fishing!  He’s the antidote to the conservative populism that has sadly come to be embodied by the likes of Sarah Palin‘s crafty political maneuvering and Lou Dobbs’ hate speech against Latinos and President Obama.  I say “sadly” because conservatives by using the tactics of fear mongering and racism have corrupted populism in its traditional sense to successfully create an inverse version of it.  George Lakoff (who I just blogged about a few days ago as it related to the current healthcare debate) explained it beautifully in his May 2009 piece Empathy, Sotomayor, and Democracy: The Conservative Stealth Strategy:

In the last election, conservative populists moved toward Obama. Conservative populists are working people, mostly white men, who have conservative views of the family, of masculinity, and of the military, and who have bought into the idea of the “liberal elite” as looking down on them. Right now, they are hurting economically, losing their jobs and their homes. Empathy is something they need. The racist card is an attempt to revive their fears of affirmative action, fears of their jobs — and their pride — being taken by minorities and women. The racist attack has a political purpose, holding onto conservative populists. The overt form of the old conservative argument is made regularly these days: liberalism is identity politics.

Ed Schultz understands how populism works, and he hits it out of the park plenty of times with his strong no-B.S. stance against conservatives’ lies.  However, I’ve seen Ed Schultz slip a number of times by falling into the same negating-reinforcement trap that progressives tend to fall into: strictly sticking to being on the defensive rather than turning the conservative attack inside out and into an offensive play.  Big Eddie, as his fans call him, would be far more effective if he were to read George Lakoff’s illuminating work on conservative populism.  Lakoff  explained it briefly during the 2008 presidential campaign cycle on his Don’t Think of a Maverick! Could the Obama Campaign Be Improved?:

Conservative populism on a national scale was invented in the late 1960’s. At the time, most working people identified themselves with liberals. But conservatives realized that many working people were what I have called “biconceptuals” – they are genuinely conservative in their mode of thought about patriotism and certain family issues, though they are progressive in their understanding of nature (they love the land) and their commitment to communities where people care about each other, etc. So conservatives have talked to them nonstop about conservative “patriotism” and “family values”, thus activating their conservative mindset.

At the same time, conservative theorists invented the ideal of “liberal elitism”: that liberals look down upon working people and are not like them. Conservatives have been working at constructing this mythology for nearly forty years and liberals have stood by and let it happen. Palin is a natural for the conservative populists. She understands their culture.

Conservative populism is a cultural, not an economic, phenomenon. These are folks who often vote against their economic self-interest and instead vote on their identity as conservatives and on their antipathy to liberals, who they see as elitists who look down on them. Simply giving conservative populists facts and figures won’t work.

They tend to vote for people they identify with and against people who they see as looking down on them. The job for the Obama campaign is to reverse the present mindset that the Republicans have constructed, to reveal the conservatives as elitist Washington insiders who cynically manipulate them, to get conservative populists to identify with Obama and Biden on the basis of values and character, and to have them see realities through Obama’s leadership capacities. Not an easy job. But it’s the real job.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Ed Schultz actually starts using George Lakoff’s lines down the road, though.  Big Eddie is a football sportsman and a political animal, and he knows that in the end, winning is what matters.  I just hope Ed uses them soon because he IS progressive populism incarnate and knows how to relate that in a language that his audience can easily understand, which is more than what I can say about other progressive media personalities (yes, Thom Hartmann, I’m looking at you! … OK I’ll give this to you Thom: you have actually improved ever since you left Air America and I respect you because you are the Godfather of Air America because of your business plan that served as its blueprint, and you have the balls to talk about progressive issues that sometimes not even Ed Schultz dares to talk about … but for Godssakes Thom could you please NOT start with the intellectualist dull debates at the beginning of your segments?! Leave that for the middle or the end please … I appreciate the historical contexts, I truly do, and I think you’re a smart progressive radio host; but some of us want to know first and foremost about what is happening right-now in-the-present-world!).

Now, if only MSNBC switched conservative-leaning Chris Matthews’ time slot with Ed Schultz, things will be perfect … so we’ll see if MSNBC gets its act together on that front.  But as far as Project Economic Refugee is concerned, the best way to boycott conservative “populist” hosts is to turn them off and instead tune into progressive populist hosts.  Case in point is Ed Schultz: instead of watching hate-monger Lou Dobbs, watch Ed Schultz from now on.  I promise you, you’ll be a better American for it.

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Filed under Framing, Political, Progressive Media Personalities, Progressive Movement