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Sunday Pleasures and Must Reads – UPDATED


GOT YANKED OFF LINE for reasons that remain mysterious. Ghosts in the machine. So I’ve deleted the West LA Book fair part of the post as, sadly, it’s too late for that, and have replaced it with a TRUE must read flagged by WLA poster, “LA Resident.”



Feel you’re not earning quite enough
as a teacher/writer/registered nurse/university professor? Drop whatever you’re doing and apply for a job at the DWP. The first two paragraphs of this well-researched Daily News story make clear the reasons:

As the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power seeks a hefty taxpayer rate hike, a Daily News review of salary data shows the average utility worker makes $76,949 a year – or nearly 20 percent more than the average civilian city worker.

More than 1,140 of the utility’s employees – or about 13 percent – take home more than $100,000 a year. And General Manager Ron Deaton, who is on medical leave, rakes in $344,624 a year – making him the city’s highest- paid worker.

But while the article is good, the Daily News has gone one better and provided a searchable database that allows you to look up the salary of every single DWP worker—by name or by job.

OKay, I’ll bite. I just randomly looked up “Assistant Communications Cable Worker.” Salary: $73,414.08

(Newsflash, dudes, if any of you owe back child support and have been pleading poorhouse, you’re SOL now!)

But these guys (cable wranglers seem to be guys) are only assistants, so out of curiosity I tried “Air Conditioner Mechanic.” Alright! Salary, a healthy: $82,058.40

Hmmm. What might be further up the food chain? Maybe Assistant Director Information Systems?
Yep, jackpot! There are two of them:


Hey, what’s this? Street Tree Superintendent? Wonder what he or she makes? And what the hell does a Street Tree Superintendent do anyway? In any case, here’s what they’re paid (and again there are two):


Then, just for the heck of it, I tried Executive Assistant to the General Manager, which is still further up the food chain, but nonetheless an assistant, when you get right down to it. In any case, at the DWP there are eight such people. Here they are together with their salaries:


Amazing. (And not in a good way.)



The New York Times’ A.O. Scott has a nice, up-close-and-personal interview/encounter with Bruce Springsteen that’s fun to read for the Boss-o-philes among us (and maybe even for you nonbelievers). The occasion is a new Springsteen album that is the first with the full E Street band to be released since the post-9/11 “The Rising.”

So why is Bruce’s new album a social issue? Because of the lyric content silly! Springsteen is not a happy camper about some of the things he sees going on in these United States right. He has written about what he perceives on this CD. Some of the songs are plain old, E-Street rockers. But some have a lot more going on, much of it subtly referencing issue like the war in Iraq. For example, below are the lyrics to “Gypsy Biker,” a snapshot of life, riddled with private grief and loss.

The speculators made their money on the blood you shed
Your momma’s pulled the sheets up off your bed
The profiteers on Jane Street sold your shoes and clothes
Ain’t nobody talkin’ because everybody knows
We pulled your cycle up back to the garage and polished up the chrome*
Our gypsy biker’s comin’ home

Sister Mary sits with your colors, brother John is drunk and gone
This whole town’s been rousted, which side are you on?
The favored march up over the hill in some fools parade
Shoutin’ victory for the righteous but there ain’t much here but graves
Ain’t nobody talkin’, we’re just waitin’ on the phone
Gypsy biker’s comin’ home

We rode her into the foothills, Bobby brought the gasoline
We stood ’round her in a circle as she lit up the ravine
The spring high desert wind rushed down on us all the way back home

[Harmonica bridge]

To the dead, well it don’t matter much ’bout who’s wrong or right
You asked me that question, I didn’t get it right
You slipped into your darkness, now all that remains
Is my love for you brother, lying still and unchanged
To them that threw you away, you ain’t nothin’ but gone
My gypsy biker’s coming home

Now I’m out countin’ white lines
‘Countin white lines and getting stoned
My gypsy biker’s coming home



“Mayanmar, writes Seth Mydans of the New York Times, has as many Clerics as Soldiers. Last week the monks lead the biggest antigovernment protests in 20 years, and many were shot for their passion. If you’d like some understanding of what is going on in the exquisitely beautiful and desperately troubled country once known as Burma, “KARMA POWER: WHAT MAKES A MONK MAD? is a good story to read.



Will some conservative defender of the faith please tell me this isn’t as loathsome as I think it is: In today’s LA Times Opinion section, science writer, Wendy Orent, says in her op ed, “The White House V. Mothers’ Milk” that, in response to the multizillion dollar baby formula industry, the Bush administration’s Department of Health and human Services substantially watered down a 2004 campaign to encourage mothers to….breastfeed! Shameless!

Springsteen photo by Todd Heisler/The New York Times; Monks by AFP/Getty Images…..Oh, yeah, and the baby and boob photo is from this site labled “What God says about Breastfeeding” (Small clue: It seems that God and the baby formula industry are definitely not on the same page on this issue.)


  • As someone long concerned with the Tibet-China issue, I think what’s going on in Myanmar Burma is horrific, and I can’t even begin to think how brave and desperate those people are. That video of a soldier shooting the Japanese journalist dead point-blank, should be their Vietnam-equivalent of that other horrific photo. I do know Japanese who have long been active in this battle, seeing the Burmese as fellow Asians and Buddhists. I hope the world mobilizes against Myanmar — but the head of the U N received its leader just last week, with a friendly, smiling photo op!

    Re: breastfeeding: I’ll read that article and Bush stuff later, too busy going out to enjoy the day, but while I am all for the health benefits of breastfeeding, I’ll just say that for me, there was more pressure from the pro- breast feeding lobby, La Leche league influence. They are militant about it, and make women who don’t breastfeed feel horrible, like failed and bad mothers. Many strongly advocate breast feeding into toddlerhood. (I learned that it IS vital for the first 2-3 months to pass the immunities onto the baby, but after that, one can switch to the bottle if need be. Then too, even if the mother expresses milk, babies are not adept at switching from breast to bottle.) Plus, I’m not a public milk cow, and never would feel comfortable exposing myself in public. There ARE those flap things, which some can navigate for their and others’ privacy, which are great if you can wear those things. And so I say in short, let’s put the facts out there and let people decide without making mothers feel “bad” or politicized either way.

  • I saw the DWP article this morning, and had time to check some of the reader comments on their sound-off blog. One employee was mighty mad that his salary was posted there with his name, thought it might lead to ID theft. Not sure about that, but it sure does not seem right. These people never signed on to having that level of personal scrutiny — funny, I don’t see writer Beth Barrett posting HER salary online, do you? (She’s the one who “broke” the Mirthala story that others had been sitting on, unsure of when and how to do it properly, by going to Corinna’s 80-something mother who doesn’t speak English, and getting the dirt on the family. Beth also went to Phoenix to track down guests at Mirthala’s mother’s funeral. In other words, this woman has NO bounds.) So sorry, Celeste, I think this is OVER the line. Putting salaries for job categories without names would have been another thing entirely, that would be fine.
    Liberals are so justly concerned with some of the invading aspects of the Patriot Act — what about reporters claiming absurdly broad rights to invade peoples’ privacy? I’ve already mentioned how rude I think it is to post everyone’s name, but never the reporter’s own OR any personal data.)

    I did catch some of the conversation with DWP Commission appointee, former Assemblyman Wally Knox, who said that during the recent blackouts, he hung around the DWP offices, where dispatchers and emergency workers were on duty for 16-hr. shifts, 8 off including sleep and driving to work, until the problems were fixed. And apparently there is a shortage of workers, hence the salaries. So I’m not so sure that what seems outrageous overpayment at first glance is just what it seems. With this invasion of their privacy, hiring DWP workers probably just became even harder.

    Thanks for the update on the W H soiree last night; I’m kind of staying away from writers’ activities these days, but I’m glad to hear it was fun, and I’m really glad there are so many activities bringing “ordinary people” together with authors these days. Who says Angelenos don’t read?

  • Above I meant, I think it’s rude for reporters to post everyone’s AGE (or make a public guess at it), NOT their name.

  • Maggie, I admit I had the same thought when I looked at the data base. (And now I’ve compounded it by posting salaries.) On the other hand, some of these salaries are a bit startling. And are we to believe that nobody’s getting paid overtime, above their base salaries? Don’t think so.

    And yes, the Algonquin/West Hollywood thing was really fun. In the future, I’ll try to post news of like events well before the fact, and maybe you can be lured out.

  • 1. It’s little surprise when people working for government agencies are overpaid. However, the production of these workers is more measurable than the production of most government employees, and this agency can cover its own operating expenses and show a profit for the city.

    There are two thoughts on the salaries. First, housing in L.A. isn’t cheap, and it takes higher salaries to live there versus other areas. Second, this is as much about wealth envy. To liberals, it’s not fair if someone gets paid more than others. That’s really what’s driving interest in this matter, admit it.

    2. Bruce Springsteen’s brain works well for writing songs that stir emotions but not for rational problem solving.

    3. How’s that “Free Tibet” thing with communist China coming along? It’s one thing to see outrages, but another to actually take action and be committed to see it through. The last people that I would want fighting for my freedom are the same people who get easily incensed but “cut and run” when reality sinks in.

    4. Celeste, do you realize how stupid it is to attack Bush because the government doesn’t see the need to maintain an expensive campaign to tell mothers what they instinctively know? That’s like the government telling men that they need to show an interest in tinkering with cars. It’s just about saving money.

  • Maggie – I don’t know where you heard that DWP has a shortage of available job applicants, the DWP is infamous for nepotism. I have several friends who have applied for jobs at DWP and they are more than qualified for jobs posted at DWP, but the DWP loves to only hire relatives and close friends. The benefits and job security are much better at DWP than private sector jobs, which is why so many employees at DWP have worked there for so long (a big duh on that part of the story). And the reporter at the L.A. Daily posted “public” information that is available to anybody who requests it. I’m sure the employees are really mad, but the reporter is not the judge who made the ruling on this issue.

    Bruce Springsteen writes “My gypsy biker’s coming home” – I thought he was singing about his lead guitar player Steven Van Zandt “Silvio Dante” Tony Soprano’s consigliere. Van Zandt always wears a “gypsy rag” on his bald? head.

  • Woody writes ……….

    How’s that “Free Tibet” thing with communist China coming along? It’s one thing to see outrages, but another to actually take action and be committed to see it through. The last people that I would want fighting for my freedom are the same people who get easily incensed but “cut and run” when reality sinks in.

    I would also ask how is that “trade” thing with communist China coming along. Or how is the “selling” of America to communist China coming along, and I don’t blame this on just Bush but a whole bunch of sellouts in the U.S. government.

    Can I now make my comparison of WW-II to the Iraq war, where we are actually fighting for freedom and not for reasons only known to Bush and maybe Cheney?

  • Wpody, the first major sellout of Tibetans to China occurred under the Republicans, when Kissinger was egging on the Tibetans in their fight against China, but when it became inconvenient and trade with China became more important, his “realpolitic” meant he abandoned them abruptly, and they had to flee to India via Nepal, just as the Dalai Lama had decades earlier. (Kind of like what they did with Hungary in 56 when they had the “Hungarian Revolution,” where students and fighters in the street actually managed to repel Russian tanks and the military, thinking the Hungarian people would be backed up by America, which had been egging them on to “Fight for their freedom.” But they got dumped, too, since who cares about Hungarians vs. the Russians, or Tibetans vs. the Chinese, when it comes to putting your action where your mouth is? Stupidly, now Bush has decided to go into Iraq and Afghanistan to “defend” the Iraqis, but unlike in the case of the Tibetans and Hungarians, the people never had a “people’s revolution” in the first place. So it’s seen as a foreign invasion. The wisdoms of American policy, especially under the Republicans.)

    As for the current status of the Tibetan issue: hustling trade with China, even at the expense of our deficit, is the continued policy. (L A Res., I put India in a diffferent category, for all its disastrous policies which are plunging their gorgeous country into an environmental wasteland, etc. because as with the Tibetan refugees, they are a very heterogenous society and more chaotic and confused than overly centralized, total opposites in terms of government.)

    I also know the charges of nepotism, etc., as DWP, but the staffing problems came out during commissioner hearings. As for Beth Barrett and the Daily News posting everyone’s names on an interactive website: we all know that even though in theory employee names and salaries are a matter of public record, no one would bother to track them down otherwise. As I said, job categories and salaries should be public knowledge — how else would job applicants and others know what to expect — for all public employees, like we know the salaries of the Mayor and other top officials. But those people are elected, the DWP people are not. We see how detrimental this invasion of privacy has been to the cops.

  • Speaking of the link between the Dalai Lama and the Myanmar/ Burma issue: there’s an international scam going around that concerned people get an email allegedly from the Press Office of the Dalai Lama, offering a link: if you click on it, you’ll get the most invasive virus imaginable, will turn your computer into Spam junk, don’t dream of opening it. Sadly they have even thought of how to undercut the Dalai Lama’s influence on this. Lots have already fallen for it.

    By the way, the Burmese government henchmen are scary in other ways, too: they are also major drug dealers. I almost drove accidentally across the Thai border into Burma a few years ago, in a remote tribal area where the border was not marked: at the last minute, some Thai soldiers jumped out of camouflage to frantically wave us to stop, while a pocked-face gigantic man with a machine gun popped up yards away on what must have been the Burmese side, and i was clear he wouldn’t have hesitated to rip up the car and had done it more than once before. This was a region where on both sides of the border, the poor peasants were selling and stoned on heroin. Despite government attempts at education, this has gone on for over a century (just like China was used for its drug trade when westerners first “opened it up.”) No doubt the Burmese government is heavily financed heavily by the drug trade in these nether-regions.

  • Today’s Daily News update on the negotiations between the city and service workers’ unions (incl. vital services like trash pickup and street maintenance), Councilman Dennis Zine is quoted as saying that the D N playing up the “overpayment” of DWP this way, also led to increased difficulties in negotiating with this other union, since even though all sides know about the city’s budget problems, unions want to outdo the best deals others already have, even — added an expert negotiator called Martinez — if that will mean cutbacks in vital services to the ratepayers.

    Again, as many have felt with the D N publishing the names, not just the general job descriptions and salaries, of all employees w/ their salaries, there is a difference between what a newspaper may be legally allowed to print, and what is morally and ethically appropriate to print.

    My observation is that ever since Beth Barrett (who’s behind this DWP ballyhoo, too) “broke” a story that many others already knew about Salinas’ relationship w/ the Mayor, but were considering the ethics of doing so and its ramifications on the city, the D N is trying desperately to keep up its profile as the “feisty little paper” that will do what its staid competitors think about more carefully and appropriately. Although they do have an important role in the city in offering what may be a more populists, conservative and blue-collar view, to me, it seems that they are often more akin to blogs than the traditional MSM. I’d think twice before I automatically embrace anything they do.

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