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Category: economics

Skylight Books joins Occupy actions for May Day

Mzd_skylight
Skylight Books, the Los Feliz bookstore, is recognizing May Day as a rallying place -- and also by going on strike (but in a nice, everyone-is-in-on-it way).

Long known as International Workers Day, May 1 has become a day for rallies nationwide in support of the Occupy movement, which has been lying low since protests last year. One is taking place in downtown Los Angeles.

The bookstore will be closed from 2 to 5 p.m. in support of the Occupy movement.

On its website, the bookstore writes:

Gather! Strike! Sing!...

Skylight is your labor hall for the day. Need a place to rest? Bring a lunch and a friend and stop by to check out our displays on labor history. We’ll also have a full roster of events that are happening throughout the city, so come find out how you can participate.

The store reopens at 5 p.m. At 7:30 p.m., singer Ross Altman -- he's a "labor troubador" -- will teach those assembled  songs from decades of labor movements, going back to the strikes of 1912.
Generally, bookstores maintain a neutral political stance, but Skylight is loudly declaring a strong, leftist ideology. But it is still a bookseller: If you want Newt Gingrich's latest book, they'll be sure to get it for you.

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The Derby Dolls at Skylight Books

Watching Skylight Books grow [video]

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: A full house at Skylight Books for Slake in 2010; Mark Z. Danielewski reads. Credit: Carolyn Kellogg / Los Angeles Times

Stephen King wants to tax the rich -- including himself

Author Stephen King wants to pay his fair share and then some.

Stephen King, who with his wife donates about $4 million per year to worthy causes, has said he should give more — that he should be mandated to, by the tax code. He thinks the wealthy should pay more in  income tax.

At the Daily Beast, King shows why charitable intentions don't do the same thing as the federal government (using spicy language):

What charitable 1 percenters can’t do is assume responsibility — America’s national responsibilities: the care of its sick and its poor, the education of its young, the repair of its failing infrastructure, the repayment of its staggering war debts. Charity from the rich can’t fix global warming or lower the price of gasoline by one single red penny....

Most rich folks paying 28 percent taxes do not give out another 28 percent of their income to charity. Most rich folks like to keep their dough. They don’t strip their bank accounts and investment portfolios. They keep them and then pass them on to their children, their children’s children. And what they do give away is — like the monies my wife and I donate — totally at their own discretion. That’s the rich-guy philosophy in a nutshell: don’t tell us how to use our money; we’ll tell you.

The Koch brothers are right-wing creepazoids, but they’re giving right-wing creepazoids. Here’s an example: 68 million fine American dollars to Deerfield Academy. Which is great for Deerfield Academy. But it won’t do squat for cleaning up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, where food fish are now showing up with black lesions. It won’t pay for stronger regulations to keep BP (or some other bunch of ... oil drillers) from doing it again. It won’t repair the levees surrounding New Orleans. It won’t improve education in Mississippi or Alabama.

King, a prolific writer whose imaginings have often attracted the attention of Hollywood, regularly lands on Forbes' highest-paid authors list; in 2010, he was at No. 3. His net worth is estimated to be as much as $400 million — that's huge for a writer but small change when it comes to big finance. Warren Buffett, another tax-the-rich advocate, is worth about $4.4 billion.

RELATED:

Festival of Books: on the L.A. riots, 20 years later

Alex Shakar, Stephen King win L.A. Times Book Prizes

Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" won't be a movie after all

— Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Stephen King in 1998. Credit: Los Angeles Times

National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medals announced

Ritadovejohnashbery

The White House announced the recipients of the National Medal of Arts and the National Humanities Medals today. Poet Rita Dove (above) is the leading literary figure among the seven who will receive the National Medal of Arts, joining actor Al Pacino, singer Mel Tillis, painter Will Barnet, sculptor Martin Puryear, pianist André Watts, and creative arts patron Emily Rauh Pulitzer.

Rita Dove served as the U.S. Poet Laureate from 1993 to '95. Dove, born in 1952 in Ohio, received an MFA from the University of Iowa and published her first poetry collection in 1980. She won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for the collection "Thomas and Beulah." She teaches at the University of Virginia; her many accolades include a National Humanities Medal.

National Humanities Medals will be awarded to eight writers, including another poet, John Ashbery (pictured at the 2011 National Book Awards, where he was presented with the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters). The other winners are Kwame Anthony Appiah, critic Andrew Delbanco, historian Robert Darnton, musical scholar Charles Rosen, historian Teofilo Ruiz, literary scholar Ramón Saldívar, and Amartya Sen, a Nobel laureate in economics. After the jump, brief descriptions of their work.

President Obama will present the National Medal of Arts and the National Humanities Medals at a White House to the above individuals, as well as arts organizations, at a ceremony on Monday, Feb. 13, streaming live at 1:45pm eastern.

Continue reading »

Occupy Wall Street library books stored in a N.Y. garage

Ows_books
The books that librarians and other protesters at Occupy Wall Street feared had been thrown out in a police raid on Zuccotti Park early Tuesday morning have been located. The books are being stored in a sanitation garage in Manhattan. The mayor's office tweeted a photograph of the stored books, saying, "Property from #Zuccotti, incl #OWS library, safely stored @ 57th St Sanit Garage; can be picked up Weds."

The library had more than 5,000 books, which had been catalogued by volunteers. They had been stored in a tent donated by author/rocker Patti Smith.

If activists are able to recover all of those books, where they might be located in the future is an open question. On Tuesday afternoon, a judge rejected the temporary restraining order issued to allow protesters to return, with belongings (including tents and libraries), to Zuccotti Park.

RELATED:

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Michael Lewis puts a face on business stories

5,000 books reportedly thrown out in Occupy Wall Street raid

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Stored books from the Occupy Wall Street library. Credit: NYCMayorsOffice via Twitter.

5,000 books reportedly thrown out in Occupy Wall Street raid

Ows_library
More than 5,000 books in the Occupy Wall Street library were reportedly thrown away when police moved in to remove protesters from Zuccotti Park in New York early Tuesday.

During the police raid, Occupy Wall Street librarians tweeted, "NYPD destroying american cultural history, they’re destroying the documents, the books, the artwork of an event in our nation’s history," Galleycat reports. "Right now, the NYPD are throwing over 5,000 books from our library into a dumpster. Will they burn them? … Call 311 or 212-639-9675 now and ask why Mayor Bloomberg is throwing the 5,554 books from our library into a dumpster."

The Village Voice has asked city officials what happened to the library books, but has not yet recieved a response.

"I watched the stuff thrown into sanitation trucks and just crushed," Lopi LaRoe, a 47-year-old Brooklyn artist, told a reporter. 

The library, which started out as a box of books and grew to a collection of more than 5,000, was originally out in the open air. Rocker, poet and National Book Award winner Patti Smith donated a tent to house the library and protect the books from the weather.

It had hosted readings by authors including Douglas Rushkoff, Jonathan Lethem (along with a quiet but curious Jennifer Egan) and Lynn Nottage; on Friday, a group of volunteers read Herman Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street."

According to the Associated Press, hundreds of police officers in riot gear raided Zuccotti Park, evicting protesters who have been camping out in the Wall Street park since mid-September to call attention to economic inequities and the distribution of wealth. The New York Times reports that 200 were arrested.

Initial reports suggest that the park's occupants were told they would be able to reclaim their items the next day. "But it could be argued that city authorities have junked much that once made up Occupy Wall Street," Time magazine reported. "Perhaps most tragically, Occupy Wall Street's roughly five thousand-volume strong People's Library, compiled through myriad donations and painstakingly catalogued by Occupy volunteers, was reportedly thrown out."

A judge has signed an order allowing protesters to return to Zuccotti Park with their belongings; further court action is expected Tuesday.

What that means for the books, no one yet knows.

RELATED:

Raj Patel's new economy

Herman Melville was big in 2010

Michael Lewis puts a face on business stories

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: The Occupy Wall Street library on Oct. 10. Credit: Andrew Burton / Associated Press

Microsoft's Bill Gates turns to book reviewing

Bill Gates has put his talents to book reviewing
Billionaire Bill Gates, who remains chairman and chief software architect of his company, Microsoft, has put his talents to book reviewing. On Wednesday, he posted his review of "Prime Movers of Globalization: The History and Impact of Diesel Engines and Gas Turbines" by Vaclac Smil (MIT University Press) on his personal website, Gates Notes:

As a history buff, I appreciate books that give you a sense of the people behind important inventions and the sweeping impact they have had on society. Often -– as in the case of the diesel engine and the gas turbine -– incremental advances obscure the profound impact of technology. In Prime Movers, Smil focuses in on a slice of 20th century technological innovation and shows the phenomenal impact it has had on international trade and travel.

To put the significance of the diesel engine and the gas turbine in perspective, Smil points out that until coal-powered steam engines came along a few hundred years ago, animals and human muscle were the “prime movers” of manufacturing, and wind and sails the prime movers of international travel and trade. The steam engine was an important underpinning of the industrial revolution. But its impact pales in comparison to the diesel engine and the gas turbine. ...

There are a lot of fascinating historical points and statistics in Smil’s book that make it an interesting read, but what most fascinated me was learning about the incredible impact these two innovations have had on so many aspects of our lives.

It turns out that Gates has been reviewing books on the site every few weeks since March. His recent reads include "Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools" by Steven Brill, "Getting Better: Why Global Development is Succeeding" by Charles Kenny, and "Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation" by Steven Johnson.

His first posted book review was back in February 2010, of Steven Levitt's and Stephen Dubner's "SuperFreakonomics"; frankly, it wasn't much. "I had a chance to read a prepublication copy of SuperFreakonomics before it was officially released," it began. "I really liked Freakonomics and I think SuperFreakonomics is even better." If one of my freshman writing students had turned that in, it wouldn't have gotten a B-minus.

Since then, Gates has much improved as a book reviewer. He often uses a personal take, explaining why he's interested in this topic, and sometimes comes with a critical eye. He picked up Johnson's book "with a little bit of skepticism," he wrote. "Lots of books have been written about innovation -– what it is, the most innovative companies, how you measure it. The subject can seem a little faddish," he said, but he found Johnson's book to be a cut above.

Most of the books Gates writes about fall into the line with his philanthropic pursuits with the Gates Foundation: education, healthcare, technology and the underlying processes affecting those systems. It makes sense that he's reading about them -- but few billionaires take the time to write up their thoughts and share them as a book reviews.

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Does Microsoft have an iPad-killing tablet in the works?

Steve Jobs bio tops Amazon bestseller list

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Bill Gates, left, with Warren Buffett in 2007. Credit: Nati Harnik / Associated Press

Libraries: a bigger source of DVDs than Netflix

Librarybargains

Once upon a time, libraries were a place for books. A Netflix representative said just that -- "I think of libraries as places for books" -- but that, apparently, is now a minority perspective. According to a survey by the Online Computer Library Center, more people get DVDs from libraries than from Netflix, and more than Blockbuster and Redbox combined.

Consumerist reports the survey's numbers: Every day, public libraries loan out 2.1 million DVDs, slightly more than Netflix's 2 million daily rentals.

Does this mean the end for libraries? Will DVDs crowd out books? Will readers abandon libraries' print offerings for filmed entertainment?

Probably not. Under other economic circumstances, the DVD rental figures might be taken as another herald of the death of print culture. But these days, borrowing movies from the library is a smart way to save money.

On her blog The Frugal Diva, Susan Kessler recently wrote, "I live in Los Angeles and the public libraries have provided me with reading material, books on CD, magazines, and fantastic DVDs including Louis Malle documentaries and 'The Simpsons Movie.'"

Librarians are smart to have stocked their shelves with DVDs in addition to books. As Kessler's comment -- and pile of loot, above -- attests, she picks up reading materials with her watching materials.

Which reminds me; I've got some "True Blood" DVDs the library is going to want back sometime soon.

-- Carolyn Kellogg
twitter.com/paperhaus

Photo: Susan Kessler, the Frugal Diva, with bargain buys and library rentals. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times



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Librarians speak against cuts -- after a long wait -- at L.A. City Council budget meeting

Citycouncil_librarians

To fellow citizens hoping to be heard at an L.A. City Council budget meeting, may I offer these words of advice: Be prepared to wait a long, long time.

Los Angeles is facing a deficit of close to $500 million; on Friday the City Council held a special meeting to present the report of the budget and finance committee. Next week, the council will begin the approval process; it promises to include cuts to almost all city services (although the police department will be largely spared). On Friday, people advocating against the cuts filled the grand art-deco chamber and the hall outside. Firefighters wearing matching T-shirts, workers from parks and recreation in green, people from gang intervention programs, librarians and others waited on wooden benches for their chance to speak.

Many who arrived before the meeting began at 9 a.m. signed up to give public comment. But before they could, the council had to have its discussion. Council members discussed the budget the council had received from the mayor, measures they had taken to find more revenues and efforts they'd made to ameliorate layoffs and cuts. Discussion led to some council members playing to the crowd, which led to pronouncements, which led to barely-veiled bickering, which led to pontification. After 90 minutes, with the room growing restless, the City Council finished but decided to take care of other matters -- saying goodbye to two retiring city employees -- before opening up the public comment period.

Finally, at 11 a.m., 10 union representatives were allowed to speak. Each was given two minutes -- all others who had signed up would have just one minute. First, firefighters pleaded their case. Then Roy Stone, president of the library guild, did the same for libraries, noting that 40,000 people had signed a Save the Library petition (full disclosure: I've signed it) as librarians in the audience stood in silent solidarity.

And so it went. Civilian employees in the public safety division, who've been targeted. Parks and recreation. Child care. Gang intervention. On and on.

What soon became clear to me was that despite the time constraints, each of the speakers did a better job of communicating how they felt about this city, and their role in it, than just about any of the politicians. For the most part they were focused, and revealed emotion -- anger, passion, even sadness.

I'm still perplexed by Councilman Greig Smith's insistence that "public safety remains first and foremost the core function of the city." Do we still define safety as law officers carrying guns? Can we possibly be helping public safety by cutting after-school programs in our public parks, cutting gang intervention programs and cutting libraries?

A librarian read testimonials in her 60 seconds at the mic. "I'm an eighth-grade student with no home computer," one said. "I need the library." After this budget, where might they safely go to do homework? What alternatives will that student have?

Hearing all these people's heartfelt pleas together -- about the city they work for, whose fabric they help weave, and what each of these cuts will mean -- revealed just how much Los Angeles stands to lose as it faces the coming budget year.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Librarians stand as Roy Stone, president of the Librarians Guild, speaks in City Council chambers on Friday. Credit: Carolyn Kellogg / Los Angeles Times

Parents struggle on this week's L.A. Times bestseller list

Anna QuindlenAnne Lamottbestseller listKitty KelleyLA Times bestsellersOprah

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Heavy-duty plots that feed into parents' deep fears drive two new novels onto the L.A. Times bestseller list this week.

Holding steady at No. 3 is Anne Lamott's "Imperfect Birds." The author's seventh novel finds affluent Bay Area parents Elizabeth and James struggling with their 17-year-old daughter Rosie, a seemingly perfect honors student and athlete who has headed down a destructive path of drug use. Lamott, who has acknowledged incorporating her personal life into her fiction, has spoken freely of her own troubles with addiction. Our reviewer Sam Dunn wrote, "What drives this novel is how Elizabeth and James confront -- or don't -- the paradox of the Rosie they love with the Rosie they want to strangle."

"Every Last One" (No. 11) by Newsweek columnist Anna Quindlen is a tale of a close-knit family torn apart by depression and violence. The cover art alone may send pangs into a mother's heart.

On the nonfiction list, Kitty Kelley's unauthorized biography "Oprah" (No. 4) has been beaten by "13 Bankers" (No. 3) by Simon Johnson and James Kwak. Johnson and Kwak examine the causes of the recent financial crisis and subsequent bailout while stating their case for a nationalization of banks, apparently striking a stronger chord with readers than gossip about Oprah’s real daddy.

Top Five Hardcover Fiction Bestsellers

1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Putnam: $24.95) The lives of a maid, a cook and a college graduate intertwine in a Mississippi town. Weeks on the list: 48

2. Solar by Ian McEwan (Nan A. Talese: $26.95) A physicist tries to reinvigorate his career (at a colleague’s expense) and save the world. Weeks on the list: 3

3. Imperfect Birds
by Anne Lamott (Riverhead: $25.95) Fraught parents send their teenage daughter to a wilderness rehab program. Weeks on the list: 2

4. Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel (Spiegel & Grau: $24) A Holocaust fable starring a donkey and her monkey companion. Weeks on the list: 1

5.The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan (Disney Hyperion: $17.99) Percy Jackson and his army of demigods battle to stop the Lord of Time. Weeks on the list: 19

Top Five Hardcover Nonfiction Bestsellers

1.The Big Short by Michael Lewis (W.W. Norton: $27.95) How the U.S. economy was driven to collapse by the bond and real estate markets. Weeks on the list: 6

2. Bridge by David Remnick (Knopf: $29.95) The New Yorker editor's telling of the evolution of President Obama reaching back to his fatherless childhood. Weeks on the list:   2

3. 13 Bankers by Simon Johnson and James Kwak (Pantheon: $26.95) A case for nationalization of banks resulting from the financial crisis and subsequent bailout. Weeks on the list: 1

4. Oprah by Kitty Kelley (Crown: $30) A probing account behind the queen of all media’s empire and personal life. Weeks on the list: 1

5. Women Food and God by Geneen Roth (Scribner: $24) The connection between eating and core beliefs that brings fulfillment. Weeks on the list:  3

See the complete bestseller lists after the jump.

Continue reading »

Raj Patel's new economy

Raj PatelThe Value of Nothing

Although Raj Patel has been dealing with macroeconomic issues, his book "The Value of Nothing" takes its title not from an economic principle but from a quote by Oscar Wilde: "Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing." Patel is a London-born academic and activist whose online bio explains that he "has worked for the World Bank and WTO and been tear-gassed on four continents protesting against them."

Tonight, Patel will be on the Colbert Report to talk about his book, which is a critique of markets -- sparks will probably fly. Later this month, the author comes to Los Angeles -- on Jan. 20, he'll be at the L.A. Public Library's Aloud series, which requires reservations but offers its tickets free -- providing value for, of course, nothing.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

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