Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Don't be a (TARGET)

So, I was having a terrific morning. Sitting at the iMac, multigrain flakes before me, last night's episode of Friday Night Lights playing to psych me up for work. Then I get on BART, to find yet another thinly-veiled abstinence poster. It's the usual stuff: "Defend your future...stay away from drinking, drugs, teen sex...only YOU can decide that you matter." The best part? "Don't be a (TARGET)," with a little bullseye. I assume the end of that sentence is "...for Satan's crossbow."

I see this stuff around all the time, and it's definitely part of our national culture now, thanks to Bush, Tommy Thompson, and the Christian right. What bugged me so much this morning, apart from the fact that abstinence-only doesn't work, and that it promotes rampant misinformation, and that it definitely doesn't work unless you at least mention the concept of not having sex, is that I've always been proud of California for being the only state never to take federal funding for abstinence-only education programs. As Planned Parenthood's Mary Jane Wagle wrote in her op-ed to the LA Times a while back, abstinence-only education is like a driver's ed class where the teachers show students scary photos of accidents but never tell them to how to buckle a seatbelt.

But it kind of defeats the purpose if HHS and regressive school districts can take the back door and contract directly with all these unctuously named groups like Teen Esteem and FirstResort. Despite a 2004 California law that mandates comprehensive sex education (including birth control & abortion), the abstinence-only movement is still making gains in places like Fremont, Concord, Mt. Diablo, and Newark (not to mention all over central and southern CA). Hence the poster on BART. It was produced by a non-profit CBO called Await and Find, for which a more appropriate title would be "Await (Three Weeks) and Find (Out if You Got Pregnant)."

On a related topic: did anyone else feel mildly jealous of other teenagers pledging abstinence, like their opportunities for casual sex were so myriad that they had to make a formal, public vow in order to avoid it? When I was sixteen years old I didn't need Teen Esteem to make sure I remained abstinent: I worked on the literary magazine, had a job at the Mall, and played clarinet in a youth orchestra. The whole "not having sex" thing was pretty well taken care of.

That would have been a good slogan for the orchestra, by the way:

"El Camino Youth Symphony: It'll take your kid at least two extra years to get laid."

Friday, December 08, 2006

Badass pt.3

Hotel workers are three days into a hunger strike in the Century corridor at LAX. That is pretty badass, not least because (according to my sources on the ground) they're staged directly outside the Westin LAX restaurant. So guests eating breakfast are looking right out at them, and employees from the hotel are coming out on breaks to support the strikers.

LA recently extended its 1997 minimun wage law to cover the Century corridor by the airport, an unusual and somewhat controversial legislative move. UNITE HERE Local 11 fought hard to get the law passed, and the hotel owners/operators and other business will likely mount a referendum challenge. This hunger strike emphasizes the crying need to enforce that law, and also the workers' need for a seat at the table with airport hotel employers.

I don't have much commentary here, except to call attention to the new ground broken by this minimum wage extension. There's not much legal justification for mandating wages in the private sector for a particular geographic area or industry, though it isn't (in California) specifically prohibited. There are certainly economic and moral arguments for implimenting as wide-ranging a living wage as possible, but the legal dimensions remain murky.

My favorite moment in the press coverage:

"This is discriminating against 12 hotels in a very small part of the city," says Harvey Englander, a lobby consultant to the Los Angeles Hotel Association.

Proponents claim that the ordinance is justified because the airport generates the business for these hotels. But the city's "Staples arena generates business for downtown hotels," counters Mr. Englander. "Does that mean City Council should come in and set their wages and benefits?"

He said it, not us.