• Founder Kamal Keroles is Happy to See Babouch in Good Hands

    • 04/20/2018
    • Terelle Jerricks
    • Dining News
    • Comments are off

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    On April 28, Kamal Keroles and all in the Babouch Moroccan Restaurant family are going to celebrate the restaurant’s 40th anniversary and the passing of the torch to its new owners, Trina Mendoza and Jasiree Fournier.

    Kamal Keroles and his younger brother Youssef Keroles opened Babouch in April 1978. Kamal studied marketing and business administration and his brother culinary arts in San Francisco.

    “We don’t like to drive to work,” Kamal said. “The family lives here and we thought that the competition wouldn’t be as severe here.”

    Kamal said he noticed people in Los Angeles are generally willing to drive to eat at a good Moroccan restaurant.

    “That’s what happened to us when we found a good location,” he said. “People from all around began to come here.”

    Kamal didn’t start off knowing he was going to open a restaurant. The idea of running his own business or becoming a restaurateur wasn’t a foreign idea to him. He noted that many members of his family have gone into business for themselves — businesses ranging from gas stations to restaurants, even a pharmacy.

    Their passion for Moroccan cuisine was born when they worked as apprentices to the great Moroccan Chef Mehdi Ziani, who was the personal chef for Hassan II of Morocco.

    Kamal was born and raised in Egypt. But because of his apprenticeship with Mehdi Ziani, he traveled frequently to Morocco to absorb the culture and bring back authentic décor for his restaurant.

    “Moroccan cuisine is one most popular cuisines in the world behind French, Chinese and possibly Indian cuisines,” Kamal said.

    Kamal counts the years after Babouch first opened as the most exciting.

    “A lot of times we had fundraisers here at Babouch,” he said. “We always wanted to try to get involved in the community with different groups and organizations. That was a lot of fun.”

    Kamal noted that it wasn’t until he added a catering dimension to their services that Babouch became as successful it did.

    He recounted the relationship formed with the former New Figueroa Hotel in Los Angeles, which was known for its Moroccan style décor. Kamal noted that Babouch would receive a lot of requests to hold weddings at their restaurant until it was realized the restaurant couldn’t accommodate 200 guests. The New Figueroa Hotel was often the wedding party’s next destination. But when it discovered that the hotel didn’t have a large kitchen, the wedding party would hire Babouch Moroccan Restaurant to cater the wedding. This happened a few times before the restaurant and the hotel decided to form a partnership.

    The partnership endured for 10 years before the hotel was sold and underwent a complete makeover, moving away from the Moroccan  décor.

    After 40 years of operating Babouch, Kamal said he was extremely happy he was able to hand-off the restaurant to people who love it as he did and would keep it largely the same way. If anything, the new owners, Trina and Jasiree plan  to cast Babouch in the mold of the Hollywood Golden Age film,  Casablanca, in a bid to add an extra layer of romanticism to the restaurant.

    One might say,  they are going to play it again, Sam.

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  • Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention

    On April 26, the YWCA in San Pedro is hosting informational meeting regarding human trafficking and exploitation. Among the panel of speakers who will be presenting and answering questions on this pressing 21st century issue, includes The Coalition to Abolish Slavery Los Angeles taskforce coordinator, Becca Channel and Cherise Charleswell MPH from  Journey Out, a nonprofit organization that helps victims escape lives of sex exploitation and sex trafficking.

    The community, including youths, parents and concerned individuals are invited to this educational event. A continental breakfast will be served at the start of the event followed by an hour and half long program.

     

    Time: 7:30a.m., April 26

    Cost: Free

    Details: ywcaharbor.org

    Venue: 437 W. 9th Street, San Pedro

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  • Talk on Surviving Capitalism in the Trump Era at Occidental College

    Economist Richard Wolff returns to Los Angeles to discuss the divisive crisis of capitalism under President Donald Trump and to outline better solutions. Author of Capitalism’s Crisis Deepens: Essays on the Global Economic Meltdown and Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism.

     

    Time: 7 p.m. April 23

    Cost: $12.50 to $25

    Details: tinyurl.com/Richard-Wolfe

    Venue:  Occidental College, Choi Auditorium, 1600 Campus Road, Los Angeles

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  • Garcetti Finally Calls for Action on Homeless Crisis

    • 04/19/2018
    • James Preston Allen
    • At Length
    • Comments are off

    City Council passes ordinances but will they actually find the courage to act?

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    Fresh from milking political cows in Iowa, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on April 16 gave his annual State of the City address at City Hall. These usually pro-forma speeches are often less than inspiring. This one was a little different. Maybe he was inspired by his better angels, or perhaps more likely by the number of unsheltered Angelenos and the related issue of scarce affordable housing. These circumstances have grown to a size that can’t be put off any longer, the mayor laid out the long awaited vision of a solution — building emergency shelters and adding beds to existing ones for the homeless. This  new call was one where more platitudes and hand-wringing were absent. Instead, Garcetti brought two ordinances before the city council the very next morning.

    In his State of the City address, Garcetti said:

    The cost of inaction is too great. Because when people get left behind, everyone pays for it. Still, there are Angelenos, like so many Americans, who are working harder and longer for less. They can’t save enough to retire, or see their kids off to college… They are frustrated by rising rents, and worried about making ends meet. It speaks to LA’s incredible creativity that the Tesla Model X was designed here… But we also have families sleeping in their cars. We have the best culinary scene in America… But there are people who will go hungry in our city tonight. I’ve often said that we won’t be judged by what we say today, but by what we do tomorrow.

    While it has only taken the mayor four years since the prospect of tiny homes lining the streets of San Pedro was exaggerated into a countywide fight over homelessness,  Garcetti now appears to have mustered the courage to confront the NIMBY fears. He has stopped short of calling on every department of the city to take action, which he should have. Instead, he called on every city council person to take responsibility. We will see exactly what Councilman Joe Buscaino does now in the 15th District to embrace Garcetti’s vision.

    Those who remember Buscaino’s failed Homeless Task Force will recall that it was used to stall the initiatives of the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council and intimidate others from addressing this most crucial “issue of our times.” You will also notice that for all of the hot air coming out of the council office about development, there hasn’t been one affordable housing unit built in San Pedro for five years and the homeless encampment at the U.S. Post Office on Beacon Street has not dwindled.

    Garcetti wants to give every council district $1.3 million for emergency shelters and I would like to invite him to come to San Pedro so that we can show him where these could be placed and challenge all seven of the neighborhood councils in Council District 15 to designate at least one parcel of public land on which to place one of these emergency shelters. What I can tell you is that this relatively small commitment can be matched by LA County services. Our faith communities and our network of nonprofits that have struggled for years with feeding the homeless, helping the addicted, the mentally ill and domestic violence victims, would embrace a cure.

    What I am suggesting is that the greater Harbor Area community — and the rest of Los Angeles, for that matter, already has most of the infrastructure for the services and support as well as vacant land for this purpose. What we haven’t had is the courage of leadership to face this crisis. Perhaps now we will.

    Bringing them Home

    The solution, as difficult as it is, entails both reason without guilt and aspiration to rise above small politics to solve this most basic human condition.  The core question is, when do you want to do it? We can start now, we can wait until later or we can pretend that we can postpone it for 10 years while we build permanent housing. Obviously the latter is just kicking the can down the road.

    Here’s the rationale for supporting the mayor’s current plan: Emergency shelters could be quickly set up like triage centers to sort out the needs and issues of the homeless. Sanitation facilities can be set up, social service and health care workers brought in to provide centralized care and referrals.  In the beginning, Los Angeles’ neighborhood councils should be charged with locating within their 97 districts unutilized properties that are outside of the main business districts and don’t impact residential areas but are close enough to transit lines and services. Obviously, some compromises will need to be made but this should be done at the local level.

    By providing safe, sanitary and secure places for our urban campers and people living in cars to live off of public streets we can then begin the process of making them less homeless.  Communities should be prepared for these facilities to be active for at least three to five years, but in the meantime the city should be working on interim shelter. This is where the tiny homes, modified containers and small construction units should be considered while the permanent housing solution slogs its way through the zoning, permitting and financing maze. This is the only way to start working on this problem now rather than later.

    In many communities across this nation, the small homes movement has taken hold successfully to stabilize homeless people, create community and solve urban blight. Likewise architects and designers have created a multitude of concepts for small dwelling units that are far more cost effective (and some quite attractive) than standard construction. They can be built and placed onsite in a couple of months rather than years. This could begin the process of taking hundreds of souls off of our streets while creating a pipeline to sustainable housing rather than a revolving door to homelessness.

    And for those who object that we are giving something to people for “free.” All I can say is that the cost of doing nothing now is only going to multiply the costs of doing nothing later.  It costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $35,000 every time the sanitation and police are called out to do a “cleanup.”  It costs thousands of dollars every time we arrest a homeless person on quality of life warrants and even more if we take them to the emergency room for medical care. Just think of the wasted time our police spend playing “social worker” and not addressing more pressing crime issues.

    If we really want our neighborhoods to be safer, healthier and better places to live, we need to bring the homeless out of the cold and start treating them as neighbors who are down and out.  I personally invite the Mayor Garcetti to come visit the Harbor Area so that we can start a pilot project.  I call upon all of the neighborhood councils to come prepared with their solutions.

    The time has come for a cure, not more divisions!

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  • White Point Nature Preserve Honors Earth Day

    • 04/19/2018
    • Reporters Desk
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Joan Nielsen, RLn Contributing Writer

    Walk around winding trails over three acres, breathing in the wonderful scents of native plants like sages and poppies and lilac verbena, all the while reading descriptions of these blooms, butterflies and local birds.

    The White Point Nature Preserve was featured on the 15th Anniversary Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour. Sharing this native landscape helps inspire greater understanding about what is possible for native gardens to create a healthy and resilient Los Angeles.

    The White Point Nature Preserve features three acres of a 102-acre native preserve of conservancy-restored coastal sage scrub habitat. The preserve includes hiking and handicap accessible trails with amazing views of the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island. The Nature Education Center is former a World War II military bunker. Concrete was used from that period to build seating for visitors. A courtyard sundial shows the solstice and equinox set in stones on the ground and a bioswale captures rain. This preserve fulfills a critical need for open space and urban parkland for the Los Angeles  Basin.

    Take a self-guided tour and learn about the Tongva, the Native Americans Indians who were the first to inhabit the Los Angeles coastal basin as seafaring traders.

    The Tongva nation is represented throughout the demonstration gardens, which show their connection to native plant life in four garden themes.  The north garden represents rituals like music, noting flutes made from the sambucus tree. The east garden is the edible garden, with strawberries, blackberries and cherries. The south garden represents structural life, like willow trees used to build houses. The west garden represents medicine via plants with healing properties, like mugwort.

    Now go inside the Nature Education Center and watch as a night camera video captures a sleek silver fox the size of a small dog sniffing around and suddenly climbing up a tree like a cat to hunt for bird nests.

    The land conservancy offers educational programs for the community and field trips for local and school children. Activities at the Nature Education Center include monthly nature walks, special presentations, bird walks, children’s story times, volunteer opportunities and field trips for the public. The center is staffed by trained naturalists and filled with interactive exhibits about the fascinating history of the area. Learn about the history of the White Point area from prehistoric times replete with dinosaur bones to present day local flora and fauna like wild grasses and wild beasts. There are beautiful examples of local birds that call White Point home, like California gnatcatchers, white-capped sparrows, spotted towhees, red-tailed hawks and big white owls. You can even learn to identify animals and avians by their scat (that’s poop, kids).

    Just imagine this — a tiny hummingbird flies so high he almost disappears in the sky then suddenly dive bombs toward you like a fighter pilot, pulling up short and motionless right in front of your eyes.

    White Point Earth Day activities:

    The Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy invites the community to join a special Earth Day celebration and film screening April 21.

    The two-part event will begin with an outdoor volunteer day and a choice of family activities, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the White Point Nature Preserve, 1600 W. Paseo del Mar, San Pedro, followed by a free screening of the acclaimed documentary Jane at 5 p.m. the Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. 6th St. in San Pedro.

    Details: www.pvplc.org

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  • Urban Farms

    • 04/19/2018
    • Terelle Jerricks
    • News
    • Comments are off

    Building Intimacy and Connection One Garden at a Time

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    Feed and Be Fed is the organization that manages the garden on 6th Street in San Pedro.  Originally, it was managed by the Garden Church — in fact, Sunday services are still conducted in the garden lot. But little more than a year ago, the Garden Church decided to step away from managing the garden and create a community interface that was secular in nature. From this idea, Feeding to be Fed was founded.

    Peter Rothe, president of Feeding to be Fed’s board of directors, said the nonprofit’s roots and enduring links in the Garden Church have sustained a philosophy of compassion as part of its mission.

    “When you’re involved in a project such as this, you aren’t just giving, you are also receiving a deep satisfying experience yourself,” Rothe noted. “It is the connection made that is the reward. We grow plants here, but the most important thing here is the involvement and the engagement of the community.”

    Rothe said connections are made through being and working in the garden and thinking about the environmental impacts of raising food on a small scale.

    Feeding to Be Fed

    Lara Hughey was the lead gardener for the church until March 2017, when Feed and Be Fed gained its nonprofit status and began managing the garden with its all-volunteer staff. But a year after the changeover, Hughey’s influence endures.

    “She definitely set a certain tone,” Rothe said. “Lara did the basic designs of the garden. Without her help, this wouldn’t have been possible.”

    Students from Port of Los Angeles High School and Marymount California University regularly volunteer in the garden. Sometimes up to 100 students come out to volunteer, Rothe explained.

    “On any given day we could see volunteers come to pick or plant vegetables or do some other form of work and never see them again afterward,” Rothe said.

    On a typical Friday, 50-60 people could come through the gates, while on First Thursdays up to 400 people would fill the garden. There’s usually some form of entertainment during the monthly art walk.

    Speaking only for himself, Rothe said he could feel tired after working in the garden, but he never feels bad or sad.

    “There was something basically human about working in the ground, growing food, nurturing something and seeing plants grow,” Rothe explained. “That’s the connection modern people have lost. We have this intuition that nonindustrial peoples somehow have something we don’t have. They have an intimate relationship with their environment. They have an intimate relationship with the source of their food on a very deep level. You don’t have to believe in metaphysics. You don’t have believe in a God to understand that relationships and intimacy [are] …  good for you as an individual and for us as a community. We’re modeling a certain kind of sustainability we feel should be a part of the future.”

    Rothe doesn’t believe industrial farming will ever disappear, but he sees long-term viability in urban farming and the system that Feeding to Be Fed is modeling.

    An example of the linkages provided by an urban farm is the symbiotic relationship between  Pappy’s Seafood restaurant and the 6th Street Farmer’s Market that happens every Friday.

    Greg Morena at Pappys gives them vegetable clippings for composting and they sell him fresh vegetables and herbs. And it all happens without a carbon footprint such as use of a vehicle to deliver the produce or compost. Between Pappy’s Seafood and the farmer’s market, Feeding to Be Fed is composting 250 pounds of organic matter per week.

    Rothe would like to grow larger and spread to other sites in San Pedro and include more restaurants. But for now, he said Feeding to Be Fed is doing just fine making do with the space it has.

    Joanna Appleseed

    A documentary filmmaker and consultant by trade, who helped print and radio newsrooms turn their journalists into one-man teams collecting and editing their own audio and visuals, Lara Hughey said she was a frustrated home gardener her whole entire adult life when she moved to San Pedro in 2008 from Brooklyn.

    She recalled feeling that all she wanted to do was grow tomatoes like her grandma did at the family home in Oklahoma, when young Lara would spend summer days sitting in the tomato patch eating tomatoes.

    So Hughey sought every opportunity to plant a garden. She could have just planted one in her yard and called it day. But she required more pasture to till. Hughey designed and installed some private gardens for people who hired her. She eventually created a demonstration garden at Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles. Then she was invited to design the 6th Street garden lot and  subsequently invited to become the Garden Church’s lead gardener when it first took over management of the downtown San Pedro lot.

    More than a year ago, an angel donor purchased the vacant land at the corner of 14th and Mesa streets. A private farm existed intermittently between 2012 up until the time Hughey received the purchased land to turn into a fully functioning urban farm under the nonprofit Green Girl Farms.

    The 14th and Mesa lot is 5,000 square feet, and by Hughey’s estimation, only 1,000 square feet is being farmed. She said by the end of summer 2018, the entire 5,000 square feet will be in production.

    As this point, Green Girl Farms is growing sugar snap peas (because everyone loves them), Swiss chard, fennel and tomatoes, cucumbers, leeks, cauliflower, two kinds of kale, broccoli, fava beans and beets of different colors. Hughey recited all the vegetables and herbs that were growing as though ticking off a Saturday morning grocery list. Green Girl Farms’ mission is to create a local food system in San Pedro by creating edible gardens out of empty spaces, then making the food available through local produce stands. The other half of what she does is education and she’s been doing it for the past 10 years.

    Before Green Girl Farms, Hughey would stick gardens in people’s yards and containers. When she moved to San Pedro with her family she enrolled her eldest son into the San Pedro Cooperative Nursery School. There she discovered big metal bins that were designed to have plants.

    “It’s a coop where parents have to contribute volunteer hours as a condition for enrolling their children,” Hughey said.

    She recalled volunteering to be the gardener before anyone else could. They told her they needed someone to do the laundry.

    “I can do the laundry and be the gardener,” she replied.

    The experience of working with your children in a general setting opened her eyes. What she witnessed was connection. In this case, the children’s connection to the natural world around them and the food they eat.

    “It was just the way the children were interacting with aspects of gardening,” she said. “They were finding the lady bugs and they were thrilled with the flowers and they never saw a yellow tomato before. It was eye-opening in a way that couldn’t be placed in a text book. They were getting so much more out of it.”

    Hughey continued to find connection and a level intimacy through gardening not found in today’s typical transaction types of relationships.

    Case in point: when Hughey began cultivating a square patch of earth in front of her house, she planted a tomato plant. She later customized the plot with a trellis and a little white fence around the square. Then she added other little plants around the original tomato plant. After awhile, neighbors walking by would ask her about gardening. She got enough of these questions that she figured she would learn how to do it. So, she took a 13-week course to earn a master gardener certificate in 2012. She has since gained the life time status as a master gardener after contributing 1,000 volunteer hours educating people about gardening.

    A steady stream of volunteers come through Green Girl Farms, steadily harvesting and planting. Homeschooled children to adults of all shapes are welcomed. She said she intentionally keeps the prices as low as possible.

    Back when she was growing more food than she could eat, Hughey learned about the vegetable stand that community activist Rachel Bruhnke started several years ago. Bruhnke led the charge several years ago to spur the growth of urban farms and gardens following the Occupy Movement in 2011. A part of the work was creating distribution networks for locally-grown fresh produce. By the time Hughey came around, Bruhnke had moved on to other related endeavors. She is running for the California District 70 Assembly in the June 5 primary elections.

    She has also been looking into veteran health and the role gardening could play in rehabilitating veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

    “People aren’t born messed up,” she said. “They are twisted that way by life’s circumstances.”

    She hopes that if she’s elected, she could work on the adjusting the tax code to incentivise the establishment of community gardens and homeowners that transform their homes to have a zero percent carbon imprint.”

    Bruhnke helped Hughey get the old vegetable stand in front of the Corner Store.

    The Candidate

    “There’s something about the land and being in touch with it and defending it and working it, and having access to it,” Bruhnke said. “That’s very empowering and it has a ripple effect because it is all connected.”

    Bruhnke is a lefty through-and-through and is generally anti-any-system that perpetuates injustice and inequality. It’s the reason why she’s been involved in the local movement against the Iraq war. It’s why she supported the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. It’s also why she was at the forefront in extending the occupy movement plank to include urban farms and she started by first building an urban farm in her own front and backyards. From there, she helped establish vegetable garden at the Rancho San Pedro public housing and launch the original vegetable stand at the Corner Store in the White Point neighborhood and volunteered in the early days of the Garden Church. She’s no longer as active in directly establishing urban farms and gardens  as she once was, but that doesn’t mean she’s disappeared either.

    “I changed direction,” Bruhnke said. “I was … planting seeds as you put it. Like Muhammad Ali, I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. I definitely moved around various things because that was where the wind was blowing and opportunities came up around that time,” Bruhnke explained.

    In 2012, Bruhnke got deeply involved in former Vice President Al Gore’s climate reality leadership program in Chicago and focused her attention on the Western transference of oil and all it had to do with the Harbor Area. She was still planting seeds and getting kids excited about agriculture through her teaching career at Port of Los Angeles High School. She founded the school’s annual Port of Los Angeles High School’s Green Festival.

    Today, however, she is the Green Party’s candidate running against Democratic incumbent Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell.

    In her words, she’s running because he’s sitting. Not because he’s particularly doing a bad job.

    Bruhnke has ton of ideas she hopes to work on if elected. A major plank in her platform has to do with land reform involving housing and altering the district’s approach to land use. Her ideas are derived from her travels and studies in Latin America where land redistribution is a viable option.

    Bruhnke has been eying the empty lot on 9th Street across from the YWCA, which has lain empty for the past 15 years. In bringing up the lot, she was pointing to the potential of that property’s ability to solve real community problems.

    “How is it possible that you have the YWCA with poor women and children right across from empty land?” Bruhnke asked, rhetorically. “They could be growing vegetables on it. Just down the street from them is the Anderson Senior Center, where you have seniors who need to be engaged. There are some who still remember having to cultivate victory gardens during World War II.”

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  • Trump’s Dark Shadow on Earth Day

    • 04/19/2018
    • Paul Rosenberg
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    From rolling back regulations to silencing scientists and opening up public lands for private exploitation, the Trump administration’s attacks on the environment are unprecedented in the modern era. Just pulling out of the  2015 Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation (announced by Trump on June 1 this past year) and withdrawing the Clean Power Plan (announced by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt Oct. 11) would be enough to mark it as the most environmentally destructive administration since Rachel Carson’s  book Silent Spring helped launch the modern environmental movement in 1962. So would another unprecedented act: slashing the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments by roughly 2 million acres — the first size-reduction since 1962.

    “Republican administrations in the past have been more pro-business,” David Pettit, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council told Random Lengths News. “But now, I think Pruitt, I assume with Trump’s blessing, has taken us to a different level of just outright destructiveness.” But those serious environmental assaults have recently been overshadowed by a rash of high-profile scandals involving Pruitt (more on them below)—and those are only the most high-profile examples out of a countless flood of destructive actions.

    “We at NRDC, I was reading yesterday, the count is up to 58 lawsuits against the Trump administration over rollbacks,” Pettit said. “Eight have gone to judgment and we won all of them.”  There are far too many specific actions to cover in a single story, but they can be grasped, at least roughly, by examining the narratives used to promote, justify, excuse or deny what is actually being done.

    During the 2016 campaign, Trump’s environmental views were best expressed in two phony false narratives—a blame-shifting one, attacking climate change by calling it a “Chinese hoax,” and a credit-stealing narrative, claiming to be an award-winning environmentalist.

    Typically, Trump never even pretended to bother with evidence for either of his claims.  But—as Politico reported in May 2016, Trump actually believes global warming is real—at least when it threatened to erode his seaside golf resort in County Clare, Ireland. So, global warming is real when it threatens Trump’s property, but it’s “a Chinese hoax,” when that narrative helps him politically.

    As for environmental awards, Golf Digest fact-checked a similar award claim in a 2014 interview. “Donald Trump’s environmental record when it comes to golf could hardly be worse,” filmmaker Anthony Baxter—who did two documentaries on the subject—told them.

    No wonder Trump’s so short on specific details. In Trump’s universe, lack of evidence is a feature, not a bug. Sweeping narratives with superlative claims have emotional power that details would only drag down—even if they weren’t so lopsidedly against him. At the EPA, Pruitt has followed suit with his “back to basics” narrative, falsely implying that the EPA has somehow strayed from its original purpose, and that Pruitt is somehow saving the agency as well as the environment, when he’s actually doing his best to decimate them both.  As laid out in the EPA’s year-end review, Pruitt’s “‘back-to-basics agenda’ centered on returning EPA to its proper role via three objectives:

    1) Refocusing the agency back to its core mission

    2) Restoring power to the states through cooperative federalism

    3) Adhering to the rule of law and improving agency processes”

    But none of these “objectives” corresponds with objective reality. The first simply restates the core false claim. If it means anything, it should mean more basic enforcement actions to protect clean air and water. “Enforcement actions have dropped significantly since Pruitt came on board,” Pettit said. “It’s hard to say you really care about cleaning up Superfund sites in clean air and clean water, when you’re not in the field doing what needs to be done to find those sites and clean them up.”
    First-year statistics released in early February showed enforcement levels at a 10-year low, at least, with a 20 percent decline in new civil cases and a 30 percent decline in new criminal cases.

    Pruitt’s EPA did claim an increase in criminal penalties, but as NBC noted: “Of the $2.98 billion in total criminal fines in fiscal year 2017, $2.8 billion came from Volkswagen’s penalties for cheating on emissions tests, which the company agreed to shortly before Trump took office.”

    More broadly, Pruitt has taken three major actions to roll back clean air and clean water regulations. Withdrawing the Clean Power Plan not only weakens efforts to reduce climate change, it also enables other forms of continued pollution. According to a pre-Trump EPA fact sheet, the plan benefits include:

    • By 2030, emissions of sulfur dioxide from power plants will be 90 percent lower compared to 2005 levels, and emissions of nitrogen oxide will be 72 percent lower.
    • Because these pollutants can create dangerous soot and smog, the historically low levels mean we will avoid thousands of premature deaths and mean thousands fewer asthma attacks and hospitalizations in 2030 and every year beyond.

    These are exactly the sorts of key clean air protections which Pruitt claims to be focused on protecting. Instead, he’s doing his best to throw them out. In a second action, Pruitt has withdrawn the mid-term evaluation of mileage standards for light-duty vehicles for model years 2022 to 2025. The standards were set in 2012, primarily focused on greenhouse gases, with a mid-term review for potential fine-tuning.  That review, completed just before Trump took office, found that the costs of vehicle compliance would be substantially less than initially projected, while benefits remained far larger. New cars would save owners almost $4,000 compared to current models, on average, because fuel savings will far outweigh the car’s new technology costs. And the air would be cleaner as well.

    A third Pruitt action suspended the Obama-era Clean Water Rule (aka “ Waters of the United States”)  for two years, in order to repeal and replace it with a much looser industry-friendly version that would do substantially less to protect clean water. Pruitt’s rationale was that there was “litigation,” which he himself had helped start, producing “regulatory uncertainty.” So, to combat uncertainty, he’s introduced a whole new level of uncertainty never seen before.

    As Environmental Defense Fund Senior Vice President David Festa wrote last September, “If any agency action could be withdrawn solely due to pending or potential litigation and ‘regulatory uncertainty’ — a catch phrase of this administration — our nation’s regulatory structures would be in constant flux, lack rigor and lose factual and scientific basis.” It’s hard to imagine how uncertainty could get any higher than it would if Trump and Pruitt got their way.

    The second claimed objective — restoring power to the states — flies in the face of widespread state-level conflict with Pruitt’s actions. Most pointedly: California has historically had the power to set its own fuel-economy standards, which other states can also adopt. Pruitt wants that to end, because California refuses to go along with Pruitt’s roll-back of the midterm review discussed above.

    “As attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt filed a number of cases [14] against the EPA. The theory behind a lot of them was that the states had the power to do something that’s weaker than what the EPA wanted them to do, Pettit said. “Now his position is, well, the states don’t have the power to do anything stronger than what EPA wants,” he said.
    Another Trump/Pruitt priority was rolling back the Clean Power Plan, which had target levels specifically tailored on a state-by-state basis, and gave states wide leeways on how to meet those goals.

    This Baracl Obama-era rule devoted enormous time and resources to the goal of providing states with planning frameworks fitted to their specific needs—just the sort of thing that Pruitt rhetorically claims is a key concern of his. But if he really believes in it, then why destroy so much work done to achieve it? The third claimed object —“Adhering to the rule of law and improving agency processes”— is an even more ludicrous joke.

    As Pettit’s earlier comments suggest, Pruitt’s rule-making process has been abysmally shoddy. And Pettit is hardly alone.
    “While Sierra Club and other organizations are suing Pruitt over his often clumsily illegal short-circuiting of properly established safeguards, his delays will harm the very people he is supposed to be protecting,” the Sierra Club’s Bill Corcoran told Random Lengths. Corcoran is Western Regional Campaign Director for the Beyond Coal Campaign.

    “Pruitt has illegally rushed actions to remove clean air and clean water protections, especially to benefit his fossil fuel industry clientele,” Corcoran said. “From mercury in the air, to coal ash waste in water, to the dangerous agricultural poison chlorpyrifos, which harms the brains of children, Pruitt has put the lie to his claims that he is returning the agency to its original mission.”

    “They’ve done some really dumb things, legally,” Pettit said. “With federal regulations, procedurally you’re very constrained by the Federal Administrative Procedure Act.… Pruitt came in and said, ‘Well we’re going to put this on hold, we’re going to put these methane rules on hold, we’re going to stop doing the ozone designations,’ without any process, he just wrote it down on a piece of paper.”

    So NRDC and others sued. “Those are some of the wins, where the court said, ‘You can’t do this, come on. Maybe you can change the regulation, sure. But you have to go through the whole process, notice and comment, put your reasons out there, that takes nine months or a year or something, and they wanted to get stuff done like right away.”
    That was the problem in a nutshell: sweeping promises versus the requirements of law. So much for the sweeping promise of “adhering to the rule of law and improving agency processes.”

    The narrative frames discussed above are hardly exhaustive. Consider, for example, Pruitt’s oft-stated claim to be “saving money” through “regulatory roll-back,” which was echoed institutionally in the EPA’s “year-end review:”

    “In year one, EPA finalized 22 deregulatory actions, saving Americans more than $1 billion in regulatory costs.”

    This like saying, “abolishing the [Los Angeles Police Department] would save LA residents $1.2 billion in crime control costs,” as if there were no benefits from crime control.

    “Whenever new regulation comes out of EPA, there’s a cost-benefit analysis,” Pettit said. Ignoring the lost benefits seriously misrepresents the “savings.” Benefits have to outweigh costs at multiple policy/decision levels. A 2011 EPA study projected that clean air programs established by the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments would most like produce a $2 trillion benefit — exceeding costs by 30-1. Or, consider a more visceral example: Yes, it cost billions of dollars to put seatbelts and airbags into cars, but millions of Americans are alive and well today as a result. Car companies fought those safety regulations tooth-and-nail for years. Now they advertise them. In the long run, everyone wins—even those who fought so hard against it.
    But this particular misleading narrative hides a variety of different sins. One links up with Trump’s “Chinese hoax” claim, which he waved off as a joke in a Fox and Friends interview, even as he doubled down, claiming, “this is done for the benefit of China, because China does not do anything to help climate change,”

    A decade ago, it might have been credible. But not anymore. During the 2000s, China suffered as many as 750,000 premature deaths due to dirty air. Today China’s become a leading investor in renewable energy, exactly the opposite of what Trump claims.

    “The U.S. seems to be abrogating our opportunity to lead the world markets in clean energy and electric vehicles and just hand that leadership to the Chinese, for nothing,” Pettit noted. “I’m sure the Chinese are happy and incredulous that we would be dumb enough to do that, but that’s what I see happening.”

    But even companies making fossil fuel engines have been damaged by Pruitt, who reversed an Obama-era rule to protect a single small manufacturer of “gliders”—truck chassis, that can be put into service with dirty engines, not subject to new vehicle regulations. “The big truck manufacturers hate this whole thing,” Pettit said, because they’re pouring tremendous resources into new cleaner-burning engines, and competing with the dirtiest vehicles imaginable. But that one manufacturer made the right political connections, in line with another narrative Pruitt loves to invoke—“consulting with stakeholders.”

    Indeed, a Reuters analysis, found that “Pruitt met with representatives of the industries EPA regulates at least 105 times from Feb. 22 to Aug. 10 of last year, making up about 77 percent of his total meetings,” of which roughly half were “representatives of the oil, gas, coal and mining industries,” according to calendar records, “But Pruitt met only four times with environmental groups eager to see the EPA limit pollution.” Here’s his defense:

    Pruitt, a former attorney general of Oklahoma, said through a spokesman that he does not spend any time with polluters. “I prosecute polluters. What I’m spending time with are stakeholders who care about outcomes,” he said.

    It must be comforting to live in a world where the oil, gas, coal and mining industries don’t pollute the environment.  But, then you have to wonder, who does?

    “Stakeholders who care about outcomes,” sounds so much nicer than “polluters.” It’s truly a classic bogus narrative.
    There are rumors that Pruitt may be about to be fired, not because of anything reported above, but because of an avalanche of scandals, which many in the media have presented as having nothing to do with his policy agenda. But that narrative, too, is utterly bogus.

    On her April 5 show, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow presented an opposite view, focused on a trip Pruitt took to Morocco to lobby for that country to import liquid natural gas from the United States—something well outside his range of duties. The US has only one LNG exporter, Cheniere Energy, and an old Trump crony, Carl Icahn, is a major Cheniere shareholder. When Trump decided to appoint Pruitt to the EPA, he first required him to meet Icahn personally to get his OK. Yes, the trip was extravagant, costing around $40,000 for first-class airfare and accommodations for Pruitt and his unprecedented “security team” (total cost around $3 million so far), with a two-day stop in Paris and just one day in Morocco. But it’s very purpose was to do a favor for a Trump crony whom Pruitt should have been regulating as a producer in the U.S., not running sales errands for abroad. It also tied into another Pruitt scandal—his $50 per night condo room rental deal, co-owned by the wife of an energy lobbyist. You guessed it: his firm represents Cheniere Energy.

    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, has written to Pruitt Tuesday seeking more information. He’s looking more broadly at the vast web of connections Pruitt has with the oil and gas industries, and how this action—so far outside his job description—fits so well into that picture.
    Pruitt’s expensive obsessions with first-class travel, his “security team,” his housing bargain, his $43,000 soundproof phone booth may all seem like unrelated scandals to most of the media covering him, but as Maddow’s reporting suggests—along with Whitehouse’s inquiry—there may be far more connection lurking beneath the surface than anyone has even dreamed of. The dominant narrative that these scandals aren’t policy-related may well have shielded Pruitt from far more damaging scrutiny than he’s received so far.
    Environmentalists care about the environment and its human health impacts, environmental lawyers care about environmental law. Both are heavily focused on the world of facts. But Trump and Pruitt’s attacks on the environment are overwhelmingly based on narratives, meant to bury facts. Defeating their destructive impact will require a different way of thinking by all who care about protecting the environment that sustains us all.

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  • “Richard III” Is Not Elysium’s Finest Hour

    Elysium Conservatory Theatre has a good thing going. Under the redoubtable guidance of Aaron Ganz, their dramatic smorgasbords of movement, music and lighting overflow with energy, immersing the audience in the action and taking full advantage of the beautiful multi-room performance space they are blessed to occupy. I’ve liked everything they’ve done, and because of the obvious amount of work and thought that goes into each show, I want to like everything they do.

    Unfortunately, with Richard III the pieces don’t come together. Ganz’s conception seems adrift in a limbo between a traditionalist take on Shakespeare and the idiosyncratic Elysium treatment they gave Romeo & Juliet exactly one year ago, with too little of either to create a successful whole.

    Granted, even the most well executed of conceptions was going to be hard-pressed to make me love Richard III, a convoluted and implausible play even by Shakespearean standards (which is saying something) and nowhere near one of the Bard’s best. But one of the primary problems with this production is that it’s flat-out confusing. Although I don’t know Richard III like I know Romeo & Juliet or Hamlet, I’ve seen it at least three times, yet this time around I had no idea what was going on. Two contributing factors are the costuming and casting.

    Ganz has gone minimal, putting everyone in black, with minor distinguishing details (armbands, streaks of makeup) that are more about style than helping us keep things straight. On top of that, almost all of the actors play multiple roles, usually without altering their costumes at all. Add to the mix women playing both male and female roles in a play where several characters go by multiple names and are part of an incredibly tangled web of relationships—plus, they sometimes come back as ghosts—and I watched several scenes play out without knowing who was who or how they fit into the plot. (And remember, I’ve reviewed this play before.)

    On top of all of this, as often as not I could not make out what anybody was saying. Of the several rooms in the Elysium theatre complex, Richard III is staged in the biggest, and that may have been a miscalculation. It’s a wonderful, cavernous, cement space. It makes for beautiful echoes, but when you’re trying to follow Shakespeare’s rapid-fire dialog—especially in the play where he most violates the “show, don’t tell” dictum—those echoes work against you.

    But that didn’t have to be as big of a problem as it is. It’s a given that, unless you’ve really studied the Shakespeare play you’re seeing, you’re not going to understand all of the dialog anyway. But the best Shakespeare provides sufficient context (via acting, blocking, set design, etc.) for the passably literate layperson to follow along without following every word. Unfortunately, we aren’t given much context. For such a kinetic troupe, Elysium’s Richard III feels pretty static, with lots of exchanges between characters standing stock still and far apart, drawing our attention to the empty space when we should notice only the characters. What movement we get mostly veers between gratuitous and abstract, neither of which really helps us keep track of the action.

    As for the acting, a lot of the cast’s energy (Elysium always, always brings the energy) feels misspent. There’s probably too much histrionics and not enough modulation in delivery. That, along with too little variance in the pacing, leaves both scene arcs and the overall dramatic arc feeling like flat lines.

    There are a few highlights. The group acapellas are gorgeous and haunting, and there much of lighting design is beautiful, helping give Clarence’s death—clearly one of the show’s best scenes—a poetic edge. At least I think it was Clarence’s death. Like I said, I was often lost, and Ganz’s adaptation of the script—including infusions from Richard II and Henry V—didn’t help me find my way.

    Unlike with everything else I’ve seen by Elysium, this time I neither understood nor related to what they’re going for. So maybe it’s me. All I can say is that if you see Richard III and don’t like it, don’t give up on Elysium Conservatory Theatre. I’ve never enjoyed Romeo & Juliet as much as I did theirs, and their Three Sisters was the best Chekhov I’ve seen. Ganz and company have proven they can do great work. Maybe they just can’t win ‘em all.

     

    More Info on Richard III:

    Time: Thurs-Sat 8pm; Sun 7pm through April 29

    Cost: $18–$25 •

    Details:  (424) 535-7333, fearlessartists.org

    Venue: Elysium Conservatory Theatre, 729 S Palos Verdes St., San Pedro

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  • Welcome to the Neighborhood: PacFAB Museum

    • 04/11/2018
    • Reporters Desk
    • Culture
    • Comments are off

    An unusual new museum has just opened its doors in San Pedro. The nonprofit Pacific Food & Beverage Museum, also known as PacFAB, has a permanent space for its collection in San Pedro, led by President Philip Dobard.

    PacFAB has been offering culinary talks, mixology seminars, and curated dinners to the residents of Southern California since the summer of 2013. Now, PacFAB, including The Museum of the American Cocktail, has a permanent home of its own. Director Tracey Mitchell said PacFAB will showcase the work of those who have shaped, and continue to shape, our nation’s cuisine — from California and the American west, to the Pacific Rim and beyond, examining the past, present, and future of food and drink.

    The Museum of the American Cocktail, also known as MOTAC, is a non-profit museum dedicated to raising awareness and respect for the American cocktail, advancing the profession of bartending and expanding consumer knowledge of mixology. Founded by craft cocktail pioneer Dale DeGroff and a group of eminent cocktail authorities out of New Orleans, this new museum is led by Dobard and will provide educational resources to professionals and enthusiasts in the fine art of crafting the cocktail through seminars and programs conducted by experts from locations across the country and globe.

    Details: www.natfab.org/pacific-food-and-beverage

    Venue: 731 S. Pacific Ave., San Pedro

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  • If You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Know

    • 04/11/2018
    • Richard Foss
    • Cuisine
    • Comments are off

    Secret Menu Specialties at Neil’s Pasta and Seafood

    By Richard Foss, Dining and Cuisine Writer

     My friends make fun of me because I usually don’t know what I’m going to order at a restaurant until our server is standing there with a notepad. I have heard many variations of, “You’d think that as much as you dine out, you’d be decisive by now.” But I shrug it off every time. No matter how much I read the menu, I rarely know how a place operates until I talk to the server.

    This isn’t just because servers probably know the daily specials, what the kitchen does best, or what the cooks are out of. If I’m lucky, servers also tell me about the secret items that make dining at their restaurant really worthwhile.

    I’ll give you an example. My friend, John, bugged me for years to visit Neil’s Pasta and Seafood Grill in San Pedro.  But I never made the time. The menu on the website looked generic; nothing made it stand out from the other Italian places in the area. Ultimately, it was John, himself, who got me to Neil’s Pasta and Seafood Grill. Curious about what he saw in the place, I finally joined him there.

    When it came time to order, Neil himself came out of the kitchen. I asked him where in Italy he grew up. He answered Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples, so I asked him to bring things that were typical of that cuisine.

    Neil grinned, asked if I had any food restrictions, then headed into the kitchen and went to work. I had no idea what was going to come out, but I was sure it was going to be the best thing he could cook. We waited while enjoying some good bread that was served with a mix of mascarpone cheese and marinara; I found the combination slightly odd but kept nibbling.

    The first thing to arrive was a rabbit salad that isn’t on the menu, but apparently is often available. The roasted meat had been shredded and tossed with potatoes, arugula, tomato, and onion in a zesty herb dressing. It was delicious. Later, I looked up the cuisine of Ischia and found that my rabbit salad is one of the island’s signature dishes. Ischia instantly jumped several notches higher on my list of tourist destinations.

    Soup is included with dinner, and we chose lobster bisque and minestrone.  Both were less robust than typical Southern Italian dishes. As it turns out, this is characteristic Ischian spicing, which is appropriate for a region specializing in seafood with modestly accented natural flavors.

    An example of this arrived next, a plate of scallops with orange segments in a Grand Marnier cream sauce. The touch of liqueur added depth to a sauce that otherwise might have crossed the line into blandness, and it was a sound pairing with the seafood. Green beans and roasted potato rounded out the plate. It was a substantial meal.

    That light touch didn’t work as well with bucatini Amatriciana because that dish of pasta tossed with guanciale (peppery smoked pork) in tomato-based sauce is usually spiked with a substantial dash of chili. It originated in the Lazio region near Rome, and the version served here is probably the islander’s local interpretation. The traditional version is thicker and contains more of the melted pork fat, which may be unhealthy by modern standards but punches it with flavor. It was an interesting variation, but I prefer the original.

    We finished with a very good tiramisu and glasses of limoncello, the tart liqueur that is another specialty of the coast. Dinner for two with three glasses of wine ran $127, on the high side for the area but worth it for an unusual experience. Now that I know the secret of negotiating the menu with Neil himself, I’m likely to stop in to try more of the island-style cuisine. I’ll keep asking about secrets and specials everywhere too, just in case it works this well again.

    Neil’s Pasta & Seafood Grill is at 383 W. 5th St., San Pedro. Open midweek 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5  to 8:30 p.m., Sat. 5  to 9 p.m., closed Sun. Wine and beer served, wheelchair access, adjacent  parking lot. Menu at neilspastaseafood.com, (310) 548-3495.

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