Justin’s Newsletter: January 2024
Vol. 4, Issue 1
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What’s Up With Me
Watch the very first in-studio episode of “Pasadena Monthly with Justin Chapman,” featuring an interview with Pasadena Police Chief Eugene Harris. After filming the show virtually every single month since April 2021, we were excited to get back into the Pasadena Media TV studio and up the production quality of the show. Watch the full episode here.
Stories to Keep an Eye On
International: After almost two years, the UK government and the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland have reportedly reached an agreement to end that loyalist party’s boycott of the power-sharing assembly in Belfast. It was a childish, petulant boycott to begin with, taking their ball and going home and halting governance in Northern Ireland because they weren’t getting exactly what they wanted, without compromise. The UK government has now agreed to reduce checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain, which was the only alternative to a hard Ireland-Northern Ireland land border due to Brexit. DUP and its Protestant loyalists want Northern Ireland to continue to be part of the UK, but they strongly opposed creating a so-called soft border in the sea between Northern Ireland and Britain, which would effectively make Northern Ireland part of the European Union along with the Republic of Ireland. It’s just a matter of time until that happens anyway. These shenanigans from DUP are simply delaying the inevitable.
National: Republicans rail on and on about the crisis at the border, but then when a bipartisan group negotiates the most conservative immigration reform deal ever, which would potentially ease the situation or at least show that Biden was doing something about it, they say, “No deal, we’ll wait til 2025 when Trump is president again, no bill is needed.” Where’s the urgency? They don’t want to solve the border situation; they want to run this year’s campaign on the issue. That’s not governing in good faith.
California: It’s so sad what’s happening at the LA Times. Over 100 layoffs because the paper is bleeding money. Goes to show that what was once considered the newspaper industry’s saving grace, the billionaire ownership model, has not worked. Certainly not one in which the billionaire owner thinks he can dictate editorial coverage of his friends and interests. What does seem to work is a nonprofit/foundation/co-op model, and bringing back the Local Journalism Sustainability Act could also be enormously helpful (it was introduced in 2020 and 2021 but the House never voted on it). The bill would provide a pathway to financial viability for local news in newspapers, in digital only publications, and on TV and radio stations through tax credits that would incentivize Americans to subscribe to local newspapers or donate to local nonprofit news publishers; provide newspapers, local digital only news publications, nonprofit local newsrooms, and commercial and public broadcasters the ability to retain and hire more dedicated local news journalists to improve their newsroom coverage; and provide small businesses financial flexibility to spend on advertising in local news outlets. Will it ever pass? Probably not.
Local: This month, the City of Pasadena unveiled two new plaques in Mills Place Alley and on Fair Oaks Ave. in Old Pasadena with updated language describing the hateful incident in 1885 when a white racist mob burned down a Chinese-owned laundry in that location. As local historian and my friend Matt Hormann wrote when he brought this story to light in a 2015 Pasadena Weekly article, this is a story of "courage and cowardice, of resilience and renewal." It's a recognition 138 years in the making. I delivered remarks on behalf of Vice Mayor Steve Madison during the unveiling ceremony. Thank you to the Human Relations Commission, Old Pasadena Management District, Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, City staff, and everyone who helped make this project a reality.
Here are some recommendations for interesting books I’ve read recently:
Southern California: An Island on the Land—Carey McWilliams
This 1946 classic from the 20th century’s pre-eminent leftwing author, journalist, and editor of The Nation is a thorough exploration of how Southern California became the powerhouse it is (including the all the corruption and oppression that happened along the way), starting way back in the time of Native Americans, then the Spanish and Mexicans and that complicated history, through to the various waves of immigrants from the East Coast and the Midwest, through to the first half of the last century. Many of the same themes and patterns today were present back in those early days. A must-read for anyone who lives in or wants to understand Southern California.
Strip Tees: A Memoir of Millennial Los Angeles—Kate Flannery
A revealing look at the rise and fall of American Apparel in the 2000s, told from the perspective of an employee who rose up the ranks before falling out of the good graces of the infamous founder Dov Charney. I remember when the brand was very popular when I was in high school, back when LA Weekly was a must-read every week and had AA ads of young, barely clothed models on the back. The rumor very early on was that all the female models and employees had to sleep with Charney to make it at that company, and Flannery exposes all the raunchy, patriarchal behavior there despite the narrative Charney was able to spin that AA was a progressive, pro-feminist, empowering company. Now, having been dethroned following multiple sexual harassment and toxic workplace lawsuits, Charney is reportedly living with none other than Milo Yiannopolous (remember that tool?) and Kanye West’s associates in Charney’s Silver Lake mansion, which debtors are attempting to take control of in bankruptcy proceedings because of his massive debts.
Spotlight on My Past Stories
Since the current Pasadena police chief is my guest on this month’s episode of “Pasadena Monthly,” here’s a look back at my story that broke the news that the previous police chief was planning on leaving his post.