October 13, 2012A Grand Experiment to Rein In Climate Change
By FELICITY BARRINGER
LEGGETT, Calif. — Braced against a steep slope, Robert Hrubes cinched his measuring tape around the trunk of one tree after another, barking out diameters like an auctioneer announcing bids. “Twelve point two!” “Fourteen point one!”
Mr. Hrubes’s task, a far cry from forestry of the past, was to calculate how much carbon could be stored within the tanoak, madrone and redwood trees in that plot. Every year or so, other foresters will return to make sure the trees are still standing and doing their job.
Such audits will be crucial as California embarks on its grand experiment in reining in climate change. On Jan. 1, it will become the first state in the nation to charge industries across the economy for the greenhouse gases they emit. Under the system, known as “cap and trade,” the state will set an overall ceiling on those emissions and assign allowable emission amounts for individual polluters. A portion of these so-called allowances will be allocated to utilities, manufacturers and others; the remainder will be auctioned off.
Over time, the number of allowances issued by the state will be reduced, which should force a reduction in emissions.
To obtain the allowances needed to account for their emissions, companies can buy them at auction or on the carbon market. They can secure offset credits, as they are known, either by buying leftover allowances from emitters that have met their targets or by purchasing them from projects that remove carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, like the woods where Mr. Hrubes was working.
Dozens of verifiers from different fields, from chemists to accountants to foresters, will be the first line of defense in making sure the benefits are real.
Mr. Hrubes said his goal in any audit was to ensure that the forest’s owner was “being conservative whenever a judgment call has to be made” in calculating greenhouse gas reductions.
The outsize goals of California’s new law, known as A.B. 32, are to lower California’s emissions to what they were in 1990 by 2020 — a reduction of roughly 30 percent — and, more broadly, to show that the system works and can be replicated.
The risks for California are enormous. Opponents and supporters alike worry that the program could hurt the state’s fragile economy by driving out refineries, cement makers, glass factories and other businesses. Some are concerned that companies will find a way to outmaneuver the system, causing the state to fall short of its emission reduction targets.
“The worst possible thing to happen is if it fails,” said Robert N. Stavins, a Harvard economist.
Just three years ago, California’s plan was viewed as a trial run for a national carbon market that one day might tie into existing markets in Europe and elsewhere. President Obama’s first budget proposal included a cap-and-trade program to cut national greenhouse gas emissions 14 percent by 2020; the House later passed an energy and climate bill that incorporated such a program.
But in 2010, political forces backed by the biggest emitters, oil and coal companies, blocked the plan in the Senate. In that year’s midterm elections, conservative Republicans disavowed their party’s role in creating similar programs; they continue to deride it as “cap and tax.”
California air regulators are proud of their record in leading the nation to new auto emissions standards in the 1960s and efficiency standards for appliances in the 1970s. And so the pressure is on the state’s Air Resources Board to get this right.
At first, only four means of carbon reduction will be approved for offset credits: timber management, the destruction of coolant gases, cuts in methane emissions from livestock waste and tree planting projects in urban areas. Already, developers of offset projects in more than 20 states are preparing to enter the new market, which for now accepts only credits generated in the United States. Some projects send coolant gases to be destroyed at an incinerator in Arkansas; others, tied to dairies in states like Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin, will capture methane from livestock waste.
Most of these projects already sell offset credits in other markets like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade program covering utilities in the Northeast.
But offsets can be prone to misuse; some have generated significant private profits while producing questionable environmental benefits. The European Union’s eight-year-old carbon trading market has been tarnished by fake credits and audits that failed to meet minimum standards. California’s offsets have already been challenged in court by environmentalists who argue that offset developers will earn money for actions that they would have taken even if the program did not exist.
“If there is a loss of confidence because there is a sense that people have been cheating and the offsets are not real, that will be a problem,” said Kevin Kennedy, an economist with the World Resources Institute in Washington.
That is why there is such a need for qualified verifiers. This summer, four foresters from around the country gathered in a Los Angeles suburb for a $2,900 test-preparation course to master the new system in advance of a required state test.
All had experience in verification in other carbon trading systems — so much so that they offered their instructors sharp critiques on the 111 pages of rules. One even challenged the algorithms central to the forest benefit calculations.
“If they don’t get the equations right, there could be a real problem,” said Terese Walters, a forester from Oregon. She is hoping that having California credentials will lead to lucrative opportunities. Ms. Walters and Caitlin Sellers, a forester from Florida in the class, both work for Environmental Services of Jacksonville, Fla., one of the country’s largest environmental consulting firms. David Bubser, another student, is a Minnesota forester and a regional manager for the nonprofit Rainforest Alliance.
There are several basic requirements for a forest offset. Credits cannot be granted for preserving trees that were going to be left standing anyway. The change must be long-lasting: trees must be left intact for a century. And owners must hire accredited verifiers to audit their claims.
The offset marketplace is already beginning to hum as companies gear up for California’s rollout.
Independent verifiers can make $800 to $1,200 a day, according to Mr. Bubser. Scientific Certification Systems, Mr. Hrubes’s employer, which verified 4.2 million tons of carbon offsets around the world last year, added two foresters this summer, for a total of six.
Sacramento’s municipal utility recently held a conference call with potential vendors of credits to offset some of the 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide emitted annually from its gas-fired power plant — possibly by buying 200,000 credits annually.
Utility officials made it clear during the call that the more measurable and reliable the offset, the more valuable it would be. The administrators of California’s program have set a floor price for allowances at $10 per metric ton of emissions during the first auction in November. Once the program gets going, the actual value of allowances will fluctuate as they are traded.
The Redwood Forest Foundation, created to promote sustainable forestry but also to keep timber jobs in Mendocino County, is considering selling offset credits. Its biggest asset is the 50,000-acre Usal Redwood Forest, where Mr. Hrubes was working, which the foundation acquired in 2007 with a $65 million bank loan. The foundation needs to pay down its debt. It reaped $19.5 million selling a conservation easement last year, but the idea of a new revenue source is alluring.
“When you need an economic return, one way is to maximize timber harvest,” said Tom Tuchmann, the group’s acting executive director. “The other way is to look at nontraditional value streams.”
But making strategic decisions about how many trees to harvest and how many to use to lock up carbon is an uncertain business. Other carbon markets have generally not done well by investors, and some brokerages have closed their carbon desks.
“There are so many people who are disappointed,” said Thaddeus Huetteman, the president of Power and Energy Analytic Resources of Atlanta. “What they are really looking for is for California to show we can create a new market of significance in the world’s ninth-largest economy.”
***************Obama showcases auto industry bailout
By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, October 13, 2012 11:12 EDT
US President Barack Obama on Saturday praised the decision early in his administration to bail out the failing US automobile industry, arguing it has now become a leading job creator.
“Today, auto sales are the highest they’ve been in more than four years,” Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address.
“GM is back”, he continued. “Ford and Chrysler are growing again. Together, our auto industry has created nearly a quarter of a million new jobs right here in America.”
The financial bailout of the industry dates back to January 2009, when all three major US auto companies — GM, Chrysler and Ford — stood on the verge of bankruptcy, pleading the government for $34 billion in financial assistance.
The Obama administration, which at the time had just taken over from the outgoing Republican government, used nearly $25 billion of the $700-billion bank bailout package to lend GM and Chrysler a hand.
Ford eventually decided not to take government assistance.
In return, the companies promised to consolidate operations and speed-up development of energy-efficient vehicles.
Obama said that all of this was something the American people “can and should be proud of.”
“It’s a reminder that when the American people put their mind to something, there’s nothing we can’t do,” he said.
The president pointed out that the auto industry had come back stronger following the crisis and argued that America will keep doing the same “as long as I’m President.”
October 13, 2012At the Corner of Hope and Worry
By DAN BARRY
Another day begins with a sound softer than a finger-snap, in an Ohio place called Elyria. In the central square of this small city, the gushing water fountain applauds the early-morning chorus of sparrows. A car clears its throat. A door slams. And then: click.
The faint sound comes as 7:00 flashes on the clock of the Lorain National Bank building, looming over the square. The pull of a string — click — has sent life pulsing through a neon sign, announcing to all of Elyria that, once more, against the odds, Donna’s Diner is open.
Its proprietor, Donna Dove, 57, ignites the grill that she seems to have just turned off, so seamlessly do her workdays blend into one endless shift. She wears her blond hair in a ponytail and frames her hazel eyes with black-rimmed glasses that tend to get smudged with grill grease. She sees the world through the blur of her work.
A dozen years ago, Donna found a scrap of serendipity on the sidewalk: a notice that a local mom-and-pop restaurant was for sale. After cooking for her broken family as a child, after cooking for county inmates at one of her many jobs, she had come to see food as life’s binding agent, and a diner as her calling. She maxed out her credit cards, cashed in her 401(k) and opened a business to call her own.
Donna’s Diner. Donna’s.
You know this place: It is Elyria’s equivalent to that diner, that coffee shop, that McDonald’s. From the vantage point of these booths and Formica countertops, the past improves with distance, the present keeps piling on, and a promising future is practically willed by the resilient patrons.
It is where the recession and other issues of the day are lived as much as discussed. Where expectations for a certain lifestyle have been lowered and hopes for salvation through education and technology have been raised. Where the presidential nominees Barack Obama and Mitt Romney each hope that his plan for a way back will resonate with the Donna Doves, who try to get by in places like Elyria — where the American dream they talk about can sometimes seem like a tease.
But for now, at least, the door to Donna’s is open. So take a seat. Have a cup of coffee. Maybe some eggs.
This morning, as usual, Pete Aldrich is helping Donna through the new-dawn isolation, turning on the coffee and being compensated by food and tips from the occasional delivery. In his early 50s, well-educated and from regional royalty, he has hit some hard times, and may or may not have slept in his car last night, cocooned by his bundled possessions.
Pete tries, though, he tries. He often leaves straight from Donna’s for a job interview, hustling out with purpose, no matter that his thick-lensed eyeglasses are missing one arm. Something will turn up.
That is the communal hope. Donna, for example, is dogged by the day’s anxieties. Why are her receipts going down? What lunch special can she offer to clean out the refrigerator? Should she buy less perch for her Friday fish fry? Can she slide a month on her electric bill? Since she already doesn’t have health insurance, what else can she cut?
“I’m just going in circles and circles and circles,” Donna says one day, gazing through smudged glasses. “And not getting anyplace.”
The fresh aroma of coffee face-slaps the air. Soon the Breakfast Club regulars, that gaggle of Elyrian past and present, will be here to renew their continuing discussion of what was, is and isn’t in this city of 55,000. The presidential election sometimes serves as a conversation starter, like a curio placed between the salt and pepper shakers.
The talk will continue as yolk stains harden and refills turn tepid. Their Ohio is a swing state, after all, and their Elyria sits precariously on that swing. More Democratic than Republican, it has several global companies and the memory of many more; an embattled middle class and encroaching poverty; and the faint sense that the Next Big Thing better arrive before even its beloved park fountain, visible from the diner’s front window, gets shut off.
Of course, the friendly political quarrel between the regulars Speedy Amos, 86, Republican, and Jim Dall, 89, Democrat, dates back to “I Like Ike” and “All The Way With Adlai.” And John Haynes, lawyer, Democrat, and Jack Baird, councilman, Republican, will debate without ever changing minds. It will be others, the quiet, still-undecided ones, who will help to make the big decision, Obama or Romney.
The diner waits. Pete sips coffee and reads The Chronicle-Telegram through the damaged glasses he hopes to replace someday. Donna stands by the front door, near her Friday fish fry sign, peering through the plate-glass window with expectation. If it were only about location — well, she has it.
Her diner, in an 1880s brick building at the corner of Middle Avenue and Second Street, sits along the central park, Ely Square, where the fountain’s mist blesses those who linger and a statue of a Union soldier rises from slab memorials for every American conflict from the War of Independence (1775-1783) to the War on Terrorism (2001- ).
The diner is near the majestic old courthouse, circa 1881, now mostly empty, in some disrepair and too costly to renovate. It is a short walk from the sleek new courthouse, where the Judge, a regular customer (grilled chicken, cottage cheese, fruit), ruminates in his chambers with an unlit cigar in his mouth and a portrait of Che Guevara on his wall.
It is a few storefronts away from a temp agency, where a large man in an Ohio State cap (cheeseburger, fries) dispatches the work-hungry to fleeting jobs, and a short walk from Loomis Camera, 62 years on the square, where the nonagenarian owner displays a decades-old portrait of his wife, before her arthritis, back when she was a beautiful trapeze artist, an airborne ballerina.
Finally, the diner faces City Hall, where the new mayor (bacon-lettuce-tomato-and-fried-egg sandwich and a side salad) confronts the challenges of a postindustrial, recession-haunted American city. A fourth-generation Elyrian, Mayor Holly Brinda takes hope in the city’s entrepreneurial hothouse of a community college and in northeastern Ohio’s can-do DNA. But some nights she cannot sleep.
Donna also knows what it means to lose sleep in Elyria, as she stands beside her closed cash register, a diner’s miscellany spread out before her: a jar of 25-cent mints that certain people think are free; a spill of business cards for Vinnie’s Collision Center and LePue Drain Cleaning; a box of minted toothpicks favored by the Judge; a small Southern Comfort bottle half-filled with the maple syrup that sweetens Mr. Dall’s pancakes.
When the diner’s door is open, Donna can hear the aching thrum of another one of the Norfolk Southern freight trains that clatter day and night through the city. Bound for Cleveland or Chicago with endless containers of goods made across the country and overseas, they slice through Elyria, once more prominent as a maker of things.
The familiar freight-train siren can conjure memories of the writer Sherwood Anderson, who once ran a mail-order and paint business down by the railroad line. One Thanksgiving Day, he said goodbye to his secretary, walked out the door and followed the tracks east, out of Elyria. A breakdown, apparently, one that led to his fictional classic “Winesburg, Ohio,” whose inhabitants, including some with distinctly Elyrian traits, ache for fulfillment.
Yes, Donna hears it. She also hears the Judge — James M. Burge, the meticulously dressed administrative judge of the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas — as he sits at the table reserved for him in the back and dines on that same health-conscious grilled-chicken lunch, day after day.
Donna, you’re working yourself to death. Donna, you’re not making any money. Donna, you have a heart — feeding people who don’t have money, raising money for good causes — but there’s no room for heart in capitalism.
Donna, how about this? Close up the diner, come across the street to the new courthouse and run the cafeteria: five days a week, a steady stream of customers and no worries about utilities. If you’re interested, I can try to make this happen.
The Judge’s words linger.
Imagine: no electric bill, no heating bill, no worries about security, air-conditioning. ...
Imagine, too: no Donna’s Diner, open to all of Elyria. ...
Donna has told the Judge that she’ll think about it. Maybe one of these days she’ll drive to Lake Erie. Sit on one of the benches. Gaze into the undulating blue. Clear her head. These are big decisions.
Cooking is vital to Donna. You can lose yourself in the stirring of sauce. You can nourish others and make things seem better, if only for a little while. This she discovered early on, as the turbulent marriage of her parents was upending her childhood.
Born on Flag Day 1955, Donna was the first child of a Navy man, Jerry Jacobson, and his Bay Village bride, Jean. But he refused to give up his beer and Black Velvet or his saloon romance with a woman named Sophie. Leaving a bar in Elyria one night, he drove into a telephone pole. When he awoke weeks later, he called out — for Sophie.
With her household’s cash being slapped on bar counters instead of the kitchen counter, Jean raised extra money — between shifts at some factory or office — by making “sweetheart soap” arrangements for her children to sell door-to-door. Meanwhile, as the oldest, Donna tried to fill the parental void.
One day, holding her baby brother in her arms, Donna followed her mother into a Cleveland saloon to confront her father as he sat beside a new girlfriend, this one with a beehive hairdo. The mother said the family needed money for food. The oldest child seconded the plea. The father said get lost.
After the inevitable divorce, Jean moved her four children to a government-subsidized house in Elyria, where Donna found solace, or control, in the kitchen. She began having dinner ready by the time her mother came home from work.
“She’d always put a tablecloth out, and in the summer there’d always be fresh flowers on the table,” recalls Jean, 78. “Dessert would be pudding, or fruit cocktail.”
Donna clearly preferred the kitchen to Elyria High School, which she found to be too big — another way of saying integrated. She had spent most of her young life in the all-white bubble of Bay Village, 15 miles to the northeast, and now she was in a city high school with a healthy enrollment of black students.
She was intimidated by the unfamiliar, so she cut school. She became pregnant, so she got married, at 16. In the wedding photos, she and her husband look like children playing dress-up.
To say the pregnancy ended Donna’s childhood is not quite accurate. In some ways, it had ended years before; in other ways, it continued. She tried to be a loving mother of two baby daughters, a doting housewife to a possessive husband, and a fun-loving young woman fond of the bar life — all at once. Not possible.
Divorce. Temporary loss of custody. A second marriage. Two more children. A third marriage.
But Donna caught her breath, summoning the resolve that had once empowered her to confront her negligent father. She earned her general equivalency diploma. She tended bar and cooked at Stan’s Villa in Elyria, across the street from the General Motors plant. She fed inmates at the Lorain County jail. She worked in marketing for the county blood bank.
One day in 2000, when she was ready for a change, Donna picked up a newspaper notice on the sidewalk that said the Lunch Break Cafe on Broad Street was for sale. Destiny. She somehow scratched up the $35,000, and spent that Mother’s Day stripping the restaurant clean, even throwing out its toaster.
Driving through Elyria to her own grand opening, she thought, “I’m going to make them remember me.”
The diner did well at first, with its 1950s décor and sandwiches named after iconic cars. It became the headquarters for Donna’s annual classic-car charity event, her community project to bake cookies for soldiers overseas, her Christmas toy drive for poor children.
“She walks the walk,” the Judge says.
This does not include all the food that Donna gave away — to this event, to that person in need, to her father. Yes, Jerry Jacobson was back on the scene, a disabled alcoholic living above a bar in Elyria. But Donna took care of him; he was still her dad.
One day, he would be the charming Jerry, cadging beer money — Two bucks, darlin’, c’mon, two bucks — or ordering hamburgers that he would sell for a shot and a beer down at Pudge’s Place or Boomer’s. The next day, he would be awful Jerry, telling Donna’s customers that they would be better off at McDonald’s.
Father and daughter had a contentious relationship right to the end. When he died of a heart attack in 2004, what could Donna do but place $2 in his coffin, along with a cigarette and a beer?
As downtown Elyria declined, like so many other American downtowns, so did Donna’s business. By late 2009, she was preparing to turn the diner’s neon off for good, but then she sensed a second chance: an ancient storefront on Middle Avenue had opened up that was larger, closer to the courts and offered a view not of Bugsy’s strip joint but of verdant Ely Square.
Over several generations, many had used the three-story brick building at 148 Middle Avenue, in a stretch once called Cheapside, as their claim stake — not to prosperity, but to the chance of it. The Candyland store, with sweets to cut the Depression’s bitter taste. The H. W. Guthrie store, selling a dozen honey-dipped doughnuts for a quarter. The Roy E. Hultz store, for the supplies necessary to protect your barn.
The Jack and Jill children’s store. Crandall’s drugstore. Hess Pharmacy, for “sick room supplies, surgical belts and trusses.” A real estate company, a title company, a law firm. The headquarters for local Democrats one year and for Republicans another year. Selenti’s Pizza. Naples Pizza. Village Sub and Pizza.
In 1996, a proposal to demolish the building for a parking lot went nowhere. Two years later came Stackers Deli and Pizza. Then the Court Street Cafe. Then the Pulse Cafe. Now here was another aspirant, staking her claim in the Elyrian concrete.
The unseen sparrows of Ely Square continue to dominate the morning conversation, save for the occasional beckoning of another passing train. A parks employee lost in his headset hunts for overnight litter. Coins tossed for luck tremble at the bottom of the fountain’s animated waters.
Inside the diner, the sole customer eats scrambled eggs, while Donna and Pete have the kind of meandering conversation that effortlessly links a new casino in Cleveland to the diner’s broken dishwasher.
“Some guy at the Polish Club supposedly hit for 130 grand,” Pete says of the casino.
“It’s never-ending,” Donna says of her own gamble.
The dining room is as narrow as a railroad car, with the Breakfast Club’s front table and the Judge’s back table bracketing six booths and three small tables in the middle, all adorned with sprays of artificial flowers. Along the wall protrudes a coffee counter stocked with customer-donated mugs: “John Deere” beside “Cabo San Lucas” beside “Jesus Saves.”
In the cramped other half of the bifurcated space, the kitchen competes for room with a freezer and two large refrigerators and cases of food and foam to-go containers and ripe bananas and a tub of Country Crock spread and the latest soda delivery and stacks of mismatched plates and a bucket filled with stale bread saved for a customer who feeds the crumbs to ducks.
At the center of it all sits the squat grill, the sizzling altar guarded by Donna with raised spatula. Orders scribbled out by her harried waitresses — her daughter Kristy, 38, and her granddaughter, Bridgette, just short of 21 — are tucked into the grill’s hood. But Donna knows her customers so well that sometimes a mere handwritten name will do. “Ken” means pork chops.
Donna knows their preferences, food allergies, moods, joys, sorrows. She knows to save some perch on Fridays for the Bullocks couple, Gloria and Forrest, who was born into a sharecropping family and is now a prominent civic leader. She knows to give turkey bacon to the retired judge who loves bacon but has heart problems, and to cut a distracting slice of lemon meringue pie for the cranky woman who bangs on the door with her walker and wants to know what’s so good about the morning.
Even the people Donna doesn’t know, she knows. Like that elfin man who comes in every Wednesday before going to the county sheriff’s auction to bid for some law firm on the foreclosed properties that riddle Lorain County. He always orders coffee and plain wheat toast, always. Hence, his diner name: “Wheat Toast.”
Donna knows how to handle the people who come in asking for a job. First thing, she escorts them to the grill to see if they can flip a frying egg. If not, the job interview ends.
She also knows how to handle Ike Maxwell when he wanders in, looking for money or food. Still built like a piston-powerful running back, he has not been the same since he was beaten on the head with a baseball bat 30 years ago. Once a high school football superstar who carried Elyria’s Friday night hopes, he now loops its streets shouting “Golden Helmet,” “They killed my brother” and other phrases that only a few Elyrians can decode.
But sometimes Ike’s shouting becomes disruptive, even unnerving, and Donna has to order him to leave. He may protest by shouting a few names — President Obama! Mitt Romney! Les Miles! — but as he heads for the door, Ike often says something else, softly:
“O.K., Donna, O.K., Donna, O.K., Donna.”
In this way, Donna’s Diner has become a living thing, humming with the flow of the human condition, alternating between harried motion and fleeting rest. When lunchtime comes, an orderly chaos takes hold in the back, as the diner’s telephone beckons with a “There’s no place like home” ringtone and denizens communicate in a shorthand language rooted in the immediate.
“That’s to go! That’s to go! Put it in a box!”
“O.K., her Reuben went out. Are the tenders done? This is a crap microwave. This one’s lettuce and mayo.”
“I just spilled ranch all over the counter.”
“I told Ryan I’d be there about 1:30.”
“This have cheese-lettuce-tomato?”
“How much is French toast with scrambled eggs?”
“Four-seventy-nine. How come I only have two sausage links?”
“Hello, Donna’s Diner?”
It can get to be too much, like the smell of toast burning. An unanticipated trigger — a forgotten order, a returned meal, a splatter of ranch dressing — can set Donna off, and her tirades will spill into the dining room like scalding coffee.
“Is she O.K.?” a customer asks one difficult day.
“My mom?” asks Kristy, the waitress.
“Yes,” the customer replies.
Sometimes you can see why, as Donna hunches into the desk space she has carved from the back-room clutter and works through the mound of mail. “I’m looking for shut-off notices,” she says, half-joking.
She also examines the income and expense figures she keeps in a brown spiral notebook. Last year, the daily receipts, in terms of hundreds of dollars, were in the threes, fours and fives; this year, they are in the twos, threes and occasional fours. Meanwhile, the expenses keep coming. Rent, $650 a month. Electric, $1,416 a month.
“My bug guy, my pop guy, my towel guy, my window washer,” she says. Cable. Orlando Bread. Port Clinton Fish.
She tries to lower expenses. When her vexing electric bill shot up a while back, she sold off several appliances and bought a cheaper, more energy-efficient freezer. She spent Mother’s Day shopping for wholesale bargains on eggs and dish soap. She bounces from Rural King to Sam’s Club to Giant Eagle, looking for the cheapest coffee.
She cannot afford health insurance, she says; it would be $1,500 a month for her and her out-of-work husband, Tim, who has congestive heart failure at 57. A while back, she tore something in her left shoulder while pulling a heavy box of bleach down from a shelf at Sam’s Club. Never had it fixed.
Life has become cyclical. Every night, Donna returns to her modest two-story house in Elyria, with its untidy backyard that she never has the time or the energy to reclaim, and stares at the television until sleep comes. Every morning, she awakens to worries, beginning with what to offer for lunch.
Every day, after expenses, there is not much left — though, now and then, she peels off $20 to gamble at a video-lottery place she calls “the joint.” And every week, after lunch, here comes Mark Ondrejech, the affable salesman for US Foods, a wholesale supplier, to provide counsel. He sits with her at a back table, opens his laptop and goes down his list.
“All your dressings are good this week? Meat broth, chicken broth, French fries? Onion rings, sauerkraut? Ketchup packets, crackers, chip bags? Foam containers are good? Dinner napkins, straws — grape tomatoes. Steak fries, cinnamon rolls. ”
But Donna is ordering less and less from US Foods. She has raised her prices ever so slightly — two eggs and toast went from $1.99 to $2.39 — in trying to strike the proper balance between fair profit and customer contentment. She is making her daughter and granddaughter occasionally pay for what they eat. She is holding on for better days, amid news that a new Taco Bell is replacing a downtown apartment building once occupied by Sherwood Anderson.
A Taco Bell.
All the while, the Judge’s suggestion — that she consider moving to the courthouse cafeteria — preys on Donna’s mind. “All you’re doing is, you’re working hard and you’re entertaining your customers,” she says he tells her.
But the diner’s people matter to her: Pete, Speedy, the Judge, Gloria and Forrest, Ike, even that unpleasant woman who bangs her walker against the door. The diner matters. It all matters.
“I’ve got to figure out what I’m doing,” she says. “When I get myself to this point, I can’t see a way out.”
Haunted by Fears
The Elyrian morning is now full-throated. Birds chirping, waters rushing, trains calling, music pounding from the cars stopped for the light just outside the diner. Sunlight paints the treetops of Ely Square.
Gazing at the park through her plate-glass window, Donna is reminded of a recurring image that she just can’t shake: that of a short woman with unruly gray hair, hunting through the park’s garbage for redeemable cans. Twenty years ago, Donna worked with this woman at a nursing home on East Avenue. She knew her to say hello.
The woman, Anna Hallman, redeems aluminum cans to pay a mortgage and make ends meet, getting about 50 cents for every 26 cans that she methodically crushes with her heel. She is 69, and other scavengers have kindly ceded to her the treasures to be found in the garbage bins downtown. And when she has had a good day, she sometimes treats herself to a meal at Donna’s — something that sticks to the ribs, like meatloaf.
Anna’s situation haunts Donna. Too close. Too possible.
How she needs to step away from the grill and take that drive to Lake Erie. No breakfast orders being shouted at her. No bills demanding her attention. Just Donna alone, sitting on a bench and staring into the infinite waters that calm her, help her think. Big decisions.
But now she has customers. The first two members of the Breakfast Club take their seats at the front table. Coffee for both. No breakfast for one, eggs over medium, wheat toast for the other. Orders taken, the owner of Donna’s Diner disappears into the kitchen.
*************America the Gutted: Documentary (via NewsLook)
As American jobs move overseas, workers abroad move into the middle class. But a globalized economy makes for a tenuous existence
Click to watch this documentary: http://www.newslook.com/videos/497430-america-the-gutted-documentary
**************Billionaire Koch brother accused of imprisoning, interrogating former employee
By Jonathan Terbush
Saturday, October 13, 2012 20:13 EDT
William Koch, the billionaire energy tycoon and prominent Republican donor, allegedly kidnapped and interrogated at a remote Aspen ranch a former top-level executive whom he suspected of subversion.
According to Courthouse News Service, Kirby Martensen, a former executive of several Koch subsidiaries, has filed suit in federal court seeking punitive damages for the alleged incident. The Huffington Post on Saturday confirmed the story with Martensen’s lawyer.
In the suit, Martensen charges that in March, Koch lured him and other employees to a secluded Aspen ranch—one with no cell phone reception or connection to the outside world—under “false pretenses.” Though Martensen thought he had been called to Aspen to discuss business, he was instead interrogated, searched and held against his will for over twenty-four hours before finally being freed.
Koch’s motive, according to Martensen, was an anonymous letter Koch received in 2011 that claimed he and others were engaged in a scheme to steal from and defraud from Koch enterprises. According to the court filing, Koch ordered a secret investigation into the matter that turned up private correspondance from Martensen questioning the legality of Koch’s business practices. The days-long affair in Aspen, Martensen claims, was therefore an attempt to intimidate him into silence, and to ultimately fire him.
Martensen claims that Koch told him he was going to be subject to a routine peer review while at the ranch, but that he was instead led into a small room and harshly questioned by two Koch employees. Later that night, Martensen says he was moved to a small cabin on the premises guarded by a sheriff, whom, he was told, would prevent him from fleeing.
Hours later, and after having had his belongings searched, Martensen says Koch then refused to let him catch his scheduled flight out of Aspen. Instead, he was forced into an SUV and driven to Denver where he was placed on a private jet that finally released him in Oakland, California.
Oxbow, a Koch company, told the Huffington Post that Martensen was in fact investigated, but only because they discovered he’d been defrauding the company. Martensen’s lawyer told the website that the case would probably go to trial next year.
**************Sensata Workers Are Living Proof that Romney’s Tough Talk on China is Worthless
By: Jason EasleyOctober 13th, 2012
Mitt Romney is running around Ohio talking tough about China today, but one place he won’t go near is Freeport, IL where the Bain owned Sensata Technologies is sending 170 jobs to China.
During campaign stops in Ohio today, Romney said, “It’s time for us to stand up to China for their cheating. It’s got to stop. We’ve got to get those jobs back and make trade to be fair.”
In a statement, Obama campaign spokesman Danny Kanner responded to Romney’s tough talk, “Mitt Romney’s talking tough, but his record and his policies show he’s anything but when it comes to China. Mitt Romney called the President’s aggressive action on behalf of American tire workers ‘decidedly bad for the nation.’ As a corporate buyout specialist, he invested in companies that were pioneers in outsourcing to low-wage countries like China. And now, while President Obama would close tax loopholes that reward companies for shipping American jobs overseas, Mitt Romney’s tax plan could create 800,000 jobs outside of America. That’s not a candidate who would be tough on China as president – that’s a candidate who thinks sounding tough will win him votes.”
The best way to understand Romney’s real attitude towards China, is to watch the workers at the Sensata plant tell their story:
As one worker put it, “Before I ever knew anything about Bain Capital, I actually kind of liked Mitt Romney. You know, I thought, okay, he is going to create jobs. He is going to, you know, save America, so when I found out about this, it’s like okay, you really aren’t doing what you say you’re going to do. You aren’t going to create American jobs because the companies that you profit off of are sending jobs, and you’re not doing anything about it.”
According to The New York Times, Romney could stand to profit off of the Sensata outsourcing, “In addition, Mr. Romney’s generous retirement agreement ensures that he continues to profit from the deals and decisions that Bain makes. He owns about $8 million worth of Bain funds that hold 51 percent of Sensata’s shares. If Sensata saves money by closing the Freeport plant, that could add money to Mr. Romney’s trust accounts, now or after the election.”
Mitt Romney has made vast sums of money off outsourcing, so does anyone really believe that he will crack down on China and stand up for American jobs? Romney’s business experience has taught him that outsourcing is a good thing, so why would ever be in true opposition to something that he has been so personally lucrative to him?
It is simple common sense.
Don’t listen to the words coming out of Mitt Romney’s mouth on the campaign trail. Look at his actions when he wasn’t running for president. Those actions speak volumes, and reveal that for American workers, Romney is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Mitt Romney’s tough talk on China is worthless, when his deeds prove that he is adding to his fortune by selling out American workers and outsourcing their jobs.
Romney actions speak much louder than his hollow and insincere words to America’s workers. The workers at the Sensata plant are living proof that Mitt Romney is no friend of the American worker.
Click to watch:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grQTuIYnreg&feature=player_embedded