GELFAND’S WORLD - This was a big surprise on Monday morning. Carlson has not only been one of the best paid commenters in the right wing universe, he has had some of the best ratings in cable viewership. He has also been accused by the center-left as -- shall we say -- of limited credibility. So now he's gone from Fox, and we might pause and ask why it happened.
My guess is that there were at least two reasons, each being independent of the other.
The first reason is that Carlson is identified in court papers and depositions as a professional liar. That's formally correct, but the same holds true for other Fox hosts and for the network itself. When the owner is revealed to have admitted something similar in a sworn deposition, we can't say that there was something unique about Carlson.
But then again, Fox just agreed to one of the largest settlements in the history of defamation lawsuits. The entire Fox business model is now at risk. They have the financial wherewithal to withstand the Dominion settlement, but they don't have what it takes to survive lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit.
That's of course assuming that new lawsuits are meritorious. The problem for Fox is that having an admitted liar as your prime-time cleanup hitter would make it a lot easier for future plaintiffs to file those lawsuits and to prove merit. What does it take to win such a suit? Well, when you already have that history of lying, coupled with a pretty good demonstration of what the courts call "actual malice," you're well down the road already.
So Carlson would be a perpetual risk to the network unless he were to change his own schtick. But that schtick is the essence of Tucker Carlson.
But there is one more element that can't be ignored. Carlson admitted openly that he doesn't like Donald Trump. Actually, his words were, "I hate him passionately," as you can see here. Think about it for a moment. Fox is still supporting Trump, and Trump is known to be one of the most vindictive people on earth. Would Fox be able to have ready access to Trump if Trump decides he wants to act out against Carlson? Remember that acting out is the essence of Trump.
Looking at the Carlson affair, it becomes clear that Fox is itself in a pincer. It has made a business out of saying bad things about anything left of Rupert Murdoch, but the targets of Fox's faux outrage have discovered that there can sometimes be an opportunity to fight back. The Fox business model will have to be modified, and Carlson would be a real danger should he be kept around. The real question is whether a couple of other Fox stars prove to be too dangerous to keep. It's up to the ownership, in conjunction with the advice from their well paid lawyers.
For Fox, it's all in the balance between saying angry things about the political opposition vs. the costs of litigation and paying out settlements in future defamation lawsuits.
Living in this city under a corrupt City Council
It started out as a note from the landlord, half a page, taped to each of our doors. Mine read:
The city of Los Angeles is implementing food scrap collection for multifamily complexes. An Athens Services Trash pickup representative will visit each unit in our building next Tuesday, April 18, 2023, at 5:30PM in order to educate you about the new food scraps collection.
Please try to be around next Tuesday to meet the representative.
The new food scrap bin will be in service May 1, 2023.
Thanks . . . (the manager)
Curious. What's the new food scraps collection and how will it work? Not a clue. Not a printed glossy flier to explain, or a phone number for Athens Services Trash, or even a teensy explanation for why we are doing this now. Was there a letter from the city? Maybe, but I certainly don't remember anything like that.
Some of us did come to the central meeting point at 5:30 PM. I recognized my next door neighbor along with the owner of the building and the manager. And we waited.
No Athens Services Trash representative appeared. However, we were presented with rumor, if you want to put it that way, that we would be receiving a bucket for food scraps. But of course without the Athens representative, we got no individualized buckets and no presentation.
By the way, I'd like to remind residents of the city of Los Angeles that at one time, apartment owners could negotiate with competing trash haulers for the best prices and service. But it was not to remain that way. A few years ago, the City Council passed an ordinance that divided the city into separate areas, each to be serviced by one -- count it -- one trash company. Read about it here. Thus instant monopoly status. We know that the companies took advantage immediately, in some cases tacking on prices because somebody's dumpster was situated in a place that might be a little more difficult to get at.
The change-over was pushed as intelligent environmentalism, in the sense that there would be fewer garbage trucks driving the same routes and the result would be reduced greenhouse gas emissions. There was also a requirement that diesel garbage trucks be replaced by trucks using clean emission engines. Finally, the proponents promised a significant reduction in the total waste that would go into the city's landfills (that's the polite term for a garbage dump). The reduction in landfill garbage accumulation doesn't seem to follow from the granting of monopoly status, but there it was.
The idea of reducing greenhouse gas emissions is laudable, but consumers -- including neighborhood councils and the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition -- didn't buy into the proposal. The Lancc opposed the program by a nearly unanimous vote, as I recall. Apartment owners were concerned that the market system they had lived under would become a lot pricier under the semi-socialism that was coming.
Trash collection rates went up as regulated by the city government. Cynics would point out that during the period that we've had these "franchises" for trash hauling, the city government itself has suffered substantial corruption at the City Council level, so the rate increases allowed by the city government may not have been entirely merited.
In any case, we were finally to have a chance to meet someone from the company that empties our dumpster, but somehow our little building (18 units) wasn't important enough to ensure the promised visitation.
But we did get one gift. Now, right next to the dumpster, there is a brand new green container, roughly the same size as all those blue recycling containers. It is appropriately marked as coming from the L.A. Department of Sanitation. It is apparently for the food scraps.
So let's imagine for the moment that I am your ordinary L.A. resident. I didn't learn anything from the presentation because there wasn't one.
It just didn't happen.
The owner said that she had been told that the presentation would be rescheduled. I've still not seen or heard anything about when that might be. I still don't have that private food scraps container that we were supposed to receive.
Perhaps you can imagine my attitude. I'm generally in favor of pro-environmental actions, most particularly those that aren't just symbolic gesturing. But I don't feel any particular obligation to any company, particularly one that benefits from its governmentally sanctioned monopoly status.
How will this work out in the real world?
We had some experience from a few blocks away to give us a clue.
It took a while for the Point Fermin area of San Pedro to reduce its ready supply of raccoons, feral cats, and skunks. The way that ultimately worked was a two-part process of catch, neuter, and release for the cats and equally important, making it more difficult for well meaning people to drop food off for the feral and wild animal populations. Without a ready food supply (intended for the cats), the raccoon population dwindled. We see a few, but not the dozens and more that we used to see. In the old days, we would see cats, raccoons, and skunks all feeding from the same dishes that well meaning people had filled.
So now we are going to have containers that are small enough that the raccoons will probably be able to figure them out. If this were Yosemite or La Canada, they would be banquets for bears. In my neighborhood, we may see everything up the food chain as high as coyotes and the occasional dog. I just can't imagine that filling cans full of smelly food scraps and leaving them along streets and alleys won't be a problem.
I took a look inside our brand new green container. It was an interesting mix, because floating around on the bottom there was an uncooked egg devoid of its shell (was somebody thinking about making eggs Benedict in the can?) an uncooked hamburger patty, and some undefined mass that might have been what was left of a cake or a loaf of bread. And all of it floating in a small amount of water, enough, say, to provide liquid volume for bacteria and fungi to multiply.
It was reminiscent of the dish of stomach contents on one of those 10 PM detective shows that features an autopsy.
By reaching out through neighborhood council sources, I have now been told that there is some kind of state law that has been around a while and which mandates separation of food in our waste stream.
To repeat, there may be merit in the overall idea, but there also seems to be a lot of devil in these details. For example, in a multiyear period of draught, will we want to be hosing out these green containers twice a week when we can't even water the plants? The correct answer ought to be derived from the total volume of wasted water vs the health hazards created by leaving raw food up and down every alley. The costs for animal control ought to be factored into the final number, since somebody will have to deal with the racoons chowing down on the tasty dishes. And by the way, they don't scare easily.
And one additional thought. We now hear through the same indirect sources that we are advised to start the green containers with some yard waste first. Think of it as analogous to a dish half full of cooked rice, which is there to soak up the raw eggs and greasy extras. I'm not sure which tenant in an apartment building is supposed to be able to supply the grass clippings.
Political realities and checking the boxes
That green waste business looks to me like an exercise in checking the boxes for our city officials. You know, the exercise where the mayor gives an order, and the dutiful city agencies and departments have to pretend to do something. So they make a list and check it once.
The trash company is required to do public education and provide the food scrap receptacles. Athens Services got as far as defining the program including arranging for visits to individual apartment complexes (one box checked). The second box that needed checking was for the company representative to show up and give the presentation. That box remains unchecked.
So as the person on site where the new green bin is now situated, I can see that the procedure would be imperfect at best, resulting in wasted water, danger to human health, and probably some bad smells from rotting eggs along the way. Those are the parts that they either didn't think through or hand waved away. But they couldn't even do that much, because most of my apartment complex is unlikely to be playing their game. Most of us won't even know what the game is.
And one last thing. Rumor has it that at a certain point, the state law will demand that you and I be fined if we don't do the trash separation properly. You can write your own punch line to that comedic setup.
(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected].)