Conn, James

a.k.a. Rev. Jim Conn

Water Everywhere, Water Nowhere

By Rev. Jimm COnn

As every resident of the Southland must know by now, this month marks the centennial of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. When, in 1913, the valves were first turned and water rushed down the last hillside between the Eastern Sierra and the San Fernando Valley, William Mulholland, the brilliant self-taught engineer who guided the project, and whose career would end when the St. Francis Dam collapsed, famously said, “There it is. Take it.”

Paying the Debt of War

By Rev. Jim Conn

Some 53 percent of Americans say that the second Iraq war was a mistake. A recent Los Angeles Times article asked if the war brought change for the better. But no one asks what that war cost this country. The first trillion dollars we spent on it was only a down payment on what experts have estimated to be probably two trillion or more that we will spend over the next few decades to take care of America's wounded and maimed. Our taxes provide care for those veterans, but both parties regularly propose cutting the Department of Veterans Affairs as a quick fix to balance the federal budget.

Keystone Pipeline: Canadian Profits, American Woes

By Rev. Jim Conn

With a trumpet blast from the sources of conventional wisdom, the Keystone XL pipeline charged through the news sources last month. When the State Department released its positive environmental report that is seen as clearing the way for a pipe full of Canadian oil slurry to run through the heartland of America to the refineries of Houston, the pundits lined up to salute. They said the XL would add to American oil independence. They said it would bring jobs. They said it would never cause any of those silly problems the environmentalists were bothered about.

Diminishing Returns: Where Have All the Voters Gone?

By Rev. Jim Conn

Let the hand-wringing begin! In last week's primary election, just over 16 percent of Los Angeles voters turned out at the polls, less than four years ago, which was less than the election before that, which was less than the election before that - and on and on. In Southern California municipalities - big city or small - elections draw about 20 percent of the vote. This is a problem in a democracy.

State of the Unions

By Rev. Jim Conn

For all the talk of saving and rebuilding the middle class, no public official from the President on down has mentioned the U-word. The U-word? "Unions." From the 1930s through the '70s, unions turned working-class jobs into middle-class jobs. Hourly wage earners organized themselves into unions that could fight for livable wages, health and retirement benefits, safety rules, job protection and on-the-job respect. These became such national standards that even in the historically right-to-work states in the Deep South, many of these principles prevailed.

But for three decades those work standards have been under attack, wages have dropped - with benefits cut or stolen. Why is this happening? Because union membership declined as free trade agreements shipped those jobs off-shore, as business mergers stripped workers of health care, and as strategic corporate bankruptcies took away their pension funds. Workers have been asked to "give back" in order to keep their jobs from vanishing, only to have them disappear anyway.

Of Biblical Proportions: Inequality and Poverty Wages

By Rev. Jim Conn

My friend pastors a vibrant congregation in the Mid-City area of Los Angeles. Her people reflect the neighborhood and the church worships in both Spanish and English. In a conversation this week I asked her how her folks were doing. Her voice dropped, and she shook her head. "There are no jobs," she said, "and the ones who work can only get part-time hours." With dismay, she said, "I don't know how they are making it."

Great Migrations: Our Civil Rights Laws and Their Legacy

By Rev. Jim Conn

In an action that already feels like ancient history, Congress voted earlier this month to avoid the "fiscal cliff." While much remains to be settled, the revenue side of the issue got resolved because 84 House Republicans joined 172 Democrats to support the solution negotiated between the President and the Senate. In some ways, such bipartisanship was a moment of déjà vu from a time, nearly 50 years ago, when two pivotal civil rights bills were being considered. Then, Lyndon Johnson was President and both houses of Congress were in the hands of Democrats. Martin Luther King was in the streets. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was registering voters. The 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act were passed by Republicans joining Democrats to move the President's legislation into law.

Birth and Taxes: A Holiday Accounting

By Rev. Jim Conn

"And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed."

Those are the opening lines from the Christmas story according to St. Luke, as written down by the team of scholars working under the direction of King James of England 500 years ago. Different translators have used different phrases over the centuries, but the frame for telling this story has always been taxes.

The Roman Empire wanted to make sure everyone paid their taxes, so Rome required its subjects to return to their towns of birth to sign into the national registry as part of a census, which allowed the keepers of the treasury to know who had paid and who had not. And that's how Jesus got to be born in Bethlehem.

Climate Change: Mad Weather, Insane Policies

By Rev. Jim Conn

Despite the conventional wisdom that Southern California only has one season, some wag suggested it does indeed have four: Fires, floods, earthquakes and riots. So far this year we've had none of those, for which I am grateful, and I hope our luck holds.

I say luck because Los Angeles County leads the state in fire risk. Of the million homes in California in high-risk fire areas, half are in our county. Seven of the 10 most expensive fires in the U.S. since 1990 have been in California, and insurers paid some $5 billion in wildfire claims in 2003, 2007 and 2008.

Election Campaigning: Walking the Walk, Tossing the Ads

By Rev. Jim Conn

My mail delivery guy just got happier. He can finish his route while it is still light outside - this despite the change back from daylight savings time. Now he gets his work done in daylight: With the election over, he has less junk to deliver.

I don't know how it was in your neighborhood, but in my apartment building the stuff filled the box every day for a month, and in the last week, so much mail rolled in that it couldn't fit anymore. So my mail carrier patiently sorted it into clumps and placed it in the magazine space at the bottom of the mailbox area.