Steven Mikulan is a Los Angeles writer and editor of The Frying Pan.

Dark Money, Honey: How a Koch Ring Got Busted

 of a settlement between the state of California and two political campaign organizations linked to the Koch brothers fittingly coincided with the centenary of the first scientific explorations of Los Angeles’ La Brea Tar Pits. The history of the tar pits is pretty straightforward: For at least 38,000 years, thick, petroleum-based asphaltum has oozed up from fissures at the site, a noxious goo that long ago entrapped hapless animals as well as the predators that tried to feast on them.

New Study: Keep Public Service Jobs Public

Steven Mikulan

The next time a politician calls on the state or federal government to trim its workforce – right after promising to “grow jobs” – it might be good for him to remember that one in five working Americans is a public employee. Not only does thinning the public sector reduce the number of services and quality of life enjoyed by taxpayers, it also throws more people onto the unemployment rolls.

Those who see themselves as swashbuckling entrepeneurs or disciples of Ayn Rand do have an alternative to public sector employment in mind – the privatization of work that has historically been performed by government. In the Public Interest, a nonprofit that researches the dynamics of privatization and government contracting, has just released a study showing in sharp relief the dangers that come with such an alternative.

LA Times: Layoffs, Sabotage and Suicides?

was driving in the rain to a union meeting when the L.A. Times called to tell him he was fired. The pressman, a third-generation Times employee, listened in shock last December to an HR woman’s voice explain he was being dismissed for “safety violations, dishonesty and suspicion of sabotage.”

That last charge had a bittersweet irony. Padgett had been at the paper for more than 39 years and had done everything he could to help it prosper – even as members of the corporate wrecking crew that drove the paper into bankruptcy were still counting their money.

“It was similar to jumping into an icy cold pool of water,” Padgett recalls. “I felt like crying because I’d been there so damn long, but I soon got over it.” He drove on to his meeting in La Mirada, but hasn’t been back to the Times printing plant on Olympic Boulevard to clean out his locker.