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Palin put polar bears in her crosshairs

My guess is that not a lot of animal and environmental activists around America are going like the fact that Sarah Palin ignored environmental scientists and recently went to court to try to block the listing of polar bears on the Endangered Species list.

The Pretender


YOUTUBE: Sarah Palin laughs to hear a cancer survivor called a bitch.

"Mass every Sunday," John would moan, "for four years!"
---President Kennedy, in Gore Vidal, Palimpsest

Sarah Palin has thus far to date thrilled the several dozen voters of Alaska, our most rural state of all, a state, in fact, that has no urban areas. She knows nothing about---well, about anything. She knows how to be sanctimonious and vindictive, qualities true believers are good at. But then again, how could she know much about anything, as a young mother of five, including one problem child?

In such circumstances, you're obliged to pray to Jesus and hope for the best, and wag a finger and say that everyone else is bad, which is how you get to be an "ethics reformer," which is Sarah Palin's claim to political fame.

But the provincialism of Sarah Palin doesn't stop there. While most national political figures engage religion with a necessary sense of irony---witness our current president, denounced by his Methodist faith for his warmongering ways---she appears to be a true believer when it comes to Jesus.

The leading indicator of this is her own family. Not many others who profess to being faithful have spawned nearly as fervently as Sarah Palin has. Not Bush (who appears to have impregnated his wife but one time in his long marriage), nor Carter (ditto) nor Clinton (ditto), nor Cheney (ibid.) But while these national leaders planned their own parenthood paths very carefully, Sarah Palin was busy whelping the talk.

But the indicators that this woman could turn the clock back to 1950 for women, and effect social policy dedicated to turning women back into breeders first if she became President are even more pointed than her fertility.

While Barack Obama was editing Harvard Law Review (something that will only cost him points in the eyes of the breeders) and Joe Biden was putting another fundie hypcrocrite, Clarence Thomas, on the hotseat in a serious Senate inquiry about the sexual harassment of women, Sarah Palin was contests...a fact which may impress hillbillies and game-show watchers all across middle-America, but not many real thinkers, and certainly not to feminists, who would rather not think of their bodies as items to be judged.

To presume that this Jesus-lovin' spawner of five is picking up where longtime women's crusader Hillary Clinton leaves off is like thinking Mario Mendoza could pick up for a sidelined Mickey Mantle---hey, it's two men, they must be equally accomplished! Association by gender is the same kind of logic that identifies Sarah Palin as a heavyweight in women's politics. By claiming Hillary Clinton's hard-won mantle, she demonstrates that she is not nearly so much interested in being a leader as she is a usurper, even a pretender to the throne. She is posing as a woman's crusader, but women are far too smart to believe it.

Making the glass ceiling crack-proof


The most intense guy in America today must certainly be David Axelrod. He's obliged to keep his intensity to himself, but he knows this much:

Not only did his candidate deliver the most memorable political speech of the past thirty-five years, his candidate's opponent followed it up with the announcement of a veritable unknown with no political legacy or mechanism outside of her own home state.

It is very hard to appraise what kind of vote-getting history Sarah Palin has mustered to date because she hasn't really had any kind of vote-getting history whatsoever. But to put it in some perspective: the Mayor of San Jose got more votes in his last election (117,394) than Sarah Palin did in hers (114,697). This is not exactly a Hillary Clinton or a Dick Cheney or a Lyndon Johnson or a Geraldine Ferraro whom McCain has added to his ticket.

America will likely be very confused, and likely even a little troubled, by Governor Palin. She is the kind of political entity that is very specific to small-town Alaska: she lip-synchs libertarianism to appease Alaska's pot-smokers and men in trees, but is deeply Republican where it counts.

Sarah Palin has tried marijuana when it was legal in her state, but professes not to like it. She says she has gay and lesbian friends, but she is as against gay marriage as she is anti-choice. She shoots moose to kill, she drives snowmobiles; her husband is a champion in this eco-unfriendly "sport."

Her administration is under investigation for abuse of power: she may have fired someone who wouldn't fire someone on her orders to. In a small state like Alaska, this barely rates inquiry, but in the national sphere, it will be far larger.

Her oldest son is, like Biden's son, heading to Iraq this fall. Her youngest, an infant, has Down Syndrome; genetic testing had determined his condition in the womb. Deciding to bear and love this child will be pitched as testimony to her steadfast character. But it will also, very quietly, remind the majority of women voters, who support the right to choose in overwhelming numbers, why maintaining a right to choose is so important in the first place. Just as the nation is trying so hard to get past the phoney Republican culture wars and find sincere ways to make abortion less frequent while keeping it safe, Sarah Palin represents yet another battlefront.

Unlike Hillary or most other notable Democratic women who have fought the good fight all their lives for women's rights, she is not a crusader for women's rights at all, but a beneficiary of them---and she seems only interested to turn the clock back.

Anti-choice, completely inexperienced in national politics, running over the environment, anti-progressive marriage: only John McCain could find a woman somewhere in America who not only loves perserving the glass ceiling over women's heads but who actually wants to repair the 18,000,000 cracks Hillary so recently put in it.


For all the efforts of blogs and print to make political campaigns look like horse races, they are really more like chess games, where the winner will be the candidate with the best-staked position, and the one who makes, famously, the least critical mistake. The selection of Palin, already characterized as a "Hail Mary", is obviously not one from a position of strength, but one of weakness; it has blown McCain's weaker position so wide open, in fact, and presents Axelrod with so many options, that you can bet the master Democratic strategist will now sit on the clock for a little while, taking a long look, contemplating the next sequence of cornerning moves.

Notes from LA debut

A blog I'd like to draw a little attention to is Notes from LA, now in its debut week, and put together by a friend of mine, Solomon Wolfson.

From the launch post:

Call it an itch. Call it a long time coming. You know me as Antonio Watch from the Mayor Sam blog. You’ll still find me there—I’m not leaving—but I need the extra leg room afforded by my own blog again.

Notes from LA will follow local politics, too, but we’ll often go elsewhere. Beneath the surface. Above the fray. We’ll explore culture, design, theory; from slum villages to the ridgeline of the Santa Monica Mountains. Across the megalopolitan landscape of subdivided kingdoms. The City—and its region.

Solomon has over the course of the past few years been the Oz at MayorSam and also stepped in to do the heavy lifting there when Mayor Villaraigosa's actions warranted it.

Blogs like his, halfway between boulevardier and activist, are going to become more important as the steady decimation of local print journalism continues.

There are still very fine local scribes on local print beats---Rick Orlov at the Daily News and David Zahniser at the LA Times tend to top everyone's lists, mine too, and I'm going to hope Anna Scott at the Downtown News is routinely included on everyone's rounds---but overall, the print community has simply lost too much local vibrancy for a plugged-in citizen to rely on it alone.

"The sisterhood of the travelling pantsuits"

Hillary at least made fashion a self-referent before pundits could make it a referent.

Hillary's night at the Convention will likely be the Convention's most memorable show; in that way, pledging total fealty costs her nothing and will only win her very much.

Refreshingly, not much was said about her clothes, although the orange pantsuit was very smart, even for a Senator. But on the convention floor, it's another story. The fifteen-year-old next door kept asking, "Why are all those people dressed like that?"

Explaining the native dress of the political conventioneer to someone watching their first convention is indeed a difficult task. It will be even moreso next week.

It's Rutten's fumble

Here's Tim Rutten this morning on the Democrats' alleged fumbling of Catholics vis-a-vis the abortion issue:

All of this paled in the firestorm over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's answer to the question of when life begins, on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday. Pelosi, who described herself as an "ardent practicing Catholic," gave a response that was not only incoherent but managed to get wrong virtually every fact that might have buttressed her pro-choice position -- which, by the way, is shared by more than half of all U.S. Catholics.,0,2550332.column

Fortunately, there are transcripts of Meet the Press; let's see how "wrong" she was.

Pelosi said:

REP. PELOSI: I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition. And Senator--St. Augustine said at three months. We don't know. The point is, is that it shouldn't have an impact on the woman's right to choose. Roe v. Wade talks about very clear definitions of when the child--first trimester, certain considerations; second trimester; not so third trimester. There's very clear distinctions. This isn't about abortion on demand, it's about a careful, careful consideration of all factors and--to--that a woman has to make with her doctor and her god. And so I don't think anybody can tell you when life begins, human life begins. As I say, the Catholic Church for centuries has been discussing this, and there are those who've decided...

MR. BROKAW: The Catholic Church at the moment feels very strongly that it...

REP. PELOSI: I understand that.

MR. BROKAW: ...begins at the point of conception.

REP. PELOSI: I understand. And this is like maybe 50 years or something like that. So again, over the history of the church, this is an issue of controversy. But it is, it is also true that God has given us, each of us, a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And we want abortions to be safe, rare, and reduce the number of abortions. That's why we have this fight in Congress over contraception. My Republican colleagues do not support contraception. If you want to reduce the number of abortions, and we all do, we must--it would behoove you to support family planning and, and contraception, you would think. But that is not the case. So we have to take--you know, we have to handle this as respectfully--this is sacred ground. We have to handle it very respectfully and not politicize it, as it has been--and I'm not saying Rick Warren did, because I don't think he did, but others will try to.

Is the Church's teaching on abortion "50 years old, or something like that?" Yes. In fact, the encyclical Humanae Vitae is only 40 years old.

Did Augustine, a doctor of the Church, establish that life begins at three months? Yes. He had inadequate tools, as do we, to determine as much.

Does Roe v. Wade talk about trimesters? Yes.

Would more careful family planning reduce the number of abortions? I won't even insult you with a link.

What remains is the snide way in which Rutten attempts to dismiss Pelosi as an "ardent practicing Catholic." How can a journalist of all people tell? In the same breath, Rutten tries to suggest that Pelosi can't be an ardent practicing Catholic because she believes in a woman's right to choose---but he also informs us that 50% of all Catholics support that very same political right. Which is also correct. Are we to take away from Rutten that these fifty percent of Catholics cannot also be ardently practicing Catholic because they don't interpret the Church's wisdom in the same way that pandering, politicizing Republicans would like them to?

Pelosi did a great job in a very short time of explaining the logic behind one pro-choice tradition within cultural Catholicism. It's Rutten's fumble.

Women who are not there tonight

"The insurance companies took over health care..."

Even those not currently in the Democratic wing of the Democratic party might be inclined to agree with firebrand Dennis Kucinich on that point. But just how right this point is---that under the GOP, healthcare is now based more on actuarial tables and risk assessment than medical care---is borne out by another story in the news this week.

Ovarian cancer has a very poor five-year survival rate if detected in stage 3 or 4, but much better if detected in stage 1. So you would think that medicine would be rushing towards more effective early detection, right?

Not so. A test that has been demonstrated to be over 95% effective at detecting ovarian cancer (with a false positive rate of less than 1%) has not yet won the endorsement of Bush's FDA or the key gynecological cancer group.

The New York Times had the story yesterday:

The need for such a test is immense. When ovarian cancer is detected at its earliest stage, when it is still confined to the ovaries, more than 90 percent of women will live at least five years, according to the American Cancer Society. But only about 20 percent of cases are detected that early. If the cancer is detected in its latest stages, after it has spread, only about 30 percent of women survive five years.

But far from greeting the new test with elation, many experts are saying it might do more harm than good, leading women to unnecessary surgeries. The Society of Gynecologic Oncologists almost immediately issued a statement saying it did not believe the test had been validated enough for routine use.

Beth Karlan, top gyne/onc at Cedars, who pooh-poohed the need for women to push for more widespread ovarian cancer screening via an older and less accurate test (the notorious CA 125, which is only 60% accurate) earlier in the year, makes a similar case again against Ovasure.

But Dr. Beth Y. Karlan, director of the Women’s Cancer Research Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said the samples tested were not representative of what might be encountered in routine screening. There were very few blood samples from women with early stages of the most deadly type of ovarian cancer. “That’s really what we want to find,” she said.

I'm not sure what Dr. Karlan means by "most" deadly type, as those who die with "less" deadly strains of ovarian cancer find little comfort in the fact that their stripe is "less" deadly.

PS: Obama's mother died of ovarian cancer at age 53; I'm not sure if she died of a "most" deadly or "less" deadly type.

Girls girls girls

Hmmmm...this is a pretty good post about the Obama women by a fourth wave feminist I know who writes mostly at the otherwise increasingly reactionary rightwing site MayorSam.

The piece garners the general garlands of praise mainstream media has sent Michelle Obama's way, and notes one drooping dahlia tossed in...

Michelle garnered generally good reviews for her speech last night in Denver, (Washington Post, MSNBC), with the occasional kook (hello Leslie Sanchez!) who was left wondering (uh... wondering what?) after seeing Michelle in a "cocktail dress"? Seriously? Wondering about what she's wearing???

To flesh out the thought, it's girls girls girls these first two days at the Democratic convention, so someone at CNN from the rightwing goon squad was obliged to show how progressive Republicans really are by talking about what Michelle was wearing. If the name of the goon in question, Leslie Sanchez, doesn't ring a bell, she's a former candidate on Martha Stewart's fake reality show, The Apprentice, as well as W's point person on Latino issues; both of which resume-detractors are only further explanations as to why the name doesn't ring a bell.

I'm very surprised that Sanchez left it at that without noting how flouncy and bouncy Michelle's hair was. But absent real political discourse, these are the kind of barely simmering points to which American politics boil down. Republicans are not so concerned that they themselves are about to nominate a severely damaged man who routinely uses his damage as his only qualification to be president; no, they are concerned about what Michelle Obama is wearing.

Sex explains it all

We putative Democrats, wounded for so many years by a political process that rewards segmenting the electorate according to intelligence levels (with the GOP content to aim as low as possible), had an intriguing runup to our convention: a protracted contest between man who doesn't want to be President so much as above-the-fray King, and a woman who didn't want to be President so much as accede the crown as Queen. These two were natural complements to each other, and that is how things remained so close between them for so long.

As Gore Vidal has often said, we can only talk about inconsequential things in American politics because consequential discussions are kept from us by our lunatic media: the media are afraid that because of our perpetually atrophing educational system, they will lose attention and control if they talk about real issues, which we might not understand.

And among inconsequential political matters, sex is most inconsequential of all; yet because it is one topic that even Americans can understand, it determines much in American political life, more than ever, in fact.

Hillary is seen as a victim because of sex; and the key voting block of over-50 women, the first veterans of the sexual revolution, aren't anxious to let go of her victimization, even now. Obama is seen as a charmer---and villified by the opposition as a celebrity---because of sex appeal. And, consistent with the psychology of being held prisoner for a long time, it has become increasingly obvious that the now doddering, geriatric McCain, even uncertain of the number of houses he owns, has been content to be a submissive, kept man for much of his adult life.

It's no wonder he has such a fabled angry streak. But it has really never let up, this oversexualizing of politics: even as the GOP tried to destroy Clinton over his intern, Bob Dole was becoming a spokesman for erectile dysfunction. Really, it should have been Elizabeth.

But in this tawdry context, I think it only appropriate that Joe Biden, who presided over the oversexualized Anita Hill hearings that started all this dilapidation within American political discourse (after, of course, Bush I's insane nomination of Clarence Thomas, which really started it), be invited to join in, and I'm anxious to see how McCain completes the quartet and brings this long, sad, sexually overcoded era of American politics to full fruition at long last.

Peace, Joe B.

Well, I like Biden. In a Senate full of felons, it's refreshing to have one on the ticket whose only crimes are very incidental misdemeanors. He also takes away a lot of what our nation's second most horrifying Senator*, John McCain, has to offer the electorate: he not only has more experience and more--abundantly more---foreign policy experience---and judiciary experience---and sympathy vote etc. etc., but he also is credible as a potential president. He is what McCain paints himself as: a maverick. He will play well in Missouri and Ohio, and if Obama wins either, he wins.

And he pleases people lots of white people over fifty, something McCain is doing for no reason other than the fact that the white seniors among us grew up in times in which blackness was something associated with radicalism. A working class Catholic---the least wealthiest member of the Senate, in fact---he appeals to two not one but two key demographics in the Ohio Valley. He has a son heading to Iraq in October.

*Our nation's most horrifying Senator? Jim Bunning of Kentucky.

It's easy to mock

The Times hung another former editor out to dry this morning. Not content to bite off the heads of rivals, it now is chewing its own alumni, with some of LA's top bloggers only too anxious to oblige the spreading of the word.

I used to be too anxious to rat out scribes myself; that was precisely whenever I had had a computer nearby and too much to drink. I didn't stop drinking but I did realize after a sobering-enough encounter with personal shame that other writers are merely low-hanging fruit compared to politicians. You only start writing about writers when you're too gutless or lazy to say things about people who have actual power; I wish I had learned that earlier, and I wish other local writers would pay heed to it.

Scribes in other cities are more worldly, but scribes in Los Angeles, with all its Cal State Nowheres and suburban moorings, are largely undercultured and underinvolved with the broader ways of the world. And the scribes who are indeed a little more worldly are only a ready target for these.

We all make mistakes, unworldly and worldly alike. A writer's mistakes should only be of interest to other writers; they belong in tell-all books, under the eye of a careful editor and careful house, but not in our quotidien election-year storytelling, where they are only noise to readers who don't know the parties and who frankly don't care about them either way, and must certainly wonder why media are so stupidly self-referent.

The Times since the (largely inconsequential) Doug Dowie and Pellicano affairs has used its ink very capriciously, even with a vindictive streak. It should not; it diminishes itself further when it does. As I have said, the problems at the Times started way before Sam Zell bought it. These problems still haunt the place, and its uncertain and often vindictive relationship to the local blogosphere only enables yesterday's battles, which should be long dead, to echo through the years.


Where to have breakfast in LA these days. Mostly around $20, if you want nice coffee.

UPDATE: Catching our snidely perfect drift, a reader writes:

I really found the [Times] article to be somewhat humorous though, "Where to have breakfast in LA", it should have been titled "Where to have a gentrfied expensive breakfast on the Westside of LA", chauvinistic and provincial through and through.

They did give a nod to Silver Lake, though "LA Mill" ("and on the eastside of town"), although when in that area I'll still stick with the old and tried like Conrads...

Our Hypocritical Theocracy

American presidents, unlike their European counterparts, must pass a Jesus Christ litmus test to win elections. A Reuters blogger thinks the recent joint appearance of our presidental candidates crossed the church-state line, but I think the church-state line is largely an imaginary boundary.

In the realm of horoscope columnists, there are true believers and there are entertainers. In the realm of American politics, there are true believers and there are lip-synchers. I doubt very much that either John McCain or Barack Obama truly believe that their soul is going to fly up to heaven after they die, but admitting as much will get neither elected.

Thus educated Americans endure the white lies of their politicians when it comes to the superstitious side of end-of-lifecycle mainline religions in America. There was a time, 1964-1976, when religious beliefs were sensibly tossed aside---it is hard to imagine Johnson, Nixon or Ford addressing a question about their personal relationship with Jesus---but the time of Carter followed by Reagan, both of whom found their margins in Christians, took care of that. As Reagan dismantled public education in America, fundamentalism continued to grow, and now you have to send your kid to a private school in order to assure she can read English by eighth grade.

It should be obvious to even the most rightwing fundamentalist zealot that even if fundie panderer George W. Bush had meant a single thing he had said about Jesus, or abortion, or for that matter the Dred Scott case, he would have moved to outlaw it after he had the Supreme Court and the GOP Congress both in pocket, before he lost the Congress. Republicans since Reagan have been content to run on religious issues, but very afraid to implement them; and now Democrats, to their shame I think, have nearly mastered the same sad and pandering trick.

Feds looking at Rocky; watch Spanish media now

FBI to examine Rocky...

Our City Attorney Rockard Delgadillo, San Francisco's crabwrap of record reports, is being investigated by the FBI. The thing with Rocky is, there have been so many ethical uncertainties, from his dealings with the billboard industry to his family's use of City vehicles to the workers comp suit outrage, the investigation could lead in multiple directions, or it could end up looking like a fishing expedition.

San Francisco provides the feds, to assure no LA conflict of interest occurs if the investigation leads to a US Attorney involvement.

Delgadillo's office claims that political opponents--who at this point could be anyone from Laura Chick to big box lobbyists to Jerry Brown---are pushing the story.

Anglophone folk from Boyle Heights to Eagle Rock have long wondered when expressions of arrogance of power, often attendant to eastside politics even in the time of Art Snyder, were going to cross over into the Federal sphere.

Some of the more egriegious expressions of arrogance of power in the Villaraigosa/Nunez Eastside State Machine era have been dutifully covered by Anglophone media but mostly ignored in the Spanish-language media, and therefore have not registered deeply in the conscious of the Spanish-speaking community; e.g., Jose Huizar's recent City ethics violations went unreported by both La Opinion and Hoy.

The FBI investigation of Delgadillo is likely at minimum change this equation, and work to politicize Spanish media as something other than a buttering agent for Latino politicians in the State. Look to Hoy and La Opinion tomorrow for the most important print stories, and watch for a change of tune to take place.

UPDATE: No such luck.

Zell stuns LA with savvy pick for publisher

Eddy Hartenstein coming to the Times from DirecTV is an uncharacteristic move for an organization that seemed to be getting used to its death spiral.

One tippity-top thing Hartenstein learned at Hughes/DirecTV in the S-buildings of El Segundo is the value of maintaining security within a corporation. I would expect the betraying leaks to stop very soon, and Hartenstein to address the fact that the purportedly for-profit business leaks like a sieve in a gentle but extremely pervasive manner. This may be bad news for a few LA blogs and for bloggers who have enjoyed the peep show, but good for the paper, which is, after all, a business.

Hartenstein's also had a chance to draw from some no-nonsense heavies at the various incarnations and roundtables of Hughes/Raytheon/DirecTV, including C. Michael Armstrong.

Hartenstein with his flavor of broadcast media experience also figures to be unsentimental in his approach to news, understanding news as programming/content to fill rather than as fit to print. That'll please the boss even while making some crusty scribes---who like sleeper cells have chosen to remain loyal not to the new but to the bygone Chandler era---nervous.

The Times' problems didn't start with Sam Zell. Hartenstein knows that as someone who knows the Times not only as a competitor but as an occasional cooperative. I think it's a good match.

Arts and Leisure, any way you like

Lolita was intended to make a decadent Euro-American sphere safer from pedophiles; but instead the book and the film became a Pandora's box for pop culture, and the figure made the sphere even more dangerous.

You can infer that grim message from Rodger Jacobs' post The Panting Maniac: Chasing Lolita on a Grim 50-Year Anniversary, a thoughtful essay that may, along with a new book on Lolita figures in pop culture, move the needle a bit on pop interpretations of what became of Nabokov's most notorious heroine.

In the examination, which includes the sad career arc of the actor who played the title role, a new 50th-anniversary edition of Lolita by Knopf, and Graham Vickers' new book Chasing Lolita; How Popular Culture Corrupted Nabokov's Little Girl All over Again, Jacobs again takes an intriguing venture into the realm of poststructural critical theory. One key consequence of deconstruction has been the unfixing of specific textual meanings, which has enabled cultural writers and market forces to fashion meanings that best suit their own purposes. The Lolita story is most representative of the consequence of making a Rorschach blot of a literary icon.

Yet again, an amazing scene...

LA's downtown gallery scene, centered on the Nickel, as it demonstrated again last night, is utterly live, utterly short, it is like South La Cienega's scene last year, Chinatown's gallery scene two years ago, Echo Park's gallery scene four years ago, Santa Monica's gallery scene twenty years ago...and they all keep their bases through the years.

How does LA support so much up-and-coming art, so much that a new scene can emerge every other year, even while the old ones remain generally intact?

While the Disney Hall and the Music Center command the dollars of the white-flight types from Orange County and Westlake Village et al., an enormous percentage of the people living right here within City limits would rather own an original than a poster, and take a chance on a REDCAT performance than a night out at 9 to 5 at the Ahmanson (9 to 5, ye gads---whose parents is that for?).

In fact, something satisfying from a Main Street gallery that will last a lifetime can be had for about the same price as two orchestra seats and dinner for two at the Disney Hall, and most urbanites are sensible enough to recognize that.

What is especially enjoyable about LA's perpetually kaleidescopic art scene with all its hipster shifts and neighborhood color transformations is that the addition of each new neighborhood brings with it a sense of place. The South La Cienega scene is dominated by intellectuals, as is nearby Mandrake Bar, which is an integral component. Chinatown is eclectic and expatriate, as is Mountain Bar, and of course Chinatown itself, even after various airbrushings by the CRA and other organizations. Echo Park's is perennially shabby chic. Downtown's artscene is more skurban, urbanist commentary with an insouciant touch of rebellious suburban thrasher thrown in, as are many of the loft-dwellers themselves these days. Pete's Cafe is a very hard table on such nights.

Day laborers find sanctuary in LA

It's amazing this few under the radar of so many local blogs. Yesterday, LA City Council took the unusually progressive step of mandating big box retailers to provide special facilities for day-laborers. As with most votes involving retailers, the vote was unanimous.

Ironically, free-market neocons, who twenty years ago were celebrating the idea of cheap labor and open borders, now don't like the idea of giving local labor any rights at all, such as the right to stand in shade or use a restroom. Michelle Malkin is exemplary in her about-faced cold-heartedness.

Predictably, the Minutemen, who hang all their own drywall, don't like the Ordinance either, according to the LA Times.

Cruel and Unusual Jeff

The Republicans' end-arounding of the Constitution continues in California. While California fails to apply adequate medical care to its gulag of prisoners, witness la notes that Republican state Senator Jeff Denham told the Times:

“The idea of providing $8 billion for state-of-the-art healthcare for murderers like Charles Ng, Richard Allen Davis and Scott Peterson is sheer lunacy.”

Denham was subjected to a recall effort last year, because of his obstructionist role in last year's budget process. The effort was later dropped in the spirit of reconciliation between the two parties at war in Sacto.

Beyond its three most notorious inmates, California has 170,000 more inmates in its prison system, consituting the largest prison system in the western world. It was found in 2005 to be offering cruel and unusual punishment via inadequate health care, and prison health care has been in Federal receivership since then. It is estimated that an average of one prisoner a week dies of neglect or malpractice.

Testing the Mayor's mettle

When the Mayor came to office, he pledged a clean City Hall, and ethics reform. Will it matter to him that the man who succeeded him and is considered his own political project has been fined for extremely pernicious ethics violations?

It's hard to imagine they will, because the ethics violations were most likely committed on the Mayor's own behalf.

Why would Jose Huizar engage in an investigation of former School Board rep David Tokofsky, especially when Jose Huizar was President of the same board himself? What possible outcome other than vendetta and abuse of power, along with the possibility of influence peddling, could Jose Huizar have hoped to achieve? Or did Jose Huizar hope to rig an election to assure that his former chief of staff (and administrative aide at LAUSD) Monica Garcia could come to the board?

It may be time to send in the Feds to conduct their own investigation. The eastside people of Los Angeles have certainly been gamed.

Two good ones

  • We who talk politics a lot all know how Jose Huizar is generally incompetent and a school board stooge in the Mayor's machine, but this morning the Times' David Zahniser begins to spell out how. The backstory that Zahniser doesn't get into is that Tokofsky, Huizar, and yes, Pacheco, and even Monica Garcia all were activists at Berkeley way back when---before they met developers and land-use attorneys, whom they first saw as enablers but came to depend on for preserving power.

McDonalds ups its medal count

The Russians learn the art of Friday news dump, invading a former Soviet state during the opening ceremonies. Thus also does John Edwards run his political life, torching himself at the precisely optimal media containment time, and maybe the next time you look the flames will be safely doused and we'll even feel sorry for his self-inflicted burns.

But what was even more fascinating than these banal predictable moves was the way story of how an entire American Olympic family was assaulted not far from the Olympic village. The story was terrorism, pure terrorism, a nationalist attack complete with spectacular suicide, but it was treated below-the-fold as though a mere nuisance.

The model for response to this was not Atlanta '96 (when a mere pipe bomb exploded, killing a black woman) but LA '84, when, on the eve of the Olympics, a crazy driver started running over people on the sidewalk in Westwood. That story was quickly swept under rug by Republican corporate drone Peter Ueberroth, and so is this one by a media that's only too eager to push aside all tragedy for another time: it's still too early in the games, too many corporate sponsors paying too much money have to be answered to.

The Olympics, once an amateur festival but now a corporate spectacle like NASCAR, are most interesting to watch for the commercials---and for the way the viewing audience is patronized by the corporate sponsors. Very telling that a southern-style McDonald's chicken sandwich is fetishized as the "gold" for which athletes are contending. And how a soccer trophy is discarded by a winning team that isn't eating the right kind of happy meal at the end. McDonald's will likely win the games, but Home Depot is poised for the silver.

Who to root for?

Any less-than-cynical symbolism of the world's nations standing together as one to compete peacefully in athletic events is mostly lost by now, August 8, 2008. Corporate global entities, media among them---hell, even athletes among them, now that professionals can play---only detach us from the spirit of the Games: for America, Europe, Japan, China, these games are mere positive reinforcements for increasingly---and pointlessly---difficult lives. The Olympics is a consumer spectacle for the first world, and a nationalist balm for lives that would be healthier if they were less occupied with nationalism than they already are.

Some of the nations participating you can barely call nations; they are city-states with generous boundaries. But these are the very places in which the original spirit of Baron de Coubertin's Olympics, pre-monolith-media, survives intact. The medal-counts of nations are awful; what do they measure, other than privilege?

To root for the side of humanity, root not for Kobe or Roger Federer, but for nations from the war-torn middle east, from sub-Saharan Africa, from thorny countries in Central America, from the satellite states of the former Soviet Union. Those are places where they might still understand what the Olympics are all about.

Sanctuary City concept faces growing political challenges

Danielle Bologna of San Francisco and the Shaws of Los Angeles, representing two families who have been bereaved by alleged undocumented assailants, met today in front of Councilman Jack Weiss's office, to discuss the ramifications of "Sanctuary City" status in their respective cities. The activists also hope to force LA City Council to vote up or down a motion authored by Weiss on Special Order 40, which aspires to protects the general populous from capricious identification checks.

The term "sanctuary city" became poison to Rudy Guiliani in the Republican nomination fight; though well-backed, the former Mayor did abysmally in primaries.

Let them eat foie gras

The LAWeekly's Max Taves gets down and dirty with some actual journalism: he's got the scoop on how the Mayor sought to pass off incidental economic news to distressed south and east LA communities as an economic miracle.

Concommitant to the fake eastside renaissance, LAObserved notes that the Times finds it's a good time to list the Mayor's favorite restaurants and other favorite restaurants. The Times manages to list the Mayor's faves without irony.

None of the beneficiaries of the Mayor's fake "economic miracle" will be eating at these restaurants any time soon, though quite a few may be working at them, bussing tables for Ace Smith and Parke Skelton.

Note: the Mayor includes Water Grill on his list, carrying on a CD 14 tradition started by Alatorre twenty years ago.

Brilliant bars to hop, a la Metromix

MetroMix, edited by local metro minx Alexandra LeTellier, generally targets a twenty-something audience. But the cover this week, entrusted to scenester Jared Woodland is on a topic that everysomething (certainly at this site) can enjoy: 70's bars. Woodland is most intrigued by the design choices made by these new vibrant pleasure zones.

Start with The Barkley: "Spacecraft founder Kristofer Keith (who designed Kitchen 24, Ortolan and Bowery) recently flipped through the admittedly gaudy pages of a few interior decorating books from the ’70s and decided what he saw was “so ugly that it’s great.” And so was born the design for Barkley, a thoroughly ’70s-inspired lounge scheduled to open this October that will inhabit the Melrose Avenue building once occupied by Forty Deuce."

Jump to Saints and Sinners: "“Ninety percent of the ’70s,” he [owner Bobby Green] says, “was hideous.”

Follow up to Central: "For other designers, exploiting the tackiness of the ’70s can only go so far. Tracie Butler (see photo 12), for example, took a fairly reverent approach to the decade’s aesthetic when she created the look for Central, the sister venue to Parc. "

And chase it all with Foxtail: "Its extravagant rock ’n’ roll decor, inspired by English fashion emporium Biba, works well with the turn-of-the-century excess of the main floor’s nouveau-meets-deco look."

Presidential debates, moderators set


WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Commission on Presidential Debates on Tuesday named Jim Lehrer and Gwen Ifill of PBS, Tom Brokaw of NBC News and Bob Schieffer of CBS News as moderators of the three presidential debates and one vice presidential face-off.

Lehrer, anchor of ''The NewsHour,'' will moderate the first presidential debate in Oxford, Miss., on Sept. 26. Ifill, a correspondent on the same program and moderator of ''Washington Week,'' will handle the vice presidential debate Oct. 2 in St. Louis.

Brokaw, moderator of ''Meet the Press,'' will handle the second presidential debate in Nashville, Tenn., followed by Schieffer, host of ''Face the Nation,'' who will handle the third and final presidential debate in Hempstead, N.Y.

Each 90-minute debate will have a single moderator.

Yet more

A distracted week, as it's August (when people stop working, sometimes even if they're drawing salary). The PGA starts Thursday at Oakland Hills (not the California hills), which adds some structure to life courting it. And not only did I finish a project, but I finished reading Cusset's French Theory.

So I'm generally taking a breather for August. But here are a few things I noticed about life on the planet early this week.

  • For what it's worth, I generally support Michelle Wie's quest to make the cut at a "man's" tournament, and don't care if she makes the weekend cut or not. I think more attempts at integrating male and female golf play on the same course will help to normify gender relations and get us beyond the tactics of sexual identity.
  • Like it or not, Ron Kaye is gathering momentum, with SLAP, which I now think of as the City's key player to be named later. I think Ron has a dicey path to walk between the Minutemen on one side and the homeowners on the other (rarely do they overlap: xenophobes are looking for scapegoats), and I think he's chosen well, sticking with homeowners, which has made the xenophobes extra cranky of late.
  • Yet more parting flameouts at the Times is distressing. So many personnel files getting stamped "NOT FOR REHIRE"! Undoutably noted at other media companies when you attack one. Children, please leave the most caustic crit to we whose vocation is the routine self-immolation that is opinion writing, from whom it is expected. And if you think anyone at all can write opinions with vocational impunity, especially two days after a bitter layoff, think again.

A Dire Housing Forecast

Take it for what you paid for it:

(1) - State Budget Crisis means higher taxes and spending cuts (a combination of both).
(2) - $300 Billion in Pay Option ARMs set to recast in the state.
(3) - Declining price momentum - 3 measures show prices crashing
(4) - Market psychology. Why buy today when prices will be cheaper tomorrow?
(5) - Real estate prices do not always go up.

The combination of these factors is going to stunt any supposed recovery for the California real estate market. Yet for all the negative news on the economy and housing there will be a housing bottom at a certain point in time. When will housing actually hit a bottom? Some think we are already there. For those that are actually putting their money where their mouth is, there is the
real estate futures market. And their bet is that housing for Los Angeles and Orange Counties will not hit a bottom until May of 2011.

From the cheery lad at Dr. Housing Bubble. Dot com.

Catch and Release

Loved the evening out last night at REDCAT, on view again tonight and tomorrow night at 8:30 p.m. Anne LeBaron's and Douglas Kearney's Sucktion, a very clean "HyperOpera buffa" about a woman's cyberotic evolution from autonomous domestic to autonomous lover, starts with a gasp and incorporates a witty Derridaian libretto of wordplays on cleasning agents and actions; the synthesized techno with vibes and trap set scoring enables a memorable scatting of wiping and shining noises. Kristina Wong's Cat Lady about an incontinent cat supplanting a woman's "Sex in the City" years is pure and purely ribald hilarious satire amplified by projections; in fact, it is too close to the bone of people you may know. After intermission, Rosanna Gamson's Tov clunks, and more than a bit, gratuitously polyglot, unfolding on three continents but anchored nowhere, somewhat about salt and horses and genetic engineering and inhumanity but offering neither narrative nor adequate mosaic. But is still watchable as the dancers spin like tops, gamefully performing to an exhaustion that's as pointless as the piece, leaving a mess of the stage and a wish for the cleaning lady of Sucktion. Two solos are both breathtaking and disturbing; you'll marvel at the dancers but get angry at the choreography that made them submit to such tiring banality. But go; REDCAT is the best avant-garde space in town, and two out of three is batting .667.

UPDATE: The Weekly profiles Mark Murphy, director of REDCAT. They also like Gamson's Tov a lot more than I, and play up the inhumanity element of it (chalk outlines for the Holocaust?), but they can't possibly have actually seen it performed---can they have?

Antonio's shame: buying 2009 with money, not achievement

The shamefully enormous number that Mayor Villaraigosa posted for his out-of-town fundraising efforts in June and July demonstrates not only how badly he has failed the City but also how craven for the job of Governor he has become.

Determined to trounce any City candidate that comes his way, even marginal ones, and not to wage any kind of fair campaign, the Mayor has sacrificed governing for fundraising, even while Los Angeles is handed over to developers on a silver platter.

The Mayor's City numbers have nothing to do with local politics, and everything to do with personal aspirations. What most political analysts are unwilling to discuss at this point is how the Mayor is risking the health of the Democratic party in the State with his sad indifference for the well-being of Los Angeles and his craven jockeying for the Governor's slot.

The Mayor is so insecure in Los Angeles that he feels a need to out-fundraise Walter Moore by over twelvefold. While banking on an identity-driven Latino voters and inattentive Spanish media to pilot him to a victory in the 2010 Democratic primary, the Villaraigosa for Governor campaign, fortified only by the lees of a corrupt eastside Latino machine that has produced an entirely failed Mayoralty, opens the door wide for another Republican Governor in this overwhelmingly Democratic state in 2010.

Editor's note: a post that originally appeared at street-hassle, More Flypaper from Done, appears in its totality in today's CityWatch.