GOP: New Star, Old Problems

Almost every day in my eighth summer, I was sent to my room
for some infraction or other.

We lived in Pasadena, on the rim of the Arroyo Seco, and on one such day as I sat in my room, looking out across the Arroyo at the San Gabriel Mountains, I had a sort of epiphany: When I was younger, a baby probably, I had fallen out of the sky and landed in the wrong house, a house in which the people spoke a language I didn’t understand.

That was why I had to spend so much time in my room.

Several years later, I learned that they were all Republicans. My parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and all thrir friends and friends of the friends — a universe of Republicans. And me.

That flock of Republicans I grew up among was nothing like the current flock of Republicans. They did not gather in arenas, wear funny hats, wave signs, applaud and cheer endlessly, or chant slogans. They believed that the government should be neither seen nor heard, and that its primary responsibilities were keeping taxes low, streets clean and safe, unions out of their companies, and itself out of their lives.

Clearly, as the alien, the dissident, I must be a Democrat, the ”bad seed” that had somehow breached the line. At 16, I began hectoring my father about the need for unions, and the older I got, the more “radicaI“ I became. eologically, the only thing we had in common was our horror at Richard Nixon’s profoundly dirty tricks.

I was reminded of all that this week as I watched the Republican convention. They made a lot of noise, but they didn’t seem happy. No wonder. They had put George W. Bush in the White House and given him a second term. and he had made a shambles of America, and, in the doing, had committed high crimes and misdemeanors, but had apparently got away with it, and would go home to Crawford leaving the mess to them.

Their leaders spent most of their time attacking Barack Obama’s alleged lack of experience rather than offering solutions for the multitude of problems that are Bush’s legacy and their inheritance.

When the problems did come up, the alleged solutions sounded very much like the same old Republican mantra.

Given all that, it’s no wonder that the surprise vice-presidential candidate, Alaska governor Sarah Palin, was such a hit. She’s Mary Matlin and Lynn Cheney put together – tough, sharp, sarcastic and absolutely sure of herself. And she told a joke. The only difference between pit bulls and “hockey moms’ is lipstick.

Palin is a “hockey mom,” of course.

What John McCain referred to as ”floor noise” at the beginning of his acceptance speech turned out to be an abbreviated demonstration by an Iraq war veteran who was protesting McCain’s continuing Senate votes against vets’ benefits. The vet was hauled off, and McCain began his speech, much of which, ironically, was devoted to his five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

The plight of Iraq vets was mere “floor noise,” an annoyance to be got rid of , while McCain’s oft-told experiences as a Vietnam POW 35 years ago got 20 minutes or so on national TV. Again.

The people in the hall were properly subdued, or simply bored during their candidate’s POW saga, but when McCain spoke of the bi-partisan approach that would mark his administration, they were visibly troubled. For three days, party loyalists had trumpeted the GOP as the party of mainstream America, while consigning the Democrats to the lunatic fronge, and now their candidate was proposing a…partnership with…the enemy.

So the GOP has a new star, Sarah Palin, who will be kept “under wraps” until she “gets up to speed on the issues,” a presidential candidate whom it still doesn’t trust (his first choice for veep was a Democratic senator, for God’s sake), a nation in shambles made by them and their disgraced President, no fresh, workable solutions for the problems. And Carol Rove.


Whither the Weather 8/5 – 8/12

By Ava Tramer

Clear and warm
Highs: 72-77; Lows: 64-66

Clear and hot
Highs: 92-102 ; Lows: 61-64

Clear and very hot
Highs: 100-110; Lows: 75-81

And Santa Monica…
Santa Monica: No, please, don’t go!
Summer: I’m sorry. I have to.
Santa Monica: I’m begging you not to walk out that door. Please.
Summer: It’s really better for the both of us. I need to go.
Santa Monica: What’s it going to take to get you to stay? Do I have to get on my hands and knees and kiss your feet?
Summer: I don’t like your attitude. I’m leaving.
Santa Monica: No, no! I’m sorry! I shouldn’t have said that. Please don’t go. I need you! Warm weather and sunshine is my trademark. If you leave, I won’t be special any more. No one will like me.
Summer: Don’t say that about yourself. People will still like you if I go. You have celebrities and big beaches. People are bound to still like you.
Santa Monica: But without you, the celebrities will leave, and the beaches will be useless!
Summer: Hmm.
Santa Monica: You know it’s true. I need you. And besides…I…I…
Summer: What is it?
Santa Monica: I…I love you.
Summer: What?
Santa Monica: You heard me. I love you. I need you. Please don’t go.
Summer: Um…thank you.
Santa Monica: That’s all? “Thank you”?
Summer: Ok, look. Fine. I’ll stay. I’ll stay through the fall, and then I’ll see how I’m feeling. Ok?
Santa Monica: Thank you, thank you, thank you! Thank you!

No Mavericks Here

I’ve known a lot of mavericks. I knew Hunter Thompson, the mavericks’ maverick. And John McCain and Sarah Palin are not mavericks.*

For one thing, just as authentic geniuses do not go around calling themselves geniuses, mavericks do not go around calling themselves mavericks. In fact, anyone who calls himself a maverick is anything but.

Mavericks do not make rules for other people or tell them how to live. Nor do they abridge our rights in the name of security.

Unfortunately, the media are suckers for mavericks – real or bogus – and have taken McCain and Palin at their word, thus insulting actual mavericks everywhere.

If McCain and Palin are anything, and I’m not sure they are, they’re

*With a nod to Lloyd Bentsen

A Great Man Dies

Ed Guthman, a peerless journalist and sterling citizen, died over the weekend at his home in Pacific Palisades. He was 89.

He won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 1950, but that turned out to be merely the first of a series of singular accomplishments on a career that alternated public service with journalism.

He was Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s press secretary during the tumultuous time when the Justice department was actively engaged in the struggle to end segregation and secure the vote for African American citizens in Southern states. When Kennedy became a Senator, Guthman went with him, and later won the bumber 3 slot on President Richard Nixon’s “enemies list.”

In 1965, he became national editor at the Los Angeles Times, and played a key role in transforming the relentlessly mediocre paper into a major American paper. But, following a dispute with other editors in 1977, he left the Times and joined Gene Roberts, late of the New York Times, to resurrect the Philadelphia Inquirer. Under Roberts and Guthman, the Inquirer, like the Times, became a top paper, notable for its distinctive ”voice” and relentless investigative reporting.

Guthman spent a decade in Philadelphia, returning to Los Angeles in 1987, and became a professor at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism, retiring last year.

He wrote a book about the civil rights struggle, “We Band of Brothers” in 1971.

Guthman was also the founding president of the Los Angeles City
Ethics Commission.

Plans for a memorial service are pending.

When the Elite Speak, Who Listens?

More than half a century ago, John Anson Ford, a longtime L.A. County supervisor, noted, with pride, that Los Angeles, unlike most American cities, had no “fixed elite.” It still doesn’t.

In contrast, Santa Monica has a thriving fixed elite, though its members prefer, at least in public, to call themselves “community leaders.” Their political views range from hard left to extreme right, and while they sometimes divide on specific issues, they are absolutely united in the belief that they know better than the rest of us.

Among them are Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights leaders, past and current City Council members, former mayors. School District board members, the ubiquitous Harding and Larmore, some City boards and commissions members, and advocates for various causes.

This conceit is regularly reinforced by the local media, which take the Elite at their word, bill them as “leaders” and readily acknowledge their authority.

Most of us do not aspire to be leaders and refuse to be led – it’s a beach town, dude! — and are inclined to ignore the Elite until they do something dumb or offensive.

I know most of these self-anointed leaders and have watched them and written about them for years. The day the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City appeared on the scene, I knew the Elite would have to challenge it sooner or later. They were upstarts, after all, unknowns for the most part, and they were making waves on the Elite’s turf.

SMCLC opposed the re-election of an incumbent Council member and one of the Elite. It played a major role in stopping the mega-Macerich redevelopment that City planners had quietly collaborated on.

But the Elite didn’t declare war on SMCLC until it proposed the Residents’ Initiative to Fight Traffic (RIFT), and quickly collected more than enough signatures to qualify it for placement on the November ballot. Its call for limiting commercial development to 75,000 square feet a year was a direct assault on the Elite’s hegemony, and the status quo.

City Hall doesn’t like RIFT, claiming, ludicrously, that a citywide vote on land use is less democratic than its own community workshops.

The City Council ordered an analysis of RIFT and its impacts. Four of the consultants who do a lot of work for the City and are currently working on the revision of the land use and circulation elements of the General Plan (LIICE) were given 30 days and $100,000 to do the analysis.

Though the analysis was anything but objective, and loaded with surmises, speculations and conjectures, the Elite embraced it, because it gave them hooks to hang their opposition on.

They immediately organized “Save Our City.” (SOC), recruited some sympathetic residents, and boasted that it was “the broadest coalition in the city’s history” – united in common cause to defeat a measure that would ruin everything.

According to SOC’s latest “Dear Neighbor” missive, it is ”united because we believe that the future of our schools, and our quality of life, is at stake…After years of community involvement, we know that some things are just too good to be true…RIFT is misleading and irresponsible. It will have dire consequences for our schools and city for years to come…Here are some of the facts…

“The official independent analysis conducted by traffic experts found that: RIFT will not reduce current traffic And could even INCREASE traffic on city streets.

“RIFT will obstruct the City’s ability to effectively solve current and future traffic problems.

“…fiscal experts found that RIFT cuts 11 mullion dollars a year from the city’s general fund and millions more from other city budgets. What does that mean for residents?

“RIFT will cut millions of dollars from our schools’ budget. Why? Our schools will be out one million dollars a year in lost property tax revenues. Additionally, the City’s current 7 million dollar (sic) a year allocation to classrooms. will be at risk.

“…RIFT will make us less safe, It will slash City funds that pay for our police, paramedics and fire fighters by $11 million a year…

…RIFT will harm renters – especially vulnerable seniors… As it allows – and encourages — landlords to demolish affordable housing and displace existing renters. It will also cut 1.3 million dollars from affordable housing funds…”

SOC goes on to allege that RIFT will also make it harder tor non-profits to expand and health care facilities to improve.

We would not be surprised if SOC claims, in its next communiqué, that passage of RIFT will trigger an acne epidemic, make dogs bark all night, and cause hedges to lose their will to live,

SOC has not given us any “facts” here. It has given us unsupportable conjectures based on unsupported speculations in the “official independent analysis,” which, as we noted earlier, is anything but independent.

And, in a further effort to muddy the water and scare rather than inform residents, SOC fails to note that all budget allocations are made by the Council. Whatever the ultimate fiscal impacts of RIFT on the budget might be, any cuts in the school, police, firefighter and paramedic allocations would be made by the Council, not caused

it’s an old Elite/City Hall ploy – holding our most valued services hostage in order to keep us in line. Whenever our leaders oppose a residents’ measure or want us to approve a new tax, they claim vital services will be lost, if we don’t do as they ask, Thus, if we approve RIFT, but reject the City’s new utility tax this fall, we can say bye-bye to the cops, firefighters and schools. Never mind that this year’s total budget is over half a billion dollars, and the Council makes the cuts and, at its most arrogant, it’s not apt to cut essential services, and leave the millions it allocates annually to, say, promotion intact.

Just as the tree wars earlier this year weren’t really about trees, the RIfT rift isn’t about the alleged flaws in the measure. It’s about power. and control. The Elite and City Hall have it, and they want to keep it.

They don’t like RIFT because it would limit commercial development, and they don’t like limits – on anything –except the limits they set on us.

RIFT is a vital measure. It will limit City Hall’s power, as well as limiting commercial development. Unless you believe that the Elite know better, and are willing to cede your power to them, read RIFT (, and decide for yourself how to vote.