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the skunks of los feliz
William Bennett is a hypocritical family-values wingnut, the author of several moral primers whose "moral" authority was left in tatters some years ago by the revelation that he was a gambling addict.

His recent comments that aborting all black babies would lower the crime rate are surprising only in that he spoke them aloud in the public forum. After all, even in this age of a cowed and compliant press, and of a plurality of Americans that march in lockstep with the commingled drumbeat of the GOP/Religious Right political machine, openly expressing genocidally racist opinions is (for the time being) generally frowned upon.

Yet, there he was on his talk radio show, spilling the contents of his dark and twisted heart for all to hear. To call his comments the morally reprehensible ravings of a deranged eugenicist is perhaps letting him off easy.

President Bush, however, doesn't seem to see it that way. A quick check of the headlines (MSNBC, CNN, The New York Times) might give the impression that the President had publicly repudiated the hate speech spewing from the mouth of one of the Right's preeminent "thinkers".

What he actually said (well, what his lying mouthpiece actually said) was this: "[President Bush] believes the comments were not appropriate."

Well, that's a relief! W. thinks that expressing belief in the efficacy of a genocidal abortion program is, indeed, outside the bounds of the appropriate.

Notice, however, that the statement approaches nothing that resembles a condemnation of the beliefs underlying Mr. Bennett's remarks. It seems that the President takes umbrage only at the fact that these beliefs were expressed in an inappropriate (read: politically damaging) fashion.

The White House response is a dismal repeat of the tepid reaction to Pat Robertson's call for the assassination of Hugo Chavez: express mild disapproval, all the while holding hands under the table with the GOP's Religious Right base, and slyly winking at their clueless fellow-travelers in the nation's heartland.
OMG, a TV actor had to flee the Topanga Fire!

It's weird, but the whole thing seems much more real to me now....
Okay, I have two questions.

Do wookies really play baseball?

Secondly (and much more importantly), who beat Princess Leia with the Jedi ugly-stick?
In what may prove to be a no less of a shock to the street price of an oh-zee of primo California Skunk than Katrina was to oil prices, the L.A. County Sheriff's Department has announced the seizure of $28 million worth of weed from a remote canyon in the western Santa Monica mountains.

Dude. No.

That weed was so not hurting anybody. Let it go. Let it be free. And no, I'm not just saying that out of some knee jerk reaction against the War on Drugs. I'm saying that because the future of California may well depend on that dope.

In these uncertain economic times, any hiccup in comsumer spending could bring the whole teetering house of cards that is the California economy down upon our heads. Don't believe me? Let's imagine, then, a California without weed:

A California where sales of Big Gulps and frozen burritos plummet, sending 7/11's and AM/PM's everywhere into a economic tailspin. Where Carl's Jr., In-N-Out, and Pizza Hut have to lay off employees due to the precipitous slide in munchie-related sales. Where Sublime's back-catalogue CD's sit gathering dust in Tower Records bins all across the Golden State.

Frightening, isn't it? But there's more.

Who, I ask you, will create the California slang that is one of our chief exports, if skater dudes and wannabe rappers across the state are deprived of the weed that drives their linguistic explorations? Whither "the shizzle", "chronic", "spliff", or that all time classic, "dude"?

What will screenwriters use to stoke the creative fires as they craft yet another masterful car-chase scene, if pot is not available? How will stressed-out Westsiders take the edge off another hellish day spent shuttling up and down the 405, without weed? How will kids in the Valley pass their school lunch hour, without a little shake to put in the one-hitter?

Surely, it must be obvious that California (or "Cali", per our stoner friends) is not California, without weed.

Free the weed, Sheriff Baca. Free the weed, and then fire it up.
Down goes DeLay!
You probably always thought there was something unhealthy about San Berdoo, and you were right: seems that Angelenos fleeing high housing prices by heading further and further inland are trading in a hefty mortgage payment for an increased risk of death.

The smog and associated particulates that accumulate in higher concentrations in the Inland Empire than, say, Brentwood, have been found to contribute to an 11 to 17% increase in the likelihood of succumbing to heart disease.

That's a pretty significant number. Clearly something needs to be done.

Maybe it's time to reconsider placing giant fans in the mountains, to blow the smog away.

Or maybe we could all just drive cleaner cars, reduce our automobile trips, and take mass transit...

Naaah. Bring on the fans!
L.A. Haiku, Volume III:

Morning brings the fog.
Streets muffled by a blanket
woven by the sea.
If you think the Hollywood Hills are plenty developed, thank you, then you might want to put pen to paper and fire off a letter in support of the city's bid to keep Cahuenga Peak McMansion-free.

The peak, which at 1820 feet towers over Mount Lee and the Hollywood Sign, is one of the last undeveloped pieces of private land in the eastern Santa Monica mountains. The city believes it should be made part of Griffith Park, which it adjuts, to keep the vista of our remaining sage-covered hills intact. The developers who the own the land feel, somewhat unsurprisingly, that the land would be best used by building houses upon it.

I don't have anything against houses in the hills, but I think I can say with some degree of certainty that we probably have enough of them. I know there's a lucrative market for homes in the Hills. People want a house with a view. Well, so do I, and so do millions of other Angelenos who live in the flatlands.

I enjoy my view of the Hills. I also enjoy gawking at the sometimes spectacular homes nestled in the crenallated folds of the Hills. But at some point the whole meta experience of us looking at them, while they look down on us, both of us knowing we're looking at each other, doesn't quite compensate for the loss of what little open land we still possess.

And so, in what may prove as fruitless an effort as the battle to save the Ambassador Hotel, City officials have taken to shaking the (sparsely leafed) Sacramento money tree, trying to pull down state grants to help finance a municipal purchase of Cahuenga Peak.

To throw your weight behind this effort, you can send your handwritten (what, no email address?) screeds, full of heated "soak the rich" rhetoric, here:

Councilmember Tom Labonge
200 North Spring Street
Room 480
Los Angeles, CA 90012
My hamster Kubrick passed away last week, the victim of declining health due to advanced age. He was 3, positively ancient for a Dwarf Hamster, and by the end he was a wizened old coot with grey hair on his back, and bald patches on his tiny arse.

I'll always remember him, though, as the spry little rodent with an insatiable appetite for sunflower seeds that I brought home from Petco three summers ago, his full flower of youth still before him.

Ah, well. Death comes to us all, eventually, and Kubrick's time in the sun had passed. Now he lies in a shady spot in the Griffith Park bird sanctuary, never again to trod his recycled paper bedding.

All is not dark, however. To paraphrase Dickens: "It is a far, far better hamster wheel he goes to, than he has ever known."

Requiescat in pace, my furry little friend. See you in the next world.
While I was in NY last week, I missed the big thunderstorm, 4 earthquakes, the JetBlue landing gear drama (in what may be an Airbus pattern, JetBlue had another "incident" on Thursday), and a spectacular rocket launch.

Not a slow news week.

Luckily, Joe from over on Rodney Drive had his cameraphone handy and grabbed a couple of shots of the missile's contrail snaking over the palms on Finley.

I've posted one of them at left for those of you who, like me, missed it the first time around.

Thanks, Joe...
From the "always a silver lining" department:

The devastation of Katrina (and the abysmal response of state, local, and national authorites to that disaster) seems to have awakened L.A. citizens and authorities to the undeniable fact that we have our own, completely foreseeable cataclysm waiting in the wings, and that we better get to planning for our day of reckoning.

For a QuickTime movie of a simulated rupture on the Puente Hills fault, click here. This clip visualizes ground velocity in the aftermath of a 7.o direct hit on the fault.

The shaking lasts for 70 very long seconds.
Why is the Daily News calling Mayor Villaraigosa by his first name in this headline: "Antonio lobbies for $76 million for L.A. security"?

I certainly can't recall them ever referring to Mayor Hahn as James, Jim, or, sadly, Jimbo.

Is it paternalistic racism, or just plain sloppiness on the part of the editorial staff?
State Senator Don Perata (D-Oakland) may be the man who killed the 405 HOV lane until at least next year, but he's suddenly found design-sequencing religion, urging Caltrans to proceed with the project in expectation of future approval of the project.

Protesting (too loudly), that L.A. was in no way, shape, or form "screwed" by his decision to close the legislative session 24 hours early to teach laggardly (SoCal?) legislators a lesson, he's now calling for a mulligan.

Now, I'm not sure how Sen. Perata defines "screwed", but I do know that there was plenty of time for the Bay Area (which he not so coincidentally represents) to squeeze enough water from the budgetary stone to finish reconstruction of the Bay Bridge.

In other transportation news:

- The Metro Orange Line has a start date: the first cross-Valley busses will roll on October 29. Following recent tradition, Metro will be offering free rides on their schmancy new articulated busses all weekend. If the Gold Line opening is any indication of the crowds, lack of coordination, and general pandemonium that will accompany the start of service, you may just want to wait until October 31 to ride. There's sure to be plenty of empty seats by then.

- Everybody who hates the intersection of Franklin and Highland, please raise your hands.

Ah yes, I see you out there, stuck at the light on Franklin, trying to turn onto Highland, being accosted by the freaks who hang out in the Starbucks parking lot, and then, when the light finally turns green, being stuck behind some jackass from Iowa who can't decide if he wants to go to Hollywood Blvd. or Universal Studios.

Yes. I see you.

Help is on the way, my friends. The city has pried control of the Highland Avenue corridor from the state, and they have big plans to fix this big mess. Widening the intersection, improving the signals, and banning yokels from driving are all on the agenda (Okay, they're not banning yokels. After all, their money is almost as green as someone from Brentwood or Sherman Oaks).

The only downside?

Construction. At the intersection of Franklin and Highland. For months.

And months.
Boy, this gator story really has legs.

Enough, already. Hell, I'm a native Floridian, and even I lost interest after the Gatorland crew whiffed.

A modest proposal: no more coverage until the damn thing is actually caught. Or even better, just leave it alone. It would be different if we had a bloodthirsty man-eater on our hands, but it's just floating around, minding its own reptilian business, Okefenokee-style.

If we can learn to live with coyotes and mountain lions, what's one gator, more or less?
L.A. can play the "blame game", too!
Yesterday's blackout, which rattled nerves across L.A., and indeed, the nation (I inadvertantly left my cellphone in silent mode, and subsequently received a series of progressively more concerned voicemails from family back east), has turned out to have been caused not by jihadist knuckleheads, but garden-variety DWP knuckleheads.

It wasn't al Qaeda, this time. But, as the latest hokey threat tape, featuring an unconvincing Riverside County dude with his head wrapped in a turban, gesticulating wildly while spouting your typical OBL propaganda line (We love death! Blood in streets! Slice your throats!), made clear, L.A. has a big ass bullseye painted on its back (Sidebar: these tapes would be laughable if the lunatics making them weren't deadly serious. I mean, c'mon: That dialogue! Those production values! Fucking amateurs...).

City officials have sought to downplay the videotaped threat, saying they are aware of no specific intelligence pointing to an imminent attack. As far as we know, they are telling us the truth. However, as the successive attacks on the World Trade Center made clear, al Qaeda is nothing if not persistent. They will keep grinding, probing for weaknesses, biding their time. Knowing as we do that LAX was the target of a planned attack (prevented only by an observant border guard), we should fully expect that al Qaeda will attempt to attack us again.

That's not to say that we should all panic, cover our windows in duct tape, and stop living our lives. On the contrary: We should go on as usual, our middle fingers extended in a hearty "Fuck you" to those assholes. But we should be prepared, and in light of the failure of government (at all levels) to respond effectively to Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, it might be a good idea to go over those emergency response plans one more time.
If you're concerned about the proposal to replace the historic Derby building with condos and retail space, you 'll have your chance to voice your opposition tomorrow night. The GGPNC's Transportation Committee will be meeting at the Los Feliz Community Center at 7:00 p.m., with this newest threat to L.A.'s cultural heritage atop an agenda that will also include a discussion of the traffic impact of the draft Griffith Park Master Plan.

The Planning/Zoning Historic Preservation Committee will also take up the Derby issue during their Sepetember 14th meeting (7 p.m. at the Los Feliz Community Center). The committee will begin planning a large community meeting for sometime in November, which will deal exclusively with the Derby demolition proposal.
As we walked to Alcove on Friday, we noticed that Tropicalia, the new Brazilian grill on Hillhurst, was open for business. The thought of grilled chicken and plantains seemed much more appetizing than having the Alcove turkey burger yet again, so we Froggered across Hillhurst (always a dicey proposition) and headed in.

As it turned out, Cami and I (according to the girl at the register who kinda looked like Claire from Six Feet Under) were the first patrons, ever (presumably our credit card receipt now takes point of pride below their city business license).

The fact that we were passengers on Tropicalia's maiden voyage was evident in the staff's shaky mastery of the cash register, but having worked a restaurant opening myself, I won't hold that against them. Besides, the people are very friendly, the owner himself served and schmoozed us, and, most importantly, the food was very good.

I tucked into the Chicken Tropicalia, a heavily-laden plate of tender deboned chicken, black beans and rice, salsa campanha, farofa, and the salsa Tropicalia (chimichurri), all washed down with an ice cold Brahma.

Cami had the Veggie Combo, a sample platter that included servings of black beans and rice, polenta, vegetables, salsa campanha, and plantains. She chased her meal with an Anarctica Guarana, a highly caffeinated Brazilian soda with alleged medicinal properties, which I thought tasted kind of like Red Bull, but she seemed to enjoy.

While we ate, the small dining area began to fill up, and the place took on that pleasant buzz of a busy restaurant: kitchen noises, conversation, and an underlay of music. Soon, an adjacent wine and beer bar will be open to patrons (though separated from the dining room by glass doors, to preserve the family-friendly atmosphere), allowing the party to continue after dinner.

Details: Tropicalia Brazilian Grill, 1966 Hillhurst Avenue. Phone: 323.644.1798. Open everyday from 11 a.m. - Midnight.
Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist has died.

Christ, what a confluence of events: Iraq's a mess, we're dealing with the worst natural disaster in American history, and now we've got two vacancies on the high court to fight over.

We're certainly living in interesting times.

Good thing the Republic is resilient.
NBC cut Kanye West's off-script condemnation of George Bush from the west coast broadcast of their hurricane benefit concert, but you can see it here.

Was the middle of a benefit the right time to blurt out "George Bush doesn't care about black people"? Maybe not. But to reflexively attack the messenger and his timing is to ignore the fact that there a lot of people in this country that agree with that statement (for the record, I think he should have said George Bush doesn't care about poor people. He likes upper-class Black people just fine).

Regardless of what you think of Kanye West (I don't think Mike Meyers is liking him so much right now), with every day that goes by it seems more and more clear that this disaster is going to force America to have a long-delayed reckoning with itself.
CNN.com has posted a blow by blow comparison of public statements by the Bush administration vs. the realities on the ground in New Orleans.

The results are damning, indeed: either the whole bunch of them are inept fools, or egregious liars.

Probably both.
Katrina victim: "Mr. President, help us! My son needs clothes! I don't have anything!"

Bush: "Well, go to the Salvation Army, they can help you get some hand me down clothes..."

Katrina victim: "The Salvation Army has blown down."

Bush: "Uh..."

New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin had his "mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore!" moment last night, and it makes for some compelling listening.

Emotionally raw, frequently profane, and crackling with righteous anger, it's a call to arms. I hope someone in the federal government heard him.
AEG, a vast, asset-rich company owned by Philip Anschutz, one of the wealthiest men in America, loves to ask the city of L.A. for money. Sometimes the huge corporation gets what they ask for. Sometimes they don't.

They successfully wrangled a handful of public cheese for the Staples Center, getting the land for the arena for a buck, with $70 million dollar worth of public subsidies thrown in for good measure. City officials put up the stop sign, though, when AEG came begging for funds for their spec football stadium.

Undaunted by that setback, the company came storming back with a proposal for a huge entertainment complex that would, somewhat unsurprisingly, be centered around the Staples Center. Claiming that they needed help building an adjacent high-rise hotel (without which, according to the company, the project would not be viable), AEG asked for, and has now received public financing through a CRA/LA loan.

Downtown hotel operators fear a worsening of the room surplus in the CBD. Some city officials worry that artificially encouraging hotel development around the financially troubled convention center will do little to help turn around it's fortunes.

'Course, the city could always take a page from the struggling screenwriter's handbook: sell the convention center to AEG for a buck, with points on the back end.
More Republican "compassion" for New Orleans:

House GOP honcho (and reknowned sub-genius) Dennis Hastert has questioned whether it would be easier to just "bulldoze" the place, rather than rebuild it.

Do these assholes seriously expect us to believe that they are on top of the situation in New Orleans?

Maybe I'm just watching too much cable news while I sit at home and try to get over a tussle with a nasty summer cold. The images coming out of New Orleans today are heart-rending and inflammatory. They are making me angry. They are making me question not just the preparedness of this administration for this disaster, but their very willingness to try to help these desperate people.

A procession of Bush administration lackeys have marched across the screen, talking about everything except their failure to get food and water to their fellow citizens in the hour of their greatest need.

Discussion of gas prices, promises to rebuild New Orleans, expressions of sympathy: they are all very well and good, but they do not help relieve the abject, ongoing suffering of this disaster's victims. Where is the food? Where is the water? Where is the National Guard?

We can wage a war to conquer Iraq, but we cannot respond effectively to this cataclysm within our own borders?

If so, then that may be the truest tragedy here.


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