Archive for October, 2009

More Hippie Commune Info

October 29, 2009

Our post about running away to join a hippie commune has brought in some hits and so we will post this link to one in Tennessee

http://www.thefarm.org/general/visit.html

Maybe we should go there and do a story/column about it?

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A Halloween Column to Scare Libeals

October 28, 2009

Since this will be the weekend to contemplate scary nightmares, this column postulates the idea that Jeb Bush will win the 2012 Presidential Election and we’ll throw some “connect-the-dots” items out and let the readers have a chance to frighten themselves into a state of hysterical paralysis 

Most Liberals maintain that George W. Bush’s team (with Karl Rove as the captain calling the plays) stole the 2000 and 2004 elections but somehow didn’t engineer a win for Senator John McCain in 2008. 

The way conspiracy liberals tell it; in 2004 the electronic voting machines were used to steal the results in Ohio and that was enough to deliver the win.

If this is true, why didn’t they also put the fix in for John McCain?  How could they be so forgetful?

Perhaps, since the Republican political juggernaut was fomenting a massive amount of resentment for  wars, torture, and the handouts of bailout bonuses to the banking industry, they wanted to let the Democrats (almost) take over.  (You know like in the cartoons when the bird hands the dynamite stick with a burning fuse to the coyote?)  The conspiracy corner residents, who think that the electronic voting machines permit the Republicans to micro-manage results, might want to take note of the fact that the Democrats thanks to Joe Lieberman may not have a filibuster-proof majority after all.  Did Rove dream up an “almost, but not quite” style “majority”?

So, if the Republicans can sabotage the Obama program for four years, they can then run a campaign emphasizing that Bush’s successor did not accomplish anything and therefore he needs replacement.

If this premise is valid, won’t the electronic voting machines be used to further cripple the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, next year?

If, like President Bill Clinton, President Barack Obama has to constantly battle a solid wall of recalcitrant Republican oppositionists, he would go into 2012 with an emaciated accomplishments list, which would set the stage for an “elect someone who will get something done” type Republican campaign against him.

The mainstream press has ignored the issue of the electronic voting machines’ reliability factor and so it seems likely they would greet a 2010 Republican “surge” with a shrug and a “the voters confounded the pollsters again” type of spin-cover story.

The possibility that the Republicans could use the kowtowing journalists in the (supposedly) liberal mainstream media to cast Jeb in a variation of a modern Restoration Drama role which would be as likely as your personal skepticism of journalism’s reliability factor would permit. 

With the help of a complacent press, Jeb could take the podium at the 2012 Republican Convention amid an enthusiastic partisan crowd and a “hear no evil, see no evil” press gallery would conveniently miss the zombie symbolism of the Bush family’s return to power.

Recently Smirking Chimp featured a story about the fact that Germany’s Supreme Court ruled that electronic voting machines were unreliable.

http://smirkingchimp.com/thread/24469

A few days earlier the Bradblog web site (which has been covering the electronic voting machines’ poor performance record in test situations) reported that a Georgia Supreme Court ruling established that electronic voting results can not be contested on grounds that voters were thereby disenfranchised.

http://www.bradblog.com/?p=7445

At this point, it becomes a personal call for each member of this column’s audience:  If you can discount the 2004 objections, the failed tests stories, the ruling of Germany’s Supreme Court and the belief that the Republicans might stoop that low, then you can accept the possibility of a Bush Family return to power in 2012 as a legitimate news story.    If you concede all these points then you have to either find a plausible reason for the Republicans not to engineer such a scary scenario or you can start to prepare yourself for the gleeful Rush Limbaugh programs that would be used to (metaphorically) rub salt into the Democrats wounds following a Jeb victory in 2012.

This was just an attempt to provide a speculative Halloween column as entertaining as any of the installments of the Saw movie series.  If it turns out to be a prophesy . . . we tried to warn folks about the electronic voting machines, but they didn’t listen.  If we really wanted to scare you with this column, we’d elaborate on the particulars of just how long Bush’s “Forever War” is going to last 

Shakespeare wrote:  ‘Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world.

Now, the disk jockey will play the traditional Halloween carol of Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s “Monster Mash.” (Were you expecting him to play the entire “Music to Scare the Hell Out of Your Neighbors” album?) We have to go see if our contact at Playboy can get us into this year’s party at the Mansion.  We are afraid that it ain’t gonna happen.  Have a “Don’t ever scare me like that again” type week.

On the Road to the Bloggers’ Hall of Fame

October 27, 2009

If Jack Kerouac were alive today, it seems quite likely that since he liked to be in the avant-garde contingent of contemporary writers, he would be blogging, but what sort of items would he deem worthy of his attention?  Would he point out the fact that after serving seven years as President, George W. Bush’s apologists were stoutly advocating the idea that some problems were the result of  Bill Clinton’s policies but a mere 8 months after President Barack Obama was sworn in, those same Republican folks were firmly maintaining that now all of America’s current problems are the results of the new President’s agenda? 

Perhaps Jack Kerouac would point out that the fact that Clinton had a long lasting effect and that the new President had quickly taken control might be a subtle indication that Bush’s interim period had been ineffective and impotent.  Do Republicans’ really want to imply that the USA’s first Negro President was a virile buck who has put his mark on world affairs that quickly and that Bush never managed to achieve that in seven years?  

After reading “Why Kerouac Matters,” by John Leland, this columnist realizes that a misperception had formed.  This reader had leaped to the assumption that Kerouac would sympathize with the political views of writers like Paul Krasner, Art Kunkin (of Los Angeles Free Press fame), or Hunter S. Thompson.  Such a surmise is very wrong.  Leland asserts that millions of Kerouac’s readers have misunderstood what Kerouac was saying.

Leland postulates that the father of the Beatnik movement actually held strong conservative convictions as far as political philosophy was concerned.  The literary critic then doles out the evidence to back up his contention.  (See page 28 in particular.)

Kerouac did not inject many (if any) references to the Korean War in his novels.

Who will win the Series?  Although Kerouac’s name was synonymous with New York City, he didn’t seem to care much about pro sports let alone root for the Dodgers, Giants, or Yankees.

For as much traveling as Kerouac did, he hardly ever extols tourist attractions.  He seemed to concentrate on jazz, drinking, and sex.  That and his spiritual visions endeared him to the hippies and they assumed that his mystical moments constituted permission to experiment with mind altering drugs. 

Would Kerouac have blogged about topics which were not to be found on the Internet, such as the hypothetical “Bloggers’ Hall of Fame,” or would he have extolled patriotic approval of all of George W. Bush’s war crimes?  What would you expect of someone whose hero was William F. Buckley?

If someone doesn’t start the Blogger’s Hall of Fame, what good is blogging?

How can a blogger compare the Golden Gate Bridge to the Sydney Harbor Bridge if he doesn’t make the effort to see and walk across both of them?  Why state a conclusion if there is no chance that the results won’t take the blogger a step closer to just getting nominated for a place in such a hypothetical institution?

Kerouac said “Why must I always travel from here to there as if it mattered where one is?” 

Isn’t the answer the same as the one to the question about why did that guy climb Mount Everest; “Because it’s there!”?

Kerouac did rewrites and polished his work and presented one draft of “On the Road” on one long continuous sheet of paper as if it were a product of a spontaneous burst of creative energy.  He gave encouragement to bloggers who tends to write fast and post in haste by saying:  “Why let your internalized high school English teacher edit what God gave you?”

Speaking of putting a roll of teletype paper into your typewriter and starting a marathon of keystroking, the folks at National Novel Writing Month (http://www.nanowrimo.org/) are about to start their annual November typa-thon competiton.  Kerouac wannabes, you have been given ample notification.

Can you just imagine a talk show chat featuring Jack Kerouac and fellow conservative Ann Coulter?

Just before the posting process for this column was started, a quick bit of fact checking shows that the site for the annual blog awards (http://2009.bloggies.com/) contains a notation for repeat winners that they are considered to be at the Hall of Fame level of achievement. 

Who would get a link on a Kerouac Blog?  How about the teacher going around the world on a bicycle? 
(http://teacherontwowheels.com/) Talk about a road trip.

Why did this columnist and so many others leap to assumptions about Kerouac if the ideas weren’t in the words?  Leland leaves the questions about the possibility that those messages were present on the subconscious level and thereby more effectively communicated, to other future critics-analysts.

After reading Leland’s book, a re-read of “On the Road” seems quite likely.

“Why Kerouac Matters” doesn’t have an Index.  (Boooo!)  Somewhere in the book, didn’t Leland mention a jazz composition titled “Kerouac”?  Without an Index, that fact slips through the existentialist’s time warp and disappears into the either.  An Index would also help to determine which of George Shearing’s tracks Kerouac liked and which he didn’t because he thought they showed a new attitude of cool and commercial.

In “On the Raod,” Kerouac wrote:  “He said we were a band of Arabs coming to blow up New York.”

Now, the disk jockey will play Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray’s “The Hunt,” Prez Prado’s “Mambo Jambo,” and Slim Gaillard’s “C-Jam Blues.”  It’s time for us to bop out of here.  Have a “Go moan for man” type week.

Old Citroen

October 24, 2009

MVC-011F

This old Citroen was seen in Venice CA today (October 23, 2009) getting a frontal shot of it looked to be more bother than it would be worth, so we cranked off a telephoto shot and said “good enough.”

Absurdism and Reality TV

October 21, 2009

(Venice CA) While standing in line at the Cow’s End Coffee House waiting for my turn to order a white hot chocolate drink, the TV monitor featured CNN’s coverage of the barf boy and balloon dad. They were relaying the information that last week’s scientific experiment gone bad might have been a publicity stunt that failed. It seems balloon dad is more than just an amateur clone of “Back to the Future’s” Dr.Emmett “Doc” Brown (Christopher Lloyd); he actually is more of a combination of Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields), Orson (War of the World broadcast) Wells, and Rosie Ruiz all rolled in to one. [Why can’t the news shows play “Up, up and away (in my beautiful balloon)” as background music when they give updates on the “balloon boy” story?]

It seems that the “Let’s revitalize the concept of Zeppelins” guy is a bit disappointed by the prospect that his chances to land a reality TV gig have just gone down the toilet. Well, this columnist came up with a suggestion that should leave balloon dad flush with excitement and get his spirits flying higher than the Hindenburg on a cross ocean trip to New Jersey. Since it looks like he’s going to “the joint,” “the big house,” or the place where Johnny Cash recorded a live version of “A Boy Named Sue;” why doesn’t he see if the reality TV production company would like to put some video audio equipment in his cell for 24/7 coverage of him paying his debt to society. That way folks could participate vicariously in his attempt to become rehabilitated.

The only possible objection to such a venture would be that it would set a precedence and that would open the possibility that some other company could up the ante by initiating pay-per-view access to Charlie Manson in his cell.

After getting our drink, we talked to some of our fellow Cow customers and in doing so we came up with a curious local belief. According to a reliable source, if a person says a prayer to Bob Marley, within five minutes, someone will offer that person a joint. No! Not Q or “the rock” (isn’t that a national park and not the slammer these days?) a joint as in marijuana.

Now some cynics might suggest that in Venice even if you don’t say the prayer, it’s still gonna happen, but we’re just relaying the local lore.

Actually, we hear that the fire escape to the rooftop crib where (allegedly) Jim Morrison crashed has been removed because so many tourists have been attempting to visit that particular location, the means of getting there had to be removed but that, in turn, has angered the fire inspector.

Speaking of smoking that exotic herb, we heard a rumor that one of the local legal medical dispensaries for that very kind of medicinal cigarette has provoked the usually tolerant and liberal local artists into making a concerted effort to close down one of those angels of mercy (?) efforts because of the fact that they have been a bit rude in chasing away some of the world famous Venice Beach street performers working in close proximity to the “legal medicinal pot” location’s front door.

Isn’t one of that folk remedy’s effects to make the “patient” mellow and easy going? What up with the “scam, kid, ya bother me” type attitude?
There was a time, many, many moons ago, when the “hang-loose” attitude was one of the area’s trademark attributes.

There was a local fellow who would sit on one of the benches and ask for money. On occasion he would use his discretionary funds to purchase a liquid libation which might leave him in the prone position in the middle of the Ocean Front Walk. This columnist can remember seeing a police car drive around the guy and leave him taking his afternoon siesta unbothered. We were never able to verify the local urban legend saying that he was given every possible break because he had won a Medal of Honor during the Second World War.

Guess who is supposed to have been a Venice resident for a mere six weeks (or so) before trying her luck further up the coast where she joined a band called “Big Brother and the Holding Company.” Ironically the singer who became synonymous with the San Francisco sound of the sixties, died in Los Angeles.

It was on Ocean Front Walk where (according to Danny Sugerman’s biography) John Densmore offered fellow UCLA student, Jim Morrison a chance to fill-in that evening for hid band’s singer.

Venice also was home to the only bar in the world that intimidated us away. That didn’t happened in Casablanca, but it did happen when we had the opportunity to have a sarsaparilla at “The Sand Bar.”

This columnist can personally vouch for the inexpensive but filling breakfasts which were offered by the Layafette café.

The Catholic Church displayed a bit of civic pride by naming the local one “St. Mark’s.”

Just about the only thing missing in Venice CA is a bar that could boast that it had been (one of) Hemingway’s favorite gin mills.

Just across the border in Santa Monica, the legendary pioneer punk venue called “Blackie’s” is now a chic restaurant run by a world famous chef.

Don’t get the idea that his columnist has gone Yuppie just because of his visits to the Cow’s End. When this columnist recently chatted with Caleb, the owner, we asked where the cow which was on top of the building many years ago went, he pointed to the cow and immediately knew this columnist was not a “johnny come lately” newbie. We got extra points for knowing that the place, which attracts laptop owners with wifi access, could boast that an episode of “The Rockford Files” had done some location work on the premises.

Do the hippies in Venice refuse to abandon their attachment to the past? Recenlty we saw a young fellow in his old car. He was driving up Lincoln in a green four door convertible 1927 Bentley. Can’t he, at least, get into the Sixties frame of mind and upgrade to a VW bug?

Aimee Semple McPherson did better than balloon dad when she told newsmen: “It’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

Now, the disk jockey takes great civic pride in playing “Down on Me,” “L. A. woman,” the “They shoot horses soundtrack album” and “the Lawrence Welk Show” theme song.

This is the world’s laziest journalist reporting live (via wi-fi) from our source for white hot chocolate drinks. Have an “out of Vietnam now!” type week.

Example of different styles of blogging with links

October 19, 2009

EXAMPLE ONE
Blurbs with link following words.

Marina Developers Contribute to Supervisors’ Campaigns – Politics: Records show that leaseholders have given $508,044 to members of county board since 1986. They say they donate money to win access to public officials.
By JEFFREY L. RABIN, TIMES STAFF WRITER April 12, 1992
http://articles.latimes.com/1992-04-12/news/mn-480_1_campaign-contribution-reports

Grand Jury Asks D.A. to Review Leases at Marina – Development: It wants Garcetti to determine if laws were broken or procedures ignored in negotiation of long-term deals for prime real estate.
By FREDERICK M. MUIR, TIMES STAFF WRITERS and JEFFREY L. RABIN, TIMES STAFF WRITERS August 11, 1994
http://articles.latimes.com/1994-08-11/local/me-26025_1_grand-jury

EXAMPLE TWO
Blurbs with embedded links

Jeff Rabin LA Times story about Marina Developers Contribute to Supervisors’ Campaigns

Muir/Rabin LA Times story about Grand Jury asking Garcetti to determine if long-trem deals broke any laws.

EXAMPLE THREE
Index
Under multiple listings
Example for L. A. Times story about Grand Jury asking Garcetti to investigate long term deals

County Board of Supervisors
http://articles.latimes.com/1994-08-11/local/me-26025_1_grand-jury

Grand Jury
http://articles.latimes.com/1994-08-11/local/me-26025_1_grand-jury

Gil Garcetti
http://articles.latimes.com/1994-08-11/local/me-26025_1_grand-jury

L. A. Times
August 11, 1994
http://articles.latimes.com/1994-08-11/local/me-26025_1_grand-jury

Leases
http://articles.latimes.com/1994-08-11/local/me-26025_1_grand-jury

Rabin
http://articles.latimes.com/1994-08-11/local/me-26025_1_grand-jury

EXAMPLE IV
Inert link and attempt to activate an inert link

Inert
http://articles.latimes.com/1989-11-13/news/mn-1002_1_county-officials

Activating an inert link
http://articles.latimes.com/1989-11-13/news/mn-1002_1_county-officials

If the link above is in blue that means that you can be taken right to the story on the Internet just by clicking on the blue type.

Zen and the Art of Hoaxes

October 16, 2009

(El Paso, TX) America is the home of the “Inconsistency for fun and profit” school of business philosophy.  Here’s a good example:  Richard Heene says he didn’t know that his kid wasn’t in the balloon and a large part of the USA reacts by crying:  “Fraud!”  George W. Bush claims he didn’t know that the WMD’s in Iran were a figment of his own imagination and all Republicans respond with this nonchalant reaction:  “well, that’s good enough to start a war (even though it contradicts the American philosophy as stated at the Nuremburg War Crimes Trials) and let’s let it go at that.”  Who, other than the Who, cares about getting fooled again?

Isn’t inconsistency the basis for driving people nuts (as well as the hobgoblin of small minds?)?  When Pavlov’s bell rings and the dog doesn’t get the expected treat isn’t that a good way to make the dog begin to manifest schizophrenic behavior?

Don’t Texans, and especially the 43rd President, know that a different term for hoax is to call it a practical joke or to at least use a deceptively exotic label such as:  “preemptive strike” rather than calling it a “sucker punch”?

Richard Heene should be held accountable for an expensive prank, and George W. Bush should get a pass regarding any war crimes trials and be hailed as the one who should be getting this year’s Nobel Prize for his efforts to track down rogue weapons of mass destruction.  What’s wrong with a little bit of inconsistency?

“You got your mind right, Luke?”

Good patriotic American Christian Republicans have no trouble seeing that a Texan like George W. Bush deserves an “attaboy” for his use of extreme questioning because the results saved American lives.  The Geheime Stastspoltzei used the same methods while questioning French citizens (AKA “frogs”) in an effort to root out members of the resistance and they faced charges of war crimes for their dastardly efforts, but if it could have been proven that by doing so, they had saved American lives, then all the expenses involved in the Nuremberg trials could have been avoided.

Can’t the Democrats see that sending American troops to Afghanistan today is in the same commendable tradition as sending volunteers to the Alamo? 

When Texas was invited to join the United States, they put a secession clause into the contract and by golly if Americans can’t live up to the contracts they sign, then hellfire, they are getting this capitalism stuff all wrong. 

Didn’t some great capitalist say “I don’t want lawyers who will tell me what I can and can not do; I want lawyer who will get done, what I tell them to do!”  Wasn’t whoever said that the same fellow who coined the phrase:  “Get ‘er done!”?  Would he have let some lawyer foil attempts to save American lives by using whatever interrogation methods were necessary to learn what a terrorist didn’t want to tell?  

In a capitalistic democracy the bottom line is king.

The big difference between George W. Bush’s search for WMD’s and Balloon Boy’s adventures is that 43 was smart enough to not let a six year old spill the beans on national TV.  The Bush bunch knew that once you make up a story, you stick to it and so the search for WMD’s in Iraq has become a sacred American tradition that is not questioned.

Letting a kid commit a blooper that “lets the cat out of the bag,” isn’t a good game plan.  If you are going to fool all of the people all of the time, you’d best select a Svengali spokesman who is erudite and eloquent.  Shouldn’t Donald Rumsfeld have offered his services to the Heene family?

Online Davy Crockett is credited with saying:  “Step down off your high horse, Mister.  You don’t get lard unless you boil the hog.”

The disk jockey will now play, Marty Robin’s “El Paso,” Kinky Friedman’s “Proud to be from El Paso,” and Bobby Fuller’s “I Fought the Law (and the Law Won).”  Now, it’s time for us to go down to Rose’s cantina.  Have a “Just Kidding!” type week.

Awards Surprise?

October 13, 2009

Speaking of unexpected winners, over the weekend this columnist saw the just released movie “An Education” because of the rash of reviews suggesting that Carey Mulligan’s portrayal of a 16 year old school girl, Jenny, who has an affair with an older man, should earn her a nomination for the Best Actress Oscar.  We concur with the extremely enthusiastic reviews.   She does a superb job in a film which delivers a memorable cinematic experience.

Unfortunately, it seems likely that when the Oscar nominations are announced, most Americans are going to say:  “I missed that movie.”  That will cause them to question the motivation of the Academy voters for selecting an obscure acting job.  The Oscars are not a popularity contest, nor are they meant to be awards for selling the most number of tickets in the previous year.

Does a young person deserve the nomination because of accomplishment or is the expectation that Ms. Mulligan will deliver marvelous performances in the future reason enough to nominate her for the next Best Actress Oscar?

If any patriotic conservative Republican Christians do see “An Education,” they may voice strenuous objections about letting anyone else see a story of illicit love, which will bring up a delicious bit of curious misdirected attempts to promote public morality. 

Rush Limbaugh and other well paid guardians of public morality and enthusiastic advocates of war crimes will blithely see a duty to shut down an entertainment which subtly advocates letting individuals make their own decisions about selecting sex partners at a time when the country in which the film is playing is almost a decade into a war that was based on some misperceptions and might drag on in the unwinable mode for quite some time.

Could it be that these well meaning hypocrites know that since they might be able to shut down the movie but that since the liberals will never convince politicians to shutdown a war that can’t be won, the conservative prudes might as well prove their potency by taking whatever victory they can achieve and let the liberals grumble?

It’s not like the Republicans have established an unblemished record of living up to their vows of fidelity, isn’t it more like a golden opportunity to display the psychological phenomenon known as projection?  They can accuse the degenerate Democrats of nurturing horrible, despicable tendencies to lewd and lascivious conduct, which they themselves can not control in their own lives.  Such a move is very therapeutic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that conservative Christians love being able to use Democrats as scapegoats, thus avoiding the necessity for confessing their own sins.

Isn’t it odd that a movie about love can be condemned and a war involving needless slaughter of civilians goes mostly unnoticed?

Recently the Nobel Prize committee made it even more necessary to find a new topic to divert public attention away from the war because they gave the prestigious award to the American President (is he the first to win while still in office?) mostly for the reason that such a move would hold up to world wide ridicule the fellow who instigated two wars.  President Obama inherited those two wars when he took office and hence faces a bigger than usual challenge regarding efforts to establish Peace, worldwide fellowship of man, and a reduction of the level of nuclear armament in the world.

So, in a world full of war, a movie about love which doesn’t meet the war mongers’ standard of morality will be harshly received if they notice it.

So, what else is new?

We saw “An Education” at a mall in Los Angeles that had a movie arcade that specializes in attract the audience that prefers “art house” type movies.  While we were walking out we came across some activists from a group that fights puppy mills, so, since we couldn’t fork over a large $ grant to help them, we promised to run a plug for bestfriends dot org because, as we noted, back in our days at Lake Tahoe we were part owner of Sigfied L. von Richthofen, the greatest dog who ever lived. 

Siggy set a standard that will never be equaled, but that doesn’t mean that folks should feel free to patronize puppy mill outlets in their efforts to find a modern day companion who can at least come close?

Actor comedian W. C. Fields is often credited with being the source for the quote “anybody who hates kids and dogs can’t be all bad.”

Now, while the disk jockey plays Patti Page’s song, “How Much is that Doggie in the Window,” we’ll mush on out of here.  Have a “win the Iditarod” type week.

Strange Political Tradition in Marina del Rey

October 12, 2009

[Full disclosure:  While this columnist has been doing fact checking, and file organization work for the Marian (del Rey, CA) Tenants Association, the thought occurred that a collection of tidbits might be of interest to the folks outside the Los Angeles enclave because a quick recapitulation of some of the top news briefs might serve as a paradigm for all the examples of antagonism in contemporary American culture which exist among/between voters, journalist, and politicians of all parties.  Lest any reader make the assumption that some of this column has been fictionalized in an attempt to achieve humor, we will insert the boring academic style citations that prove “we’re not making this stuff up.”]

On August 13, 1961, on page one of the Los Angeles Examiner, Jack Keating, under the headline “County’s New Giveaway Deals” wrote:  “Something is DEAD WRONG with concession leasing and land deals under Los Angeles County’s multi-million dollar recreation program that leaves the door wide open for the Board of Supervisors to give favored parties ‘special treatment.’”  The story suggested:  “The need for a major shakeup in policies of the county board is indicated.”

In “The Urban Marina:  Managing and Developing Marina del Rey” written by Marsha V. Rood and Robert Warren (for the Center fro Urban affairs Sea Grant Program and published by USC) notes, on page 36, that at the same time the Express was questioning the possibility of Giveaway Deals: “In August 1961, the Small Property Owners League of Los Angeles County and the Venice Canal Improvement Association asked by letter that the County Grand Jury investigate the propriety, if not the legality, of a number of the Marina’s aspects, . . .”  On page 37, readers learn “No Grand Jury action was taken on the request.”

In the forward to the study, published in 1974, it was stated:  “No explicit decision was made on the basis of public debate to transform the recreational boating facility into a multi-million dollar regional activity center with predominantly land-oriented development.”

In the Thirties, the Army Corps of Engineering held a hearing to explore the possibility of building a man made marina on the Western edge of Los Angeles County.  When Mrs. Edmund S. Fuller, of the National Audubon Society, wanted to discuss the seventy three species of birds in the area, she was informed the Army Corps of Engineer’s weren’t authorized to consider environmental issues.  The tradition of evading public input had been established two decades before the ceremonial first shovelful of dirt had been excavated.

After the formal dedication ceremony was held in 1965, the locals immediately began the tradition of squabbling with the politicians.  Boat owners fought slip rate increases and, after a series of rapid rent increases, area residents formed a Tenants Association to advocate a need for rent control.

By June of 1979, when the County Board of Supervisors faced the issue of a proposal to impose controls in the county’s incorporated areas, the Los Angeles Times wrote an editorial on June 1, which noted:  “Like other attempts to limit rents, it would be a snare and a delusion.” 

On that same day, James A. Hayes, the area’s representative on the County Board of Supervisors, resigned without a word of explanation.  On the following day, Saturday June 2, 1979, Bill Boyarsky, in a front page story for the Los Angeles Times, said:  “Nobody answered the door at Hayes’ home in the expensive Palos Verdes community of Rolling Hills.  And he had changed his home phone number, effective Friday.  Aides said he had left on an out-of-state vacation.”

Governor Jerry Brown replaced Hayes with Yvonne Burke and she was quickly replaced in the next election, by Deane Dana and things returned to the traditional method of being handled.  By October of 1981, Steve Coll writing in the L. A. Weekly (Vol. 3 No. 47) noted that the voters had been stymied:   “The developers are getting away with murder,” says Seymour Kern, a member of the 1980 – 81 grand jury and chairman of a subcommittee that investigated the rents the county charges developers at Marina del Rey, only to find that the Department of Small Craft Harbors had precluded any action through rulings favorable to the developers.”

In a move to pull an end run on the Board of Supervisors, Marina residents mounted a grass roots effort to establish cityhood.  Their efforts were quickly neutralized.  Mark Gladstone (L. A. Times March 14, 1985) explained how:  “For the second time in less than a year, a legislative attempt has been launched that could block Marina del Rey residents from forming their own city.

“A bill, introduced last week by Sen. William Lockyer (D-Hayward), would prevent residents from taking preliminary steps toward incorporation in areas where less than 50% of the land is privately owned.

“Marina del Rey, an 800-acre waterfront community with at least 8,500 residents, is almost entirely owned by Los Angeles County.”

Later in 1985, (L. A. Weekly Vol. 7 No. 52) an article headlined “The Selling of L. A. County” offered a special investigative report into the effects of campaign donations on county land-use practices by Ron Curran and Lewis MacAdams, with the subhead:  “Developers in L. A. County are giving record amounts of money to the Board of Supervisors and getting in return virtually everything they request.”

The article started (Page 24) by saying: “For some years now it has been common knowledge in political circles that the Board of Supervisors, notably the three conservative members who form a majority, have been massively underwritten by the contributions of land developers eager to have their way in the county with as little interference as possible.”

That same issue also contained a sidebar story on Page 28 “The Million-Dollar Loophole” with the subhead “How the Supervisors get away with ‘legalized sleaze.’”  It said:  “‘You know why you won’t find any illegal sleaze around the supervisors?’ asks Carlyle Hall, director of the Center for Law in the Public Interest.  ‘Because they’ve legalizd all the sleaze.’”

Occasionally some outsiders tried to insinuate themselves into the local scene.  One 1988 article (L. A. Weekly for June 17 – 23 1988 Vol. 10 No. 30) titled “Backroom Moves,” written by Ron Curran, was promoted this way: “Alan Robbins the controversial Valley pol, is up to his neck in shady Marina deals.”  Curran casually explained:  “But it is Robbin’s less-reported power plays to protect and enhance his substantial investments in Marina del Rey – including a recent secret attempt to buy a community newspaper that has scrutinized Marina real-estate projects from which he stands to make million of dollars – that most graphically reinforce criticisms that Robbins spends more of his political time and effort serving his personal interests than serving the interests of his community.”

Could anything shady happen in the late Eighties without BCCI (Bank of Credit and Commerce International) being involved?  Glad you asked because they got in on the action, too, but the local political methodology caused them to quickly opt out.  Jeffrey L. Rabin, writing in the Los Angeles Times (March 19, 1991) put it this way:  “A group of wealthy Saudi Arabian investors have filed suit to dissolve their partnership with Marina del Rey’s biggest developer, accusing Abraham M. Lurie of engaging in fraud since selling them a 49.9% stake in his extensive Marina holdings nearly two years ago.”

In a 1991 page one story (Vol. 13 No. 21), the Los Angeles Business Journal story written by Michael Stremfel and Benjamin Mark Cole, informed readers:  “The unfolding BCCI-Marina del Rey scandal, and an increasing realization that the city and county of Los Angeles often literally do not know with whom they are doing business, last week spurred a wide spread call for reform of local public-disclosure laws.”

The following year, it was the Los Angeles Times singing the same old journalists song.  A three part series started on April 12, 1992 with a headline “Marina del Rey Prospers at Expense of County” followed by the subhead:  “Developers make big profits thorough favorable long-term leases.  Public services lose out.”  An editorial, which ran about the same time, added:  “Nowhere is the arrogant ‘sit-down-and-shut-up’ method of governance on better display than at the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration.”

A 1994 story in the Los Angeles Times on August 11, written by Fredrick M. Muir and Jeffrey L. Rabin carried the headline:  “Grand Jury Asks D. A. to Review Leases at Marina.” 

In 1997, the Arab Sheik was gone. 

In the year 2000, a meager handful of journalists struggled to continue their role in the squabbling.  On January 6, the L. A. Times carried a story headlined:  “County Extends Political Donor’s Leases in Marina.”  A few days later columnist Patt Morrison’s column carried an old refrain:  “Sweetheart Deals Are a Hallowed L.A. Tradition.”

Things have quieted down considerably in the era of “fair and balanced” journalism and there are only occasional hints that some people still value the Marina’s traditions.

One of the latest (last?) efforts to carry on the nearly half century old effort to question the possibility that something is wrong was reported, by Helga Gendell, in the Argonaut newspaper on September 29, 2005, (page 4):  “The suit alleges that certain Marina lessees have been unjustly enriched at the expense of the county and taxpayers, and that lessee campaign contributions and payments to lobbyists to influence the Board of Supervisors may have created a climate under which no price control existed due to a concert of action between the county and the lessees.”

Currently the lawyer who filed that suit, has to deal with other developments which grew out of the effort.  He has been disbarred (and is fighting that move) and is in jail for contempt.  See the Superior Court Ninth District’s case no. 09-56073 for the latest news on how that is going.

A hotel, which is being considered to replace a public beach, heads a list of new items waiting to be approved for construction in Marina del Rey.  The local newspapers the Argonaut and the Venice Beachhead seem to be the only media available to hold up the journalists’ participation in the continual squabbling.

Perhaps Los Angeles magazine’s assignment editor will read this column and hire a highly qualified investigative reporter (snarky columnists need not apply) to do a comprehensive update on the questions that have been being asked for 48 years. 

Some traditionalists might suggest that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors should adopt one of James Cagney’s quotes as their motto:  “Where I come from, if there’s a buck to be made, you don’t ask questions, you go ahead and make it.”

Now, of course our disk jockey is going to play us out with George Strait’s song “Marina del Rey,” but there are bonus points if you know why it’s appropriate that he’s also going to play both “And That Reminds Me” and “Don’t You Know,” which were monster hits for Della Reese.  Like James Hayes, we’ll disappear.

Bankers’ Code of Ethics

October 6, 2009

Several years back, there was a news story about an old guy who would buy a new car quite frequently.  When it was discovered that he was senile and that a salesperson at the car dealership was taking advantage of the poor old fellow, some consumer protection laws were passed and it was established that sharpies had to be forbidden by law from exploiting vulnerable older citizens.

It used to be that at the bank this columnist uses, they had a service called “overdraft protection” and money in the savings account would automatically be transferred to the checking account to cover any shortage of funds if the balance in the checking account couldn’t cover a check and the money in the savings account could make up for the shortfall. 

Now, following a round of banking industry bonuses for their ineptness during the recent financial industry collapse, the banks are charging $10 for each instance of overdraft protection. 

What type of customer would be the most likely to make a math mistake and need overdraft protection?  Do you think that there would be an inordinately high number of AARP members getting dinged by these charges?  If so, why don’t the laws inspired by the serial new car buyer with Alzheimer’s disease apply?  Did the law have a specific exemption for greedy bankers?

If there seems to be an inconsistency in the fact that automobile dealers can’t (by law) take advantage of older customers with diminished metal acuity, then should the same standards of business ethics be applied to the poor distraught bankers who came perilously close to failure recently and now need every small amount of profit they can squeeze out of the citizens in a strapped for cash period of history?

If what the bankers are doing qualified as an example of immoral business ethics wouldn’t some of the nation’s highest ranking clergymen be pointing out those transgressions to their congregations and denouncing such a move as a variation on the stealing principle?  Don’t bankers go to church every Sunday (and sit in the front row)? 

If the bankers were doing something reprehensible, wouldn’t the clergy revive the spirit of chasing the money changers from the temple and speak up?

If what the bankers are doing is not within the guidelines of moral responsibility wouldn’t some crusading journalist with a national audience (if only Tim Russert were still alive, eh?) be pointing out any such financial malfeasance? 

Isn’t not owning a company with your own personal accounting department God’s way of implying that old folks didn’t work enough during their period of employment?  Don’t clergy and bankers concur that the old <I>caveat emptor</I> still applies?

If the only one to point out that the transition from free “overdraft protection” to the automatic deduction of $10 per incident seemed, especially after the tax payers subsidized all those bonuses, a bit like a variation of price gouging aimed at the weak and infirmed, was just a minor web pundit, wouldn’t that indicate that it was more likely a case of illusions of grandeur run amok rather than a journalistic variation of the boy who pointed out that the emperor’s new clothes were nonexistent?

Obviously, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, et al would be standing by with some major Republican talking points, ready to come to the defense of the (maligned?) bankers if there were any possibility that consumers would take any such allegations seriously.  Would bankers whose methodology and morality is being questioned by “the World’s Laziest Journalist” really be able to sneak by the rest of America’s journalism community unnoticed?  Shouldn’t the professionals’ paychecks be a tip-off as to who is (extreme) right and who is wrong?

Rather than editorialize and urge folks to remedy this (misperceived?) injustice, this columnist will ask the audience to render a verdict.  Should copies of this column be forwarded to the reader’s representative in Congress accompanied by a request for a legislative remedy or should the columnist just take a chill pill and do an update on the work being done to bring the nation closer to the day when the George W. Bush Predidential Library is dedicated?

(Can a drawing of Snidely Whiplash be used as an illustration for this column?)

In the film “Wall Street,” Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) coined an American business maxim by saying:  “Greed is good.”

Now, the disk jockey will again play “Take the Money and Run” and we will try to scram.  Have a “get out of jail free card” type week.