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« November 20, 2005 - November 26, 2005 | Main | December 04, 2005 - December 10, 2005 »

Big Old Yardsale-Fundraiser Today to Fight the LAUSD's Razing of Echo Park: It's at the northwest corner of Echo Park and Delta, north of Sunset and just west of that whole Elysian Park/Chavez Ravine area. It's a great neighborhood to putter around in, a lovely day, and a good cause, so get thee to the garage sale! And if you can't make it, but want to donate, click here.

Speaking of my "Outside the Tent" column, the Times ran a couple of good response letters today.

And speaking of our local government's concern for displaced tenants, check out this City Council meeting coverage from today, about how soon-to-be-evicted citizens had to wait nearly three hours to deliver their public comment, during which the mayor and various City Councilmen did stuff like this:

Villaraigosa and Councilman Bernard C. Parks made a bet on who would win today's big college game.

If UCLA wins, ex-Trojan Parks will pay for dance lessons for the mayor.

If USC wins, Bruin alum Villaraigosa promised Parks a luxury skybox for NFL games at the Coliseum in 2009, assuming the city lands a professional team.

Council members Smith and Ed Reyes also made wagers, involving who would spring for a meal.

As the friendly wrangling wound down, a football was flung across the council chambers and school fight songs blared from the sound system. Councilman Tom LaBonge, a former gridiron star at Marshall High School, made a lunging catch across the middle of the room and then avoided being tackled by a podium.

Meanwhile, the tenants sat and waited. Their item was at the very bottom of the agenda.

When it was finally their turn to speak -- at 12:48 p.m., nearly three hours after the meeting began -- Venice resident David Ewing took the podium and admonished the council for making them wait.

"A lot of people have taken time off work and interrupted their lives to speak to you," Ewing said. "I know there have been a lot of feel-good issues this morning but this is a serious one -- this is going to affect people's lives and the future of our community."

The second speaker, an elderly woman, broke down in tears.

And the coop-a-de-grah, as Steely Dan would say, is that the eviction in question has to do with a private developer wishing to, um, develop his own property. Or, as journalist-turned-Councilmember Bill Rosendahl said, it's about "tenant rights versus developers who are building high-end condos. This is a people issue."

12/03/2005 09:29 AM  |   |  Comment (2)  |  TrackBack (0)

Dang if the LA Weekly Doesn't Have a Cover Story on our Pals Tsar: My favorite screwy Jeff Whalen moments:

"The thing is, if it's not fun, then what the fuck? I mean, you wanna -- you gotta -- do something fun, creative, and if making rock records is what you do, well, there're a lot worse ways that you're gonna spend your life. If I do something I'm proud of, and know that it was worthwhile and I had a good time, then I'm only a little bit bitter [laughs]. As opposed to cripplingly bitter."
"Yeah," he says, "it's one of those deals where you see somebody on the news, and, like, their house burned down or something, they lost all their stuff, and they say, 'But in a weird way, it's like the best thing that could have happened to me.' And then you go, 'Can we burn down your new house?' If that first record had made it, I bet I'd be a person that I could not stand. I think I would've been on drugs -- more than I am [laughs]; I think I'd have hepatitis or chlamydia or something, and I'd just be really sad and really awful. I'd have a really cool mustache, but that'd be about it ..."
The boys are playing a blockbuster show at Spaceland tomorrow night, and if you haven't bought their punkish Band-Girls-Money, by all means hit it and click!

12/02/2005 04:42 PM  |   |  Comment (1)  |  TrackBack (0)

The Stealth Triumph of The Overnighter: Joseph Mailander is a guy I've crossed swords with more than just about anybody else online. We're long out of the habit, though, maybe because Kevin Roderick stopped enabling comments, maybe because he re-focused his considerable ire on Cathy Seipp (though that, too, seems to be in the rearview mirror); and then onto Mr. Roderick himself (a guy who strikes me as one of the least likely to be worthy of any anger).

Anyway, Cathy always likes gossiping about Joseph, mostly because she has the manners of a 16-year-old, but also because he lives basically halfway between us, frequents some of the same haunts (The Drawing Room, for example), walks by the same monuments, etc. It seemed bizarre that we didn't run into him every day, and we (OK, she) liked to imagine what he was like. And along the way, maybe even despite ourselves, we both got semi-hooked on his web column for Martini Republic, called The Overnighter (check out his evocative logo-image of the Shakespeare Bridge).

Joseph has a writing style that, when I first encountered it, struck me as wading dangerously into Wassermanian self-importance, when not accusing me of various right-wing sins. But he never quite stepped over that line (you know, the one that uses "epistemological relativism" while talking about, um, the L.A. Times) ... and I certainly can appreciate a man who talks so happily about his morning drinking (Modelos at the 7-11, bien sur). This post of his is a classic of the form, about Thanksgiving, social dread, manners, telling a pert young westside girl "I really want to flip you off," aging, Catholicism, glee, the sadness of empty bottles.

And Emmanuelle and I make an entrance at the end, for we have finally met my onetime tormentor, and he's as polite, tall, and handsome as can be. Reminds you of a soft-spoken, less-confident and better-preserved Robert Shaw. Makes me wonder if the morning Modelos are more a literary device.... Anyway, we bumped into him at a teensy & satisfying local production of MacBeth, which Joseph reviews here.

12/02/2005 12:42 AM  |   |  Comment (9)  |  TrackBack (0)

Glenn Reynolds, Engaging the Argument: So, I write a 1,000-plus-word blog post/thumbsucker about the U.S.-military-secretly-buying-news-organizations-in-Iraq story, using as my jumping-off point the five propaganda-apologist posts Reynolds endorsed yesterday. What does the InstantMan do? This:

MATT WELCH, like a lot of people, has lost perspective over the propaganda-in-Iraq story, but commenter "Tom" restores it:

[quotes Tom's funny, ranty blog-comment deal]

Propaganda is a part of war, and it's not run according to Poynter Institute seminar standards. One might argue that what the U.S. military was doing is a bad idea -- I don't know one way or another on that -- but the howls of outrage seem rather forced. As is so often the case these days.

UPDATE: Reader Don Wolff reminds us that there are worse things in recent Baghdad media history. Perhaps that memory, or a desire to erase it, explains the excessive outrage now.

Let's consult the checklist:
1) Wildly mischaracterizes the post? Check. (Anyone out there who can find a single "howl of outrage," or even an agitated yelp, gets a taco.)
2) Darkly suggests impure motiviations? Ditto. (My non-existent howl of outrage seems rather forced, almost as if I didn't really mean it, and was just making an argument because of some ulterior motive....)
3) Makes some bizarre inference that A) I give a shit about what the Poynter Institute says about anything, and B) would like to conduct military operations based on its "seminar standards," perhaps because C) I'm some kind of limp-wristed MSMer? Yup. Because everybody knows I'm all about the pointy-headed gatekeepers!
4) Suggests, using the weasel-word "perhaps," that part of my motivation for the non-existent howl of outrage is that I have a painful memory of media suck-ups to Saddam, which I may even "desire to erase." Ding ding ding! That's right Glenn, I wouldn't want anyone to remember stuff like how
The embarrassing Peter Arnett interview on Iraq TV was just a brief public glimpse on what has been a nasty little private "secret" for years -- that "news bureaus" in Baghdad and other totalitarian capitals (Havana, to name one) are actually propaganda huts, churning out what CNN producers call "sanctions coverage" (pieces on the awful humanitarian toll of international economic sanctions), while refusing to report the awful truth.
That's right, I've been sweeping it under the rug for years:
Even CNN, which has produced some heroic foreign reporting, is notorious for making terrible editorial compromises in order to keep bureaus and broadcast rights in dodgy countries ("World Report" is an astonishing exercise in advertorial propaganda, and producers in Iran and Cuba are all too familiar with their "sanctions quotas.")

My favorite bit is actually about how "One might argue that what the U.S. military was doing is a bad idea -- I don't know one way or another on that." One might! In fact, one did! But his name wasn't Glenn Reynolds....

Similar fun here, here and here.

UPDATE: Always gotta keep checking those updates!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan, seldom accused of stinting in his Bush criticism these days, comments:

[quotes Sullivan's graf]

This seems to me to be a plausible criticism, unlike Welch's.

What was Sullivan's "plausible criticism"? That:
The problem is that media is now global, the free citizens of Iraq can access information from almost anywhere on earth, and these stories will leak and backfire.
What was my criticism, on the other hand? That I "don't think" that "unlabeled propaganda [is] a useful weapon," because 1) "people will eventually find out," 2) it "contravene[s]" a "key and oft-stated" universal human value that we've been championing, and 3) "in my admittedly unscientific experience, the most useful government-owned propaganda news outlet was the one most independent from the government."

So, to sum up:

Sullivan -- "these stories will leak and backfire."
Welch -- "people will eventually find out." Plus two other reasons.

Where does the plausibility end and implausibility begin? Who the hell knows! Glenn's not talking about arguments, he's calling them names. While impugning the motives of people who disagree with him, and high-fiving people who say stuff like this:

[Pearl Harbor] gave us the emotional will to begin the war, but it was propaganda that gave us the stomach to see it through to the end. The free-press gave way to the more immediate need of protecting lives.... In sum, I call on Congress to recognize that the War on Terror must be handled as TOTAL WAR. All of the Nation's resources and will must be turned to that aim.

12/01/2005 06:57 PM  |   |  Comment (14)  |  TrackBack (0)

Bonerko: There is much ugly talk that the Angels are about to either sign 30-year-old 1B/DH Paul Konerko to a five-year $60 million+ contract, or (shudder) trade highly touted 23-year-old 1B prospect Casey Kotchman to Kansas City for the brittle, 32-year-old DH Mike Sweeney (which would necessitate letting the overpaid slap-hitter Darin Erstad continue providing the league's worst 1B offense). Since Kotchman has often been compared to a young Mark Grace, and since Konerko has been playing in an extreme HR-friendly park the past few years, I thought it might be useful to compare the various players' Win Shares throughout their respective careers. I've also added the Win Shares of familiar 1B benchmark Eric Karros, a very Konerko-like player who, just like Konerko might in the very near future, once blocked a can't-miss 1B prospect when the kid was in his early 20s and the veteran around 30. Ironically enough, the kid Karros blocked was none other than Paul Konerko, who became one of the Dodgers' many disastrous trades of the 1990s.

So here are the Win Shares numbers for Grace, Karros, Sweeney Konerko, and Erstad, at their various ages:

AG: 21/22/23/24/25/26/27/28/29/30/31/32/33/34/35/36/37/38
MG: XX/XX/XX/16/25/22/17/25/23/17/26/20/20/27/21/18/16/08
EK: XX/XX/00/13/10/10/28/20/18/22/20/14/08/18/08/00
MS: 00/04/05/08/16/26/18/19/15/14/17
PK: 00/01/14/15/17/17/04/20/24
DE: XX/03/19/21/09/30/14/17/03/15/15

Erstad was the best at ages 23-24 & 26; Grace paced the field at 25, 28, and from 31-on; Karros peaked through at 27, and Konerko nipped Grace at 29.

For those of you whose eyes glaze over at WS, read this. If that doesn't help, think of them as A) one-third of a win, or B) kinda like individual HR totals in 1976, or C) like this:

35+--: MVP
30-34: Top-10 player
24-29: Likely all-star
19-23: Among the top five in the league at that position
14-18: Decent regular or outta-sight part-timer

Here, for example are the top WS totals for 1Bmen last year:
38: Pujols
37: Lee
32: Teixeira
31: Delgado
27: Sexson
26: Helton
25: Giambi
24: Konerko
22: Johnson
21: Tracy
21: Berkman
20: Clark

Back to our five 1Bmen in question (with Grace acting as Kotchman's surrogate), you can make more sense of these WS numbers by re-ordering the individual players' seasons from best to worst:

YR: 01/02/03/04/05/06/07/08/09/10/11/12/13/14/15/16
MG: 27/26/25/25/23/22/21/20/20/18/17/17/16/16/08/01
EK: 28/22/20/20/18/18/14/13/10/10/08/08/00/00
MS: 26/19/18/17/16/15/14/08/05/04/00
PK: 24/20/17/17/15/14/04/01/00
DE: 30/21/19/17/15/15/14/09/03/03

What does this tell you? Among other things, that the Angels would be damned lucky to have someone of Mark Grace's caliber playing 1B every day, especially for the next few years when he's dirt-cheap. Grace had nine seasons as good as Konerko's and Sweeney's second-best seasons; 12 seasons as good as their fourth-best, and 14 seasons as good as their fifth-best. He was a helluva ballplayer, one of the top 40 first basemen in MLB history; very comparable to, thought slightly better than, Steve Garvey, at least according to Win Shares:

MG: 27/26/25/25/23/22/21/20/20/18/17/17/16/16/08/01
SG: 27/26/25/22/22/21/19/17/15/15/14/13/11/10/08/06/02

Anyway, point is just this -- Konerko ain't no great shakes, Sweeney's a terrific hitter but way too brittle, and we have a nice & cheap alternative just sitting there, ready for his closeup. If Casey Kotchman isn't in the Angels' lineup on Opening Day, I'm gonna be hella pissed off.

More retching noises here and here.

11/29/2005 08:00 PM  |   |  Comment (12)  |  TrackBack (0)

Welcome, TruthDig! The new L.A.-based webzine edited by Bob Scheer is now up. Seems like a decent design at first glance; I'm glad to see our old pal and co-conspirator Christopher among the semi-usual suspects from Scheerville, and I'm pleased to note that there will be some column called Ear to the Ground, which was the name of my short-lived gossip/nonsense column back during the Viking Funeral days of Prognosis.

I haven't read any of the articles, except this typically tedious yet sporadically insightful essay about the "slow-motion nervous breakdown" of the L.A. Times, by former Book Review editor Steve Wasserman, one of those guys whose writing style matches almost perfectly with what my brain instinctively rejects. Here's what I'm talking about:

Nor is it generally recognized that our best newspapers have been spawning grounds for reporters and editors who know that shoe leather is a prerequisite for discovering how we live the way we do. It is called reporting. It is time-consuming and often expensive. It is hard work. It prizes fact over rumor. The Internet, by contrast, is a medium that considers one's first thought as one's best thought. It costs nothing. Reflection is rare, wisdom scarce. In an age of epistemological relativism, opinion, no matter how far-fetched, is thought by many to have the same weight as fact. It trades in rumor, exalts snarkiness, prefers rage to reflection.
Yet Wasserman stumbles on some memorable factoids, my favorite of which is:
Chicago's faint and unenthusiastic recognition of the 13 Pulitzers the paper was awarded during the five years that John Carroll was its editor is a wound that refuses to heal.
You didn't adequately recognize our 2.6 stories per year that won some award! How are we supposed to heal!

11/29/2005 03:01 AM  |   |  Comment (4)  |  TrackBack (0)

Hugo Chavez' Aussie Fanclub: Tim Blair, who is flying over the Pacific as I speak after a fine weekend of n'er-do-welling in L.A., occasionally likes trying to convince me that if I marinated daily in the hellbroth of dullard Australian commentary, why, I'd be a conservative too! I think he's just trying to justify his unseemly man-crush on Zell Miller, but reading Caudillo-fluffing rot like this almost makes me wonder.

11/29/2005 02:14 AM  |   |  Comment (0)  |  TrackBack (0)

New L.A. Times "Outside the Tent" Column -- "The Times Is Blind to Bulldozers Flattening Homes": In which I criticize the paper's coverage (and especially non-coverage) of the L.A. Unified School District's frequently gratuitous usage of Eminent Domain to seize more than 1,600 properties, and displace thousands of residents, to facilitate its historic building boom.

You can find some background of the Echo Park case I mention here and (with pictures) here.

One item of note that didn't get into the column, but is very relevant to the issue of the paper's coverage, is that one L.A. Times reporter was fully briefed on this controversy six months ago, according to activists involved with the Right Site Coalition, which is trying to save the 50 residences along Santa Ynez, Marathon and Mohawk streets. What's more, that reporter (who'll go nameless for now) was allegedly informed of subsequent community/School Board meetings, as was the City Desk. So the paper really can't plead ignorance on this one, it's just that some combination of reporter and editor(s) decided that, you know, there's only so much space available in the paper for such minor items as needlessly displacing an entire deeply-rooted immigrant/senior citizen community from the working-class neighborhood they stuck by through the lean & dangerous years.

Here's some info, at EchoPark.net:

Margarita Reyes came to the U.S. in 1949, from Managua, Nicaragua and saved to buy her home in Echo Park 5 years later. She was 23 years old.

Gilbert Joves' Grandmother came from the Philippines in 1976 and bought 2 tiny cottages in Echo Park that now house 2 generations of her family.

The Villanuevas have 12 family members, 3 generations, living in their 4 unit house on Mohawk St., a cherished family home that was purchased with sacrifice and patience. [...]

Government bureaucrats are demanding the homes that Mexican, Central American and Filipino families struggled and sacrificed to buy. In today's real estate market, where will these people go?

The school district is moving ahead even though local elementary schools are experiencing continued and increased decline in enrollments. Logan Elementary, the nearest available school, has lost 300 students since 2001.

To aid in this fight, give what you can to the Right Site Coalition today, by making your tax deductible donation to the Echo Park Historical Society, PO Box 261022, LA, CA, 90036 or online at www.historicechopark.org.

For more info contact the Right Site Coalition at (323) 662-1062.

Another item that didn't make the column, was how the paper also didn't cover the apparently non-newsworthy decision by LAUSD to seize & raze nine homes in Panorama City, even though there was perfectly available empty space a half-mile away.

11/27/2005 11:13 AM  |   |  Comment (4)  |  TrackBack (0)

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