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Pre Dem Debate Red Carpet Events

January 31st, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


The last Democratic debate before Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Tuesday
starts at 5 pm at the Kodak theater. But for those of you who want to get in on the action but don’t have tickets for the debate itself (despite your pleas on Craigs list) might I suggest one of the events at the lively and substantive pre-debate show.

4:30 PM- The Iraq Veterans Against the War and Military Families Speak Out will hold a press conference and protest outside the theater. “”We’re coming to the debates to remind people that what should be front and center in this debate is the war ” said Pat Alviso, a member of Military Families Speak Out (MFSO) whose son is a Marine and has served two tours of duty in Iraq.

3 PM – Code Pink is asking all those who wish to make a point about ending the war, not invading Iran and calling for impeachment to wear….well…pink and meet all other Code Pink people outside the theater to join in an “action.” (At least it sounds like more fun than standing around with a sign, although Code Pink actions sometimes tend to get a participant or two arrested so best to bring your lawyer’s number with you.)

4-8 PM – Protect our National Parks by voting for….um….a bear.
In an effort to get the presidential candidates to pay attention to national park issues, the nonprofit, nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association is sponsoring its own presidential candidate—Teddy Mather—a bear who is pledging to make America’s national parks a national priority.

I’ve exchanged emails with their PR person
and I agree there are serious issues at stake here. Whether having a person dressed up as a large stuffed bear is the best way to promote things like the chronic underfunding of these irreplaceable national treasures remains to be seen.

For those who want to know more, USA today has two articles worth reading here and here.

Those that I’ve listed are far from the only groups staging events. Trust me, there’s something for everyone—conservative and liberal alike.

And naturally both Obama supporters and Clinton supporters
will be rallying outside the Kodak Theater at 2 pm. (Hint: You’ll know those of your own personal political persuasion by their signs and t-shirts.)


As it turns out, I’ll be teaching at USC this afternoon, so won’t make it to Hollywood in time for the hoopla. But I figure we’ll all meet up afterward, cyberly speaking.

PS: LA OBSERVED has a great rundown on good places to go for pre-debate commentary from all sides of the political spectrum.

Posted in Elections '08, Presidential race | 19 Comments »

In Work Overdrive…Back in a While.

January 31st, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


In the meantime, read Patt Morrison’s column
in this morning’s LA Times on the distinct disadvantage of voting with a nice, early absentee ballot in this rollercoastering election season (and why she personally loves voting on election day). Here’s the opening:

Now aren’t you sorry?

Two or three weeks ago, maybe even earlier
, you zipped through that absentee ballot, check check check, and hustled it off to the mailbox as if you were claiming a lottery prize.

And see what you missed? So much has happened since then that it’s barely the same election it was on Jan. 7. That was the first day you could vote by mail in what is now absurdly called the Feb. 5 primary — absurd because, analysts believe, at least half of California’s voters will have opted to vote by mail before then.

If you marked John Edwards’ or Rudy Giuliani’s name that political eternity ago, you blew your vote. They’ve dropped out. So have Bill Richardson and Fred Thompson. Ditto Dennis Kucinich. At best, you’ll be counted as a protest vote.

The world’s tanking stock markets,
the flop-sweat in home sales, the deepening, darkening sub-prime chaos and the candidates’ dueling recovery proposals — forget about it. You voted already.

A lot of people have said
they stopped and rethought their choices after Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had a nasty go-round before the South Carolina primary, and after Bill Clinton’s title as “the first black president,” bestowed on him by writer Toni Morrison, was taken away from him — by Toni Morrison.

Did all that change your choice?
Too bad, too late.

Casting an absentee ballot so far ahead of election day
is like picking a Super Bowl winner based on who’s ahead at halftime. It’s like recommending a book you’ve only halfway read. It’s like getting married on the first date.

Read the rest here.

Posted in Elections '08, Presidential race | 15 Comments »

Barack Obama and the Betrayal of All Women

January 29th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


It turns out that in our fair democracy in
the year 2008, we women have come so brilliantly far in our journey of political empowerment that we have no possible option but to vote for Hillary Clinton or face the certainty of being labeled Spitters in the Eye of Feminism.
And if a (gasp!) guy has the huevos to vote-for/endorse/say-something-pleasant-about Barack Obama, or any other candidate for that matter, why then it’s worse; he is a betrayer of women everywhere.

Or so said Marcia Pappas the president of the New York branch of the National Organization for Women in a press release this past Monday afternoon after Ted Kennedy announced his Obama endorsement. The Times Union had the story first. Then it migrated to a flabbergasted Ben Smith at Politico who printed the statement in it’s entirety because, as he pointed out, it is not easy to adequately excerpt or paraphrase. To wit:

“Women have just experienced the ultimate betrayal.
Senator Kennedy’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton’s opponent in the Democratic presidential primary campaign has really hit women hard. Women have forgiven Kennedy, stuck up for him, stood by him, hushed the fact that he was late in his support of Title IX, the ERA, the Family Leave and Medical Act to name a few. Women have buried their anger that his support for the compromises in No Child Left Behind and the Medicare bogus drug benefit brought us the passage of these flawed bills. We have thanked him for his ardent support of many civil rights bills, BUT women are always waiting in the wings.

“And now the greatest betrayal!
We are repaid with his abandonment! He’s picked the new guy over us. He’s joined the list of progressive white men who can’t or won’t handle the prospect of a woman president who is Hillary Clinton (they will of course say they support a woman president, just not “this” one). ‘They’ are Howard Dean and Jim Dean (Yup! That’s Howard’s brother) who run DFA (that’s the group and list from the Dean campaign that we women helped start and grow). They are Alternet, Progressive Democrats of America,, Kucinich lovers and all the other groups that take women’s money, say they’ll do feminist and women’s rights issues one of these days, and conveniently forget to mention women and children when they talk about poverty or human needs or America’s future or whatever.

“This latest move by Kennedy, is so telling about the status of and respect for women’s rights, women’s voices, women’s equality, women’s authority and our ability – indeed, our obligation – to promote and earn and deserve and elect, unabashedly, a President that is the first woman after centuries of men who ‘know what’s best for us.’”


Um…does this mean that all African American voters must vote for Obama or risk betraying their race? Just curious.

By Tuesday evening, Prez Marcia Pappas’ mouth-frother of a statement
had spread everywhere from the AP to Drudge. In response, the national headquarters of NOW issued an tepid little press release indicating that they supported women’s right to “express their opinions and exercise their right to vote.”

How nice.

Okay, Marcia, honey, listen up because I’m going to tell you what the guys and evidently the other NOW grrllls won’t: With your idiotic, female-demeaning, crazy-ass pronouncement you are helping to alienate an entire generation of women from the genuine cause of feminism. Because, see, young women with any brains and self respect seem to think—silly them!—that as intelligent, responsible adults they should the support the person whom they feel is the best candidate…..not the one with the correct combination of chromosomes.

Bottom line, next time you have the urge
to tell the rest of us how we ought to think/feel/act/vote: STFU!

Posted in Elections '08, Presidential race | 17 Comments »

USC and the LAPD….Did the Cops Go Too Far?

January 29th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


Did the LAPD use excessive force at a USC block party this past Friday night?
Or were officers simply doing what needed to be done to control a bunch of drunken and rowdy college students who were getting out of control?

The answer may be somewhere in between. But information available thus far suggests the behavior of the police bears further scrutiny.

I first heard about the incident through two of my USC journalism students
, both smart kids, who each called me the next day, Saturday, to talk about what they’d seen and experienced. Here’s the picture I’ve been able to gather from them and from other sources:

This past Friday night, January 25, some USC students organized a party on 30th Street near Orchard,
an area where many have off campus housing. It was billed as an Around the World block party, and was reportedly open to anybody at the University Before the revelry started, students were warned by the event’s organizers to keep all alcohol inside the various host houses, and not to drink in the street.

But you know how that goes.

Student bloggers who have since written about the night say the booze ran out early, the DJs turned off the music just after midnight, but around a thousand kids were having too much fun to leave, so stayed and hung out. Around the time the music ended, USC’s school security (USC DPS), which had been monitoring the event, called the LAPD for help in breaking up the party.

Worried that they wouldn’t have enough officers to handle this size crowd, the department called a a tactical alert, meaning everyone going off shift had to stay on. Eventually somewhere upwards of 75 to 100 cops showed up at 30th and Orchard. They came predominantly from the Southwest division of the LAPD, with some from 77th and elsewhere in the department. Using bullhorns, the officers told partiers that the gathering was now an unlawful assembly and that the students had to disperse.

Many of the kids did indeed scatter for shelter, but several hundred,
at least, it seems did not. Instead they either stood or sat down in the middle of the street and refused to move. According to the police and some student witnesses, several of the drunker, stupider partiers threw beer bottles at the cops, and officers moved in to handle the offenders.

It is at his point that the accounts of what happened diverge. Students who were present say officers used force on not only the handful of bottle throwers, but also Tased and hit students who were in no way aggressive. And of the nine students arrested that night, not all were actual troublemakers.

Here’s a clip from what the Daily Trojan, USC’s school newspaper (which did a credibly professional job of reporting) had to say:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Education, LAPD | 21 Comments »

The Young Show Up 4 Barack and Ted

January 28th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


My good friend and longtime Middle East expert Mark Bruzonsky attended the event today at American University in Washington, D.C. where Ted Kennedy formally announced his support of Barack Obama. This is Mark’s first very quick report on the mood outside the event:


“I’m 26 and I’ve never seen
anything like this.”

That was the first comment from a smartly dressed fellow
as he walked by this scene a few minutes ago.

More like a rock concert, or an iPhone first-day, the line snaked for blocks and blocks throughout the residential streets near American University in Washington where today Barack Obama got Ted Kennedy’s endorsement for the Presidency of the United States of America.

Rumor began spreading that everything was totally full, so others who had parked blocks away strolled back to their cars disappointed.

As to what went on inside the AU event, The Boston Globe has the full text of Kennedy’s speech. But here’s a big clip:

Now, with Barack Obama, there is a new national leader who has given America a different kind of campaign—a campaign not just about himself, but about all of us. A campaign about the country we will become, if we can rise above the old politics that parses us into separate groups and puts us at odds with one another.

I remember another such time, in the 1960s
, when I came to the Senate at the age of 30. We had a new president who inspired the nation, especially the young, to seek a new frontier. Those inspired young people marched, sat in at lunch counters, protested the war in Vietnam and served honorably in that war even when they opposed it.

They realized that when they asked what they could do for their country, they could change the world.

It was the young who led the first Earth Day and issued a clarion call to protect the environment; the young who enlisted in the cause of civil rights and equality for women; the young who joined the Peace Corps and showed the world the hopeful face of America.

At the fifth anniversary celebration of the Peace Corps,
I asked one of those young Americans why they had volunteered.

And I will never forget the answer: “It was the first time someone asked me to do something for my country.”

This is another such time.

I sense the same kind of yearning today
, the same kind of hunger to move on and move America forward. I see it not just in young people, but in all our people.

Yeah. Me too. I see it in my son who, at 22, is a fanatically enthusiastic voter but has never had the experience of voting for someone he didn’t view as just more of the same. I see it in my 30-year-old nephew who, until this month, didn’t bother to register because he didn’t think his vote made any damned difference.

I saw it in my wonderfully intellectual writer colleagues at Bennington College who robed themselves in cynicism and wanted to ignore the election altogether as something that was mostly painful—until Obama’s Iowa win, after which cynicism melted curiously away and a frail kind of hope became visible.

I see it in my friends in Boyle Heights
many of whom have felt marginalized in fundamental ways nearly all their lives, but now glimpse a different kind of possibility.

I see it in myself.

Posted in Elections '08, National politics, Presidential race | 17 Comments »

The Risk of Billary

January 28th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


Hillary Clinton has been saying repeatedly
that she has been completely vetted, and that all the mud that can be dug up about her has been thoroughly mined. Not so for Obama, she says, implying that he likely has still-lurking dirt that the Republicans will use to cripple him, and with him the Democratic chances to regain the White house.

It’s a persuasive argument. Bill and Hillary are seasoned street fighters who, for years, have had leveled at them an usually virulent brand of partisan hatred not to mention the work of an obsessed and extremely well-funded Special Prosecutor. But still they’ve survived. Even prevailed. Thrived. Whereas Obama has never been through a vicious, balls-to-the-wall, digging through one’s garbage national campaign of the sort that he will face if he is the nominee.

However, reasonable as it might sound at first, in the end the argument is false—and, for the Democratic party, extreme risky if the Dems don’t want to see a McCain presidency. (That is, of course, if McCain does indeed get the nomination, as the smart money suggests he will.)

The problem with Hillary’s I’m-vetted-and-he’s-not thesis is that, of late much seems to suggest that there is a treasure trove of Clinton
secrets as yet unmined. In Sunday’s New York Times, Frank Rich is specific about several of the areas where people are already looking, one being the long list of big donors for the Clinton Library, a list that Bill Clinton has thus far been unwilling to make public:

Just before the holidays, investigative reporters at both The Washington Post and The New York Times tried to find out why, with no help from the Clintons. The Post uncovered a plethora of foreign contributors, led by Saudi Arabia. The Times found an overlap between library benefactors and Hillary Clinton campaign donors, some of whom might have an agenda with a new Clinton administration. (Much as one early library supporter, Marc Rich’s ex-wife, Denise, had an agenda with the last one.) “The vast scale of these secret fund-raising operations presents enormous opportunities for abuse,” said Representative Henry Waxman, the California Democrat whose legislation to force disclosure passed overwhelmingly in the House but remains stalled in the Senate.

The Post and Times reporters couldn’t unlock all the secrets.
The unanswered questions could keep them and their competitors busy until Nov. 4. Mr. Clinton’s increased centrality to the campaign will also give The Wall Street Journal a greater news peg to continue its reportorial forays into the unraveling financial partnership between Mr. Clinton and the swashbuckling billionaire Ron Burkle.

At “Little Rock’s Fort Knox,” as the Clinton library has been nicknamed
by frustrated researchers, it’s not merely the heavy-hitting contributors who are under wraps. Even by the glacial processing standards of the National Archives, the Clintons’ White House papers have emerged slowly, in part because Bill Clinton exercised his right to insist that all communications between him and his wife be “considered for withholding” until 2012.

And there’s more.

…Mrs. Clinton told Mr. Russert that “all of the records, as far as I know, about what we did with health care” are “already available.” As Michael Isikoff of Newsweek reported weeks later, this is a bit off; he found that 3,022,030 health care documents were still held hostage.

The bottom line is that, when it comes to the library donor list and other issues,
Bill Clinton is behaving like someone with things to hide. So can Hillary really claim that she and her co-campaigner huz are thoroughly and safely vetted?

No. It appears not.

PS: While we’re on the subject of the presidential primaries
, read Gregory Rodriguez Op Ed in today’s LA Times about Obama, the Clintons and the Hispanic vote.

Posted in Elections '08, Presidential race | 5 Comments »

“Si Se Puede!”…or at least Barack Could & Did in South Carolina

January 27th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


Whatever the final outcome of this Perpetual Primary season
, one of the most fascinating of its many aspects is the opportunity to observe the speed at which Barack Obama is able to learn.

During the first half of last week’s South Carolina debate
, Obama was a fighter on the ropes as he took blow after blow from Hillary Clinton and seemed too rattled to do more than make little defensive jabs in her direction.

But midway through the debate he got hold of himself and began to fire back and, at times even to dance away from the blows. It still was not Obama’s best hour, but the impressive part was watching him analyze his and Hillary’s respective games and make changes on the spot.

Further evidence of Barack’s ability to absorb new information quickly then act on it, was demonstrated in his new-found ability to dodge and parry with the Clintons on this week’s campaign trail (the NY Times Patrick Healy sums up that fun-filled task), and finally in Obama’s Saturday night victory speech after he was declared the winner in South Carolina’s democratic primary. In addition to a new version of the now-trademark clarion call to hope and inspiration that Obama does better than perhaps any public figure in a generation, the candidate also threw a bunch of slugs in Hillary’s direction, but each blow was delivered with a light, agile, take-the-high-road spin. (Here’s a link to the text.)

Andrew Sullivan of the Atlantic Monthly, who is now the poster guy for ardently-enthusiastic-Republican–crossovers- for-Obama, had a good take on the speech in this Saturday night’s post about the Obama victory:

Tonight was, in my judgment, the best.
He was able to frame the attacks on him as a reason to vote for him. He was able to frame his foes as the status quo – beyond the Clintons or the Bushes, Democrats or Republicans. He was able to cast his candidacy as a rebuke to the Balkanization of the American public, a response to the abuse of religion for political purposes, a repudiation of the cynicism that makes all political commentary a function of horse-races and spin. It was an appeal to Democrats, Republicans and Independents to say goodbye to all that. It was a burial of Rove and Morris. And it was better than his previous speeches because he kept bringing it back to policy specifics, to the economy and healthcare and, movingly, to this misbegotten war. The diverse coalition he has assembled – including an ornery small-government conservative like me – is a reflection of the future of this country, its potential and its irreplaceable, dynamic cultural and social mix.

Watch it yourselves. It’s a hell of a speech.


Posted in Elections '08, Presidential race | 9 Comments »


January 25th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


In this week’s New Yorker Magazine,
George Packer writes insightfully and eloquently about the very different ways that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama approach the presidency. It’s very definitely a must read. Here’s one of the nut ‘graphs.

The alternatives facing Democratic voters have been characterized variously
as a choice between experience and change, between an insider and an outsider, and between two firsts—a woman and a black man. But perhaps the most important difference between these two politicians—whose policy views, after all, are almost indistinguishable—lies in their rival conceptions of the Presidency. Obama offers himself as a catalyst by which disenchanted Americans can overcome two decades of vicious partisanship, energize our democracy, and restore faith in government. Clinton presents politics as the art of the possible, with change coming incrementally through good governance, a skill that she has honed in her career as advocate, First Lady, and senator.

But then it gets much more interesting. Here’s the link.


UPDATED: Commenter Reg makes the point that Packer’s article has a distinctly Hillary-leaning tilt (It does to some degree, but still is very much worth reading and discussion.). So to balance it out he suggests this American Prospect piece. Indeed, the two make a good pair. Read away and let me know what you think.

I’ll be headed through the (heavy) rain to UC Irvine to meet with my very smart Literary Journalism class. I’ll look for your fabulously clarifying analysis when I get back.

(PS: Last night we had a Tornado warning in Topanga. What’s that about???)

Posted in Elections '08, National politics, Presidential race | 18 Comments »

Fixing the System: “So Whatcha Gonna Do About It?”

January 25th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


(NOTE: USC grad j student and IJJ research associate, Amanda Becker took excellent notes on this session, which are what I’m working from in this post.)

Thursday was the last day of the IJJ Criminal Justice seminar
and featured the moment where the rubber met the road—or at least talked about meeting the road.

(Could I possibly torture that metaphor any more?)

For two and a half days, nearly all the main players in LA’s criminal justice system, and many of their top critics, got together on panels, at lunch, and sometimes in the audience, to talk about the fact that LA is still the gang capital of the world and that, after nearly three decades of using imprisonment and punishment as its primary public safety strategy, California’s “incarceration addiction” is threatening to break the state.

The final panel was called: Moving from Vision to Action, What are LA’s Leaders Willing to do Jointly to Reform the System?

The panel consisted of LA County Sheriff Lee Baca, LA District Attorney Steve Cooley, LA Public Defender Michael Judge, LAPD Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger (one of those likely to be short listed to replace Bratton when the time comes), California State Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero, Chief LA County Probation Officer Robert Taylor, and Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, Marvin Southard.

Joe Domanick, the moderator and prime mover behind the conference,
asked everyone to say what they were willing to commit to doing in order to reform LA’s—and California’s—- justice system.

The best of the answers are below.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in crime and punishment, criminal justice, Gangs, journalism, LAPD, LASD, law enforcement | 7 Comments »

David Simon and The Future of News

January 24th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon

(The serious-looking guys above are Kevin Roderick, creator and editor of LA Observed, and Carlos Rajo, political analyst for Telemundo station KVEA.)

If you somehow missed yesterday’s WaPo article
by David Simon on the state of newspapers, here’s the link. Below I’ve imported a few of the emblematic lines.

The topics that Simon brings up were also the center
of a three hour round-table discussion (sponsored by the Institute for Justice and Journalism) in which 20 journalists from the LA Times, KTTV, LA Observed, La Opinion, The Daily Journal, KPCC and more got together to discuss the future of news reporting.

Okay, here’s Simon.

…It Isn’t the news itself still valuable to anyone?
In any format, through any medium — isn’t an understanding of the events of the day still a salable commodity? Or were we kidding ourselves? Was a newspaper a viable entity only so long as it had classifieds, comics and the latest sports scores?

It’s hard to say that, even harder to think it
. By that premise, what all of us pretended to regard as a viable commodity — indeed, as the source of all that was purposeful and heroic — was, in fact, an intellectual vanity.

Newsprint itself is an anachronism. But was there a moment before the deluge of the Internet when news organizations might have better protected themselves and their product? When they might have — as one, industry-wide — declared that their online advertising would be profitable, that their Web sites would, in fact, charge for providing a rare and worthy service?

And which, exactly, is the proper epitaph for the generation
that entered newspapering at the very moment when the big-city dailies — the fat morning papers, those that survived the shakeout of afternoon tabloids and other weak sisters — seemed impervious, essential and ascendant? Were we the last craftsmen prepared for a horse-and-buggy world soon to prostrate itself before the god of internal combustion? Or were we assembly-line victims of the inert monopolists of early 1970s Detroit, who thought that Pacers and Gremlins and Chevy Vegas were response enough to Japanese and European automaking superiority? ….

Here’s the rest

Posted in media | 7 Comments »

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