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WitnessLA Endorsements for November 2, 2010

October 31st, 2010 by Celeste Fremon



GOVERNOR: Jerry Brown (Duh.)
LT. GOVERNOR: Gavin Newsom
TREASURER: Bill Lockyer
ATTORNEY GENERAL: Kamala Harris, but, um, It’s complicated. (See below)

SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION: . Larry Aceves (with lots of irritation that it’s not reformer, Gloria Romero, but we live with what we’ve got.)

U.S. SENATOR: Barbara Boxer


PROP 20: NO (or YES: See Long Form below.)




Look, by this time you’ve likely made up your mind on whether we ought to legalize, regulate and tax pot—or not. I think we should. Couldn’t be clearer on the matter. It’s time. Way past time, actually.

If you believe the reefer madness nonsense that is being lobbed your way by those against 19, that is assuredly your right. We can respectfully disagree.

In 2008, California police made 60,000 marijuana possession arrests (the majority of them young men of color, BTW). That is completely nuts as a use of our law enforcement resources, just for starters.

(And the idea that the Mexican drug cartels favor Prop. 19 is laughable—as Héctor Camín and Jorge Castañeda explain succinctly in this WaPo op ed.)

However, one remaining sticking point for some people is the objection that the LA Times raised regarding the way that the proposition is written. It allows cities and counties to pass their own regulatory structures on top of the state law, should they so desire, which the Times says will lead to legal chaos. But that’s also the case with medical marijuana and somehow the empire hasn’t crumbled.
But don’t believe me. Believe UCI law school dean, Erwin Chemerinsky who is, among other things, an expert on the way cities and municipalities function. Chemerinsky thinks Prop. 19 will do just fine. As does attorney and Ohio State University law professor Doug Berman, of Sentencing, Law & Policy, who is smarter on the ins and outs of sentencing policy and the like than just about anyone in the country. Berman’s a big Prop 19 proponent.

For me, their analysis of the legal impact of the bill’s language easily trumps that of the LA Times editorial board (or that of the San Francisco Chron, for that matter).

They are merely two of the long list of high profile lawyers and law school profs who urge passage of the measure.

(And, for the record, no, I don’t smoke, or otherwise partake of the stuff. A few decades ago, yes. Now, no. It’s not my thing.)

PROP 20: NO (or YES)

Prop 20 is something of a wobbler. I’m voting NO, but don’t think a YES vote would be the worst thing in the world.

Briefly, it would require Congressional districts to be drawn by a citizens’ committee, instead of the State Legislature. We already have such a group set up to handle redistricting for the State Legislature, but it hasn’t met yet. Why don’t we see how they do first, before we start handing the keys to all the rooms in the house to this same committee.

Basically, the idea of removing the power to gerrymander districts from the politicians who stand to benefit is a good idea. But, my vote is to take it a step at a time.

FYI: Nearly all the state’s newspapers are in favor of Prop 20, all the state’s progressive groups are against it. Like I said, a wobbler. Make your own best call. There’s a case to be made for both sides.


This initiative would establish a new source of funding for state parks, the budgets of which have been shredded by Governor Schwarzenegger. Everyone registering a vehicle in California (except for commercial vehicles, trailers and trailer coaches) would pay an $18 annual surcharge to fund the parks. In exchange, those with California licenses would get free vehicle admission, parking and day use at the parks.

Those opposed say that we shouldn’t be raising and walling off funds for the parks when there are so many other worthy causes that are getting their budgets cut, and that somehow they will be hurt if this proposition passes. In the abstract, they have a point: as a general rule, cordoning off funds for special issues is a bad idea, especially when we have so many important social issues underfunded, or not funded at all. It complicates budget writing and all that jazz.

Okay fine. But every once in a while the general rule ain’t right. Since those charged with protecting the state parks abrogated what ought to be a sacred duty, the people need to step in.

Here’s the truth: if we fail to protect our state parks—which is what is presently beginning to happen–the consequences of our shortsightedness will last forever. Once that toothpaste is out of the tube, there’s no going back.

Like our National Park system, the California State Parks are treasures held in trust for every resident of the state, regardless of income or social status. The parks belong to all of us and they have to be protected. Period.

Prop 21 provides a surefire and painless way to do it.

A YES vote on Prop 21 is not anything resembling a close call.


I agree with the LA Times, and Sheila Kuehl on this issue (among other endorsers who oppose 22).

The cities and counties don’t want certain designated funds raided by the state when the state has budget problems. We get that. And we don’t want it either, under most circumstances.

But here’s the deal: the funds are loans, not grabs, and must be repaid in full within three years. We are in an imperfect budget climate (to radically understate matters). Right now flexibility is of high value.


Texas oil companies Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp. have put a tankers full of money into this ballot measure—nearly 75 percent of its total budget— in an effort to hold off implementation of California’s landmark AB 32, California’s landmark greenhouse gas emissions reduction law. It would suspend the law requiring the reduction of greenhouse gas, and suspend a reduction plan that includes increased use of renewable energy.

If voters approve the proposition, the emissions law would not take effect until unemployment falls to 5.5 percent and stays there for a year. That has happened just three times during the past three decades, according to California Employment Development Department statistics.

Those same oil companies—which, according to the EPA, have lousy records as major polluters— want to portray AB 32, as a job killer. Don’t believe them. They do not have your and my best interests at heart, nor do they give a damn about the out-of-work residents of this state.


As a condition of his signature on the budget last year, Governor Schwarzenegger insisted on a giveaway to certain kinds of corporations on their tax computations. The deal was as follows: Operating losses could be used to reduce taxes for previous years. Multi-state businesses can choose the tax formula that allows them to pay less tax and take the greatest losses and change it every year. This proposition repeals those corporate tax changes.

The LA Times and some of the state’s other papers say we should vote no, that it’s wrong for voters to tinker with budget deals and that repealing the tax deals could cost jobs.

I think they’re wrong.

Look, I too dithered for a while on Prop 24 until I examined the matter more closely.

Here’s how former US Secretary of labor Robert Reich puts it:

“[Prop 24] ends three extraordinarily bad corporate tax giveaways that will not save or create a single job. As a former U.S. Secretary of Labor, I can state emphatically that these narrow tax breaks for large corporations do not stimulate job creation, nor do they figure significantly in corporate decisions to locate in or relocate out of the state. Education, work force and other factors are much more important.”

Yeah. What he said.


If passed, this would change the current two-thirds super-majority required to pass a state budget, to a simple majority vote of the legislature—so maybe our squabbling state lawmakers might manage to actually get a freaking budget passed once in a while.

By the way, 47 out of the 50 states allow passage of their budgets on a nice, sensible majority vote, instead of California’s stupid system that means that a quarrelsome minority can hold up a budget indefinitely—hence our current quagmire.

(Oh, and, just to be clear, this would not change the two-thirds super-majority required to increase taxes.)


This snake-y little piece of dog poop is being funded by Philip Morris, ExxonMobil, the aforementioned Texas oil companies and other fun groups who do not have our best interests at heart. They want to require a two-thirds before polluters are charged environmental clean up fees, or tobacco, alcohol and other corporations are charged for the cost of treating the harm their products cause to public health—which means those fees and regulations will happen, like never. The corporations will go merrily along doing what they like without fear of reprisal. And the state will be $1 billion poorer, for it, to boot.

Prop 26 is, in many ways, even worse than Prop 23, but it has gotten a lot less publicity. Kick this junky measure to the curb, ASAP.


Prop 27 would eliminate the 14 member redistricting commission that was just recently established by a previous ballot proposition (but has yet to actually meet) and give the power to establish Assembly, Senate and Congressional districts back to the state legislators, who—along with their Congressional colleagues—are the exact people who stand to benefit by having that power. (Think fox/hen house.)

The argument for abolishing the citizens commission is that they are not elected thus beholden to nobody. Yeah, yeah, okay. But the state legislators, who have a vested interest in how the districts are drawn, act like they’re beholden to no one and what we have is a state full of gerrymandered districts.

California voters wanted to try out this new method. Let’s do it. If we find we don’t like it, then we can get rid of it after we’ve test driven the thing, not before.

By the way, for a positively kick-ass rundown on the concept of Gerrymandering, along with a description of the genesis of this and Prop. 20, read this series of LA Weekly articles by Annenberg’s Hillel Aron.



I assume that I don’t need to give another pitch for Brown, or against Whitman or Fiorina.

If you’re leaning in the direction of the two mean mendacious grrllls who hoped to buy themselves an election or two, I’m likely not going to talk you out of it.

So, EGB Jr. as the once and future governor! (Wooo-hoo!)

And Boxer back to the Senate.


Gavin Newsom is a talented politician who likely has a long political future ahead of him. Lt. Gov is a good place for him to rev his engines and for us to see what he can do with what is, in essence, a do-nothing job.

Plus, if someone had to step up into the governorship, he’s the better choice.


Both John Chaing and Debra Bowen are smart public servants who showed some serious huevos at times when such things were called for. Chaing was positively heroic as he stood up to the governor when Schwarzenegger was wrongly using state employees’ salaries as a bargaining chip to try to whip the state legislature in line (which didn’t work anyway). Bowen, if you remember, refused to let questionable electronic voting machines be used in California, despite humongous levels of pressure to do so.

Bill Lockyer is another capable guy who has done a fine job (for the most part) as Treasurer during trying times. No reason to change horses right now. We’ve got enough on our collective plates. (Plus his Orange County challenger, Mimi Walters, seems never to have met a conflict of interest that she couldn’t wholeheartedly embrace.)


Neither Larry Aceves nor Tom Torlakson are reformers. They are both biz as usual candidates, which is maddening.

Gloria Romero was the reformer and was widely expected to be in the runoff with Torlakson, the teachers’ unions’ guy. Then the LA Times had some kind of psychotic break right before the June primary and endorsed Larry Aceves, a very nice retired administrator whom nobody had heard of. Most voters didn’t know the difference, and so Aceves won, with union dude Torlakson, coming in second, with Romero the one true in the trenches, smart as a whip, game changer, aced out.

So here we are. Of the two, Aceves is the better choice. Torlakson is anti-charter, anti Race to the top, anti-reform (unless it only involves moving a few of the deck chairs around) anti-anything but what the teachers’ unions want. (And, gee, that’s worked out so well for us these past years.)

Whereas soft spoken Aceves seems to have a more creative outlook—and doesn’t seem altogether anti-reform. Neither is what we really need in California right now. But maybe Aceves will surprise us.


As for insurance commissioner, Dave Jones has been active in health care reform issues for some time now, where his opponent, Mike Villines, is a newcomer.

Outside of the governor, the insurance commissioner may have a bigger impact on the lives of Californians than any other elected official.

Villines, like Jones is a termed out state legislator. Villines appears, quite honestly, to be a very honorable guy as well. But he’s against Federal health reform, which is a problem.

Both men have show an ability to be independent, but Jones has the stronger track record for this particular job.

Which brings us to…..


Both Cooley and Harris have considerable strengths and, unlike a lot of my progressive friends, I actually think Steve Cooley would do fine as AG.

He stood up to the 3-strikes fanatics by using the law appropriately to put the really bad guys away, instead of merely striking people out for nonviolent third offenses—just because the law allowed it. He’s been good on other issues, that are less high profile. Plus, I’ve had a bunch of long conversations with Cooley about the challenges of prisoner reentry and other topics, and happen to simply like the guy.

But he has allowed his office to take stands on certain issues–like the Bruce Lisker case, for example—that are simply unsupportable. Plus, his willingness to uncritically co-sign on every idiotic thing that his new BFF Carmen Trutanich proposes, is a big, big problem.

Meanwhile, Kamala Harris is every bit has capable as Cooley is, and will chase after fraudsters and lawbreakers with equal vigor and expertise.

But Harris, unlike Cooley, is of a new breed that I think we need in our prison benighted state. One of her main campaign planks is to address the state’s ghastly recidivism rate.

While Cooley has most of the law enforcement endorsements, a long list of high profile cops who have worked with Harris—like SFPD Chief, and former LAPD Assistant Chief, George Gascon—think a lot of her and have endorsed her.

She’s smart, and she knows the state is desperate for some kind of leadership in the arena of criminal justice. Harris aims to provide it.

I say, give her the chance.

PS: One more thing: Cooley, unlike Jerry Brown, has vowed to defend Prop 8 in court. That not only guarantees an appeal, but by putting the considerable resources of the state of California behind the defense of Prop 8. Not okay.

Posted in Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), elections | 13 Comments »

WLA ENDORSEMENTS Will be Posted Late Sunday Nite

October 31st, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

I’ll be putting up elections endorsements late tonight, not to worry.

In the meantime, have a great Sunday and I hope you are able to take advantage of the gorgeous day. (I assuredly intend to do so, myself.)

And HAPPY HALLOWEEN! I saw lots of great costumes last night when out to dinner in downtown LA! (I was happily uncostumed myself.)

Tonight I get to see costumed smaller persons, which is always a good thing.

I’ve got the bowl-full of mini-Milky Ways all ready and by the door. You?

Posted in elections | 2 Comments »

Um, yeah. What He Said.

October 30th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

Posted in American voices, media, National issues, National politics | No Comments »

Friday Must Reads

October 29th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon


A surprising number of media types are going through bouts of preposterously irrational tisk-tisking over the Stewart/Cobert rallies taking place this weekend.

I mean, seriously, guys, WTF???

Here’s what Politico opined on Thursday:

Stewart will navigate two sets of risks Saturday: He will, a handwringing legion of journalists and bloggers worry, cross the once-bright line from commentary to political participation, and find himself stranded, unable to return.

And he could — television industry analysts say — alienate portions of an audience for his show that isn’t as polarized as that of the real cable news shows, with viewers divided starkly left and right.

Right. You wish.

Writers at the Washington Post are in a particular frenzy.

Earlier in the week, the Wa Po’s Carlos Lozada pleaded with Stewart to cancel the rally.

Two days later, the Post’s Op-Ed columnist, Anne Applebaum, went further.

I don’t know about you, but my heart sank when I read about Jon Stewart’s Million Moderate March, planned for the Mall next weekend. My heart sank further when I learned that liberal groups, lacking any better ideas, have decided to take this endeavor seriously.

But that wasn’t enough. WaPo staff writer, Paul Farhi, still had to have his say in a story titled, in all seriousness: Just Who Does Jon Stewart Think He Is?

(Geeze. The Washington Post staff cafeteria must be a slap-happy-romp of a place in which to hang out lately. Would you like a side of mouth-frothing envy with your overcooked Bitterness Burger, sir?)

Ryan Kearney at TBD has a pretty good round-up of all the idiocy—and a decent analysis of what is causing it.


This NPR story by Laura Sullivan speaks for itself. Here’s the opening:

Last year, two men showed up in Benson, Ariz., a small desert town 60 miles from the Mexico border, offering a deal.

Glenn Nichols, the Benson city manager, remembers the pitch.

“The gentleman that’s the main thrust of this thing has a huge turquoise ring on his finger,” Nichols said. “He’s a great big huge guy and I equated him to a car salesman.”

What he was selling was a prison for women and children who were illegal immigrants.

“They talk [about] how positive this was going to be for the community,” Nichols said, “the amount of money that we would realize from each prisoner on a daily rate.”

But Nichols wasn’t buying. He asked them how would they possibly keep a prison full for years — decades even — with illegal immigrants?

“They talked like they didn’t have any doubt they could fill it,” Nichols said.

That’s because prison companies like this one had a plan — a new business model to lock up illegal immigrants. And the plan became Arizona’s immigration law….


It was announced on Thursday that 83 LAPD officers will be reassigned from street duty to instead work at the new and long-vacant Men’s Detention Center, reports the LA Times’ Joel Rubin.

The police union is not pleased and it’s hard not to see their point.

Here’s a clip from their blogpost on the matter:

In 2002, Los Angeles voters approved Proposition Q, a citywide public safety bond measure to fund the construction of 11 new police facilities and the renovation of 12 police stations. One of the facilities, constructed at a cost of $85 million, is the five-floor, 172,000-square-foot Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC). Voters who approved Prop Q had a reasonable expectation that upon completion, this state-of-the-art jail would be fully utilized for its intended purpose.

Four years later, the City enacted higher trash fees in order to add 1,000 officers to the LAPD and bring the force’s numbers to 10,000. Again, residents had a reasonable expectation that the money would go toward its intended purpose, the hiring of police officers to provide increased community protection.

So in 2010, where do we stand? The $85 million MDC sits vacant—unused because there simply aren’t enough civilian detention officers in the ranks to staff it. In the meantime, to avoid overtime pay, hundreds of police officers are placed on forced days off instead of filling vacancies in patrols. This happens on a daily basis. At the same time, a drastic reduction in the civilian workforce has resulted in hundreds of sworn officers being taken off the streets and put into offices where they perform administrative and support functions at nearly twice the cost of a civilian employee…..

There’s more, so read on.


The LA Times Garrett Therolf has turned up yet another case of horrifying incompetence on the part of an LA County social worker.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in elections, Foster Care, media, Must Reads | 14 Comments »

Carolyn Forché & The Poetry of Witness

October 29th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

In the next three days, I’ll be putting up voting recommendations
and endorsements, but—for now—a social justice and literature break.

On Thursday night I was deliriously happy to have the opportunity to give a small speech introducing the poet Carolyn Forché, who was the keynote speaker for the week long celebration of art, literature and social justice at Loyola Marymount University called the Bellarmine Forum.

It was risky of the Forum’s organizer, my wonderful friend, the gifted poet Gail Wronsky, to assign a non-poet—namely me— to introduce Forché.

But internationally known poet, translator, anthologist and human rights activist Carolyn Forché is one of my heroes, so I said yes right away when Gail asked me—risk or no risk.

If by chance you don’t know Forché’s work, allow me to introduce you—as she is exactly the right poet to talk about on a social justice news site.

Carolyn Forché writes what she describes as the “poetry of witness.”

In her famous anthology, Against Forgetting, Forché quotes the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca. who wrote the following to a friend just before he was abducted and executed in 1936 by fascist troops under the command of General Francisco Franco:

“Art for art’s sake is something that would be cruel, if it won’t fortunately so ridiculous.”

Forché never writes art for art’s sake. She creates her art as an act of engagement with the wounds of the world around her.

Yet, just to be clear, Carolyn Forché does not write political poetry. There are no polemics in her work. She doesn’t lecture. As she herself describes the distinction, there is personal poetry, and there is political poetry.

And then…. there is a third category, a third literary path, which is the one that she inhabits. The third category is poetry of witness, in which one does not take a side, but leaves notes….bread crumbs…. traces—for the rest of us to find.

Forché writes poetry as evidence.

Here, for example, is her most notorious poem, the one that is the most often anthologized, written after her year-long stay in El Salvador, working with Amnesty International, during the late 1970′s at the height of that country’s brutal and deadly civil war.


WHAT YOU HAVE HEARD is true. I was in his house. His wife carried
a tray of coffee and sugar. His daughter filed her nails, his son went
out for the night. There were daily papers, pet dogs, a pistol on the
cushion beside him. The moon swung bare on its black cord over
the house. On the television was a cop show. It was in English.
Broken bottles were embedded in the walls around the house to
scoop the kneecaps from a man’s legs or cut his hands to lace. On
the windows there were gratings like those in liquor stores. We had
dinner, rack of lamb, good wine, a gold bell was on the table for
calling the maid. The maid brought green mangoes, salt, a type of
bread. I was asked how I enjoyed the country. There was a brief
commercial in Spanish. His wife took everything away. There was
some talk then of how difficult it had become to govern. The parrot
said hello on the terrace. The colonel told it to shut up, and pushed
himself from the table. My friend said to me with his eyes: say
nothing. The colonel returned with a sack used to bring groceries
home. He spilled many human ears on the table. They were like
dried peach halves. There is no other way to say this. He took one
of them in his hands, shook it in our faces, dropped it into a water
glass. It came alive there. I am tired of fooling around he said. As
for the rights of anyone, tell your people they can go fuck them-
selves. He swept the ears to the floor with his arm and held the last
of his wine in the air. Something for your poetry, no? he said. Some
of the ears on the floor caught this scrap of his voice. Some of the
ears on the floor were pressed to the ground.

The poet Hannah Arendt once wrote the following about how we must actively reject the unwarranted pain that some humans inflict on others.

One man will always be left alive to tell the story. The lesson of such stories is simple and within everybody’s grasp. It is that, under conditions of terror, most people will comply—but some will not. Humanly speaking, no more is required, and no more can reasonably asked, for this planet to remain a place fit for human habitation.

Carolyn Forché never complies. She notices, she illuminates what she has seen and, in doing so, she mends, she repairs, she heals and she restores.

In her recent poem, The Lightkeeper published in the New Yorker this past spring—and which she said will be part of her newest book, nearly finished now— she wrote:

Nothing to be afraid. Nothing but happiness as unbearable as the dread
from which it comes. Go toward the light always, be without ships

Carolyn Forché’s work goes toward the light—always.

Check it out.

PS: There are two of Forché’s books that are among the pile of I always keep by my bed for emotional security: The Angel of History and her 760-page anthology, Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness.

Nelson Mandela wrote of the latter,Against Forgetting is itself a blow against tyranny, against prejudice, against injustice.”

Against Forgetting in particular is one of the handful of books I would save in a fire, not because I can’t get the thing again, (Obviously, I can order it from Amazon) but because, in a time of duress, I would want to have it with me as a talisman.

PPS: No, this is not the introduction I gave for Carolyn Forché, but yes, I did snip a few things from it.

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Posted in American artists, writers and writing | 9 Comments »

Stewart/Obama: Smart Men Talking

October 28th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

This is why Jon Stewart matters.

The interview with President Obama on Wednesday night’s Daily Show was much better than that which we see…well…pretty much anywhere.

For one thing, it was a more serious and, frankly, smarter exchange—comedic moments included— than we see on, say, Meet the Press, and equivalent shows.

Stewart repeatedly asked critical questions of the president, but he did so, not from an attitude of journalistic remove, but rather from the position of one who voted for the man, but is now genuinely disappointed and perplexed at how it has all played out. He wants to know—as many of us do— why Obama made some of the decisions he has made.

Like why in the %$#&@$ did he hire Larry Summers. (Just for example.)

It helps that when Stewart asks a question he allows himself to become fully engaged with the give and take of the inquiry. It is not just one more check mark on the list. He’s not going for a sound bite. He wants an answer.

“Legislatively, it felt timid at times,” he said at one point of Obama’s way of dealing with Congress.

And then, “You ran on the idea that this system needed basic reform. It feels like some of the reforms that have been passed, like health care, have been done a very political manner that has papered over a foundation that is corrupt.”

Each time, Obama answered. Often he fought back aggressively, and spun things in his favor. He brought it. But he didn’t dodge. It was a genuine exchange.

(Plus at some point Stewart called the President, “dude.”)

Anyway, watch it, if for some reason you haven’t already.

Posted in media, Obama | 9 Comments »

On KNBC’s The Filter Tonight @ 7:30 pm

October 27th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

I’m on KNBC’s The Filter tonight at 7:30 p.m. with Fred Roggin
—this time during the debate section that goes on just about at 7:30 on the dot. I’ll be on with journalist/blogger, Cameron Turner.

We’ll be talking with Fred about a list of topics. (I’ll let you be surprised.)

As usual, I’ll post the video later, but you can watch it online in real time here or on your TV at digital channel 4.2.

Posted in The Filter | No Comments »

Elections Updates and Other Pressing Issues

October 27th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon


The LA Times has an editorial on the new study that shows that blacks are far more likely to be arrested for pot than whites—even though whites consume the stuff at a much more rapid clip. For instance, in LA blacks are 7 times more likely to be arrested for pot; in Pasadena and Inglewood, 12 times more likely.

The glaring disparity has gotten the NAACP and the National Black Police Association—among others— to support Prop 19.

However, the LAT editorial board harrumphs that it’s still not enough of a reason to pass the measure.


Julia Dahl of the Crime Report has a snapshot of what post-Prop-19 changes will and won’t take place, should the measure win.

Here’s the opening:

One week from tomorrow, the nation’s most populous state may decriminalize marijuana. Polls indicate that California’s Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, otherwise known as Proposition 19, is supported by between 39 and 44 percent of likely voters.

But even if the proposition becomes law, California’s 338 separate police departments and 58 county sheriffs are likely to have the final word.

Several of the state’s law enforcement authorities, such as Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, have already signaled they will continue to enforce federal laws against possession and cultivation of marijuana—no matter what happens.

“You’re going to have massive confusion,” predicts Rodney Jones, Chief of Police in Fontana, California, a city of 200,000 located 50 miles east of Los Angeles.

Read on.


Tuesday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated much of Arizona’s 2004 Proposition 200, which required proof of citizenship in order to register to vote.

A legal ID will do fine, said the court. Here’s a clip from the Arizona Daily Star:

The split decision by a three-judge panel determined that the requirement to show proof of citizenship — passed by voters in 2004 — is not consistent with the National Voter Registration Act.


The majority noted that Congress was well aware of the problem of voter fraud when it passed the voter act, and built in sufficient protections, including applying perjury penalties to applicants who lie about their eligibility.

The court determined Arizona’s polling place photo identification requirement, however, is a minimal burden and does not violate the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment.

And, by the way, before anyone starts nattering about the liberality of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the justices sitting on the three-judge panel (and one of the two who voted with the majority) was an Arizona-raised Republican girl named Sandra Day O’Connor.


Steve Lopez has been having much too good a time with this, in case you’ve missed it.


Really? Ya, think? (cough) Citizens United (cough, cough)

Greg Stohr of Bloomberg has the story:

The U.S. Supreme Court is more business-friendly today than it was 25 years ago, according to a study conducted by a group that advocates for environmental safeguards and civil rights.

The study by the Constitutionality Accountability Center in Washington takes issue with comments by Justice Stephen Breyer in a Bloomberg News interview earlier this month. Breyer said business groups aren’t doing any better than they have historically……..

“Justice Breyer’s flat wrong in suggesting that the chamber has always done well before the court,” said Doug Kendall, the Constitutionality Accountability Center’s president. “The Supreme Court’s modern pro-corporate tilt — and particularly its sharp ideological split in favor of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — are relatively new developments, traceable to the court’s current conservative majority.”

By the way, the conservative-leaning justices haven’t given us all the worst of our biz-oriented decisions. (Not that every business-centric decision is bad.) It was the liberal-leaning side of the court that handed us: Kelo v. City of New London. (Look up that fun puppy here, in case you don’t remember.)


LA’s wonderful youth-driven publication, LA Youth, has a number of elections-related articles.

In one article, 15-year-old Aaron Schwartz decides to research both gubernatorial candidates to find out whom he would vote for (if he was old enough to vote). After his examination, he eventually does select a candidate, but finds himself uninspired by either.

When it comes to Prop. 19, in another article called The Lows of Getting High , a formerly-pot smoking teenager (the author withholds her name for reasons of privacy) talks about the negative effect weed had on her life.


The Southern California Independent Booksellers (SCIBA) had their big awards dinner Saturday night and gave out six awards. Father Greg Boyle’s luminous and unforgettable “Tattoos on the Heart” won first in the nonfiction category. (Wooo-hooo! And really, I’d feel that way even if I wasn’t totally partisan.)

Other winners included, the marvelous Aimee Bender for fiction, and my pal David Ulin, as part of a trio who won for Art, Architecture and Photography.

The full list is below:

Children’s Picture Book: All the World by Marla Frazee and Liz Garton Scanlon (Simon & Schuster)

Children’s Novel: This Book is Not Good for You by Psuedonymous Bosch (Little, Brown)

Fiction: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake” by Aimee Bender (Doubleday)

T. Jefferson Parker Mystery Award: The First Rule by Robert Crais (Putnam)

Nonfiction: Tattoos on the Heart” by Father Gregory Boyle (Free Press)

Glenn Goldman Art, Architecture and Photography Award:Los Angeles: Portrait of a City” by Jim Heimann, David L. Ulin and Kevin Starr (Taschen)


All good wishes for very quick healing to Carly Fiorina who was admitted to the hospital Tuesday morning for observation and treatment of an infection related to her reconstructive surgery in July. Fiorina was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2009, and had a double mastectomy as part of her treatment.

I don’t like Fiorina as a candidate, but facing the rigors of the campaign trail this soon after her various surgeries and treatments, ain’t easy. I wish her a speedy recovery.

Posted in elections, immigration, law enforcement, Marijuana laws, writers and writing | 11 Comments »

Tuesday Must Reads: The Prop 19 Version

October 26th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon


Gazillionaire George Soros is about to donate some big bucks to Proposition 19, the pot legalization initiative. He explains why in an op ed that appears in, of all interesting places, the Wall Street Journal. Since it’s the WSJ, Soros leads his reasons with those relating to the fiscal side of the initiative.

Here are some clips:

Our marijuana laws are clearly doing more harm than good. The criminalization of marijuana did not prevent marijuana from becoming the most widely used illegal substance in the United States and many other countries. But it did result in extensive costs and negative consequences.

Law enforcement agencies today spend many billions of taxpayer dollars annually trying to enforce this unenforceable prohibition. The roughly 750,000 arrests they make each year for possession of small amounts of marijuana represent more than 40% of all drug arrests.

Regulating and taxing marijuana would simultaneously save taxpayers billions of dollars in enforcement and incarceration costs, while providing many billions of dollars in revenue annually. It also would reduce the crime, violence and corruption associated with drug markets, and the violations of civil liberties and human rights that occur when large numbers of otherwise law-abiding citizens are subject to arrest. Police could focus on serious crime instead.


Who most benefits from keeping marijuana illegal? The greatest beneficiaries are the major criminal organizations in Mexico and elsewhere that earn billions of dollars annually from this illicit trade—and who would rapidly lose their competitive advantage if marijuana were a legal commodity. Some claim that they would only move into other illicit enterprises, but they are more likely to be weakened by being deprived of the easy profits they can earn with marijuana.


This story by Vince Beiser isn’t directly related to Prop 19, but there’s a thin thread of relationship. In any case, it’s upsetting—and worth reading.

Here’s the opening.

She should have been scared. Rachel Hoffman, a slim, pretty redhead freshly graduated from Florida State University, had $13,000 in cash and a police wire in her purse. She was about to make a major buy from two armed drug dealers.

Rachel, 23, had never done anything remotely like this before. She was in her silver Volvo S40, way out in the thickly-wooded outskirts of Tallahassee, following the grey BMW of the two men who were going to sell her a pile of cocaine, Ecstasy, and a gun. But she felt safe. Once the deal went down, all she had to do was say “looks good,” and the dozen-plus cops tailing her would pounce. It would be a thrill, like a real-life episode of one of her favorite shows, DEA.

But what mattered most was that the police had promised that if she did this sting, they wouldn’t prosecute her for the marijuana they’d found in her apartment…..


Or so the YES on Prop 19 folks say of their internal polls, according to FireDogLake:

Yes on Proposition 19 has just released a set of internal numbers for polling they conducted last week, which compared responses given to live interviewers versus automated telephone polling. Interestingly, there is a huge divide between the level of support expressed for Prop 19 with the two methodologies. They find that if an individual is responding only to a computer program, they are much more likely to express support for Prop 19.

In other words, people are more likely to admit their support for weed to a machine (that won’t have a judgment) than to an actual person (who people imagine might have a judgment).

Or so they say.

And earlier LA Times/USC poll showed Prop 19 losing support.


The LA Times Sam Quinones follows a deputy sheriff through the slightly unreal world of law enforcement in Humboldt County:

Fantasy often mixes with reality in the work life of Deputy Sheriff Robert Hamilton of Humboldt County, the center of California’s marijuana outback.

It happened again a few months ago in the isolated coastal resort of Shelter Cove, where Hamilton lives and patrols. The deputy came upon nine young men tending a marijuana plantation….


Turns out it’s not out of policy for the LA County Sheriff’s Department to use department resources to do special investigations for big campaign donors.

Um, really?

The LA Times is as perplexed as I’m guessing the rest of us are about that little policy.

Posted in elections, Marijuana laws, Must Reads | 49 Comments »

Are We Wrongly Panicking Over Foster Care Deaths?

October 25th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

There’s a fight going on in LA County
over whether or not there is a spike kids’ deaths in and around the foster care system and, if so, what that rise in numbers means, and we ought to do about it.

On Tuesday of last week, the LA Times’ Garrett Therolf
reported that many more kids were dying when being observed by LA’s foster care system than anyone was admitting.

The stories and the figures were indeed horrifying:

More children have died in each of the last two years from abuse or neglect after being under the eye of Los Angeles County’s Department of Children and Family Services despite assurances by county officials that the problem was getting better, according to confidential county documents reviewed by The Times.

The number of deaths from abuse and neglect rose from 18 in 2008 to 26 in 2009, and 2010 so far is on track to be even worse, with 21 maltreatment fatalities in the first eight months of the year, according to the figures. The department publicly released some of the case files of child deaths Monday morning after repeated inquiries from The Times but has not yet released the overall statistics, which have been circulating among senior county officials.

At the same time, the Daily News wrote a somewhat calmer article about what the new figures meant.

Then on Friday, LA County Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Mike Antonovich wrote a joint op-ed in the LA Times in which they cautioned that the Times’ reporting took stats out of context and thus ran the danger of wrongly causing a panic that would result in more kids being yanked unnecessarily and harmfully from their families (a worry that several foster care activists have privately shared with me—and anyone else they think will listen).

Here’s a clip from the op ed:

Last year, according to the DCFS, 55 children who had department case histories were homicide victims. That fact alone evokes for many an image of an infant or toddler killed in an abusive home, when the DCFS should have spotted danger.

But “children” includes those up to 18 years old. A closer look at the 55 homicides shows that 35 were of teenagers shot or stabbed to death in assaults, many in gang-related incidents. Three youths were shot by police officers.

The label “DCFS history” applies to any child who has been the subject of an abuse complaint; the history remains with the child even if the complaint was found to be false. These children in most cases were not young children, and few were still under the care of the DCFS.

The number of children killed by parents, foster parents or relatives acting as guardians have been effectively constant since the 1990s. These figures have been overlooked.

Hours after the Ridley-Thomas/Antonovich essay appeared, Therolf fired back in the Times with his own accusation of bad numbers.

Therolf laid part of the problem at the feet of a comparatively new program called the Title IV-E Waiver, under which LA County agreed to cap the sum of funds it can receive for foster care services, no matter how many kids it takes into its care. The “waiver” as it is called, was part of a series of reforms put in place in the last decade, this one aimed at fixing the previous system that in essence fiscally incentivized the county to take kids away from their families—because the more kids taken away, the more bucks the county received.

As predicted, the capped funds waiver system has gotten the Department of Family and Children Services to take fewer kids out of their homes. Instead, DCFS has pushed to help the kids and their families toward health and safety without removal—thus allowing the children to remain in place, but still under county supervision.

The Times suggests that more child deaths have resulted.

Certainly all parties agree that one child death is one horrific tragedy too many. At the same time, the push to put hundreds more kids through the trauma of being torn from families, when many of those families could reasonably be helped—all in response to a panic driven by numbers around which there is questionable agreement—is something that surely all of us would wish to avoid as well.

So, cuidado.

We have a habit in this state of creating awful public policy out of individual horror stories. And much collateral damage results.

Please let’s not do it here.

PS: The state of Florida has used the waiver to improve it’s system, not impair it (in the face of similar criticism).

Source of above numbers: Los Angeles County Inter-Agency Council on Abuse and Neglect

Posted in Foster Care, LA County Board of Supervisors, Los Angeles Times | 7 Comments »

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