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Thinking of Japan, the Blocked California Budget and More


The frightening news out of Japan cannot help but hold our attention, as heroic engineers at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station continue to try to save the plant’s crippled nuclear reactors from meltdown.

But, in addition to the devastating TV news reports, please do yourself a favor and read Marie Mutsuki Mockett’s essay on her memories and reflections as the terrifying and heartbreaking news from Japan continues to unfold. It will be in Tuesday’s New York Times. Here is how it opens:

ON Aug. 9, 1945, my great-uncle was out fishing in the Pacific, far enough away from Nagasaki, Japan, that he missed the immediate impact of the atomic bomb dropped by the Americans that day. My great-aunt was in their new house outside Nagasaki; the entire family had only a few days earlier fled the city because my great-uncle feared a repeat of the bombing of Hiroshima.

I heard this story many times during my childhood. Back then, it made me feel that my great-uncle was a clever man. As an adult, I realized he was also very lucky, because cleverness alone cannot keep you safe.

For 36 hours after the earthquake and tsunami that eviscerated the east coast of Japan on Friday, I was unable to get any word from my relatives who oversee and live in our family’s Buddhist temple in Iwaki City, south of Sendai, the biggest city near the epicenter. I wondered if they too were lucky and smart.

I wanted to know, and I did not want to know. I dipped into the world of the Internet, with its videos of water raging over the farmland and crushed ferries, and then quickly backed out. Not looking at the videos kept reality at bay, because the images of the coastline do not match the Japan that I know….


Madeleine Brand had Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters on her show Monday to talk about how bleak the chances are that any Republican legislators will vote for Brown’s proposed budget.

According to Cal Buzz, it is not so much that certain moderate Republicans wouldn’t cross over party lines, as it is the fact that the California Republican Party is out-and-out threatening any Repubs who vote with the governor. Specifically, if they do the California Republican Assembly has proposed a resolution that…..

“….censures these traitorous Republicans-in-Name-Only, ask(s) for their resignation(s) from their positions within the California Republican Party, pledges to endorse and support efforts to recall them from office, and directs the California Republican Party staff, agents and officers to refuse to provide them with funding or assistance in future elections.”

Nice. That’s really putting the good of the state first. Well done, guys.


Both of these stories were linked by Kevin Roderick at LA Observed:

First there is LAPD crime analyst and fellow Bennington MFA graduate, Ellen Collett, who has written a delicious piece that appears in the Utne Reader about the art of writing a good crime report, and a South LA cop named Martinez who is her favorite practitioner.

Roderick also links to the “correction” run by the LA Weekly’s Simon Wilson pursuant to her creepy, insensitive and marginally assaultive coverage of the February Tahrir Square attack on CBS reporter Lara Logan, coverage that was criticized by a number of other women journalists, myself included.

Not only does Wilson fail to apologize (which was what was called for), but her correction, such as it is, also manages to be creepy and vaguely assaultive.

To wit:

The LA Weekly reported earlier in the day on February 15 that Logan had been raped, based on language in a press release from CBS. The CBS release said Logan had suffered a “brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating.”

But did the attack constitute rape? The legal definition of rape is penetration with any object, to any extent — the most extreme form of sexual assault. Experts on legal language have since informed us that CBS’ description of the incident implies repeated rape, but the Weekly has not been able to determine what occurred. CBS declines all further comment.

Therefore, we conclude that we erroneously interpreted CBS’ report of what happened to Logan on February 11, 2011.

Gee, thanks Simone, for the graphic “legal definition.” Very helpful.

Next time you have the desire to make things better, please don’t.

The photo of Sutter Brown, the state’s official First Dog, contemplating budgetary matters with the governor, was taken by Brown political adviser, Steve Glazer.


  • On Ellen Collett’s story, a couple of things –

    In her story, she uses the term “precincts”, which is an east coast term. In L.A, the term “division” or “area” is used.
    Also, a sergeant doesn’t typically write crime reports if he/she is a patrol supervisor, they review them. It’s possible that the sergeant is incorporating he/her style in their subordinates’ reports, but the supervisor probably would not be credited as the report’s author.

    And, if they’re in patrol, a sergeant wouldn’t typically have a partner.

  • Hmmmm. Interesting. Thanks for those good points, Anon. I didn’t notice her use of “precincts” last night when I put the post up. But I just reread and, indeed, she uses the term repeatedly, which is odd if she works for the department, thus one would think that “division” would be automatic to her.

    Also, the sergeant thing is odd as well. She’s got his badge number. Is she getting his rank wrong?

    Nevertheless, I liked her analysis of the man’s writing style (whatever his rank), as it’s the kind of thing I notice in odd contexts like lawyers’ briefs, courts’ written rulings, press releases. Once it in while you get someone with a good grasp of narrative.

    For instance, last year an LAPD media relations officer—a guy named Lt. John Romero— wrote the press release on the that awful murder of Flor Medrano (the situation in which the officers were outside her apartment but the stalker boyfriend was already in the apartment and killed her before the officers could save her). And. I remember being struck by the fact that the press release was an entire cut above the usual. It was a real story, a narrative. The guy could write. It was so notable, that I commented at the end of my post on the murder.

    So I appreciate that she is similarly aware of officers’ writing styles.

    But one more thing, just speaking personally, I don’t think the repeated use of the F bomb was necessary. I’m all for swear words, if they are significant to the story. But in this case, it was jarring and detracted from the piece. If she’d been my student, I’d have told her to change it.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment. It was informative and got me to thinking.

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