All Koched Up: The Left Takes On Private Citizens

For whatever reason, the wealthy Koch Brothers have become part of the Left's designated Enemies of the People list, along with Sarah Palin, Rush, et al. It seems to have started with this article in the New York Review of Books, but really took off when Jane Meyer wrote a widely read New Yorker article on the Kochs' depredations. Over the weekend, the Kochs held one of their invitation-only meetings of high powered conservative activists and money men. You know what that means: release the hounds, er, mutts:

Twenty-five people were arrested for trespassing Sunday as hundreds protested outside a strategy session of conservative political donors at a resort near Palm Springs, authorities said.

The mostly peaceful demonstration had been arranged with authorities, but some protesters crossed the street to the entrance of the Rancho Las Palmas Resort where they were met by deputies in riot gear, Riverside County Deputy Melissa Nieburger said. They were arrested without a struggle, booked at Indio Jail and released.

Sunday was the second day of the four-day, invitation-only conclave of about 200 wealthy conservative political activists. It was organized by brothers David and Charles Koch, whose Wichita, Kan.-based Koch Industries is one of the nation's largest privately held companies.

The brothers have held similar conclaves in the Palm Springs area and Aspen, Colo., for years, but this conference was met with increased scrutiny. Liberal groups have targeted the brothers for criticism because of their funding of the fight against global warming laws and their financial support of Americans for Prosperity, an organization that has worked closely with tea party groups.

The group did not say who was attending the conference, and reporters were not allowed inside the resort, but the strategy sessions in years past have included radio talkers Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, and Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, according to The New York Times.

There is one word for this: Laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaammmmmmmmme!

Left unmentioned in the few articles about this display is that the protests were preceded by a "panel discussion" which included Robert Reich, Erwin Chemerinsky, and, uh, Van Jones. Also unmentioned is that the protests (and panel discussion?) were organized by Peter Dreier who not only worked for the 2008 Obama campaign, but also figured prominently in Stanley Kurtz's muckraking "socialists in America" Radical In Chief:

Last year Big Journalism chronicled Occidental College professor Peter Dreier, who served on the Obama campaign’s urban policy task force and as an adviser to ACORN, using his position with the university to recruit operatives for the “battle with conservative ideas” (new tone, anyone?). According to an email obtained by, Dreier is at it again, this time drafting activists to protest a meeting headed up by conservative businessmen Charles and David Koch.

He also encourages people to attend a panel discussion before the protest featuring, among others, UC Irvine Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, U.C. Berekely Professor and former Obama adviser Robert Reich, and Van Jones.

The easy bit of snark would be to say sarcastically that this is part of all of the "new civility" we are hearing so much about.

Still, this is serious enough to warrant a little more than finger wagging. We've been hearing a lot about right wing violence during the last two years. But, most of that violence was in the form of citizens showing up at "meet your Congressman" events and yelling at their representative. Has there ever been a Tea Party protest at, say, George Soros' last progressive fund raiser? Is there even an easy method by which your typical "teabagger" could even find a George Soros fundraiser? And, how did Dreier and co. find out the time and location of this invitation-only Koch Bros. event? (a mole working at the Rancho Las Palmas?)

What about these protesters? It looks like the usual crowd of Code Pink and International ANSWER types who have been features of the last 10 years' worth of left-wing "grass roots" protests. These are hardly the sort of spontaneous protesters you could equate with Tea Partiers. They were bused into Riverside County, the classic sign of astro-turfed pressure groups. Van Jones is one thing, but aren't Robert Reich or Erwin Chemerinsky at least a little embarrassed to be part of this display, even if they were only acting at the "panel discussion" level?

The left is at war with the decent people of this country. They don't even like it when conservatives gather together to discuss issues among themselves.

Ghost Riders in the Media Sky

I'm not going to criticize the Obama Administration's hands-off approach to the nascent Egyptian Revolution. As much as we'd like to believe we can shape events on the streets of Cairo from the desks of Washington DC, the fact is that we can't. But I will link to this Politico piece that debunks Obama's attempt to somehow claim credit for "privately" (oh, if only you had been there!) pushing Mubarak to "reform" his government. Hey, I thought it was jobs, jobs, jobs over there at the White House:

"The way [Obama has] confronted it, is he went to Cairo and talked about the need, the universal human rights of people. He’s on several occasions directly confronted Pres. Mubarak on it. And pushed him on the need for political reform in his country," Axelrod told ABC's Jake Tapper Friday, on the adviser's last day of work at the White House.

"To get ahead of this?" Tapper asked.

"Exactly. To get ahead of this. This is a project he’s been working on for two years and today the president is working hard to encourage restraint and a cessation of violence against the people of Egypt," said Axelrod.

"Nice myth," said one human rights advocate I asked about Axelrod's description.

There are a couple of problems with Axelrod's account. First, there's little public evidence that Obama "confronted" Mubarak on these issues. White House officials have said the subjects were raised in meetings between the men, but when the two met publicly there was little indication that Obama was pressuring Mubarak on the issue.

During the 25-minute press availability during the pair's Oval Office meeting in August 2009, Obama didn't mention the issue. Mubarak was the one who brought it up, telling the press how "friendly" their exchange on the subject was and suggesting a rather leisurely timeline to make changes.

"We discussed the issue of reform inside Egypt. And I told to President Obama very frankly and very friendly that I have entered into the elections based on a platform that included reforms, and therefore we have started to implement some of it and we still have two more years to implement it," Mubarak said. "Our relations between us and the United States are very good relations and strategic relations. And despite some of the hoops that we had with previous administrations, this did not change the nature of our bilateral relations."

The other sleight-of-hand in Axelrod's comment is his suggestion that Obama's visit to Cairo in June 2009 was intended or perceived as speaking hard truths to Mubarak. To the contrary, many in the region, in other Muslim countries, and the U.S. ( see here and here), saw the choice of Egypt for Obama's first speech to the Muslim world as a huge laurel for Mubarak, not an albatross. Obama's speech made no direct reference to political reform or human rights issues in Egypt, save for a passing reference to Christian Copts there. There were alsoreports that the U.S. eased up on democracy promotion there.

I can understand the impulse to try to catch a little "democracy" fire - we all want to be on the side of the vanguard of "change," right? - but the White House spin here was pretty pitiful. Even if Mubarak was some sort of tyrannical El Supremo, and he's not at least not compared to many of his neighbors, our Smart Power set doesn't seem to realize that when the Man On the Cairo Street starts demanding "reform" or "justice," it is not of the sort that would be recognizable to American progressives who are temperamentally sympathetic to those buzzwords.

What's happening is Egypt is serious business. Maybe the protesters in the streets are on the side of the angels, and just want economic reforms (query whether progressive sophisticates realize Egypt has the sort of neo-socialist economy that Obama has been trying to impose over here) and free elections. But when there is chaos in the streets, history has taught that fortune favors those who are the best positioned and best organized to seize power. That ability lies with the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been waiting for this moment literally for decades. If Obama wants further opportunity to lecture privately an Egyptian president over human rights, then setting up a situation where the incumbent Mubarak is deposed or destabilized in favor of the Brotherhood will give you plenty of opportunities to do so.

Trying to score political points over some unheard attempt to "ride" Hosni Mubarak over human rights would be contemptible, if it were not so laughable.

Grand Old Party Member: An Interview With Clint Eastwood

The Wall Street Journal (well, I guess now it's the hipper sounding WSJ) interviews Clint Eastwood who, among other things, declares his party registration:
If he wasn't a Democrat back in 1992, was he an independent? "No, I was a registered Republican," he confesses happily. "I became a Republican in 1951, the first year I could vote. Eisenhower was running [for president] and we were all in the Army. He ran on the fact that he'd go to Korea [and end the war]. I don't know if that was anything more than a show, but he went there, and the Korean War did end." He then adds with a smile, like the easy-going Eisenhower Republican he is, "But I've supported Democrats along the way."
The youngster interviewing Eastwood acts like this is a big shock, but actually Clint was well known to be a Republican back in the Eighties when he was mayor of Carmel. At the time, he was one of the few Hollywood personalities - Bruce Willis was another - who was an active Reagan supporter.

And, no one, least of all Eastwood, wants to remember this, but the "Dirty Harry" movies had a strong political subtext. Back in the "soft on crime" Seventies, Dirty Harry shocked liberals by suggesting that the best way to fight crime was through police work and prisons. not through gassy speeches about how poverty and "society" were the root causes of crime (a stock character in all of the "Dirty Harry" movies was the liberal DA/politician lecturing Harry on how "the old ways don't work any more"). These films were once widely regarded - and despised - as being little more than "right wing" revenge fantasies. "Fascist" "racist" "sexist" those were some of the words to describe Dirty Harry. Only problem was the movies were immensely popular precisely because of their political content. So, Eastwood has been one of the good guys for quite a while, even if he admits to voting for Democrats.

Fire In Cairo

Drudge is highlighting this story in the UK Telegraph, which claims that the mass street protests in Egypt are the fruition of a "secret" US plan to support a democratic opposition movement that would overthrow the Mubarak regime in 2011. Well, it is 2011...

The American Embassy in Cairo helped a young dissident attend a US-sponsored summit for activists in New York, while working to keep his identity secret from Egyptian state police.

On his return to Cairo in December 2008, the activist told US diplomats that an alliance of opposition groups had drawn up a plan to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak and install a democratic government in 2011.

He has already been arrested by Egyptian security in connection with the demonstrations and his identity is being protected by The Daily Telegraph.

The crisis in Egypt follows the toppling of Tunisian president Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali, who fled the country after widespread protests forced him from office.

The disclosures, contained in previously secret US diplomatic dispatches released by the WikiLeaks website, show American officials pressed the Egyptian government to release other dissidents who had been detained by the police.

The source? Why Wiki-leaks, of course!

The US government has previously been a supporter of Mr Mubarak’s regime. But the leaked documents show the extent to which America was offering support to pro-democracy activists in Egypt while publicly praising Mr Mubarak as an important ally in the Middle East.

In a secret diplomatic dispatch, sent on December 30 2008, Margaret Scobey, the US Ambassador to Cairo, recorded that opposition groups had allegedly drawn up secret plans for “regime change” to take place before elections, scheduled for September this year.

The memo, which Ambassador Scobey sent to the US Secretary of State in Washington DC, was marked “confidential” and headed: “April 6 activist on his US visit and regime change in Egypt.”

It said the activist claimed “several opposition forces” had “agreed to support an unwritten plan for a transition to a parliamentary democracy, involving a weakened presidency and an empowered prime minister and parliament, before the scheduled 2011 presidential elections”. The embassy’s source said the plan was “so sensitive it cannot be written down”.

Ambassador Scobey questioned whether such an “unrealistic” plot could work, or ever even existed. However, the documents showed that the activist had been approached by US diplomats and received extensive support for his pro-democracy campaign from officials in Washington. The embassy helped the campaigner attend a “summit” for youth activists in New York, which was organised by the US State Department.

That's the story, anyway. Do I believe it? Well, I don't know. On the one hand, it's the sort of "Uncle Sam's hidden hand" conspiracy theory much beloved on the Arab Street. It's also the sort of "We can control world-shaking events in the Middle East from our desks at Foggy Bottom/CIA Headquarters" story that America's establishment loves, too. If there are two groups whose worldviews I simply don't find credible, it's the Arab Street and the State Department/CIA. So I think this deserves all of the grains of salt in the world.

Still, if it is true, why in the world would America target Hosni Mubarak for the Shah treatment? Egypt's the most populous country in the Middle East. The obvious successor to Mubarak would be the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group with spiritual ties to al-Qaeda. Egypt also controls access through the Suez Canal, and shares a long border with Israel. A destabilized, or radicalized, Egypt would promptly become a disruptive force to be reckoned with. Mubarak may be a son of a bitch. He may not quite be our son of a bitch. But, he's a predictable son of a bitch. A US plan to get rid of Mubarak, when there are so many others in the Middle East who richly deserve to precede him into exile, would not seem to be a display of "smart power."

Sorry For The Light Blogging

It's been one "Sputnik moment" after another at work, so blogging has had to take a back seat. Regular posting should resume tomorrow.

Sign Of the Southern Cross

Via one of my old school metal-head Facebook friends, here's some prime Dio-era Sabbath to distract from the very important topic of what sort of coordinating outfits Maxine Waters and David Drier (might I suggest boots, Congressman?) are going to wear to the SOTU

The comments - "F*** you cancer," "I murdered my first hitchhiker to this song" - are pretty classic, too. RIP, Ronnie.

UC Berkeley: Are California Republicans Too Stupid To Win Elections Or Are They Just Losers?

Oh, look! It's another symposium of academics, retired politicos and campaign consultants meeting at a UC Berkeley symposium to decide the very important question of whether the California GOP is a "dead" brand. You'll never guess their conclusion:

The Republican Party, as a brand, is dead in California.

That's the eye-opening consensus of a crowd of political observers, lawmakers and strategists - Democrats and Republicans - gathered at a UC Berkeley symposium this weekend to mull over California's defiantly blue status in the wake of a conservative tide that swept the nation in November.

Many of the 200 attendees at the two-day Institute of Governmental Studies conference appeared surprisingly unified on one issue: that, barring dramatic upheaval, the GOP's prospects may be doomed in the voter-rich Golden State.

"Republicans, as a brand, are dead," Duf Sundheim, the former state GOP chair, told the gathering Saturday

You'll get no argument from me that the GOP has trouble winning elections lately, and that its uninspiring candidates and moribund campaign apparatus are at least partly to blame. But, some of the conclusions of symposiumees are a little too pat. Mostly, they seem to think that the GOP needs to do more minority outreach

"Republicans need to learn how to talk to non-traditional Republican voters," said Bettina Inclan, who worked on the communications team for losing California GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner. Not just Latinos, she said, but African Americans and young people, too.

Republicans will remain dead in California until the party "decides it won't be hostile to people who aren't old and white," said Darry Sragow, interim director of the USC/Los Angeles Times Poll and a longtime Democratic strategist.

That's little more than a call for another round of Big Government Conservatism, and a continuation of the "when are you Republicans going to stop being racists?" line of attack that has done so much to inspire rational dialogue and racial healing in the state. No thanks. Symposium attendees also thought Meg Whitman ran a terrible campaign, and were then offended that she didn't come to Berkeley to "discuss" the matter. Yeah, I like to show up in some East Bay lecture hall to have my intelligence insulted when I could be counting my money, too

Just how much Meg Whitman, the defeated 2010 billionaire gubernatorial candidate, is to blame for the California GOP's sorry prospects was the subject of sharp debate.

Whitman's crushing 13-point defeat by Gov. Jerry Brown, despite spending more than $140 million of her own money, was roundly bashed by experts. But neither she, nor her team of highly paid consultants, was present to defend themselves.

The former eBay CEO's team declined to attend, becoming the first gubernatorial campaign in the history of the prestigious academic symposium to do so.

In the wake of her defeat, the outlook for Whitman's party is stark, said Kimberly Nalder, associate professor of government at Cal State Sacramento, who titled her talk "Are California Republicans Doomed?"

Again, no thanks.

Now, I didn't attend this little get together, but it sure seems like these guys left some issues on the table vis-a-vis the reasons for the GOP's precipitous decline.

For example, wouldn't it seem to be a problem for any Republican when you have a (sneer) "Republican" governor who ran on a platform of cutting taxes and shrinking government - "blowing up the boxes" was how he put it - and then presided over tax increases, expansive government and a fiscal crisis ?

And, isn't it a problem that the public schools are filled with teachers who learned their history from the likes of Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky?

Wouldn't it also seem to be a problem that the unions representing public employees, nurses, teachers, and prison guards are able to spend tens of millions of dollars running demagogic ads against Republican politicians without receiving 1/100th of the negative publicity of the "right wing noise machine?"

And speaking of unions, isn't it a problem not of Republicans making that, when Gloria Allred appeared out of nowhere with Meg Whitman's illegal alien maid, no one in the state media thought to ask how a Bay Area based Mexican immigrant hooked up with a high priced LA attorney? Oh wait, the newspapers managed to figure out that the nurses union made the introductions only, whoopsie, those stories didn't appear until after the election.

And, maybe there is a perception out there that Republicans are the "party of the rich," but if Meg Whitman is going to be dubbed a "billionaire" every time she walks out the door, shouldn't the same standard apply to billionaire Dems like Nancy Pelosi and Diane Feinstein?

Most important, even if the GOP is "dead," what about conservatism? There are some strong conservatives in California politics, including Chuck DeVore, Darrel Issa, and Tom McClintock after all. And when "conservative" issues go before the voters on stand-alone ballots, they more often than not pass by large margins. Smug progressives should remember that 2008's Obama voters also passed Prop. 8. Not only that, just seven years ago state voters enthusiastically voted into office an insurgent Republican candidate who ran on an explicitly conservative message of limited government and pro-growth economic policy. People loved it. They only turned on the Governator when he failed to back up his rhetoric with conservative governance.

It's OK to sit around in Berkeley gassing about how the GOP are a bunch of out of touch old white guys, I guess. Happens all the time. But no one ever wants to consider that, on the rare occasions when California Republicans have run on conservative ideas, they have had just as much success as when they run as milquetoast moderates. Wouldn't want to discuss that!

RIP Jack LaLanne

Sad news as fitness guru and Oakland native Jack LaLanne has died. He was 96 years young:

Jack LaLanne, the fitness guru who inspired television viewers to trim down, eat well and pump iron for decades before diet and exercise became a national obsession, died Sunday. He was 96.

LaLanne died of respiratory failure due to pneumonia Sunday afternoon at his home in Morro Bay on California's central coast, his longtime agent Rick Hersh said.

Lalanne ate healthy and exercised every day of his life up until the end, Hersh said.

"I have not only lost my husband and a great American icon, but the best friend and most loving partner anyone could ever hope for," Elaine LaLanne, Lalanne's wife of 51 years and a frequent partner in his television appearances, said in a written statement.

Just before he had heart valve surgery in 2009 at age 95, Jack Lalanne told his family that dying would wreck his image, his publicist Ariel Hankin said at the time.

LaLanne may have been a showman, and a bit of a ham, but he was very serious about health and fitness:

In 1936 in his native Oakland, LaLanne opened a health studio that included weight-training for women and athletes. Those were revolutionary notions at the time, because of the theory that weight training made an athlete slow and "muscle bound" and made a woman look masculine.

"You have to understand that it was absolutely forbidden in those days for athletes to use weights," he once said. "It just wasn't done. We had athletes who used to sneak into the studio to work out.

"It was the same with women. Back then, women weren't supposed to use weights. I guess I was a pioneer," LaLanne said.

The son of poor French immigrants, he was born in 1914 and grew up to become a sugar addict, he said.

The turning point occurred one night when he heard a lecture by pioneering nutritionist Paul Bragg, who advocated the benefits of brown rice, whole wheat and a vegetarian diet.

"He got me so enthused," LaLanne said. "After the lecture I went to his dressing room and spent an hour and a half with him. He said, 'Jack, you're a walking garbage can.'"

Soon after, LaLanne constructed a makeshift gym in his back yard. "I had all these firemen and police working out there and I kind of used them as guinea pigs," he said.

He said his own daily routine usually consisted of two hours of weightlifting and an hour in the swimming pool.

"It's a lifestyle, it's something you do the rest of your life," LaLanne said. "How long are you going to keep breathing? How long do you keep eating? You just do it."

The vagaries of fate and nature being what they are, it might be too much to say that LaLanne's long life was a result of his particular diet and fitness regimen. Just seeing pictures of him, you could tell he was just full of life and would have lived a long time regardless. Still, his quality of life appeared to have remained very high right up to the end, which is certainly something.

And, no one else wants to mention this, but it does say something that he outlived - sometimes by decades - fitness gurus who came in his wake. Just off the top of my head, I can think of Jim Fix, Dr. Atkins, and Nathan Pritikin. (I guess I could include Herman Tarnower, but I'm pretty sure having a crazy mistress was not an essential element of the Scarsdale Diet). Of course, Jane Fonda is still alive, so there's only so far you can go with this line of inquiry.

Those gurus may have found more wealth and acclaim than LaLanne, but none could match the elegant simplicity of his theories, which were easy to understand, simple to implement, and universally applicable. Something like the Pritikin diet, on the other hand, may have worked for somebody, somewhere, but was mostly the source of a lot of wishful thinking. I'm not even going to mention the contradictory and flat out wrong dietary information pumped out by the US government since the Seventies. LaLanne, I am confident, would have disdained it all.

LaLanne was a true American and Californian original, the sort of person who started trends that people would later say "started in California and spread nationally." He had a zest for life that was nearly inextinguishable. You sometimes can't help wondering if California is still capable of nurturing for Jack LaLannes.

Ballin' The Jackal: Anti-American Tunes At White House State Dinner?

Today's too-good-to-check story comes courtesy of the Epoch Times, which claims that Chinese classical music export Lang Lang played a scorchingly anti-American Chi-com agitprop "classic" from the Korean War era. Supposedly, a billion Chinese are right now chuckling in their 100-square foot hovels over the spectacle of tuxedoed Americans applauding politely while they are called jackals in song.
Lang Lang the pianist says he chose it. Chairman Hu Jintao recognized it as soon as he heard it. Patriotic Chinese Internet users were delighted as soon as they saw the videos online. Early morning TV viewers in China knew it would be played an hour or two beforehand. At the White House State dinner on Jan. 19, about six minutes into his set, Lang Lang began tapping out a famous anti-American propaganda melody from the Korean War: the theme song to the movie “Battle on Shangganling Mountain.”

The film depicts a group of “People’s Volunteer Army” soldiers who are first hemmed in at Shanganling (or Triangle Hill) and then, when reinforcements arrive, take up their rifles and counterattack the U.S. military “jackals.”

The movie and the tune are widely known among Chinese, and the song has been a leading piece of anti-American propaganda by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for decades. CCP propaganda has always referred to the Korean War as the “movement to resist America and help [North] Korea.” The message of the propaganda is that the United States is an enemy—in fighting in the Korean War the United States’ real goal was said to be to invade and conquer China. The victory at Triangle Hill was promoted as a victory over imperialists.

The song Lang Lang played describes how beautiful China is and then near the end has this verse, “When friends are here, there is fine wine /But if the jackal comes /What greets it is the hunting rifle.” The “jackal” in the song is the United States.
Well, that may be. It's certainly easy to believe the Obama State Department would be this clueless. Plus, can you really expect any American - even a Sino-studies PhD - to be intimately familiar with Maoist propaganda songs from the Fifties?

On the other hand, there's the matter of the sourcing. The Epoch Times may be familiar to urban Americans, as ET's yellow news boxes and free papers are a regular feature of the downtown scene (it is in San Francisco, anyway). But, even without reading it, you can kind of tell it's attached to a religious group. It just has a Final Call feel to it, if you know what I mean. And, as it turns out, ET is the news arm for the Falun Gong in exile. So, you know, there's an agenda you have to account for.

That doesn't mean the agenda makes the story untrue, of course. ET makes a plausible claim that, while Lang Lang didn't make a big deal of it at the time, he did mention taking pride in playing the piece in a blog posting (don't know if it was a Chinese language blog). ET also says that TV viewers in China were aware that the song would be played, and further that the mainland Chinese saw the performance as a moment of cultural triumph over the capitalists. Could be. I would certainly credit ET with having better knowledge about what's going on in China than the (non-Chinese speaking) elites who run America's media companies and foreign policy apparatus.

Right now, ET is the only news organization telling this story, but it's been linked (and discussed) at Instapundit, Powerline, Althouse and Breitbart, which means it has already penetrated the right-wing blogosphere pretty thoroughly. That means the MSM, the White House and the Chinese will be quite happy to ignore this little dust-up. If Rush or Fox News pick up on this, however, look for an "explanation" on or about Wednesday afternoon.

If The Schoolhouse Is A-Rockin', Don't Bother Knockin'

This week's "SF Bay Area = Sodom & Gomorrah" headline comes courtesy of the Oakland public school district, where a teacher has been suspended for the sexually flamboyant atmosphere in his classroom. The teacher's students were, get this, second graders, two of whom are supposed to have engaged in oral sex during class:

A teacher at an East Oakland elementary school has been placed on leave as officials investigate accusations that two of his second-grade students engaged in oral sex in the classroom and that some ran around without their clothes on, a district spokesman said Friday.

Oakland Unified School District officials said the allegations involved students in a classroom at Markham Elementary School, and that the reported conduct happened sometime last week. A student came forward with details of the incidents Wednesday, district spokesman Troy Flint said.

"Acting on early findings, the investigation is leading us to believe that these details have merit," Flint said.

The district placed the teacher on paid administrative leave, Flint said. The teacher told officials that he was unaware of either incident. His name was not released.

Although details of the incidents remain sketchy, authorities said they are investigating reports that a girl and a boy engaged in oral sex in the classroom, Flint said.

When I first heard this story, I thought, no way; maybe the kids were talking about oral sex, or playacting at something and calling it oral sex, or whatever. But, the Free Will wife, who is a child psychologist with a couple years in Oakland working with (euphemism alert) "at-risk populations" under her belt, found the story to be absolutely plausible. There's a lot of prostitution and sex-for-drugs bartering that goes on, usually in front of the kids, who go on to imitate what they see. Pitiful, I know.

I don't think I have to mention that all of this doesn't arise from loose-moraled neo-hippie types living in Marin County mansions. No, this is going on in the other segment of the left-wing base: the ghettos and poor neighborhoods that have been the focus of so much earnest concern, and bottomless Great Society-style programs, all with the same perverse result. As Walter Williams said in the WSJ just this morning: The welfare state has done to black Americans what slavery couldn't do, what Jim Crow couldn't do, what the harshest racism couldn't do," Mr. Williams says. "And that is to destroy the black family.

Maybe liberals are right that budget-cutting Tea Partiers are just white racist crackers. But at least we haven't been using the power of government to destroy generation after generation of minority youth, all the while smugly bragging about how they are "saving" them.

Victim's Family Sues the (former) Governator

Governor Schwarzenegger plumbed new lows in the fading hours of his time in office by commuting the prison sentence (for murder) of Esteban Nunez, the son of Democrat Fabian Nunez, the former Speaker of the Assembly and Schwarzenegger's "partner" in flailing about during the state's fiscal crisis. Now the victim's family (remember them?) has struck back, suing Ah-nuld and various state agencies for violating their constitutional rights in commuting the sentence of one of their son's killers:

A Concord family is fighting back against a reduced punishment for a man involved in the killing of their son, filing a lawsuit Thursday against the state and Arnold Schwarzenegger that argues the former governor illegally commuted the sentence of one of the attackers.

During his last hours in office, Schwarzenegger commuted the sentence of Esteban Núñez, the son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez. Esteban Núñez pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and other charges in the fatal stabbing of Luis Santos. Schwarzenegger reduced Esteban Núñez's sentence from 16 years in prison to seven years.

The Santos family filed the suit against Schwarzenegger and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in Sacramento County Superior Court, alleging that Schwarzenegger violated the state Constitution. The family wants Núñez's original sentence reinstated.

Kathy Santos, the mother of the murder victim, told reporters at a news conference that her family is "not well connected, politically powerful or wealthy, but we will not stop fighting for our legal rights and we will not stop fighting for our son Luis."

Fred Santos, the young man's father, said that after the sentencing in 2010 his family had hoped the new year would allow them to begin to move past the crime. "But boy, were we ever wrong about that," he said, calling the commutation a political favor.

"By commuting the sentence of one of our son's killers, Arnold Schwarzenegger committed a gross injustice," Santos said.

When I first heard about this, I could understand the anger motivating this lawsuit, but also wondered how it could possibly succeed, given the harsh realities of legal immunity governors usually enjoy in carrying out their duties. But, wouldn't you know it, California's constitution has a provision that may offer the Santos a colorable claim.

Specifically, the Santos family is claiming Schwarzenegger violated provisions of Proposition 9, also known as Marsy's Law, passed by voters in 2008, that amended the Constitution to provide greater rights for victims of crime. They allege Schwarzenegger failed to notify, involve and consider the victims of the crime, which is mandated under Prop. 9, prior to commuting Núñez's sentence.

The suit also cites provisions in the proposition - now part of the state Constitution - that call for people convicted of crimes to suffer the sentence imposed on them by courts.

Luis Santos' parents, who live in Concord, have said they were never notified that Núñez's sentence was commuted - and learned about the former governor's move through news reporters. Schwarzenegger later sent a letter apologizing to the Santoses for not informing them of his decision.

All of this is possible thanks to victim-friendly proposition that voters passed a couple years ago. For all of the talk about California's liberal voters, the state remains a law and order jurisdiction whose citizens have little patience for the criminal element and those on the progressive left who seem inordinately fond of them. The Nunez commutation is a prime example, but there have been many like it over the years with Polly Klaas' murder by a parolee being the most notorious.

The state is, frankly, filled with people with serious psychological and substance abuse problems, or who are simply criminally minded. Voters have spoken consistently, and practically with one voice, about the need to keep these guys locked up, whether through 3-strikes laws, or victim's rights propositions. Yet, the impetus to return convicts to the streets is unending, whether from the parole boards to commutation-crazed governors to ACLU types trying to empty the prisons through lawsuits about "overcrowding" (that's the plan, guys). No doubt, budget cutting progressives in the Brown Administration are giving the prison budget the long eye. There is, as we speak, a de facto moratorium in place against the death penalty despite their not being any public demand for one. And so on.

Crime and punishment are recurring themes in California politics, almost always because the sophisticates working within the criminal justice system seem perpetually ready to aggrandize the rights of criminals over those of the victims, and society at large. Despite the effectiveness, and elegant simplicity, of the 3-strikes law, it has been under relentless assault from the legal left since it was first passed. Secret commutations for political insiders are of a piece with that. Good for the Santos for at least taking a stand.

De-development: Jerry Brown Steps On Some Urbanist Toes

Unlike certain former governors of California I could name, Jerry Brown has been making good on his promise to propose deep cuts in budget areas that have attained the status of sacred cows. For one thing, he wants the state to stop funding the "redevelopment" of blighted urban areas, a position that has generated some intense, if polite, pushback from urban liberals

Gov. Jerry Brown defended his controversial plan to eliminate redevelopment agencies in California, speaking at an event hosted by one of the biggest supporters of the agencies and telling them his plan is what's best for the state.

Afterward, Brown told reporters that some of the more than $1.5 billion of redevelopment projects approved by cities in recent days - essentially an end run around his proposal - may not be legal.

At a gathering for new mayors and council members hosted by the League of California Cities, which has been one of the most vocal opponents of Brown's plan, the Democratic governor said the budget cuts this year are a "zero-sum game."

"If we don't do redevelopment, then what do we do, what do we take? Do we take more from universities? Do we cut deeper into public schools that have been cut year after year?" Brown told the group, some of whose members displayed posters and buttons opposing his plan. "I think we have to, all of us, rise above our own particular perspective, get out of the comfort zones and try to think of California first."

But League of California Cities leaders at the event, where Brown received three standing ovations and brought the crowd of several hundred people to laughter multiple times, said that while they would work with the governor, they flat-out oppose his proposal.

"We've told him we're willing to work with him, we will continue to work with him, but his proposal is so draconian, it's so bad for the creation of jobs in California ... it's so contrary with so many things he wants to accomplish," said Chris McKenzie, executive director of the league of cities.

I guess I could start with a crack about how all of this opposition would not be nearly as respectful and filled with "we're willing to work with him" blandishments if Brown had an (R) after his name, but I have a feeling I could say that every day for the next year.

Still, Brown is on to something, and has even managed to catch the tenor of our budget cutting times: why is it, exactly, that the state has to spend billions of dollars so that municipalities can engage in economically dubious "development" schemes? Schemes, I might add, that often involve government behaving at its worst, whether through union featherbedding, "unexpected" cost overruns, contracts to favored insiders, and Kelo-esque eminent domain seizures. All so someone like Antonio Villaraigosa can get his picture taken next to an oversized pair of scissors? No thanks.

Re-development advocates claim that these funds are well spent because they can jump start economic activity in depressed areas without the uncertainties of private financing. The redevelopment of Emeryville from a depopulated strip of warehouses to a vibrant shopping area filled with Ikeas, and the like is the classic success story that proves the rule. But couldn't Emeryville's city fathers sold some bonds, or otherwise sought private financing? Sure, but that would have meant having to work for a change. Can't have that! Other cities likely would have a hard time raising funds because so many of them are already earmarked for important endeavors like paying six figure pensions to 55-year old retired garbagemen. That's really why these guys need to the state to pay for redevelopment, they don't have the funds to do it themselves, and don't trust private enterprise to do it for them.

Thomas Sowell put it best on the issue of redevelopment: You could air-condition Hell if you spent enough money. The point isn't whether you can do it. The point is whether you should do it, especially when the people on the scene don't seem able to do it themselves.

Turn Turn Turn: KUSF Stops Broadcasting

Shocking news as San Francisco's legendary low-watt FM radio station, KUSF, has abruptly ceased broadcasting after 30+ years of playing groundbreaking music:

It was business as usual on Tuesday morning for KUSF music director Howard Ryan, who played an eclectic mix of music while promoting a 10 a.m. in-studio appearance from local band the Pickpocket Ensemble.

When that hour arrived, his show abruptly went off the air - part of a complicated deal that gives classical music station KDFC the college station's 90.3 frequency - and leaves KUSF off the FM dial for the first time since 1977.

University of San Francisco officials said the station's blend of music and community programming will still be available by webcast. At the station late Tuesday morning, the somber group of DJs and staff felt angry and betrayed, saying that they didn't learn about the deal until minutes before the signal went dead.

The reasons for this are complicated. USC purchased the local classical music station, KDFC, and will convert that station to a non-profit. KDFC will then move to KUSF's frequency, 90.3. Once again aging Baby Boomers are taking precious resources from Generation X!

KUSF has been one of the prime outlets for the Unheard Music: music outside - sometimes way outside - the mainstream. Although KUSF was known mainly as a punk/indie station, it also had shows dedicated to roots music, ragtime, 20th century classical, J-pop, and more. Yeah, you could jump on the internet and find that stuff, but really it was a lot of fun to be able to dial in to 90.3 and find something unexpected. KUSF was as essential to the DIY culture as Dischord Records or CBGB's, pretty impressive for a low-watt college station with a broadcast range of a couple of miles.

KUSF will take the $3.75 million that they earned from this transaction to expand their on-line presence, which is good news. KUSF will not disappear, and may well expand. But, this really is the end of an era.

The (D) Is For "Different"

The hype around Jerry Brown's proposed plan to save California from recurring fiscal emergencies is that he is "doing things differently" by refraining from the sort of "gimmicks," "tricks" and "smoke and mirrors" that are the hallmark of any American budgeting process. That may be, but he's also relying some tried and true solutions from budget crises past

First of all Brown wants to raise taxes. (You don't say!) Actually what he wants to do is "extend" some temporary (hah!) taxes that were set to expire. I don't know why people bother to believe politicians who say this or that tax is "temporary." 'Taint no such thing.

Last month, Gov.-elect Jerry Brown argued that Californians were "in no mood" for new taxes. But on Monday, the new governor shifted gears and unveiled an austerity budget that proposed five-year extensions of increased rates in sales, income and some corporate taxes.

Brown's plan includes $12.5 billion in cuts, which would address what he called years of "gimmicks, tricks and unrealistic expectations," and the legislative analyst said the tax extensions could reap as much as $12 billion for a state awash in $25.4 billion of red ink over the next 18 months.

Those moves, and his calls to get the budget plan to the legislative floor by March 1, have been called bold by pundits of all political stripes.

But with some Republicans already lambasting what they call "the largest tax increases in California history," the penny-pinching governor now faces a formidable political test: fashioning a bipartisan truce to push it forward

More important, those of you who followed the campaign will remember that Brown repeatedly promised not to raise taxes without consulting the voters. His tax hikes will thus have to go before the voters as part of (yet another) proposition. As we just voted on - and rejected handily - a "let's raise taxes to balance the budget" proposition back in 2009, this would seem to be a tall order. Brown says that, as long as people believe there is a realistic plan, they will back him up. We'll see. People were all set to back up the Governator's plan to shrink state government, but when he proposed even the most penny-ante budget cuts, all those fiscal conservative voters vanished, replaced by aggressive public unions and self-proclaimed "moderates" quailing about partisanship.

And that brings us to the other "solution" from past budget crises: the search for bipartisanship. Brown is casting about for some Republican votes who can sign on to his tax increases. This brings to mind the budget negotiations in the spring of 2009 when the Governator and Sacramento Democrats spent their time chasing moderate Republicans, looking for the magic "third GOP vote," rather than, say, trying to cut more fat from the budget, passing pension reform or (God forbid) eliminating some public sector jobs. Profound questions of the size and scope of state government are tossed aside in favor of horse-race analysis about "recalcitrant" (and, of course, "extreme") right wingers.

All very flattering, but the fact is that Republicans had little to do with creating California's budget problems, and thus ought not feel compelled to "help" Democrats to save themselves and their political allies. I'd much rather sit in the back of the bus sipping a Slurpee, or whatever, instead of helping liberals to continue to tax and spend California to death.

My Little Underground

Fully Committed: Left Wing Activist Arrested For Making Death Threats

I thought I was done writing about Jared Loughner, the Tuscon shooing rampage and the bogus "debate" over Tea Party rhetoric, but not quite. A liberal activist who was wounded in the attack, and who alone among the victims has blamed right wing "vitriol" for his injuries, has been arrested for ... making death threats against a Tea Party leader. It's amazing how quickly things move from tragedy to farce in the age of the internet.

A Tucson mass shooting victim was taken into custody Saturday after yelling "you're dead" at a Tea Party spokesman during the taping of an ABC-TV town hall event hosted by Christianne Amanpour.

The Pima County Sheriff's Office said J. Eric Fuller, 63, was involuntarily committed to an undisclosed medical facility, NBC News reported. The Associated Press said he was undergoing a psychiatric evaluation.

He faces charges of threats and intimidation and disorderly conduct, according to Tucson TV station KGUN.

The gathering for "After the Tragedy: An American Conversation Continued," to be shown as a special edition of "This Week" Sunday, included witnesses, first responders, victims and heroes of the Jan. 8 mass shooting that killed six and wounded 13 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.

Local officials and others also packed St. Odilia's Catholic Church in northwest Tucson, where the show was taped.

KGUN reported that Fuller took exception to comments by Republican state Rep. Terri Proud and Tucson Tea Party spokesman Trent Humphries.

Fuller was in the front row and apparently became upset when Humphries suggested that any conversations about gun control should be delayed until all the dead were buried, KGUN reported.

Fuller took a picture of Humphries and shouted, “You’re dead.”

I think it's wholly appropriate that all of this took place at one of those lame televised town halls that the MSM has been oddly enamored with since the 1992 presidential campaign. It's even better that Eric Fuller, in addition to being a left-wing activist - his business card says he's a professional signature gatherer - had been designated the day before as having instant credibility for blaming BeckPalinRushTeaParty for the shooting because he was (1) a "veteran" (big deal, so was Howard Zinn) and (2) had been wounded in the Tuscon shooting. As it turned out, he was a nut and a fool, although not on the level of Laughner. The media's Absolute Moral Authority figures really do have feet of clay.

As macabrely funny as this all is, what's not funny is realizing that virtually the entire media and intellectual apparatus of the Democratic Party has been engaged in a week-long effort to smear Tea Party activists and prominent conservatives as being some sort of Hezbollah-style militia movement ready to do violence against their fellow Americans. And Eric Fuller is the sort balanced, thoughtful personality to whom much of modern progressive "thought" (hah!) is designed to appeal. Not saying that Paul Krugman et al. are guilty of pushing eliminationalist rhetoric or anything, but they do rely on the sort of factual selectivity, lies by omission and leaps of logic that has resulted in an America where roughly a third of the population believes Bush caused 9/11, that Sarah Palin caused a crazy kid to go on a killing spree and progressive health care reform will "bend the cost curve."

There is a lot of dangerous rhetoric out there. But the danger isn't from political violence, but from the violence done to logic and reality.

Left Hand Scratches Left Ear

If you don't know the background, this story in the SF Chronicle might be puzzling. Why would the San Francisco Unified School District loan $200,000 to KALW, the local NPR affiliate?

San Francisco's public schools will loan public radio's KALW up to $200,000 to keep the struggling station financially afloat even as the district faces its own financial woes and major cutbacks.

The school board voted unanimously this week to provide an unprecedented line of credit to the 70-year-old station, which operates independently, but is technically owned by the district.

The station has been losing money for three years and now sits about $120,000 in the hole, said KALW general manager Matt Martin. Its annual budget is about $1.4 million, most of which is donated by listeners.

"We have not taken cash (from the district) for nearly 20 years," he said. "That's not what we want here. We want a loan we can pay back with interest."

The district gave the station 18 months to repay the loan's principal and about 1.5 percent in interest.

The back story is that the school district was the original owner of KALW, and still holds its broadcasting license. For those of you who think liberals are earnest college idealists who never grew up, learning that KALW still broadcasts from a local high school is worth a chuckle. In addition to the usual NPR stuff, KALW broadcasts the inevitable "quality" "local" programming that everyone swears they want to hear, but apparently not in great enough numbers to keep the station solvent. They also broadcast the school district board's monthly meetings, another thing that people say they want to hear, but no one actually listens to.

The obvious question is: why loan money to an obvious money loser when the broadcast license itself could be worth more than the pittance that KALW will be paying back to the district? And the answer is obvious: KALW and the district are ostensibly public institutions have are implacably left-wing. The progressives at KALW are as likely to find another ready platform for their programming as they are likely to start simulcasting WWF marathons. No doubt their allies and idealogical soulmates on the school board feel the same. They'll give up that license only when it's pried from their cold dead hands.

Hollywood Ending: Why Do Some Movies Get Made?

I don't literally care about the Green Hornet movie that is opening this weekend. I carry no brief for Seth Rogan. But, reading the reviews, it's clear that there is something especially bad about this latest special effects blockbuster. It brings up that age old question: how, with so many people involved and so much money at stake, can a production go so far off the rails?
"The Green Hornet" may not be the end of movies as we know them, though the people who made this atrocity were certainly in there trying. The question—which rises to the level of an industrial mystery—is, trying to do what? Turn a dumb concept into a smart entertainment? Save a dim production by pouring a fortune into stupid effects? (The budget was reportedly as high as $130 million.) Kill the special-effects industry by doing a parody of its excesses? The effect of those effects, and of the cheesy 3-D process pasted on as an afterthought, is simply numbing. The film's only unqualified success is the end title sequence—because it's genuinely stylish, because it looks like it was shot in genuine 3-D and, most of all, because it's the end.
I guess the starting point would be: why a Green Hornet movie? The TV series ran for one measly season back in the Sixties and is mostly famous for introducing Bruce Lee to the world. I don't remember seeing Green Hornet re-runs on the local UHF station (the path to pop culture immortality in the Seventies) when I was a kid . The movie and radio serials are even older. If you see any of them, they are remarkable for their stodginess. If the Green Hornet occupies any place in America's collective memory, it's an infinitesimal one.

Still, someone decided that it would be worth the effort to invest $130 million (!) on a movie based on a superhero no one has any particular yearning to see "updated." And, not only that, someone decided that the best people to bring this to the screen would be a comedian known for his appearances in raunchy sex comedies and a director known mostly for fey indie productions. (That's not a slight against Michael Gondry - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a Free Will favorite - but it's a little distressing to think he may never work in this town again because he couldn't bring a Green Hornet movie to fruition). You almost feel sorry for them, especially when you find out that they tried to gussy up this fiasco with some tacky 3-D effects. I'm guessing members of the Green Hornet crew will not be wearing their Hornet caps around town.

I'm not the guy to pontificate on what makes a movie "work." I'm still in shock after learning Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland made a billion dollars last year. Maybe Green Hornet's producers think they'll make their money back in the foreign market. But, when you think of how determined Hollywood seems to be a bring us remakes and reimaginings of everything that has come before, you wonder whether a lot of good ideas are being left on the table so that we can see yet another Baby Boom "icon" get the special effects treatment.

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