Riding The Wave

Betty Pleasant, who writes the Soulvine column in The Wave newspaper in Los Angeles, in the following gives her take on Pasadena — by turns borderline libelous and just plain odd, and always poorly written — apparently derived without the benefit of actually visiting Pasadena:

“WHITE ROSES Climate change in the once seemingly rosy Pasadena City Hall is beginning to create some rather thorny situations. Whether serendipitous or fortuitous, Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaards municipal house is becoming less colorful less diverse, if you will. Whatever the reasons, the bleaching of the career ranks continues to whiten the personnel rolls and blacks are disappearing from city hall corridors. (High level African-Americans leaving city hall. Remind you of anyone?)

“I heard things are so bad that the Pasadena Black Municipal Employees Association (PBMEA) held a meeting last Tuesday where the subject of disappearing blacks was the only item on the agenda. People are saying the citys relatively new finance director, a Texas good ol boy named Steve Stark, is racist and that Veronica Jones was promoted out of her position as executive secretary into a less visible one and was replaced by a whiter woman. Then there are complaints from African-American employees about the whitening of the Pasadena Planning Department, especially since one Jon Pollard was hired. They call him The Overseer and accuse him of having systematically run every black employee out of the code enforcement division.

“All of this is playing out before a backdrop of perceived racism in the manner in which the city of Pasadena is treating a black developer who is seeking to build a housing development in the Northwest, predominately black section of the city. Word has it that the white powers-that-be are doing everything they can to take this huge, lucrative project away from the African-American developer. I heard that they have succeeded in convincing the developers joint venture partner to withdraw from the project, thus leaving the black man blowing in the wind all by himself.

“Nate Holden has always maintained close ties to Pasadena officials (being a property owner in that city), and his son, Chris, is a Pasadena City Council member and former mayor. I may have to listen to Nates complaints about how badly I treat him and cozy up to him and Chris to get a road map through the inner workings of the city so I can nose around in Pasadena. Granted, the Wave does not circulate in Pasadena, but if blacks are being mistreated there, I have to check that out. Besides, I need a change of scenery cause Inglewood is driving me crazy!”

Do you get the feeling that Pleasant somehow missed Todd Ruiz’ recent story pointing out that two of the three most powerful and highly paid officials in Pasadena City Hall are African-American women? With City Attorney Michele Bagneris earning $216,358 a year and utilities chief Phyllis Currie falling just short of $200,000, with $197,103?

Yeah, I get that feeling, too.

So do you maybe think that someone in a position to do, with an interest in a slam-dunk for one party involved in Heritage Square, fed her the above nonsense and she just ran with it?

Yeah. Certainly looks that way.

Students vs. commie collaboration

Amanda Fink, a Polytechnic School senior and opinion editor of the Pasadena school’s newspaper, The Paw Print, today launched a Web site, www.BoycottYahoo.com, lambasting the Internet giant for turning over to Beijing authorities a Chinese journalist who objected to a government ban on writing about the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

And they say today’s kids have been lulled into political complacency through the various entertainment-oriented somas afforded by the Web and their phones and cable TV. Go Amanda!

Hard rain

The other day Kitty Felde on KPCC was interviewing Bill Patzert, everyone’s favorite JPL meteorologist, about the La Nina condition our science reporter Elise Kleeman had previously reported on — the Pacific weather pattern that’s set to keep us in another droughty winter.

Bill told Kitty that it’s all true — we’re not going to see much rain, yet again. And speaking of which, can you believe how the weekend storm hit the Bay Area like crazy — watching the Cal game, it was mighty slippery for my stumbling Golden Bears Saturday night up in Strawberry Canyon — and then San Diego on Sunday, and skipped us entirely? I’d already turned my sprinklers to “Rain/Off,” to no avail.

Then Bill said something that really caught my ear. He referred to the old California Indian legend that says a big acorn drop in the fall — there’s a season for it, too, essentially mid-September to mid-November — means a big rainy season is ahead. And he noted that from the proliferation of acorns raining down on his redwood deck in La Canada this year, you’d think we were in a classic El Nino instead of a Nina.

The two massive California live oaks that shade our yard have been pelting our shed and patio with so many acorns this year that it sounds like light-mortar fire all night long. It’s by far the biggest drop in the almost 20 years we’ve lived in the house. It’s dangerous to walk across the yard with the thousands of ‘corns down there. I’d been freaking out, thinking that the trees were dying, ready to call the tree man. This morning when I let the orange cat out the front door once it got light enough to scare the coyotes away, he had to do a little dance to evade the downpour from above.

But Bill ended his interview with Kitty by saying that, sadly, he has to go with his data rather than with the legend. Crazy acorn fall or not, we’re in for a non-soaking.

(NB: No, comments have not been cut off — on purpose, at least. Tech types are trying to fix ithe function and it should be back up within a few days. In fact, as soon as comments is up, I’d be interested in hearing from others about the acorn rain in their neighborhoods, and from anyone with more knowledge of the Native American legend.)

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee

At first, I resisted.

I told Fuller prof Tim Kelly that I didn’t really think going out to lunch with government types from the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Los Angeles was a good idea.

On the surface, it was an opportunity for dialogue about the Beijing Olympics Rose Parade float issue.

But I told Tim that it reminded me of when our reporter Gene Maddaus outed KTLA staffers staying for free at the Huntington Hotel, which resulted in the renaming of the gabfest from “Morning News” to “Morning Show” and in a memo from the Chicago head office to thousands of Tribune Company employees reminding them of journalistic ethical standards. After we ran Gene’s column, the KTLA news director — er, show director — asked me over to the newsroom for a tour. No thanks, I said.

But Tuesday Editorial Page Editor Steve Scauzillo and I went to lunch anyway with Tim and Yue Chen and Ingrid Luo Wang of the consulate’s Political and Press Section.

I used the opportunity to get extra high and mighty about freedom, democracy and the like. In fact, I’d been ginned up in the car by listening to a radio report on the BBC’s “The World” about the asinine, ass-covering answers Yahoo execs gave Congress Tuesday about their complicity in helping hunt down Chinese dissidents who soon thereafter were imprisoned for a decade for “illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities.”

What did Chinese citizens Wang Xiaoning and Shi Tao really do? Forwarded an e-mail to the West from Chinese authorities demanding that the press ignore the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

So I ranted and raved, and we ate our McCormick & Schmick’s fish.

When I was done, Wang, the boss, after listening politely, said: “Trade is a better way to expose us to democracy.” She excused crackdowns by adding: “We attach a great deal of importance to political stability.” You surely do.

Kelly, who teaches every year in Shanghai, and who has been retained by Avery Dennison to help the company with its PR problems over the float issue, said that his friends in China say China needs to go slow when it comes to lifting censorship because its people are worried — get this — about allowing another Cultural Revolution to reverse the relative openness now enjoyed.

Wang, naturally, concurred: “In 20 years, China has changed into another political animal entirely” compared to the years of Mao, she said, not without validity.

But in the end, nonsense. It’s not the Chinese left-wingers who are censorious now — it’s the right-wingers who want business stability. Our corporations probably think that the autocratic system — no Environmental Impact Reports here, guys! — run out of Beijing looks pretty good. American CEOS would happily join the Communist Party if it meant a slightly better bottom line.

But Wang and Chen insisted reports that the Chinese government put any money at all into the Olympics float are wrong. The government-associated group in the San Gabriel Valley that has contributed has received no money from the mainland, they say.

Anyway, nice folks, just doing their political jobs. We told them that some kind of protest would likely go on during the parade. And that if the Chinese government had just ignored Falun Gong, the movement would barely ever have been heard of in the West. Wang agreed. She wondered about whether if there are human rights panels held in the area between now and New Year’s, if participating would imply that the government rather than the Olympics types had something to do with the float. I said that was a good question but encouraged her to participate anyway. I hope there are such panels.

They must be pretty well thought of back home to get the L.A. posting. Wang tried to show me she’s cool with the openness bit by saying she’s been to underground Christian church services with a friend in Beijing, and lived to tell the tale. Chen uses the name Isadora in the West. Both come from near Shanghai and have been speaking English since elementary school.

I told them I hoped we could talk again before the parade. Next time we’ll take them to Yujean Kang’s on Raymond in Old Pas for Yujean’s untraditional take on traditional Chinese food.

If the boys in Beijing are picking up Public Eye from Pasadena on the Venus line: Censor this, Politburo! You’ve got nothing to lose but fear itself for a billion Chinese.