Thursday’s column (The kindergarten cop)

In case you missed it, Governor Musclehead offered all Californians an Austrian blessing Monday.

I’ll paraphrase it:

May your children be uneducated.

And fires ravage your homes.

May your tax dollars be stolen

and prisoners free to roam.

That sums up the sort of fear-mongering demagogic rhetoric Arnold offered as he pleaded with Californians to vote in favor of more taxes at the polls Tuesday.

Speaking in Culver City earlier this week, the Taxinator also threatened cuts in health care and public safety spending if his tax plan is not passed.

He’s blaming all of us for the state’s misfortune – instead of looking in the mirror and pointing fingers at Republican and Democrat hacks whoring out tax dollars to special interests.

“The people are angry at Sacramento, the people are angry at the politicians,” Schwarzenegger said. “But they should not let that anger out on killing those initiatives, because what they will do is they will hurt their local communities.”

See, it’s your fault.

Arnold has reverted to his role as Det. John Kimble in Kindergarten Cop.

At one point in the pic he yells at the kids, “Stop whining! You kids are soft. You lack discipline.”

He will teach and we will learn. It’s only a matter of time before he utters the German phrase he spoke later on, “Das macht mich stocksauer. Jetzt bin ich sauer.”

(Translation: “This makes me mad. Now I am angry.”)

Next Gov. Musclehead just might start stamping his feet and flexing his muscles to show he means business.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, here’s how Schwarzenegger plans to pay us back when his plan backfires and dies at the ballot box:

“Some of the possibilities he has mentioned in recent days if the measures fail include laying off more than 50,000 teachers, closing dozens of fire stations, releasing 40,000 nonviolent prisoners early and borrowing $2 billion from local governments around the state,” Mercury News reporter Mike Zapler wrote from Sacramento.

Are you scared?

The governor’s failure stems from a total lack of leadership. Instead of standing for something, he stands for compromise.

In Sacramento that doesn’t work. Just ask state Assemblyman Anthony Adams, R-Claremont, who is facing a recall for his willingness to work with Democrats on the budget plan that put us where we are today.

It’s hard to believe the only solutions to the mess we face involves closing schools and releasing felons or stealing more money from hard-working people.

How about paying prison guards less? How about cutting staff in the capitol? How about a spending cap that isn’t tied to increased taxes. Just stop spending.

These are tough times. The governor needs to get some discipline, stop being soft and knock off the whining.

I’ll offer him an Irish blessing from my ancestors in return:

“If God sends you down a stony path,

may he give you strong shoes.”

Thursday’s column ( #journalism )

Moe the Chimp and Octomom have something in common.

No. The pair is not headlining with the Amazing Bearded Lady and the Human Pin Cushion outside the pig races at a county fair somewhere.

They are part of what’s driving a huge change in local reporting around the country.

On the Internet, tales of Moe’s escape from a San Bernardino animal sanctuary last summer drove eyeballs to our Web site in amazing numbers. As a result we continued to cover the saga until it became clear Moe was no more.

As for Nadya Suleman, the La Habra woman who gave birth to the world’s longest-surviving set of octuplets, not only is she a one-woman baby machine, she is also is a force of nature on the Internet.

Our blog, Octorazzi, dedicated to Octomom’s every move, has seen so much Web traffic, it even drew attention from CNN’s Nancy Grace over the weekend.

We editors sit in our ivory tower, stroking our beards and discussing what we believe you want in the newspaper: The economy, swine flu, and city council skullduggery.

Sometimes it’s the sort of steady community-oriented coverage that afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted. Sometimes its nothing more than a story about the local Lions Club doing something nice for a blind senior.

Online you tell us you want Octomom, Moe, crime, crime and more crime.

In fact, most of this is journalism in the same way McDonald’s is food. It’s empty, tasteless and devoid of nutritional value.

The U.S. Senate took up a discussion of the future of newspaper journalism Wednesday. During a lengthy hearing before the Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee, Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, called us “challenged.”

We are in fact challenged.

Unfortunately, those challenges extend well beyond Octomom and Moe. Twitter, Facebook and Google News are all perceived as threats to traditional newspapers.

“You are whistling past the graveyard if you don’t believe that’s the wave of the future,” said one participant in the hearing.

Others taking part in Wednesday’s hearing included David Simon, a former Baltimore Sun cops reporter, who created “The Wire” for HBO and Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post.

Simon rightly pointed out that “citizen journalists” (read bloggers) will never be able to do the sort of investigative journalism that remains the hallmark of newspapers. Huffington, on the other hand, defended her blog and the citizen journalists who contribute as the absolute future of reporting.

“The day I run into a Huffington Post reporter at a Baltimore zoning board hearing is the day I believe we will have reached equilibrium.”

C-SPAN, which streamed the hearing live on the Internet, subtitled their video “Hearing to Examine the Future of Journalism.”

I guess there’s hope. Neither Moe nor Octomom were called upon to give an opinion.

No bailout buck$ for newspapers

This from the Associated Press:

The White House on Monday expressed “concern” and “sadness” over the state of the ailing US newspaper industry, but made clear that a government bailout was not in the cards.

“I don’t know what, in all honesty, government can do about it,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters. “That might be a bit of a tricky area to get into given the differing roles.”

Gibbs was responding to a reporter who asked what the White House thought about the recent closure of several US newspapers and a threat to shut down the venerable Boston Globe.

“Obviously (President Barack Obama) believes there has to be a strong free press,” the spokesman said. “I think there’s a certain concern and a certain sadness when you see cities losing their newspapers or regions of the country losing their newspapers.”

Thursday’s column (a day early)

Once the Pontiac motto said it all: “We build excitement.”

Sadly, if there’s anything left to be said about the once proud brand it’s this: “We build nothing.”

It’s funny to watch Pontiac commercials from the 1960s on YouTube. There’s a great pseudo psychedelic ad with Paul Revere and the Raiders extolling the features of a rust-colored fastback roaring down a test track somewhere in the desert.

Judge! The special great one from Pontiac, GTO!!

Hurst gear shifter,

three speed or four

Pontiac Ram Air, 366 horse

Mag-type wheels, 60-inch spoiler, airfoil

The Judge will rule!!

My brother had a 1970 455-HO 4-speed GTO he bought from a cousin in Claremont who bought it from a guy in Omaha.

“You can’t even get one like this in California because of all the smog crap they have to put inside,” my cousin claimed as he handed my brother Steve the keys.

The car was loaded and fast. I remember a trip down Baseline from Claremont to Cucamonga that probably took all of three minutes.

But I also remember Steve working for hours on the clutch, the carb, the belts, the electrical system, and a million other minor problems.

Ultimately that was the problem with the Detroit iron. For all the marketing and the hype, it wasn’t reliable.

Lay the blame at the doorsteps of GM, Ford, Chrysler and UAW.

On Monday, after GM announced it would no longer make Pontiacs, I got in my Saturn and cruised my little corner of the San Gabriel Valley looking for one. I saw an unremarkable G6 and an old Firebird.

Needless to say there were plenty of Lexus, Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Kias.

It’s interesting to note that the Pontiac brand was named for an American Indian war lord who led a 1763 rebellion against the British at Fort Detroit. Chief Pontiac’s success perhaps emboldened the colonists who successfully tossed Brittish rule less than 20 years later.

Pontiac as a symbol of a young free nation had to be a powerful — if subliminal — marketing tool.

Pontiac’s rebellion began on April 27, 1763. The Pontiac brand died April 27, 2009 — 246 years to the day.

My brother ended up selling the rusted-out hulk of his GTO to a guy in Spokane, who fixed it up and cruised on Friday nights along Sprague Avenue.

Forty years after it was built, the car is probably in a junk heap somewhere — just like Detroit, a symbol of an America that no longer exists.

Octomom’s “krazy” life

Octomom must have needed a reminder she has 14 kids.

Nadya Suleman, the La Habra woman who gave birth to the longest surviving set of octuplets, decided to get a tramp stamp in Hollywood.

She got a tat of an angel surrounded by 14 stars — one for each kid.

That she choose a place called Kustom Kulture and got inked by a guy named Dik, probably says more about her and the true demise of our culture than I ever could.

Shockingly, (as the tablods like to say in all caps) Octomom chose to get inked in the wee hours of the morning. Who was watching the kids is anyone’s guess.

I wonder if the good-hearted people of middle America who reached into their pockets to help this woman and her brood with gifts of diapers, cash and toys realize their donations are going to frivolous pursuits, while the kids are attended to at midnight by hired help?

It amazes me that the county’s child protective services hasn’t stepped in and put an end to this farce.

Then again perhaps Nadya is doing her part to help the local economy by keeping freakish unkempt paparazzi and tattoo artists named Dik employed during tough times.

Thursday’s column (Getting whacked like a pinata!)

Did you see this story?

Leaders of both parties in the state Assembly passed out raises to staff members in February and April. The raises could cost us taxpayers something like $500,000 over the next year.

Fortunately, they rescinded the raises late Wednesday afternoon.

Haven’t they been telling us we need to implement tax hikes and spending cuts to keep the state budget in balance?

More than 10 percent of Californians are out of work. Yet the shiftless bureaucrats who have run this state into the ground handed out taxpayer money for a few weeks like it was candy that fell out of a piata shaped like Joe Taxpayer’s pockets.

Even worse, both Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and her Republican counterpart defended the pay raises with mumbo-jumbo about how it’s somehow saving money.

The reason for pulling back seems even more cynical: the raises could taken out of context and used as ammunition in the fight against the May 19 ballot measures.

Something seriously smells in Sacramento. It’s not the breeze wafting north from Coalinga either.

My guess is it’s a foul combination of hubris and arrogance. And it’s only getting worse.

“I see people out of work and the only jobs saved in this budget are the jobs of bureaucrats,” former state Sen. Dick Mountjoy said Wednesday.

Mountjoy, 77, is so sick of the whole mess he’s supporting the recall of Republican Assemblyman Anthony Adams. He said he will even throw his hat in the ring to replace Adams if the recall ever makes the ballot.

It was Adams’ vote in favor of a state budget which raised taxes and fees that sealed the deal for Mountjoy, a Republican who represented the same district from 1980 until 1994.

Despite term limit legislation that prevented Mountjoy from serving in the state Senate beyond 2000, he still has a term to give in the state Assembly.

In Mountjoy’s opinion, California is so broken the state needs to go broke before it can be fixed.

“We begged for the day this thing would run out of money,” Mountjoy said.

Pointing to spending increases built into the state budget, he added, “It’s stupidity.”

Adams appeared at an Earth Day celebration in Glendora on Wednesday at the side of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. But he did not reply to a request for comment on the recall. It marked the second time in recent weeks that the two appeared side-by-side.

The last time the Taxinator showed up at an Adams event, the assemblyman got served with recall papers. Mountjoy dismissed Arnold as a lame duck without much political capital.

“I don’t think too many people pay attention to him. He’s not the most popular person in the world right now,” Mountjoy said.

The only reason Adams and Musclehead became friends in the first place stems from Adams’ support of Schwarzenegger’s ridiculous tax-and-spend budget plan, Mountjoy said.

Giving up retirement to return to Sacramento would be tough for Mountjoy. And he admits it. But seeing friends in and around his hometown of Monrovia suffer because of higher taxes has made him fighting mad.

“I need the job like Custer needs another Indian,” Mountjoy said.

As for the prospects of running one more time, Mountjoy was hopeful: “I think the recall has a good chance. It’s doable.”

Tuesday’s column (Beauty and the smelt)

I spent much of the past four days driving around California.

It felt like I was living that old Hank Snow song:

I’ve been everywhere man

I’ve breathed the mountain air, man

Crossed the deserts bare

Travel … I’ve had my share, man

I’ve been everywhere

I’ve been to:

San Jose, Saratoga, Santa Cruz, Sacramento, Los Gatos, Davenport, Buttonwillow, San Francisco, Bakersfield, Stockton, Lodi, Fresno.

Well, maybe not Fresno …

If there was anything to take away from the trip, it was the feeling that we live in a beautiful state, which is a reason to be a proud.

The thought has occurred to me often, but most of those instances were during good economic times.

(Sigh).

Even though it’s beautiful, California is also broken.

I think I saw some proof of that in the Central Valley Thursday. On the 5 Freeway just south of Los Banos what looked like thousands of campesinos marched alongside the California Aqueduct. Many held signs that said “Agua = Vida.”

After stopping to watch from a vista point and then reading more about it in the Fresno Bee, I learned the marchers are angry that water deliveries from the Sacramento Delta will be cut off to tons of farms in the western San Joaquin Valley.

All because of a tiny fish known as the delta smelt. This little beast, that’s apparently endangered, has already wrecked its share of havoc here in the Southland. Because of environmental protections, we will have to reduce our usage by 10percent and pay more for it this summer.

A federal judge ordered the protection. Californians are powerless to stop it.

In the Central Valley, protection of the smelt will result in thousands of acres going fallow and hundreds of layoffs. That means farms which provide food to much of the nation will be producing less fruits, nuts and vegetables.

Which in turn means we’ll be paying higher prices at the grocery store or simply importing more from Mexico and South American countries, which probably don’t care too much about endangered, tiny fish.

When is that same federal judge going to step in and order the state to protect endangered jobs and family farms?

If this judge was around 10,000 years ago he probably would have ordered the La Brea tar pits boarded up. Then, saber-toothed cats, dire wolves and wooly mammoths too stupid to take care of themselves would be saved from extinction.

Imagine living in that California!

Here’s what the state Department of Fish and Game says about the smelt:

“Delta smelt are found only in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Estuary (the area where the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers flow into San Francisco Bay. … The threats to the population are multiple and synergistic.”

Whatever that means.

Here’s what the state Department of Food and Agriculture says about protecting farms and jobs in California:

” ”

Can you hear the nonendangered crickets?

Thursday’s column (middle class rage)

I paid my taxes Wednesday.

It hurt.

The check I’ve sent to Washington isn’t as large as other checks I’ve sent. But, like everyone else in these tough economic times, I see it as a big bite out of my wallet and an imposition on my ability to spend money for items that might actually help stimulate the economy.

As far as I’m concerned, the tax burden the middle class has been assaulted with is nothing more than a redistribution of wealth that seems right out of the Soviet Union’s old playbook.

Fortunately, I’m not alone in my middle class rage.

Thousands of Americans got out Wednesday to hold tax day tea parties from West Covina to Fairbanks, Alaska and from Glendale to Sault Sainte Marie, Mich. The forums for their protests ranged from mall parking lots to city halls to the White House.

Patterico, a conservative blogger and Los Angeles County prosecutor who usually sticks to dissection of the liberal bias in mainstream media, summed up the thoughts of many Wednesday.

“Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal, bless their hearts, aren’t Ronald Reagan. And that’s who we need,” Patterico wrote. “I’m about ready to grab a shovel, drive up to Simi Valley, and start digging.”

KFI’s radio talk show hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou Wednesday gathered listeners together in Burbank to discuss the effects of taxes. Those they interviewed sounded angry too.

“These people must be fresh from the other tea parties today,” Chiampou said at one point.

A chiropractor who identified himself only as Chris told the talk show hosts he was taking part in a noble effort by protesting taxes.

“Back in the 1770s the people said they’d had enough,” Chris said. “It’s the same today. We’ve had enough.”

People I know told me Wednesday that the only folks attending the tea party rallies were old, white people making more than $300,000 a year.

I’m telling them, if that’s the case, it’s too bad. The truth is high taxes hurt everyone – and the working poor and middle classes bear the brunt more than those who can afford to subsidize government worker salaries, legislative per diems, and Octomom’s 14 kids.

The government is out of control.

Here’s my my proof as reported Wednesday by the Huffington Post:

“Tax protesters threw what appeared to be a box of tea bags toward the White House on Wednesday, prompting officials to lockdown the compound. The Secret Service also used a robot to inspect the package thrown in an apparent act of defiance meant to echo the rebellion of the Boston Tea Party.”

Clearly the government is also out of touch.

So, since we can’t dig up Ronnie, or Thomas Jefferson and get them to lead us out of this mess, we’re going to have to do it ourselves.

Vacation time

Since my two little guys are on Spring Break, I’ll be out of the office this week on a sort of vacation. In any event, posting will be light for a while. In the meantime, Brian Day will be here from Wednesday through Sunday to keep up with the breaking crime news from around the valley.

See ya around.

–Frank

Thursday’s column (A look back)

I`m staring at a black and white photo taken inside the Citrus Courthouse in the early 1960s.

A defendant is sitting at the counsel table. His chin rests on clenched fists. Cameras are in his face.

In the photo, press photographers surround Dr. Raymond Bernard Finch. After three sensational trials, a jury has convicted the West Covina doctor and his mistress, Carole Tregoff, of killing Finch’s wife, Barbara.

The verdict has just been read – the cameras and reporters are there to record everything, just as they had from Day One.

In July 1959, Barbara Finch turned up dead on Larkhill Drive. Someone found her body stuffed between shrubs lining the long driveway leading up to her split-level home above the South Hills Country Club. Finch had been shot to death.

Cameras in the courthouse were part of the scenery.

It’s something you will never see in a local newspaper again.

Just last week, one of our photographers took a photo of attorneys having a discussion in the lobby of Pasadena Superior Court.

A terse letter from Alan Parachini, county court spokesman and onetime ACLU flak, followed. It noted that our photographer was in violation of local rule such and such.

This from a guy who represented the ACLU.

We took the photo off the Web. Times have changed.

It’s been almost 50 years, but this week another woman turned up dead on Larkhill Drive. Her name was Susan Molina. The home


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where she lived and died overlooks the back yard of the Finch split-level.

Investigators believe someone bludgeoned Molina to death then stuffed her body in a closet.

That’s about all we know, obtaining that much information from police was a struggle.

It’s interesting to compare media coverage and police techniques of 50 years ago. Especially fascinating is seeing in black and white the much closer and far more trusting relationship cops and reporters had in 1959.

In the Finch case, press photographers got a shot of the body with the help of a cop who illuminated the crime scene with a flashlight.

In the Molina case, cops faxed a dry, tersely worded four-paragraph press release several hours after they had wrapped up their investigation.

When Finch’s husband was arrested, a photographer and reporter interviewed the doctor in his jail cell.

By contrast, West Covina police announced the arrest of two persons in connection with a homicide that occurred Wednesday night and tried to withhold the names.

Forget about a jailhouse interview. Times have changed.

Film has been replaced by microchips. Newspapers are rapidly dwindling in readers and stature.

Cops who once worked homicides because they had a passion for justice have been replaced by cops who are concerned about their clearance rates.

A cop who would have held a flashlight now has to worry about how evidence will withstand the scrutiny of a DAs office concerned about getting convictions. They dot I’s and cross T’s to appease appelate judges willing to put cold-blooded killers back on the street because of a technicality.

Times have changed – maybe for the better …

They don’t trust us. Why should we trust them?

A meeting with Melekian

Pasadena police Chief Barney Melekian met over lunch Monday with me and Pasadena Star-News City Editor Hector Gonzalez.

The primary purpose of the meeting was a wide-ranging discussion of the officer involved shooting that led to the death of Leroy Barnes in Pasadena in February.

Melekian said his department’s investigation had concluded the shotting was justified. He also said that the facts of the case in some way explain the two statements issued in the immediate aftermath of Barnes’ death.

The Chief also said he regretted putting together a statement so early. But explained it was his way of compensating for taking 14 hours to release a statement in the wake of the last fatal Pasadena OIS.

“Fourteen hours was too long,” he admitted. “Next time I’ll find that golden window of opportunity between 90 minutes and 14 hours.”

Melekian also lamented the decline of newspapers in America. And likened the plight of journalists and newspapers to the status of police departments and police officers 20 years ago.

“It seems like you all are talking just among yourselves,” he said. Cops “used to do that. But then we learned.”

The lunch took place at Japon Bistro on Colorado. Hector ordered tempura and california roll; the chief had the tempura and sushi plate.