August 30, 2003

Barring any unforeseen developments, Smythe's World will now go dark for the Labor Day weekend. My college football blog, neglected for so many months, will get the totality of my attention, at least for the period when I'm not getting hammered in Santa Monica, doing my weekly pub crawl through Gothams, Doodles, Brittanias, Hooters, and Over/Under en route to the ideal college football-watching climate. Go CAL !!

August 29, 2003

One sign that the other candidates are beginning to take Cruz Bustamante seriously is that he is now the target of some sleazy racist attacks. When I wrote my post last week about his unexpected rise to front-runner status in the recall election, I noted that he had belonged to a separatist group in college. The organization, MeChA, at one time had called for a separate Chicano nation, which for a Mexican-American in the early 70's would have been as "extreme" as it would have been for a Jewish student in the 1930's to support Zionism.

My quibble, though, was not with that aspect of MeChA. I was more concerned that a number of people close to the organization had eventually drifted off into cloud-cuckoo land, spouting an anti-everyone else ideology. The group today is essentially an ethnic pride group, as "separatist" as the Knights of Columbus, and its university charters disavow any bigotry or separatism; in fact, the group is open to all races and ethnicities. Bustamante should appropriately tell the voters what his stance is on Aztlan, and then get on with the campaign.

However, first Fox News, and now Tom McClintock, have begun calling MeChA a "racist" organization. Both have good reason to smear this organization. Fox has had to confront an embarassing story this week about a leaked memo showing that its executives were trying to bias its coverage in favor of Ahnolt. McClintock, who absurdly claimed that MeChA was just like the KKK (well, for one thing, they don't burn crosses on people's lawns), is attempting to appeal to the Republican base, which overwhelmingly supported Prop. 187, and is, shall we say, uncomfortable with the possibility that a non-white might be the next governor.

In fact, most of the criticism concerning MeChA has come from the Ann Coulter/David Duke/David Horowitz wing of the body politic. Those who have a long memory in California politics need only go back to the 1969 Mayorality election in Los Angeles, when Sam Yorty, well-behind in the polls, accused Tom Bradley of having ties to the Black Panthers, to realize that this sort of ugly politics is not unusual in California, and even has a track record of success. Anyways, expect that story to get covered as if it were as important, as, say, a candidate boasting about a gang-bang.

August 28, 2003

John Hawkins, proprietor of Right Wing News polled myself and 27 other "left wingers" (actually, I'm more of a libero than anything) as to who the 20 greatest figures in American history are. Here were mine:
Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, FDR, MLK, Jackie Robinson, U.S. Grant, Barry Goldwater, my mom and dad (tied), Cesar Chavez, George McGovern, Louis Brandeis, Clarence Darrow, Mark Twain, Dorothy Day, and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Neither McGovern, Darrow, nor my parents received enough support to qualify for honorable mention, which truly signifies idiotarianism on the part of the left.

August 27, 2003

I Never Thought This Would Happen To Me: This article actually makes me more likely to support Ahnolt. I mean, how many times in one's life do you actually get to vote for a candidate who has admitted to having taken part in a "gang bang". [link via Kausfiles]
Paul Westphal has said that when he was recruited to play at USC back in the late-60's, Bob Boyd showed him the blueprints for a "new campus arena" that would soon be home to the Trojans. Thirty-five years later, SC continues to play its home games at the Sports Arena, which is, truth be told, a nice, comfortable arena, with pleasant sightlines, but is predictably empty during the team's games. In spite of their recent success under Henry Bibby, challenging UCLA for the time in almost a half-century for citywide dominance, USC's attendance was annually the worst in the conference, and one of the worst totals anywhere among big-time college basketball programs.

Finally, though, a private donor has stepped in to contribute $35 million to build the long-dreamt-of arena, and the students and alums will finally be able to see the school play its home games on campus, rather than in an ancient arena situated in the parking lot of the Coliseum, in an area thought, rightly or wrongly, to be a bad part of town. The plan is to begin construction next year, with an opening scheduled for the 2006-7 basketball season.

I would assume that once the new arena opens, the L.A. Sports Arena will no longer have a reason to be. The site of the 1960 Democratic Convention, where JFK withstood the challenge of LBJ (as well as a thrilling demonstration on the floor on behalf of Adlai Stevenson), has no other tenants, and can't really compete with Staples and the Forum for rock concerts. However, it should be seen as an opportunity for the Coliseum Commission, never known for its foresight, to removate the stadium that still dominates the area. Tearing down the Sports Arena will provide for thousands of parking spaces, as well as alleviating worries local fans have had about the neighborhood. All in all, a good day for local sports fans.
Washington Monthly has determined who the biggest liar is among U.S. Presidents of the past quarter-century, and it's no surprise. [link via CalPundit]

August 25, 2003

Fox has dropped its lawsuit against Al Franken [link via Hamster] As this case was brought in such obvious bad faith, here's hoping that Mr. Franken is not merely satisfied with the free publicity generated by Murdoch's minions, and continues to pursue the legal fees, costs and damages for malicious prosecution that he's entitiled to.
Boomshock has one of the first substantive interviews with dark horse candidate Georgy Russell. The big scoop: she didn't vote in the last election either. [link via Matt Welch at Hit & Run]

August 24, 2003

Over the years, I've kinda gotten to know two people who later became famous in the Toy Department of Life. One, as those of you visit my college football blog know, is my former law-school classmate Rick Neuheisel. Although we were mainly casual acquaintances, and didn't hang out together outside the Gould Law Center, my memories are uniformly positive. He was (and for all I know, still is) a funny, down-to-earth guy, as far away from being the stereotypical jock as a human can be. I hope he soaks U-Dub for whatever he can take.

The other athlete I knew, sort of, was Kevin Johnson. He either lived in, or palled around with/slept with someone who lived in, the same dorm unit as I, so I'd see him quite a bit. Back then, he was a talented freshman, but far from being a star; his big claim to fame was hitting a buzzer-beating jump shot to send our game with UCLA into overtime (CAL lost anyway). The closest I ever came to a substantive encounter with KJ came when I sat next to him at Kip's, one of the earliest sports bars I remember, watching an SC-UCLA basketball game one Friday night in 1985. Over the years, KJ has become a point of pride for UC graduates, a star athlete and mensch who was a legitimate student, who could quote Camus and go from baseline to baseline in four seconds, in contrast to the Bozeman Era mercenaries (Kidd, Murray, Abdul-Rahim) who had almost nothing to do with the academic side of the university.

This morning's LA Times has an interesting piece about KJ's attempt to transform his high school alma mater into a charter school run by something called the "St. HOPE Corp.". The article only hints at this, but his struggle to get this project off the ground represents everything that is wrong with the educational debate in this country.

The school, Sacramento High, has had declining test scores for years, due largely to what one audit described as a climate of low funding and administrative apathy. However, the honors section of the school has a good track record getting its students into college, and the school itself has a number of fine, experienced teachers. Wanting to incorporate that quality into the rest of the school, a number of parents led a petition drive to begin a charter school, and KJ's group won a narrow vote by the Board of Education over a proposal by the teacher's union (btw, this being California, the school board members who backed KJ are now the subjects of a recall drive).

What KJ's solution for this remains unclear. He proposes to divide the school into six charter schools, which would allow it to remain independent of administrative regulations binding to other schools. How this would be different from the way the school was run last year, or how it would be run by a more standard charter school proposal, is hard to say, except when the only idea that is being spit out is to reduce the due process rights of teachers, you know you're not dealing with someone with creative educational policies. One teacher was at first enthusiastic about the program, only to have a change-of-heart after one meeting ended with the good folks at St. HOPE leading a prayer hymn. Had KJ not had an outstanding career as a point guard, it is hard to see this project being taken seriously.

Johnson, who has no background in education, obviously has his heart in the right place, and his celebrity has attracted some deep pockets from the private sphere, including Bill Gates and the Walton Foundation, to help fund some of the more grandiose projects. It looks like he will have a shot at getting this project off the ground when schools open next week. But it is hard to see how this is any different from the vanity projects other athletes sponsor: Magic Johnson has his own theatres, TGIFridays, and 24 Hour gyms, all of which pay tribute to the glorious career of Magic; KJ has his own Starbucks and his charter school. In the long run, schools will only improve with a significant public investment, not just a hope and a prayer that philanthropy tied to a famous name will save the day.
Even I'm a bit skeptical of this poll, which shows Bustamante leading A.S. by 13 percentage points (the same poll had the recall succeeding by only 5 points). What it does indicate, however, is that the G.O.P. now has a real problem on its hands; the real story of this election isn't Ahnolt, it's the surprise showing of a heretofore obscure Latino politician, who seems to be on the verge of being the next governor of the fifth (or is it sixth) largest economy in the world. I can't imagine Karl Rove is too happy that the net result of his master plan is to replace a moderate governor with a liberal, especially one who will be an instant Vice Presidential candidate the moment he gets elected.[link via LA Observed, which gets a well-deserved write-up here]