Down Satans Fiery Nostril!

Always bizarre, TBNs Crouches are on a crazy roll

Have you visited the TBN HQ there on Bear Street? It looks like Caesar's Palace, the Vegas version of Rome, and you don't get that without some serious rendering unto. Jesus might have been able to make wine, but no way could he afford to buy the vintages the Crouches throw down at local bistros such as Morton's and Pinot Provence, where they are frequently seen ordering the most expensive viands available, bless 'em.

Have you shaken your fist at my old high school teacher and pal Mike Mang lately? For the past several weeks, the onetime OC Green Party chairman has been holding 6 to 7 p.m. Friday-night anti-war protests at the corner of Bristol and Anton in Costa Mesa, right by where the Crouches might drive on their way to Pinot, bless 'em twice.

Mang has called to tell me about the protests a couple of times, and I suspect he's a tad disappointed I haven't joined their ranks, so will you go as my proxy? I did my share of marching and public protesting in the '70s—usually at Mang's instigation—and all that tromping and standing around didn't give me the impression it was making much difference. With the complex issues at play in our Afghan incursion, signs just don't hold enough words to change any minds, it seems to me.

Mang, however, sees momentum building. He's been doing it every Friday for six weeks now, and by the second week, his attendance had tripled, meaning there were two other people there.

"So we decided to form an executive committee," he said, laughing. By two weeks ago, the protesters numbered 25. The initial protests against the Vietnam War were also small, but I suspect our Afghan blitzkrieg may be over before the number of protestors gets much chance to swell, unless, as Mang suspects, Bush expands Operation Fiery Nostril or whatever we're calling it into Iraq.

With the Twin Towers burned into our minds, the light U.S. casualties in Afghanistan and the TV images of happy Taliban-free Afghanis getting shaves, throwing off their burkas and enjoying Madonna again, it's easy to forget what we're not seeing: the hundreds or thousands of innocent Afghans killed in the bombing, and the hundreds of thousands of refugees who now face starvation or death.

Mang likens it to Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia with modern tanks and planes. "We were attacked by a vicious terrorist, but that doesn't mean we have to do the same to these downtrodden people who had nothing to do with it. We should just hunt bin Laden the way Israeli Nazi-hunters did.

"It's a scary time to protest that, though. Kids have told me they're afraid of coming out here because if their bosses saw their picture in the paper here, they'd be fired," Mang says.

"The first couple of weeks, we got flipped off a lot, but I think it's starting to turn. We have a sign now saying, 'Honk if you're against the war,' and we've started getting a lot of honks and thumbs-up."

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