Diary of a Mad County

MONDAY, Jan. 7 Newport-Mesa Unified School District trustee Jim Ferryman pleads guilty to a misdemeanor drunk-driving charge, something he hoped would close the book on the case. It didn't. Fellow trustee Wendy Leece, one of those Christian, conservative, Stepford wives who get this time marker's internal gear mechanisms all moist, uses the next board meeting to urge Ferryman to quit. He ain't budging, saying he won't be driven out by Leece and her like. Besides, he's gotta weigh in on Newport Harbor High School's oh-so-consequential cheerleader controversy. The parents of 18 girls who did not make the squad whined so loudly that the principal allowed everyone who tried out onto the team. Then the parents of the 30 girls who originally made the squad whined so loudly that the principal flip-flopped, deciding that the original 30 are in and the other 18 can vie for four new spots. The result of this Solomonic wisdom: both sides are more pissed than ever. But as debates rage over cheerleaders and boozing trustees, Washington, D.C.-based Education Week releases a survey that finds California ranks 48th in the nation in education spending. What grade for student resources does the Golden State earn? GIVE US AN F!

TUESDAY, Jan. 8 Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) executive director Andrea Lafferty tells us she's outraged that National Public Radio (NPR) reporter David Kestenbaum phoned the coalition's Washington, D.C., office to see if the right-wing, God-lovin', gay-hatin' group had been contacted by the FBI in connection with the anthrax scare. Kestenbaum was calling various groups who had recently been critical of Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy, Democrats whose offices had received anthrax-o-grams. Daschle and Leahy drew the Anaheim-based TVC's scorn for proposing to drop "So help me God" from the oath Republican lawbreakers take before testifying in front of Senate committees. But that scorn was nothing compared with the rash of shit the TVC directed toward Kestenbaum and NPR, which were portrayed as being part of some liberal-left-Democratic Party conspiracy to discredit conservative Christians. Kestenbaum was merely investigating a reasonable hypothesis: because the targets are liberals or pro-choice moderate Republicans, the anthrax probably came from domestic right-wing nuts. If the war on terror is at all serious, wouldn't the FBI consider that possibility and investigate groups—like TVC—that had a history of lashing out against Daschle and Leahy? And it's hard to take TVC's outrage seriously when it—not Kestenbaum—made the FBI investigation a public issue.

After serving a search warrant at the Laguna Niguel home of a fired San Onofre nuclear-power-plant worker who had allegedly threatened colleagues, Orange County sheriff's deputies say they found more than 250 weapons—including antique rifles, hand grenades, tear-gas canisters and an illegal rocket launcher—and 5,000 rounds of ammunition. Onetime Swallows Inn bouncer David L. Reza, who is alleged to have told a Southern California Edison employee he was "going to take my guns, go to San Onofre and whack a bunch of people," faces 13 counts, including threatening to kill two former co-workers, possession of illegal assault weapons and coke possession. Reza's girlfriend stands by her man, calling in the National Rifle Association (NRA) for support. So if these charges are true, a coked-up NRA member with anti-tank artillery was working near a friggin' nuclear reactor? That's it: we're moving to Fiji.


Illustration by Bob Aul
WEDNESDAY, Jan. 9 Semiretired developer Donald L. Bendetti, who took over as chairman of the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace with the departure of U.S. Ambassador to Spain George "Landlord From Hell" Argyros, promises vigorous new whitewashing of Tricky Dick history. "My focus at the Nixon Foundation will be to promote a public rebirth and renewal of President Nixon's real legacy so that future historians can write about him accurately," says Bendetti. "We will make every attempt to encourage members of the media to bring him into proper focus and respect with an attitude of fairness." And they'll make a list of those who don't. THURSDAY, Jan. 10 Ex-Huntington Beach City Councilman Dave Garofalo pleads guilty to one felony and 15 misdemeanors for repeatedly voting on matters benefiting companies that padded his wallet over the years. After emerging from the courthouse where Judge Ronald P. Kreber had placed him on three years' probation, fined him nearly $50,000, ordered him to complete 200 hours of community service and forbade him from ever again running for public office, Garofalo displayed no remorse, maintaining that he never intentionally broke the law. He referred to the charges as "punitive results from some reasonably technical issues." "That's the stupidest excuse I've ever heard from a convicted felon," Mike Lubinski of the OC district attorney's felony-projects unit told us. Of Garofalo's bravado before reporters, Lubinski said the onetime Surf City mayor wasn't so defiant while repeating the word "guilty" 16 times in court, his voice often breaking.

FRIDAY, Jan. 11 The New York Times runs a story on new New York Met Mo Vaughn that paints Anaheim as a baseball wasteland. "Mo Vaughn's down-and-dirty playing approach was lost in Anaheim—totally wasted," says an unnamed "West Coast baseball official who watched Vaughn in those years." The Invisible Man continues: "Mo is a happening. He's the big, monstrous guy who hits, who plays hard, who says outrageous things in the newspaper, who comes off as a fans' guy. And there, it just doesn't play the same." Later in the same article, Vaughn says, "Being on the West Coast, I learned how much I love the East Coast. The intensity of the will to succeed just wasn't there. Every place has got its issue. But for me, as a ballplayer, I need to be in the fire. I can't be out there on Mars." Oh, so now we're the Red Planet? You know, we hate the Angels as much as the next Angels lover, but wasn't this the guy who signed an $80 million contract with the Halos, injured his ankle during his first game here and never produced again? SATURDAY, Jan. 12 We open the morning papers to find all is right with the world: a judge dismissed all charges against George Lopez, the Orange teen who spent two years in Orange County jail for a robbery he didn't commit. SUNDAY, Jan. 13 We can't believe our eyes when we flip on the tee-vee and there next to the Reverend Robert Schuller on the live broadcast from Crystal Cathedral of Garden Grove is recently deceased Steve Allen's widow, Jayne Meadows, and their son, Bill Allen. They're hawking Vulgarians at the Gate, their late patriarch's gazillionth new book (he writes from the grave!), which amplifies his crusade against Hollywood immorality. That would seem to be a fertile subject for the Crystalites, so why are we shocked? Because two of the original Tonight Show host's other books were Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion and Morality and More Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion and Morality. In them, Allen questioned the Bible's accuracy because of the faulty recollection skills of humans, highlighted nonsensical quotes attributed to Jesus Christ, and pointed out that many Christian ideas were glommed off pagans! Meanwhile, a pro-choice essay by Allen appears in the American Atheist-recommended The Book Your Church Doesn't Want You to Read. Classic Allen: "If you pray for rain long enough, it eventually does fall. If you pray for floodwaters to abate, they eventually do. The same happens in the absence of prayers." Schuller gave Allen's wife and son a crystal eagle sculpture. Dave Wielenga contributed to this week's report.
 
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