Diary of a Mad County

Wednesday, Dec. 1 UC Irvine and the Public Policy Institute of California publish a survey of Orange County residents in which 81 percent of respondents say they knew little or nothing about the disastrous county bankruptcy that reverberates to this day in a legacy of limited services. If you think those responding were all a bunch of newcomers about to add a second story to block your ocean view, it turns out that actually 64 percent of the respondents had lived at the same address for 20 or more years. Now, forgetting stuff is not an OC thing. Why, just last month, 51 percent of Americans forgot that gas used to be less than $2, Americans weren't universally despised and that civil rights used to be considered a good thing. The bankruptcy question was just one of many survey questions gauging locals' attitudes toward living in Orange County. Topping the list of concerns was housing prices, with only 25 percent of respondents saying they considered it "very likely" they could afford a more expensive home in Orange County; 59 percent said they were "very concerned" their children wouldn't be able to afford a home at all; while 67 percent said they believed the Larson kid, the one with the weird tooth, had been "doing something funny" in the bushes. The survey also showed opinions tended to vary given someone's cultural background. Latinos, for instance, were more likely to have confidence in public schools while whites were more likely to lock their car doors as they drove by public schools.

Thursday, Dec. 2 A day after a federal grand jury indicts former Huntington Beach Mayor Pam Julien Houchen, The Orange County Register runs one of those page-eating graphics they love to use in order to free people from the drudgery that is reading. This one—running under the Ida Tarbellesque "A Web of Scheming Alleged" headline—is all squares, circles and arrows and pretty much answers the question "What would a newspaper look like if it were designed by Highlights." Next to the Little Tikes journalism is a sidebar called "Key Dates" in which the first entry explains how the whole investigation got started. "October 2003: A local paper reports Councilwoman Pam Julien Houchen converted a fourplex apartment. . . ." Catch that? "A local paper." That local paper would be us. How hard would it have been to write OC Weekly? Very easy—and less wordy. Hey, even the Los Angeles Times has the good manners to credit us when credit is due. Bad form, Register, and not just for cutting us out. Turns out their "Key Dates" ends up damning the Register as it admits it didn't really do much to progress the story until October 2004, a year after our first report. When someone here at the Weekly called over to the Register and asked why they didn't use our name, the person on the other end said they did credit us, you know, by calling us "a local paper," as opposed to, you know, "a big red fire truck." By the way, our own polling reveals that the last two Huntington Beach mayors who have resigned in disgrace—Houchen and cuddly Dave Garofalo—were sent packing due to the enterprise of a local paper. You're welcome.

Friday, Dec. 3 Very confusing day. A report early in the day tells us America's oldest citizen has died at the age of 114. But later the same day, we're told Donald Rumsfield has been retained as defense secretary. Which is it?

Saturday, Dec. 4 Media outlets are falling all over themselves this morning to congratulate Bishop Tod D. Brownfor the Diocese of Orange's $100 million settlement with 87 victims of sexual abuse. The stories paint him as a reconciler and fail to mention that, years ago, he had to be ordered by Superior Court Judge Jim Gray to apologize to a victim. They also fail to mention that Brown's real reason for a settlement is that if the court case were to continue, a long line of OC power brokers ranging from former GOP head Tom Fuentes—diocesan communications director from 1977 through 1989—to mega-developer William Lyon to hamburger jefe and Łber-Catholic Carl Karcher. Angry rich people make for unopened wallets, which might mean Brown would not be able to build that cathedral nobody wants and have to make deep cuts in Mater Dei's athletic-recruiting budget.

Sunday, Dec. 5 Incoming Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, speaking on NBC's Meet the Press, says Justice Clarence Thomas "has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court." Reid adds, "I think that his opinions are poorly written. I just don't think that he's done a good job as a Supreme Court justice." Thomas has no immediate reaction, most likely because he didn't realize he'd been criticized since, as many court watchers are aware, pronouns are apt to make his head swim. Word is that Thomas' close friend and puppet master, Justice Antonin Scalia, will pass along Reid's opinion to him after he's done cutting Thomas' meat ("Who's a hungry Justice?! Who's a hungry Justice?! Here comes Roe v. Wade—eat it all up!"). So much has been made about Thomas not being very bright and being a big perv and his head looking like Epcot and that he never talks in court, but supporters point out he has been a crucial voice for reason at critical times at the Supreme Court, most recently regarding Pizza Hut v. Dominos, in which, speaking for the majority, Thomas argued for thin crust and extra cheese. . . . In other Washington news, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist goes on ABC's This Week and announces his continued support of abstinence. Let me just say, even though this may cost me some friends, I totally agree with him. I think abstinence is the only responsible course to take in this matter, and therefore I fully support Bill Frist abstaining from sex. Furthermore, I fully support, nay demand, others abstain from sex with Bill Frist, thereby assuring us there will be no more unwanted Bill Frists in the world because one is already too many.

Monday, Dec. 6 I forget. Gustavo, you got anything?

Tuesday, Dec. 7 On the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Buena Park jam emporium Knott's Berry Farm dedicates its newest coaster, the Silver Bullet, in "honor of all U.S. military" apparently because "Internal Organs Liquefied by Shrapnel" and "Hundreds Entombed Inside the USS Arizona" were being used by other amusement parks. Yes, yes, what better way to honor those who have died for our country than naming a theme-park ride after the conveyance of their death. It appears the folks at Knott's have been getting naming advice from the folks who suggested naming football teams Redskinsas a great way to honor Native Americans.

slowery@ocweekly.com

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