Photo by David KawashimaThe walls are caving in on George Dubya Bush's nomination of ex-Orange County Supervisor Gaddi Vasquez to head the Peace Corps. Reader Hanna Hill e-mailed us this recent exchange between veteran newswoman Helen Thomas and White House spokesman Ari Fleischer:
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Helen Thomas: Ari, is the president going to pursue the nomination, the appointment of Mr. Gaddi Vasquez as Peace Corps director when he has no foreign-relations experience, when he presided over the nearly $2 billion bankruptcy of Orange County, when he is opposed as unqualified by several previous Peace Corps directors? Ari Fleischer: Helen, as you know, anybody that the president has announced for an appointment, he of course supports. And in the case of anybody else who has not yet announced— But he's not qualified, and in these particular times, wouldn't you want someone who knew the world?
Well, you're saying, in your opinion, he's not qualified. Others may differ.
A Peace Corps volunteer group doesn't differ. On Nov. 8, it persuaded the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to allow one of its members to testify against Vasquez. Making the rounds on the Internet is this message from Richard Lipez, who was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia from 1962-1964: "Suddenly the Peace Corps is more important than ever. Wrenched horribly out of its long, isolationist reverie, the United States is now attempting to engage the larger, messy, complex, often violent rest-of-the-world in ways the Peace Corps has been learning about and eagerly grappling with for more than 40 years. Far more than just military . . . this multifaceted re-engagement with the rest of the planet needs a Peace Corps that is as brave, committed and vital as ever. That means it also requires a Peace Corps leader with judgment, imagination and vision. Sadly . . . Gaddi Vasquez is not that person." Ouch!
HUGH AND CRY Conservative Republican mouthpiece Hugh Hewitt announced on Nov. 7 that he's running for lieutenant governor. In a news release, the Irvine lawyer/columnist/radio commentator/TV personality said his intent was to run for the GOP nomination and, if elected, work to abolish the office, saving the taxpayers money. "Should something happen to the governor and I am obliged to take over, we know that I can't do any worse than Gray Davis," he added. Whatever you call the Hewitt version of Dittoheads (Hughcifer's Dark Minions?) cheered the announcement on Free Republic (www.freerepublic.com), the Fresno-based conservative-politics site that Hugh plugs on his nationally syndicated radio show. During a long exchange best described as "singing to the choir," Free Republic's online monitor egged the Hewitt fans on, providing details of Hugh the Politician's agenda. But that all changed when one netizen expressed sadness that Hewitt would have to end his daily radio show. After all, the person reasoned, Hewitt could not remain on air as a candidate unless he provided equal time to his opponents. That got the next respondent wondering why the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) hasn't taken action against Hewitt for frequently soliciting contributions to the Republican Party on the air. That person signed off with this: "Sorry, but the HH Show is strictly amateur hour. Worse, he's a centrist." Before the discussion could devolve further, the Free Republic monitor quickly broke in: "Not to worry. Hugh's campaign is in the, shall we say, quixotic tradition of Pat Paulsen." (Paulsen is a comedian who used to run for president of the United States every four years.) A day after Hewitt's stunning announcement, his spokesman Matthew Cunningham announced that his boss was pulling out of the race because the FCC had raised equal-time concerns. If you expected the man of the hour, as he is wont to do with the media, to blast his employee for getting it wrong (it was someone on the Net who raised the concerns, not the FCC; they surely have better things to do than investigate every disc jockey who claims to be running for office), think again. On Nov. 9, Hewitt posted this message on his website (www.HughHewitt.com): "It was get out or get off the air. There is just no humor in politics anymore." But there are still clowns. THE WORLD'S GONE TO POT Nov. 5 was the fifth anniversary of California's passage of the medical marijuana initiative, but Dubya has not sent a card to mark the occasion. Instead, he has sent jack-booted federal thugs up and down the Golden State to uproot pot grown by ill people, break up cannabis co-ops, and seize files from doctors who recommend the drug for patients. "The attorney general and the administration have been very clear: we will be aggressive," Justice Department spokeswoman Susan Dryden recently told The New York Times. "The Bush administration is forcing sick people to become criminals," countered West Hollywood City Councilman Steve Martin, who sits on the board for the recently raided Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center, the state's largest co-op. California Medical Association spokesman Peter Warren said of the assault on the doctor-patient relationship, "It's especially shocking in this time of national crisis that federal agents are out tossing doctors' offices." Even a district attorney, San Francisco's Terence Hallinan, asked the feds on Nov. 6 to knock it off. "Any move to close dispensaries will result in sick people trying to get marijuana from street vendors, whose product may or may not be safe," said Hallinan, who credited the medical-marijuana initiative with reducing crime, saving money and contributing to the public's well-being. I SMOKE TWO JOINTS IN THE MORNING, I SMOKE TWO JOINTS AT NIGHT Among the locals caught up in the asinine war on legal drugs is medical-marijuana activist Marvin Chavez, who spent the day before the initiative's anniversary pleading innocent to charges of cultivating and possessing pot for sale. The Santa Ana resident has admitted to growing and smoking grass to relieve pain from spinal arthritis—he even has a doctor's note. (Note to doctors: you may want to double-lock your file cabinets.) But OC prosecutors say the 60 pounds of cannabis they pulled from Marvin's garden was far more than he needed, that to get through a 60-pound bag, it'd take 12 joints per day for 12 years—and a whole lotta bags of Cool Ranch Doritos. Chavez, who is already appealing a 1999 conviction on similar charges, faces three years in the pokey this time. WELCOME TO FANTASY ISLAND Dave Garofalo, the embattled Huntington Beach city councilman who is this close to being dragged into an OC courthouse to face corruption charges, filed paperwork on Nov. 7 to run for a seat on the state Board of Equalization. Is this knucklehead out of touch? Did his circle of high-powered Republican friends (millionaire businessman Ed Laird, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Mr. Rourke from Fantasy Island) persuade "Tattoo" Garofalo to seek state office as a big, wet, sloppy fuck-you to critics? Nah. Clockwork theorizes the fish-wrap publisher, who is tapped out because he can no longer lean on advertisers with business before the council, may be running for office to raise funds to pay the lawyers who will try to keep him out of jail. If he gets caught funneling campaign funds to his legal team, he'll just run for another office and so on and so on, and . . . you get the idea. It's a theory.
Illustration by Bob Aul
SIGNED, SEALED, NOT DELIVERED A Laguna Beach lady goes out to her mailbox. The mail hasn't arrived, but there's an outgoing letter addressed to someone in New York. A powdery substance spills out. Letter? New York? Powder? Anthrax! She calls the fire department, which sends out a hazmat unit. The street is sealed off with police tape. Guys in space suits examine the letter. The substance? Glitter and perfume. According to the Nov. 9 edition of Laguna's hometown newspaper Coastline, the lady's teenage daughter was sending a letter to a boy she met on the Internet. Yet when it comes to anthrax, where some see widespread panic, makers of quicker picker-uppers see opportunity. Georgia-Pacific president Michael Burandt told Paper/Forest Products Global Outlook Conference-goers in New York City on Nov. 6, "The federal government has mandated that postal workers wash their hands every two hours. This could increase consumption of paper towels and napkins." Meanwhile, lest anyone worry, Hustler Leg World, the fastest-growing title in foot-fetish magazines, reports, "The threat of anthrax hasn't slowed participation in Leg World's Garment Giveaway, a monthly raffle of models' used hosiery." Because if horndogs stop getting Hustler models' used hosiery, the terrorists win!