Terror Town, USA
Photo by OCW staffLast week's terrorist twists and turns struck much too close to home for this timepiece, forcing even Clockwork to weigh the bennies of martial law—or at least countywide Lion Country Safari safety precautions (proceed slowly, don't make eye contact with the beasts, and—for God's sake—keep your limbs inside the car). How else should we react to an alleged bomb plot targeting an Anaheim bar; Republican Congressman Darrell Issa's San Clemente office; and various Islamic religious buildings in Orange, Los Angeles and San Diego counties? The alleged nuts—Irv Rubin, the motor-mouthed chairman of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), and Earl Krugel, the JDL's West Coast coordinator—were charged on Dec. 12 with conspiring to blow up the aforementioned primo real estate. The FBI was reportedly tipped by an informant in October about the JDL's role in the unsolved murder of Alex Odeh, the western director of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee whose Santa Ana office was bombed in 1985. Rubin, who became the leader of the JDL a month before that blast, was suspected but never arrested. He has denied any involvement but declared at the time, "I have no tears for Mr. Odeh. He got exactly what he deserves." What Odeh got for a lifetime spent championing human rights was a statue in front of Orange County's main library in Santa Ana, and if the current probe turns up any evidence that Rubin was involved in the civil-rights leader's death, he should get what he deserves—and no tears. Rubin, who famously offered $500 for the head of any American Nazi, has been a frequent OC visitor, turning up outside the Shack in Anaheim this past August to protest a Nazi skinhead concert. And in June 1998, he and his fellow bombing suspect's brother, Barry Krugel, clashed with white supremacists at a community college board meeting in Mission Viejo. Barry Krugel told reporters last week that a "fink snitch" informant ratted out his brother to the feds, and JDL lawyers hinted at a government-entrapment defense. Muslim groups countered that the feds should treat the JDL as they would any other suspected terrorist organization—you know, get all Ashcroft on their ass. Ironically, the JDL is relying on the erroneous information of an Iranian news service in singling out Issa, who is of Lebanese-American descent. During a congressional visit to the Middle East in November, Issa was misquoted as saying Hezbollahhad never taken part in terrorism. The JDL answering machine's outgoing message apparently accused Issa of supporting Hezbollah and Hamas. The mistaken Hamas citation probably refers to the hummus Issa noshed with Yasser Arafat in the West Bank during that same congressional swing.
MORE HOMEGROWN TERROR Bill Berkowitz gives the lowdown on the Garden Grove-based Government of Free Vietnam and the Long Beach-based Cambodian Freedom Fighters in his Dec. 12 story "Golden State Terrorists" on Working Assets' Working for Change website (www.workingforchange.com). The Government of Free Vietnam, which is composed of former South Vietnamese soldiers and leaders, claims to have an annual budget of $1 million, jungle training camps along the Thai-Laos border, and 100,000 trained supporters. For about an hour one day last year, 70 Cambodian Freedom Fighters shot up government buildings in downtown Phnom Penh—before government forces crushed them, killing four. The group's leader recently told our sister paper LA Weekly that future strikes are being planned out of the local office. However, other than a recently launched FBI probe into Government of Free Vietnam at the behest of the Vietnamese government, neither group has been branded as terrorist by the U.S. government. You want hypocrisy? Here's what U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Dec. 17 of suspected terrorists in Pakistan plotting against India: "We've made it clear that all countries are responsible for terrorist activities within their borders." In other words, do as we say, not as we don't do.
Illustration by Bob Aul BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB On the Dec. 12 airing of his sitcom, Osama bin Laden said, "I heard someone on Islamic radio who owns a school in America say, 'We don't have time to keep up with the demands of those who are asking about Islamic books to learn about Islam.' This event [Sept. 11, presumably] made people think [about true Islam], which benefited Islam greatly." Could the "Islamic radio" report bin Laden says he heard be based on news stories about the Islamic Educational Center of Orange County being overwhelmed with thousands of requests for Discovering Islam, an introduction to the faith? MY YELLOW PILLS With terror tentacles all around and the San Onofre nuclear-power plant just sitting there waiting for a fertilizer bomb, it's comforting to know that the state and feds last week moved ahead with plans to supply anti-radiation pills to everyone who lives near the massive cement mammaries. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 11 released its guidelines for ingesting potassium iodide (KI), something the Nuclear Regulatory Commission needed before John Hancocking an $800,000 check for 3.4 million doses of KI. (For more details on KI, see Nick Schou's "Bitter Pill," Jan. 14, 2000). Prodded by Physicians for Social Responsibility, the governor's office wants a cut of the KI for Golden Glowing State residents around the San Onofre and Diablo Canyon plants. Make ours taste like Flintstone Chewables, please. EMINENTLY QUOTABLE "It is the month in which we sow our hopes to achieve a peace that is so craved for by all Colombians. And with Christmas come our new projects and hopes for the next year." —Message on the Christmas card sent by United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, an ultra-right death squad blamed for some of the worst massacres in the country's 37-year war STOP THE PRESSES! The Los Angeles Times ran a front-page story on Dec. 12 titled "Maligned B-1 Bomber Now Proving Its Worth; Military: Plane's successes in war have quieted critics in Pentagon—for now." Its timing was impeccable: later that same day, a B-1 bomber crashed into the Indian Ocean, marking the first loss of a U.S. warplane in this year's war. Air Force Captain William Steele, the plane's pilot, was rescued at sea with his three crewmen and summed up the B-1's worthiness: "We had multiple malfunctions, the aircraft was out of control, and we had to eject." BAD PRESS Opponents of a 90-bed youth-detention facility in Trabuco Canyon that the county Board of Supervisors approved on Dec. 11 don't like the way the dailies portrayed them. Both The Orange County Register and the Times Orange County played up the need for more juvenile beds, with the Times also going on about how the new Rancho Potrero Leadership Academy (RPLA) will supposedly turn lives around. Both fish wraps then summed up about a dozen residents' concerns about the location (next to their homes) and the price of the project (county estimate, $17 million; theirs, $25 million). And both ended with the residents threatening to sue. But Rich Gomez of Saddleback Canyons Conservancy says neighbors not only spoke against RPLA, but so did Rancho Santa Margarita's mayor, a city planner, and representatives of the Sierra Club and the Surfrider Foundation. Environmental concerns were previously aired by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Fish and Game, and the county's own biologist. The problem with the location isn't NIMBYism, Gomez says; it's public safety. "Why didn't the media mention the community should expect 40 escapes per year?" asked Gomez, pointing to the county's own data. "Don't the residents of Rancho Santa Margarita, Robinson Ranch, Coto de Caza and Dove Canyon deserve to know this?" But the biggest bugaboo was the money. Rather than spending $17 million for 90 beds in relatively expensive Trabuco Canyon, the county could find cheaper real estate and build a much larger facility to serve even more youths. Asks Gomez, "How many juveniles that could be rehabilitated in these programs will not be because of the limited capacity of this facility?" GOOD OMEN? Attention, Marvin Chavez: Superior Court Judge Charles McGrath on Dec. 13 ordered the Ventura Police Department to return 22 cannabis plants seized from the home of a medical-marijuana patient in June. Unfortunately, the plants are all dead. Orange County authorities have maintained that the 46 plants they took from medical-marijuana activist Chavez were way more than he needs to relieve his spinal pain. So what's the legal cutoff on the number of plants? 22? 35? 40? The state's medical-marijuana law gives no guidelines on how much grass you can grow.
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