Claremont Insider: November 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Kids Being Kids; Parents Being Kids, Too

Photo Uploaded to Flickr by floodllama
At the Insider staff Thanksgiving (pictured, right) the latest community kerfluffle occupied much of the table-talk, and the topic continues to be of interest around town.

The Daily Bulletin followed up on the Claremont Indian-Pilgrim Wars with a story about the backlash Michelle Rajeha faced after she and 15-20 other parents sent an email to a Condit teacher expressing their concerns about the annual Thanksgiving feast this past Tuesday. Traditionally Condit and Mountain View kindergartners had in the past dressed up as Pilgrims and Indians.

In case you've been out of the media stream this past week (lucky you!), the whole event devolved from Thanksgiving feast to media feast, and Rajeha claims she had to contact the police because of a some of the more hateful phone calls and emails she has received.

Yesterday's Bulletin article said:
At the Tuesday feast, Raheja said her 5-year-old daughter was harassed. A parent dressed up as an American Indian, Raheja said, "did a war dance around my daughter." The parent then told her daughter and others to "go to hell," she said.

Raheja, a UC Riverside instructor, said she has contacted the Claremont Police Department and the UC Riverside police because of the hateful phone calls and e-mails.

On Wednesday, she said she had received more than 250 "hateful and intimidating" e-mails.

"They go from being anxious about political correctness to calling me (an epithet). They don't know my daughter's name, but they've said hateful and disgusting things about my daughter."

There have been as many positive e-mails from people in Claremont and worldwide, too, Raheja said.

The Bulletin also had an editorial yesterday that concluded that maybe the adults have forgotten something or someone in this whole exercise:
The main point here is that debate at a school board meeting is entirely appropriate, but a protest ought not involve kindergartners. Innocence is lost soon enough; 5-year-olds should not be used to promote an agenda.

We don't hold ourselves out to be experts on any of this parenting or educational stuff, but it sure seems as if whenever we hear the magic words, "It's about the kids," it's really about the parents.

Joan Acocella in the November 17th issue of the New Yorker magazine had a book review titled "The Child Trap" that examined several recent works touching on the increase in overparenting by so-called "helicopter parents." Acocella noted the paradox of overprotective parents who are also overly demanding of their children:
This used to be known as “spoiling.” Now it is called “overparenting”—or “helicopter parenting” or “hothouse parenting” or “death-grip parenting.” The term has changed because the pattern has changed. It still includes spoiling—no rules, many toys—but two other, complicating factors have been added. One is anxiety. Will the child be permanently affected by the fate of the hamster? Did he touch the corpse, and get a germ? The other new element—at odds, it seems, with such solicitude—is achievement pressure. The heck with the child’s feelings. He has a nursery-school interview tomorrow. Will he be accepted? If not, how will he ever get into a good college? Overparenting is the subject of a number of recent books, and they all deplore it in the strongest possible terms.

....Overparented children typically face not just a heavy academic schedule but also a strenuous program of extracurricular activities—tennis lessons, Mandarin classes, ballet. After-school activities are thought to impress college admissions officers. At the same time, they keep kids off the street. (In the words of one book, “You can’t smoke pot or lose your virginity at lacrosse practice.”) When summer comes, the child is often sent to a special-skills camp. Extracurricular activities and camps are areas where competition between parents, thought to be a major culprit in this whole business, is likely to surface. How do you explain to the other mother that while her child spent the summer examining mollusks at marine-biology camp, yours was at a regular old camp, stringing beads and eating s’mores?

In her review, Acocella also mentioned the work of Hara Estroff Marano, the author of “A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting":
Marano assembles her own arsenal of neurological research, guaranteed to scare the pants off any hovering parent. As children explore their environment by themselves—making decisions, taking chances, coping with any attendant anxiety or frustration—their neurological equipment becomes increasingly sophisticated, Marano says. “Dendrites sprout. Synapses form.” If, on the other hand, children are protected from such trial-and-error learning, their nervous systems “literally shrink.”

Such atrophy, Marano claims, may be undetectable in the early years, when overattentive parents are doing for the child what he should be doing on his own, but once he goes off to college the damage becomes obvious. Marano sees an epidemic of psychological breakdown on college campuses: “The middle of the night may find a SWAT team of counselors calming down a dorm wing after having crisis-managed an acute manic episode or yet another incident of self-mutilation.” Overparented students who avoid or survive college meltdowns are still impaired, Marano argues. Having been taught that the world is full of dangers, they are risk-averse and pessimistic. (“It may be that robbing children of a positive sense of the future is the worst form of violence that parents can do to them,” she writes.) Schooled in obedience to authority, they will be poor custodians of democracy. Finally—and, again, she stresses this—their robotic behavior will threaten “American leadership in the global marketplace.” That was the factor that frightened parents into hovering. And by their hovering they prevented their children from developing the very traits—courage, nimbleness, outside-the-box thinking—that are required by the new economic order.

All this overparenting and the atrophied psyches Acocella speaks of certainly sounds a lot like the apotheosis of the Claremont Unified School District's philosophy of education and child development. This may explain the lack of intellectual flexibility we've seen expressed over the years both with CUSD boards and the Claremont city government.

Perhaps that "robotic behavior" that Marano fears is really what CUSD and our other local leaders want. Let's hope they don't get what they wish for.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday Mail

We're still trying to work our way through the mailbag, a Sisyphean task indeed for the Insider staff. Even for those of us stranded here in the digital realm, time is always a factor, and sometimes the email volume can be daunting.

As one might expect, we received a number of comments regarding the Indian-Pilgrim Wars. Here are couple from two Claremont expatriates, writing to us from far-off Not-Claremont:

DATE: Wednesday, November 26, 2008 8:11 AM
SUBJECT: Pilgrim/Indian" Flap
TO: Claremont Buzz

Loving your coverage of the "goings on" in Claremont. We lived/taught there about 40 years and it is good to see it hasn't changed. We had missed keeping up with all the "teapot-tempests" mainly because we don't subscribe to the Courier. We still have a grandson there so we visit from time to time.

It was good to see Devon Lingenfelter-Frietas again and her role in the Kindergarten-ish capers. What a great leader she and her husband have been for CUSD over the years. I remember when she first led at Condit school with her unique "Lollipop" Center concept. Very innovative at the time. Her rise in the district from then on was phenomenal. Chuck, her husband, was a great administrator and mine at one time. He was very understanding and kind. CUSD was/is a wonderful educational institution, especially in "hindsight". Our school districts have had to change to survive...sometimes not for the better, in my opinion.

DATE: Tuesday, November 25, 2008 8:56 AM
SUBJECT: indians
: Claremont Buzz

Maybe this is just a sign that I'm turning into a pointy-headed academic, but I think it's a shame that the CUSD's pilgrims and Indians thing has turned into a contest between political correctness and tradition. The problem with dressing children in fake leather vests and headdresses to be "Indians," and having them jump around going "woo woo woo" with their hands over their mouths, is that actual Indians mostly didn't wear leather vests and headdresses and jump around going "woo woo woo" with their hands over their mouths. Should schools teach crazy shit like "factual reality," or engage in bullshit, faked-up, make-believe Hollywood versions of reality? Which one of those choices constitutes education?

For black history month, the CUSD can dress children like characters from Gone With the Wind, and have them run around campus saying that "Ohhhh, Miss Scarlett, I don't know nothin' about birthing no babies." It would be just as historically accurate as having children jump around going "woo woo woo" to celebrate American Indian history.

In short, the issue is not "political correctness" versus "tradition." It's "factual historical reality" versus "lazy ahistorical tradition." Schools should teach. "Oh, but it's our *tradition* to make up ahistorical bullshit that isn't supported by fact!" Silly. And yet another reason my child will never, ever, ever go to a public school.

If the supporters of the leather vest/woo woo woo tradition can show that it's based in valid historical fact, game over. If it's not, then their argument is that they want their schools to teach their children things that aren't true. "Sure, it's wrong -- but we've been wrong for a long time! It's tradition!"

Which, come to think of it, is a very Claremont kind of argument....

The counter-argument suggested by some of the pro-tradition folks is that we're dealing with 5-year-olds (the kindergartners, not the parents), so historical events are introduced in a kind of caricature. The details get fleshed out in subsequent years.

On Wednesday, Clarmeont Courier publisher Peter Weinberger had an opinion piece on the matter that seemed to pick up on this. Weinberger suggested keeping the kindergarten Pilgrim event but trying to keep the costumes authentic and by trying to introduce more factual material in higher grades.

The Courier also received a number of reader letters on the subject, which you can find here (these will fall off the Courier's website over time).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving to All

Happy Thanksgiving Day wishes from all of us at the Insider to all of you out there in the real, analog world.

We hope the holiday finds all of you surrounded by family and friends, yes, even you Claremont 400 readers. We're all a community, from the pro-Thanksgiving costume folks to those on the other side of the debate, from the highest of the town's elite to the lowliest blogger, there's plenty to be thankful for today.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Day Late and $27.8 Billion Short

Some things never change. Sacramento's fiscal dysfunction continued yesterday:

The state of California is projecting a $27.8 billion budget shortfall over the next 19 months. In the weeks following the November 4th election, the state legislature and Governor Schwarzenegger's office have been scrambling to try to close the spending gap in before the new legislators are seated.

Yesterday was the last chance for the current State Assembly and State Senate to figure out a budget fix, but they failed to muster the 67-percent supermajority needed to pass the budget changes. The Sacramento Bee had an article on the legislature's failed attempt at responsible governance:

The California Legislature's outgoing class debated, complained and pointed fingers of blame Tuesday - but in the end, it did nothing about the state's massive budget gap.

A last-gasp effort to ease a projected $27.8 billion shortfall over 19 months ended with a whimper as the Assembly, voting largely along party lines, killed a $17 billion Democratic package of tax hikes and budget cuts. The Senate also rejected the package.

...."Of course I'm disappointed," Assembly Speaker Karen Bass said after the Assembly session. "I was hoping that in the last few days of the session that my (GOP) colleagues would have taken a very courageous vote."

But Assembly Republican leader Mike Villines said the proposal voted upon Tuesday was pushed by Democrats and lacked any state spending cap, economic stimulus or adequate long-term cuts.

"All we're saying is, if we're going to solve the problem, let's do the whole problem," Villines said.

Tuesday's Assembly session lasted nearly three hours, but the outcome was never in doubt - and the two bills voted upon lacked the necessary supermajority by 13 and 14 votes, respectively.

The Sacramento Bee's Capitol Alert had a breakdown of the proposed fixes. If they had passed, the state would still have had a projected $10 billion deficit to contend with. Here is the mix of tax increases and budget cuts in the failed proposal:

Vehicle license fee: $1.4 billion in current year, $4.3 billion in 2009-10
State lawmakers will take up hiking the Vehicle License Fee - better known as the car tax - from .66 percent to 2 percent of a car's value. That would reverse one of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's first acts as governor when he repealed a previous tripling of the car tax.

Freeze tax schedules: $1.4 billion in current year, $1 billion in 2009-10
In each year, tax tables are "indexed," meaning the range in which a person is taxed at a particular tax rate is supposed to rise with inflation. For 2008, the tax tables would be frozen at the 2007. What would that mean? If your income remained the same, your taxes would remain the same, instead of seeing a small tax cut. If your income rose at the pace of inflation, your tax bill would rise as well, instead of remaining flat.


K-12 Education: roughly $4 billion, including the current year and 2009-10
The state's biggest expenditure would take the biggest hit in the budget outlined by Assembly Democrats.

Community colleges: $200 million over two years

University of California and California State University: $264 million over two years

Personnel: $657 million over two years
How this cut would be distributed - layoffs, furloughs, salary freezes - would be determined by various agencies and bargaining units. Cuts of $240 million in the current year and $417 million in 2009-10.

SSI/SSP grants: $600 million over two years
Would take back scheduled federal increases for cost-of-living for low-income aged, blind and disabled scheduled for 2009.

CalWORKS: $100 million from cost of living suspension.
Cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) would be suspended for the state's welfare program.

Regional centers: $112 million over two years from cuts to regional centers.
There would also be a 3 percent cut to regional centers across the state, saving $40 million in the current year and $72 million in 2009-10.

Transit: $312 million over two years.
Cuts of $156 million in each of the next two years.

Judiciary: $35 million in cuts

Local public safety programs: $250 million in the current year and $500 million in 2009-10
The cuts come by eliminating funding for local law enforcement programs, though some of the funding (roughly $500 million over the two years) would be restored through a new $12 fee on car registration.

Williamson Act: $35 million cut
Would eliminate state funds that currently go to counties for this program to preserve agricultural lands.
Budgetary problems, on a much larger scale, will confront the incoming Obama administration, and all of those state and national woes inevitably cascade down onto the local level. Billions, trillions....where does all that money go anyway? As usual, The Onion has all the answers:

In The Know: Should The Government Stop Dumping Money Into A Giant Hole?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Evening News

Some of the media coverage of the Claremont Culture Wars:

Update, Wednesday Morning:
Los Angeles Times, Wednesday morning, with best video we've seen (linked on Drudge as this is written)

Los Angeles Times, editorial (links this website with letters describing original Thanksgiving)

Contra Costa Times (picked up from article by Inland Valley Daily Bulletin writer Wes Woods II)

Claremont Courier, opinion by publisher Peter Weinberger

United Press International

John Birch Society

A related article, not on the Claremont event

Tuesday Evening:
KABC-TV (video on link)

Los Angeles Times

KFI News--Jody Becker
(audio on link; listen to a sound bite by Michelle Raheja--the "horribly wrong" quote)

John and Ken 3 o'clock hour (fresh; good reporting and audio from Jody Becker. Most of the hard news is in the first 20 minutes, the rest is commentary, rants, and phone calls)

John and Ken 5 o'clock hour (a recap of the earlier segment; again, most of the substance is in the first 20 minutes. John calls the protesters "nimrods".)

FOXNews, Brit Hume

Pictures of Claremont Kindergarten T-Day Event

Some people enjoyed the day (pictures courtesy of a parent):

See also the KFI website for a gallery of six photos taken by KFI's Jody Becker. Be sure to read the captions.

Claremont: Polite Pilgrim Protest--Or Not

At about 10 a.m. (see below for update) we got a report on the Pilgrim-Indian Protest. (The link in Drudge has floated up to the top of the first column since our post this morning: prime position)

About half of the 5-year-olds left Mountain View in paper vests and Indian headbands. The Press was there; two TV location trucks representing KTLA, CBS, and KABC. A clutch of parents saw the kids off; occasional horns were honked in apparent support. One lone cop on a motorcycle (not Claremont PD) did a drive-by, then left.

At Condit, as the line of Indian-Kids approached, shepherded by a bunch of parents and teachers, a polite, no-voices-raised discussion was being filmed by at least five news cameras. There was one major spokesman for the tribal contingent; he'll probably be all over the news. There were a couple of guys standing around who looked pretty out of place: they were either Secret Service agents or Claremont Unified School District staff. As the marchers turned into the school, the cameras rolled and about a dozen protesters unfurled make-shift signs saying, "You are not honoring anyone", "Respect", "Don't Celebrate Genocide", "Racist", and "No Thanks, No Giving".

After the marchers passed, the protesters broke out a drum and did an Indian song, whether of war, or lamentation, or victory, our correspondent couldn't say.

This broke up after no more than five minutes, and the small group of protesters moved up the sidewalk to huddle. The head guy handed out what appeared to be words to the next song, while the "Respect" sign-carrier walked away from the group with her ear to her cell-phone, in the way of someone on an important call. A communal song followed, but it didn't appear the cameras were rolling.

Meanwhile, the 5-year-olds of Condit and Mountain View Elementary Schools played games together on the grass.

Update, 12:45 p.m.

The L.A. Times Blog, L.A. Now, has the following update by the Times reporter, Seema Mehta: it appears things got heated after awhile and the Claremont PD were called and had to separate the protestors. We're sure this will be covered on the John and Ken radio program, 640 on your A.M. dial, starting at 3 p.m. this afternoon.

Police are also "paying extra attention" to the home of Superintendent David Cash, only blocks from one of the schools, after he reported receiving what he characterized as "hate emails" and feared for his safety. Our advice: Cool it, people.

(click on link just preceding, or on image below to enlarge)

City News


City of Claremont municipal government offices will be closed Thursday and Friday for the holiday.


City Hall has started posting the Planning Department's initial studies for projects on the city's website. You can view them here.

The first two that have been posted are the Claremont Graduate University Zone General Plan and the initial study for the city's cell tower code. These two were both posted on November 19th. The public comment period for both will last until December 8th. Speak now or forever hold your peace.

Older initial studies are available through the city's online archives. You have to use the search engine to find the particular document you are looking for - better bone up on your Boolean logic or you'll have to wade through pages of hits to find the thing you seek.


The Claremont City Council meets at 6:30pm tonight in the City Council chambers at 225 W. 2nd St. in the Claremont Village. The City has the meeting agenda posted. You can also watch the meeting live online here.

On tap for tonight:

Claremont Kindergarten Parents Make Drudge Report

The World woke up this morning to the story of Claremont's Condit and Mountain View Kindergarteners linked in the Drudge Report. It all goes down today, Tuesday, 9 a.m., when the kids are scheduled to march up Mountain Avenue in Claremont from Mountain View Elementary to Condit Elementary for their Thanksgiving Feast.

Our earlier posts:
Indian-Pilgim Wars in Claremont
It's Not about Noodle Necklaces
Celebration of Genocide
Parents Revolt
Take It to the Streets, 5-Year-Olds

Monday, November 24, 2008

Take It to the Streets, 5-Year-Olds

photo by Kathleen Lucas, Condit parent of Choctaw heritage

Tuesday morning's Los Angeles Times will carry an article on the Claremont Culture Wars. It was posted on the Times website late Monday evening. As discussed in this afternoon's post, the situation comes to a head Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. when the Indians of Mountain View Elementary are scheduled to make the long march up Mountain Avenue to Condit Elementary.

This entire fracas was initiated by a letter sent by Condit parent and UCR professor Michelle Raheja.

The Times had the take that this was a bunch of pointy-headed professors against the hoi-polloi parents. There was some empirical evidence to support this take when the only people the Times could easily find to speak in favor of banning the construction-paper costumes were, well, pointy-headed academics: Besides ringleader Raheja, there was University of Redlands Assistant Professor of Race and Ethnic Studies Jennifer Tilton as well as an instructor at Riverside Community College and a former professor at Pitzer:
Among the costume supporters, there is a vein of suspicion that casts Raheja and others opposed to the costumes as agenda-driven elitists. Of the handful of others who spoke with Raheja against the costumes at the board meeting, one teaches at the University of Redlands, one is an instructor at Riverside Community College, and one is a former Pitzer College professor.

Raheja is "using those children as a political platform for herself and her ideas," Constance Garabedian said as her 5-year-old Mountain View kindergartner happily practiced a song about Native Americans in the background. "I'm not a professor and I'm not a historian, but I can put the dots together."

One aspect of this affair that is entirely despicable is the cowardly cowering by Superintendent David Cash and principals Tim Northrop and Clara Arocha. According to the Times article, "Cash and the principals of Condit and Mountain View did not respond to interview requests." What's the matter? Cat got their tongues? These are public employees, and they ought to be willing and able to defend and explain their decisions.

The action starts tomorrow morning at 8 when the parents send their kids to school. At 9, the kids are scheduled to head up to Condit. We'll see if the teachers have confiscated the contraband construction-paper costumes.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Parents Revolt

Drudge Siren Pictures, Images and Photos

The kindergarten parents of Mountain View and Condit are going to send their kids to school tomorrow wearing their Thanksgiving costumes. And it is likely that many of them will keep their kids out of school on Wednesday to deprive the Claremont Unified School District of Wednesday's coveted ADA (Average Daily Attendance) money from the State.

Mountain View kindergarten mother Dena Murphy got another half hour on KFI's John and Ken drive-time radio show (640 on your AM dial). To put it charitably, the shock-jock hosts are not sympathetic to Michelle Raheja's idea to keep the kindergartener's from wearing their construction paper and white paste Indian and Pilgrim costumes. We have covered this earlier, here, here, and here.

Raheja is an Assistant Professor of English at UC Riverside and the mother of a Condit Elementary kindergartener. UCR also hosts the California Center for Native Nations which, among other projects, seems to advocate removing the image of that old Indian fighter, Old Hickory, Andrew Jackson, from the $20 bill. This seems of a piece with Raheja's "history-defying" (that's a word from this website page) campaign to remove the Indians and Pilgrims from Thanksgiving. Why, next thing you know, they're going to want take the "X" out of Xmas.

We now can link to the audio stream of the four o'clock hour. The Claremont issue takes up the first 40 minutes or so of the 60 minute clip. (This link may change when the audio goes to the KFI on-demand page; we'll try to keep it current.) John and Ken have posted a poll that at this writing is running 25 to 1 in favor of the parents. A few minutes ago, when we captured the screenshot, it was 99 to 1.

John and Ken also recapped this issue at the top of the six o'clock hour--the link is here. They wonder whether the kids will have their feathers confiscated. The riff begins about 30 seconds into the clip.

The event goes down tomorrow morning (Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008). The kids are scheduled to leave Mountain View at 9 a.m. and march up Mountain Avenue to Condit. The parents send their kids to school at 8 and the principals have an hour to sort things out before the march is to begin. There is sure to be a lot of confusion. Be there.

Map of Mountain View and Condit Elementary Schools
click on image to enlarge

Pomona Photo Blog

Ren, the blogger who also doubles as the photographer for Goddess of Pomona and the Pomona Historical Society, has closed his own blog and has a new one: Images of Pomona.

We've updated our local blog roll accordingly. Below is a sample of Ren's work showing the ongoing restoration of Pomona's Fox Theater by Arteco Partners, the same company that refurbished the Packing House in Claremont's Village West expansion. Arteco is also restoring the Padua Hills Theatre for the City of Claremont.

Photo Courtesy of Ren at Images of Pomona

CGU's Loss is Obama's Gain

Nancy Bekavac hasn't landed a job with the incoming administration (yet), but the Claremont Graduate University is losing Susan Daniels to president-elect Obama's Social Security transition team, the Daily Bulletin tells us. Daniels is a visiting scholar at the CGU's Kay Center for E-Health Research.

According to the Bulletin's article, from 1988 to 2000. Daniels worked for several federal agencies, including a stint from 1994 to 2000 as a deputy commissioner for Disability and Income Security Programs at the Social Security Administration.

It's indeed appropriate that Obama would look to graying Claremont for someone to for anything concerning Social Security. The article gave some of Daniel's background:

Daniels has been at the Kay Center for almost two years. She has helped to guide policy analysis and research in the technology for disability determination, officials said.

When reached by telephone, Daniels said she could not talk unless authorized by the transition team. A transition team spokesman said in an e-mail Thursday that members of the team were not authorized to speak to reporters.

Daniels is a co-chairwoman of the National Academy of Social Insurance's 18th annual conference, titled "Older and Out of Work: Social Insurance for a Changing Economy." Daniels has been a member of the organization since 2001.

Sue Feldman, assistant director for the Kay Center, said of Daniels "she excels at looking at the big picture, categorizing the important aspects and delegating tasks."

Feldman, who declined to answer specifics about how Daniels was chosen for the position, said she and Daniels have worked together on nationwide disability policy forums. The two tackled how policy at the federal level affects the United States.

A blog called Social Security News, by North Carolina attorney Charles T. Hall, had a negative review of the Daniels choice:
I do not want to go on and on about a person whose role whose role is likely to be over in about two months, but just try to find one example of Dr. Daniels speaking out about the enormous backlogs that have developed at the Social Security Administration. Where was she when she might have done some good?

Dr. Daniels is no well-respected elder statesperson. She should not have gotten this appointment. Any nomination of Dr. Daniels to serve in any official capacity at Social Security would be controversial. She does not even have any business on the Social Security Advisory Board and I think the SSAB is so worthless that it ought to be abolished.

Claremont Makes the Paper of Record

A reader forwarded us an article from last Friday's New York Times. Apparently, an anti-Proposition 8 activist is planning on organizing a candlelight vigil for the opening of the new Sean Penn movie "Milk."

The NYT article reported:

LOS ANGELES — When the movie “Milk” comes next month to Claremont, a college town about 30 miles from here, Patrick Milliner intends to greet it with a candlelight vigil protesting the newly passed state prohibition of gay marriage.

Before this month’s election, Mr. Milliner organized unsuccessful opposition to California’s same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8. Now he expects the movie, about Harvey Milk, the murdered gay-rights crusader and San Francisco supervisor, to ignite his “Shame on 8” campaign.

"Milk" is a bio-pic from Focus Features about the life of Harvey Milk, the San Francisco supervisor and gay rights activist who, along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, was shot to death in San Francisco's City Hall by former supervisor Dan White on November 27, 1978. Diane Feinstein, who at the time was the president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, had to announce the news of the shootings and automatically became mayor.

You may recall that White used the now-famous "Twinkie Defense" at his trial, claiming that too much junk food had affected his thinking. White was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to seven years, eight months in prison for the two killings. White was paroled after five years in Soledad State prison and ended up committing suicide a couple years after his release.

As the NYT article explained, ironies abound between the movie and recent events:
Mr. Milk, played in the movie by Sean Penn, was not one to pull punches. “If this thing passes, fight the hell back!” Mr. Penn says at a pivotal point in the film, as his allies ponder the likely passage of Proposition 6, a 1978 ballot initiative aimed at curbing gay rights in California. (It failed.)

But Focus has been stepping carefully of late.

In a particularly ticklish exercise, the studio continues to plan showings of “Milk” in theaters owned by the Cinemark chain, whose chief executive, Alan Stock, donated to the campaign for Proposition 8.

Taking a cue from Milk — who made his political breakthrough by supporting a union boycott of Coors beer — opponents of the marriage ban have begun their own boycott through a Web site,

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Cinemark, one of the country’s largest theater chains, said its decision to proceed with plans to show the movie also reflected a principle: “It would be inappropriate to influence our employees’ position on personal issues outside the work environment, especially on political, social or religious activities.”

We're guessing the vigil will be at the Claremont 5 Laemmle Theatres, since that's the only commercial movie theatre in town. For those who are interested, no word yet on the exact date and time.

* * *

The Claremont Conservative had a short bit about an anti-Prop. 8 rally at Claremont McKenna College's Collins Dining Hall. The 43 (and counting) comments show how heated the topic is.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Insider News

A bit of housekeeping -

The Insider is pleased to announce its staff has grown by one with the addition of our newest voice, moderndulcinea. We look forward to more of MD's wit and unique observations in the future.

And we promise to keep trying to do our best to pound the pavement to bring you the news of Claremont without having to resort to outsourcing our reportage.

To celebrate our expansion, we commissioned a staff photo:

Riot Here, Riot Now

A reader alerted us to a case of vandalism last week at a decommissioned Claremont Graduate University dorm. The reader sent along a slew of photos, which we've include in this post. Unfortunately, space limitations preclude us from displaying all of the photos, but you'll get the idea (as always, click on the photos to enlarge them).

The reader indicated there may be some connection between the CGU vandalism and a proposal by CGU to purchase part of the Bernard Field Station land currently owned by Harvey Mudd College (the Claremont Courier had an October 29th article about that).

The reader's email also explains the backstory and tells us that at least some of the perps were apprehended:

DATE: Friday, November 21, 2008 4:40 PM
TO:Claremont Buzz

I have a scoop for you that might actually get people off of yelling about pilgrims for a while. On Wednesday night, a group of students from Pitzer vandalized an abandoned dorm at CGU.

It's actually pretty sad...the international students who used to live in the dorm were forced out and left a lot of their things behind. If you go through the dorms now, it looks like a scene out of Hurricane Katrina - almost fully stocked kitchens, clothing, books left behind, cards, decorations (mostly for Chinese New Year, things from their home countries) almost have to see it to believe it. The electricity is still on, the doors and windows have been broken...its a dangerous and sad situation.

CGU donated the appliances and air conditioners to third world countries and this kind gesture actually left the dorms vulnerable. Vandals accessed the apartments through the holes left from window air conditioners.

I asked a security guard why there doesn't seem to be any security on the building, or why it isn't at least fenced off and condemned until they can bulldoze it. He said there's some kind of argument between the city, CGU, and a professor at Scripps.

Some of the vandals were caught, which is how we know they were Pitzer students. It seems to be vaguely connected to their anger about the field station and CGU's involvement in paving it. They do have a right to be angry about this, but destruction and vandalism aren't effective ways to get the administration to hear your concerns.

Meanwhile, the dorm is becoming an increasing eye sore and safety hazard. I'll send you the pics.

A friend of mine noted the irony in the fact that these students who were fighting the imperialist system (according to their graffiti) were drinking expensive imported beers (which the left behind...doesn't seem very eco-friendly to me).

No, not so friendly, either. Our reader was bothered enough by all of this to send along even more:
Overkill, I know, but the slogans are kinda amazing. And by amazing, I mean sad and ridiculous.

* * *

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Big George Rides Again

You may still be recovering from the ridiculous David Dreier "Homosexual Lifestyle" flyer, but now an even better piece of mail could be coming soon to a mailbox near you.

The invitations for Galleria Beretich's Christmas Show have just been mailed out. They feature two wonderful photos by David Griffith of Coco the Cat and Big George, Claremont's most famously well-endowed critter (who is, literally, hung like a horse).

The Christmas Show is Sunday, December 7th, from 3:00 to 6:00 at Galleria Beretich at 1034 Harvard Avenue.

Be sure to stop by and ask for Coco's opinion on foreign policy, the financial crisis, and the new Claremont Trolley.

Celebration of Genocide?

The Claremont Unified School District, through its District Cabinet and prinicpals, has adopted the "Thanksgiving as a Celebration of Genocide" view and cancelled a key element of the kindergartener's - kindergartener's! - Thanksgiving Feast event scheduled for Tuesday, November 25. Unlike previous years (40 if the story is correct) the students will not dress in construction-paper-and-white-paste-crayon-accented Pilgrim and Indian costumes. Instead, they will be in their usual school field trip "spirit" t-shirts.

This is in response to a letter from UCR Assistant Professor of English, Michelle Raheja, a Condit Kindergarten parent and a Seneca. (The letter was read yesterday afternoon on the KFI John and Ken show; we don't have conveniently-edited versions yet, but you may listen here, starting about halfway through the clip.)

The notice to the Mountain View parents, from M.V. principal Clara Arocha, began in the usual bubbly school administrator-speak: "This year we continue the wonderful tradition of sharing a feast with the students of Condit. What an incredible opportunity to celebrate the spirit of friendship and giving at a Thanksgiving gathering..." It goes on to describe the events [click on the image for a larger version. We took it from our predator drone high above the school yesterday.] It sounds as if the two elementary schools are going to have yet another happy merry party.

The money line comes in the third paragraph: "In order to be sensitive to the Native American culture, we will not celebrate our feast together in costume."

This was the issue that occupied at least a half hour at Thursday's school board meeting, described by Wes Woods at the Daily Bulletin. The Courier also covered it on page 3, but you've gotta buy Saturday's paper. [a good idea in any event, but we now see the Landus Rigby account of the brouhaha is online]

We received a note that made us pause a bit, more than anything for the suggestion that policies ought to be dictated by subjective feelings and not be fact-based. And in fact, wrongness ought to be respected. We have to admit to belonging to the old-fashioned school that says wrongness ought to be cured.

My sense is that there are many, many people concerned about and in agreement about this [that is, the outrage at the costumes]. I don't know, myself. For all I know they are wrong about a great many things. You may well think they are wrong about a great many things. I do think it compassionate and respectful, however, to take people at their word when they say that something is hurtful to them, and to avoid the hurt where it is possible to do so without inflicting similar harm to others. To prefer a game of dressup to the sort of hurt reported in this case - that I cannot understand. Even if they are wrong, they should be respected.

Further, on that note, I don't understand why people who desire such a celebration don't simply arrange to hold one, outside of public school?

So the question is, "what are the parents going to do?" Are they going to defy the school administration and hijack the event to a public park?--or even block Mountain Avenue and herd the kids off the school property and produce the costumes and show the little tykes some real civil disobedience? Chances are not.

One line in the district letter especially catches our attention: "We are attempting to give authentic representation of those two groups [Pilgrims and Indians] by having members of Pilgrim's Place [sic], and a local tribe attend the feast." Huh? The Pilgrim perspective is represented by an elderly retired missionary, and the Indian's viewpoint by one of the usual Tongva suspects.? William Bradford was 30 years old in 1620, and the Tongvas were camped on Indian Hill and in the canyons of the San Gabriels--3000 miles from Plymouth Plantation. If one of the complaints is inauthenticity, then this plan ought to be tossed in the dumper.

If you want authentic 21st-Century Pilgrims and Indians, how about getting someone who makes a frequent pilgrimage to the Indian Establishment below:

A Not-So-Golden Dream

Click to Enlarge
It's beginning to look a lot like 1994, at least in terms of the economy, housing, and unemployment in the Southern California exurbs....


PFF Bank & Trust
and Downey Savings yesterday became the 21st and 22nd banks to be taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation this year, the LA Times reported.

The FDIC, as is their usual practice, moved in late Friday afternoon and took over both banks. PFF's proposed merger with FBOP Corp. appeared to be falling apart, so the FDIC brokered another buyout by Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank.

U.S. Bank will take over both PFF and Downey Savings. The Times article gave the specifics:
PFF, short for Pomona First Federal, specialized in loans to Inland Empire developers and home builders, running up $289.5 million in losses in the January-September period.

"The closing of these two thrifts once again demonstrates the tremendous impact of the housing market distress on the state of California," John Reich, director of the Office of Thrift Supervision, said in a statement announcing the seizure of the institutions.

Downey Financial Corp., parent of Downey Savings, was founded in 1957 by developer Maurice McAlister, a bass fisherman and nickelodeon collector who built shopping centers that included Downey branches. Co-founder Gerald McQuarrie died 15 years ago. McAlister remained chairman until July, when Downey's problems were already apparent.

PFF was the oldest banking outfit in Southern California, founded in Pomona in 1892 to serve towns in what was then the citrus belt. Parent PFF Bancorp Inc., based in Rancho Cucamonga, had hoped to sell itself to Oak Park, Ill.-based FBOP Corp., which owns California National Bank and other community banks.

The Times had a separate blurb that reported the takeover should be seamless, and customers should see no disruption in service:
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said the 213 branches of the two organizations would reopen as branches of Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank under their normal business hours, including those with Saturday hours. Depositors automatically will become depositors of U.S. Bank. Deposits will continue to be insured by the FDIC, so there is no need for customers to change their banking relationship to retain insurance coverage.

Customers of both banks should continue to use their existing branches until U.S. Bank can fully integrate the deposit records of the organizations, regulators said. Over the weekend, depositors can access their money by writing checks or using ATM or debit cards.

One reason for the Friday takeovers is to allow a weekend transition period, which also gives bank customers time to let the news sink in. The Times listed the FDIC's call center phone numbers for information about the two banks:
PFF Bank - (800) 930-6827
Downey Savings - (800) 930-5169

The hours for the phone lines this weekend are today from 8am to 6pm PST, Sunday from noon to 6pm, and daily from 8am to 8pm after that.

The Times also noted that the FDIC's website also has separate pages with information for PFF and Downey Savings.


The LA Times also carried a front page article today on the rising unemployment rates in the Inland Empire. The Times reported that unemployment in the region that includes San Bernardino, Riverside, and Ontario reached 9.5% in October, the highest level here in 13 years and the highest current unemployment rate of any U.S. metropolitan area.

Like the PFF troubles, the local unemployment problem is linked to the housing market crash, as the Times noted:
Ignited by the collapse of the local housing market, which decimated the construction and lending industries, the wave of unemployment has trickled into almost every area, including retail, manufacturing and local government.

The region's troubles are set against a backdrop of growing unemployment throughout the nation. The U.S. Department of Labor reported last week that a growing number of jobless Americans are turning to government assistance. The number of workers collecting unemployment insurance payments has now reached a 25-year high at 3.95 million.

Meanwhile, the percentage of people unemployed in the Inland Empire has more than doubled from a year ago, and some experts predict the situation will worsen before it improves.

"It's a perfect storm," said Brad Kemp, director of regional research for Beacon Economics, which recently conducted the second annual Inland Empire Economic Forecast Conference.

"It was one of the fastest-growing places in America," he said. "And when you have that kind of growth, you have the potential for loss."

The downturn has all but erased the glow of optimism the Inland Empire enjoyed only two years ago, when newly minted mansions and an array of upscale retailers fashioned parts of the region into a more affordable Orange County in the making.

In many cases, those developments are now symbols of the decline, from the sparsely populated outdoor malls to the rows of repossessed homes -- victims of housing price plunges of 35% in Riverside and 37% in San Bernardino in the last year.

All over, there are signs of reversed prosperity.

Ontario International Airport went from setting growth records to losing about a third of its airline traffic in the last year. To curtail costs, buildings and a parking lot were closed. And at night, one of its unused runways shuts off its lights.

So, we're back to 1994 or back to 1982. Or 1932. The more things change, they say. Boom gives way to bust, with each successive era erasing the preceding one from the collective memory.

One begins to wonder if Joan Didion's essay "Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream," about a 1965 murder in the San Bernardino Valley, was written in the mid-1960's or yesterday:
This is the country in which a belief in the literal interpretation of Genesis has slipped imperceptibly into a belief in the literal interpretation of Double Indemnity, the country of teased hair and the Capris and the girls for whom all life's promise comes down to a waltz-length white wedding dress and the birth of a Kimberly or a Sherry or a Debbi and a Tijuana divorce and a return to hairdresser's school. "We were just crazy kids," they say without regret and look to the future. The future always looks good in the golden land, because no one remembers the past. Here is where the hot wind blows and the old ways do not seem relevant, where the divorce rate is double the national average and where one person in every thirty-eight lives in a trailer. Here is the last stop for all those who come from somewhere else, for all those who drifted away from the cold and the past and the old ways.

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's Not About Noodle Necklaces

More today on the Great 2008 Condit-Mountain View Pilgrim Indian Battle.

Yesterday we heard about the plan of some Mountain View parents (at least; perhaps there were Condit parents, too) to storm the CUSD Board meeting last night. They were concerned over actions by Condit principal Tim Northrop that they thought denatured the traditional Thanksgiving celebration at the two schools.

As we understand it, while traditionally the students of the two schools would visit each other dressed in paper Pilgrim garb and paper Indian garb, with noodle necklaces, this year they had a complaint from parents about the "dress-up" aspects of the event. So Northrop had changed the event to have the students wear their "school spirit" shirts, whatever those are.

These plans set the traditionalists against the insurrectionists.

One of "traditionalist" parents got the attention of KFI's John and Ken, and the piece was on KFI late Thursday afternoon (see below).

We hear that the school board took no action, and cut off the public comment in accordance with its previously stated policy on limiting comment to 20 minutes on a single topic.

The complaint by the Condit parent runs along these lines (from this webpage), written by Kanatiyosh, a Mohawk and Onondaga woman of the Deer Clan.

As a child, in Kindergarten the class was asked to participate in projects that were supposed to teach us about Indians. Some of the projects included cutting out of paper eagle feathers and then pasting them into an Indian headdress, which was a western style war bonnet. The class was also asked to learn Indian songs and dances. I was asked to pump my hand over my mouth in a mocking war hoop, to dance around like I had ants in my pants, and to sing the song "Ten Little Indians".

I remember feeling badly.
On the other hand, a Mountain View parent writes,

Both my kids were Indians [at prior-year events] and still keep their "paper vests" & "clay necklace" that they so proudly made. I was speechless when I heard a few days ago that because of a handful of parents at Condit, our Kindergartners would have to take their vests home & stuff them in a box without even having the opportunity to wear them. A 40 year old tradition between the two schools is almost coming to an end because of these parents. Does the voice of "one" outweighs the voice of "many"? I understand this parent feels offended by the fact that these 5 year olds wear vests made out of construction paper because they are not "authentic". I also understand that she finds offensive that the word "Indian" is used in some of the songs these 5 year olds sing at the event.

Kanatiyosh goes on to deconstruct "Ten Little Indians":

Asking children to sing "Ten Little Indians" is pure racism. The song is an Indian annihilation song that the Pioneers sang to their children to soothe their fears. If you remember the song, they count up and then they count backwards until there is only one Indian boy left. Today most people do not even know about the hidden message of eradicating the Indian people in the song; however, this song still plants seeds of racism and stereotyping in the minds of our children. This song must be stopped from its use in schools today!

So this is much more similar to the Pomona College Alma Mater controversy than we had originally supposed.

For now we'll omit our usual pithy comment. We provide a convenient extract of yesterday's John and Ken show below. We had to cut a few minutes off the end for length reasons; we suggest you listen to the whole thing on the KFI website, here (a little more than halfway through the clip). And, be sure to tune in this afternoon, Friday, November 21, on AM 640 from 3 to 7. They promised to deal with this issue again.

Downtown Holiday Open House

Claremont Village merchants are having a Holiday Open House this weekend, according to the and the Claremont Chamber of Commerce:

Holiday Open House
Friday, November 21, 2008 - 5:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Saturday, November 22, 2008 - 10:00 AM - 8:00 PM

Claremont Village

Claremont Village will be hosting a Holiday Open House to give you the chance to find those wonderful holiday gifts for those special people in your life.

On November 21st & 22nd Village Businesses will be offering special promotions to customers. Look out for inviting treats at some stores and entertainment from 3 - 6 pm on Saturday at The Public Plaza in Village Square and outside The Chamber offices on Yale.

Local Financial News

PFF Bank & Trust was back in the news yesterday. The bank's planned merger with Illinois-based FBOP Corp., is being carefully watched by federal officials, according to an article by Matt Wrye in yesterday's Daily Bulletin.

PFF stock has fallen off a cliff this past year, tumbling from a high of nearly $40 a share to under $2. Here's what Wrye had to say:

More than $1.1 billion has been drained from PFF Bancorp and its bank branches since March 2007, most in customer withdrawals from its banks.

Walter Hackett, a former PFF executive, isn't sure the merger will be halted, but he thinks FBOP may be getting nervous about the deal.

PFF's losses and mounting shareholder lawsuits "may be part of the reason that FBOP is blinking now," said Hackett, who during the housing market boom was a vice president and commercial loan department manager for PFF.

Hackett is also a witness for a group of shareholders who recently filed a lawsuit against PFF - one of several suits claiming PFF executives foresaw financial losses and dumped their stock while telling shareholders everything was OK.

At the same time, FBOP is suffering major losses due to its exposure to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae stock meltdown, according to a September article published by Crain's Chicago Business newspaper.

FBOP, owned by billionaire Michael Kelly, is trying to "extend the Federal Reserve approval of the merger, and to obtain other regulatory approvals," and intends to complete the merger on or before Dec. 31, documents show.

* * *
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority, whose board is chaired by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, is in some potential trouble over lease-back arrangements it and other public transit agencies made over the past decade.

The Daily Bulletin has an article that explains how the failure of insurer AIG figures into the MTA's problems, which started when the MTA sold off assets like buses and trains to private investors over the past decade. The MTA then turned around and leased the assets back from the investors. The deals generated about $65 million in cash for the MTA's operating costs.

The MTA's lease-back deals were insured by AIG, and the insurance included a provision that requires the MTA to find a new insurer within 60 days if AIG's credit rating ever fell below a AAA rating, something that is a given as a result of AIG's current problems. If the MTA cannot find another insurer, the investors can take possession of the assets. Now, MTA officials are lobbying Washington to step in to guarantee the lease-back arrangments, the Bulletin article reported:
"Because the federal government now owns over 80 percent of AIG shares, they would be the logical candidate to guarantee those deals," said MTA spokesman Marc Littman.

The MTA is one of dozens of transit agencies nationwide that are in Washington this week seeking help because of troubles with similar deals.

The MTA's deals originated in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when it sold off a huge number of buses and trains to corporate investors, including Phillip Morris and Comerica.

It then entered into long-term leases to use the equipment. The sales netted about $65 million to put toward operating costs, said Littman.

"Essentially, they were tax shelters," said Joseph Henchman of the Washington-based Tax Foundation, a taxpayer rights organization that opposes guaranteeing the leases. "They were a way to get short-term revenue that was never appropriated."

These sorts of things don't exactly inspire confidence in the MTA or Villaraigosa, who pushed the half-cent county sales tax increase passed by LA-area voters this past election. The Bulletin article mentioned a concern that some of the revenue from the sales tax increase might have to be used as collateral against money the MTA would have to borrow if they don't get a bailout. Move to the back of the funding queue, Gold Line folks.

A FOOTNOTE: This same sort of arrangement was suggested by former Claremont City Manager Glenn Southard in 2005. Shortly after he left Claremont, Southard recommended this to some of his Claremont 400 friends as a way of financing projects like Padua Park, saying that city property - City Hall or the Hughes Center, for example - could be used as collateral and leased back from private investors in exchange for project funds.

Luckily for Claremont, Southard's scheme never gained traction.