Swing… and a miss

Clinton, Wilson hold back on criticizing Bush

By Justin Chapmand and Carl Kozlowski, Pasadena Weekly, 4/13/2006

The stage was set — literally, and at two separate events — for Democrats to tee off on President Bush for admittedly leaking once classified information on the war in Iraq, but neither former President Clinton nor former Ambassador Joe Wilson, perhaps Bush’s most vocal critic, pounced on the opportunity.

In fact, both Clinton and Wilson, who were speaking at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Cal State Northridge, respectively, on April 6, the very day that the Bush White House declined to deny Bush’s authorization to have former vice presidential aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby leak sensitive information to a reporter, chose instead to sidestep major pronouncements, with Wilson encouraging people to vote Republicans out of office come the November elections.

Wilson, however, called for “serious investigation” into what he called “treasonous acts” by Bush and his administration.

During his presentation, Clinton’s tone was largely deferential toward Bush.

But Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s wasn’t.

“I remember when we had a president who sent our young men and women into battle for the same reasons we gave them. I remember when we had a president who believed in science and who was known far and wide for his intellectual curiosity. I remember when our sense of the future wasn’t clouded by fear. But I have hope that we may even see Bill Clinton back in the White House someday, in a much more historic role,” the mayor said in his introduction of the former president.

That comment hinted at the widespread speculation about a possible run for the White House in 2008 by Hillary Clinton, which would make the former President the first First Husband in the nation’s history. Perhaps keeping his wife’s electoral prospects in mind, his speech had an inspirational, largely apolitical tone.

During his presentation, Clinton’s tone was largely deferential toward Bush, only mentioning the current administration and its policies in his prepared remarks when he spoke of how much bureaucratic waste eats into funding to fight AIDS in Africa.

Speaking as part of the Music Center Speaker Series, Clinton fielded only a few inquiries from the more than 300 questions submitted by audience members. No one appeared to seek out his opinion on a Bush censure or impeachment, instead focusing their interest on how he would handle the Iraq War.

To that, Clinton said the US needs to stay there ,“or risk a far worse destruction there than if we’d never gone.”

Clinton also touched on the issue of illegal immigration, noting that “it’s a problem without a very satisfactory solution.” He spoke of the need to tighten the Mexican border against narcotics and “terrorists masquerading as Mexicans,” but he also said many of the Republican proposals are taking a completely wrong approach to the crisis.

“There’s one proposal out there that would send [illegal immigrants] home who have been here less than two years. Now I hate to pass a law that you can’t enforce,” said Clinton. “Try sending 8 million people home at once. It’s just not possible, and I’ll be a damned fool if they get it going. Instead, we need legislation with a clear path to citizenship and we need to beef up the Labor Department to enforce the laws we already do have and make everyone’s lives better.”

The husband of former CIA agent Valerie Plame whose identity was revealed soon after Wilson started criticizing the administration’s rationale for waging war in Iraq, spent two and a half years in Iraq during the Desert Shield part of the first Gulf War. He was nominated to be ambassador by President George Herbert Walker Bush, and later praised as a “true American hero” by the president for his work during the war, which included freeing 150 American hostages and making sure Saddam Hussein understood what the consequences would be if he didn’t pull out of Kuwait. It was this experience and that of his time as ambassador in Africa that convinced him to re-enter the public square four years after his retirement in 1998 from the U.S. Diplomatic Service.

“Once the drums of war started beating strong again in 2002, it was apparent to me the people beating those drums didn’t know squat about the region or about what the possible consequences of our actions would be,” said Wilson to a packed Performing Arts Center on the CSUN campus. “I felt I had real experience with the Iraqi regime to offer as part of Bush Senior’s team in the first Gulf War. I spent three years on the ground working with that sociopathic son of a bitch Saddam Hussein and the thuggish goon regime he surrounded himself with.”

Wilson said he was willing to give up his anonymity because he believed that “when a government makes the most awesome decision any government ever has to make, that decision to send our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines off to kill and die in the name of the American people, we owe it to them and to ourselves to fully understand what it is we’re asking them to do and what the potential consequences of those actions are.”

With that, the young crowd erupted in applause.

“It is not enough to tie a yellow ribbon around the old oak tree and say, ‘I support the troops.’ The best way to support them is to ensure you never send them off unless and until our national security depends on it,” he said to more thunderous applause.

Wilson then offered some ideas regarding Iraq that he’s been mulling over the past four or five months. He said the US military should stop putting Americans unnecessarily in harms way and stop unnecessarily killing Arabs. They should be focused on training the Iraqi military, providing logistical support for the Iraqi military, help them develop an intelligence institution to enable them to go after jihadists and insurgents, and provide the last ditch security in the event the Green Zone is overrun by insurgents and civil warriors.

“Once we’ve determined what the tasks are for the military, we need to rededicate our efforts to finding a political solution, which will be very difficult,” he said. It is made ever harder each passing day we don’t address ourselves to that task.”

He suggested that everyone should be at the table discussing solutions: America, the Iraqi government, the insurgents, Egypt, Western Europe, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and Turkey. He charged Condoleezza Rice to get to work building the coalition necessary to form a compromise.

Wilson concluded speech by taking a final jab at Bush and the Republicans, saying, “The future of our country is worth the fight and these sons of bitches ain’t that tough.”

When asked about impeachment, Wilson replied, “The Republican majority has decided that loyalty to the president far exceeds their constitutional responsibility to provide oversight of the executive branch. You cannot hope there will be an investigation into the White House’s activities. We have to win the midterm elections this November. When that is done, and I have every confidence in the world that it will be done, then we can look to the next two years to seriously investigate these people who I believe have so badly mistreated my democracy.”

Elle Young, a CSUN political science major, enjoyed what she called a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear Wilson speak.

“I really liked how [Wilson] didn’t just talk shit about Bush, which he could have,” she said. “He offered some well thought out ideas based on his personal experience in the region about how to turn this quagmire in Iraq around.”

‘Schiff happens’

How would you like being called a cash-crazed sexual deviant with homicidal tendencies? That’s essentially what comedy news host Stephen Colbert called Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 4/6/2006

How would you like being called a cash-crazed sexual deviant with homicidal tendencies?

That’s essentially what comedy news host Stephen Colbert called Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff in a recent episode of Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report.”

And although he didn’t say much, it was clear that Schiff was not happy at all with how Colbert portrayed him, even if it was all in jest.

The show’s March 29 episode featured an installment of the ongoing “Better Know a District” series, which that night featured California’s 29th Congressional District and its three-term congressman.

First, Colbert took a shot at the wild parrots that fly around this end of the San Gabriel Valley, introducing the “Fightin’ 29th” as “the third most likely place for the next pandemic.”

Then Colbert took an indirect swipe at the Rose Parade, saying “The 29th avoids a reputation of a West Coast den of inequity by parades; from Altadena’s Old Fashioned Days to Pasadena’s Cherry Blossom Parade. Yes, there’s something for everyone who’s fascinated by slow-moving chunks of papier-mâché.”

Playing a self-righteous conservative pundit who often refers to FOX News’ Bill O’Reilly affectionately as “Papa Bear,” Colbert then asked about Schiff’s first congressional election, which was the costliest in congressional history.

After defeating then-incumbent Republican Jim Rogan, Schiff passed legislation banning unregulated donations.

“Isn’t that the equivalent of sleeping with a prostitute and then strangling her to hide your shame?” asked a straight-faced Colbert.

“Well, I wouldn’t want to say it like that,” replied a clearly irritated Schiff.

Then Colbert pulled out a $100 bill and mercilessly faux-tempted the congressman with it. At one point, he even folded it into a paper airplane and threw it at him, then picked it up and put it in Schiff’s front pocket.

When Schiff handed the bill back to him, Colbert asked, “What do you want me to do for this $100? I’ve never taken a bribe before.”

Schiff did not answer, but was clearly not amused.

 Fighting for the Foothills

The Altadena Foothills Conservancy’s latest efforts to protect the environment include an educational film and a park project

By Justin Chapman, Arroyo Monthly, April 2006

For more than a century, Altadenans, Pasadenans and people from all over have enjoyed the trails and wildlife in the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley Mountains. But few realize and appreciate the many people and organizations that fight to keep our foothills accessible, fun and safe for public use -- organizations like the Altadena Foothills Conservancy (AFC).

Founded as a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation in 1999 by several neighbors of Chaney Trail, the AFC is dedicated to the preservation and restoration of our trails, undeveloped land and historic landmarks located in the foothills. It's been working hard ever since to protect wildlife, fight rampant hillside development and, most importantly, educate the public about the urgent issues facing the natural beauty we live in and around.

Altadena is a unique place because it is surrounded on three sides by nature: Angeles National Forest to the north, Eaton Canyon to the east and Arroyo Seco to the west. Urban Pasadena hugs its sometimes disputed southern border. A feeling of community has allowed organizations like the AFC to gain support in conserving and protecting the land.

For its first project, the AFC worked together with the Trust for Public Land, a national land trust, to purchase 15 acres of the Chanel Trail Corridor, a beautiful clearing halved by Alzada Road in between two groups of houses. The neighbors had noticed survey markers on the road and talked to the owners of the land, Werner Mueller and Bill West. While the property was in the hands of the Trust for Public Land, the neighbors who made up the AFC paid part of the appraisal and did all the maintenance work needed. Later they were able to purchase an additional 1.5 acres adjacent to the 15 they already owned.

"There were a few of us on the road that felt that owners of property should be able to get a reasonable return on their investment," said Nancy Steele, president of the AFC. "That it's not fair to fight development unless you're willing to buy the land, which is basically the philosophy of conservancies and land trusts."

In February 2002, the AFC board members went on a retreat to Catalina Island through a grant by the Durfee Foundation, where they penned the first draft of their conservation plan, which was completed later that year and presented to the community via the Altadena Town Council. This plan has been an expanding work in progress ever since.

In 2003, with a $15,000 community partnering grant from the Metropolitan Water District, the AFC requested a biodiversity survey of the canyons by contractor Rick Fisher, which they received in 2004. They also developed a plan for an educational watershed program. They hired town councilwoman Michele Zack, author of "Altadena: Between Wilderness and City," as a consultant. She decided to write a historically accurate one-woman show to tell the story of the development of the first water delivery system in Eaton Canyon through the eyes of Benjamin Eaton's wife, Alice Taylor Eaton. The Eatons moved to the Fair Oaks Ranch in Altadena in 1865 and made settlement of the area possible.

When the AFC decided to make Zack's story into a film, they raised $15,000 through donations from Mrs. Doris Pankow, Altadena Heritage, Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich and Dorn/Platz. A student filmmaker from the Art Center College of Design, Sally Levi, agreed to take up the project. Levi wrote a 15- to 20-minute period narrative based on Zack's original story. The film, "Eaton's Water," was shot on location at the Universal Studios back lot, the LA County Arboretum, Eaton Canyon and in Santa Clarita. It is expected to premiere either this month or in May. To see a trailer of the film, go to www.ultimatewasteoftime.com/EATONTrailer.

Negotiations are underway with the Pasadena Unified School District to include the film in sixth-grade science, eighth-grade history, and 11th-grade Earth science classes. The AFC met with Superintendent Percy Clark and treated the school board to a viewing of the trailer last October.

The AFC is funded largely by donations, but it writes and requests grants for specific projects it takes up such as the upcoming Watershed Pocket Park. Zack and her husband, Mark, developed the park with the Altadena Watershed Committee, then worked with the AFC in getting a $20,000 city makeover grant.

The custom park, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year, is located on a small triangle of county land on the southwest corner of Woodbury Road and Marengo Avenue. At 8,000 square feet, the low-maintenance park will serve as an informal gateway to Altadena, an example for others interested in water conservation and "a mini-watershed that internally drains and demonstrates use of native and other water-wise plantings," according to the AFC's latest newsletter.

"The park will be a little piece of the foothills brought to the border [of Altadena and Pasadena]," said Watershed Committee Chair Zack.

So what's in the future for the AFC?

"As a land trust, we maintain relationships with property owners whose land we're interested in purchasing," said Steele. "There are several owners we're in the process of negotiating with, but I can't talk about any of them because we haven't closed any deals. We do have one willing fella that we're negotiating with now, and that one will be big if we get it."

Stay tuned.

Justin Chapman is a freelance writer for the Pasadena Weekly. He attends Pasadena City College and represents census tract 4602 on the Altadena Town Council. He is the chairman of the council's Education Committee.


Many people and organizations fight for our foothills. Together, these partnerships wield more power than any individual or organization could by itself. But your help and participation is still needed and appreciated.

"If more people would support the AFC, we could actually buy off some of this land that is very critical at the urban interface," said Zack. "People have to understand the importance of water conservation and how the watershed works. It's very helpful when groups like Altadena Heritage and the AFC support educational projects like the film and the pocket park because it gets the message out. Conservation is the biggest issue facing our foothills. The good news is the public supports open space."

Two times a year, the AFC needs help with brush clearance. Email Nancy Steele at nsteele@altadenafoothills.org to be put on their brush clearance list.

Visit the AFC at altadenafoothills.org, and the Watershed Committee at altadenawatershed.org. As they buy more land to shield it from overdevelopment, volunteer needs will increase.

"Volunteers are the glue that holds our society together, and we gain so much from our volunteer work," Steele wrote in the AFC's latest newsletter. "I know that all of you are generous people who give of yourselves in so many ways. What did you do in 2005 that made a difference in your life and others? Who are you grateful for? Whose life made the most impact on yours in 2005? In 2005, about 65.4 million people, or 28.8 percent of the population, volunteered at some time during the year."

To help other local trail groups, contact Save the Altadena Trails (savethetrails@sbcglobal.net) or the Altadena Crest Trail Restoration Working Group (act.fourpalms.org), which are always looking for new volunteers to help with trail cleanup and restoration. Email Chairman Robert Stachle at rob@altadenafoothills.org.

Learn more about the AFC at www.altadenafoothills.org.