Statue of Imitation

By Carol Fondiller

It must have been a slow news day for the L.A. Times on Saturday, April 16th, when it ran one of it's boiler plate "oh those Wacky Venetians" stories on the front page. Below the fold, but definitely on the Front Page.

This time, it was about the objections of the Venice Community to the placing of a torso on the Venice Traffic Circle. And as usual those funny zanies at the Times missed the point.

The point missed was a lack of process in the choice of art work, and the perception that if one were famous enough and had rich patrons, one could dump anything they wanted in Venice.

We’re certain that Robert Graham is a sensitive artist. And, he is a resident of Venice.

But, just because he is an artist and therefore has elevated sensibilities does not mean that he or any other artisty-poo that inhabits Venice has get a right to shove his stuff on Venice. That Damned Masonic Symbol at the end of Windward Avenue is bad enough.

And bad enough is the fact that the statue is a legless armless headless torso – but what's a memorial to Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia, got to do with Venice?

Suddenly Mr. Doumani, a Peninsula resident, promises several hundred thousand dollars for this statue and the cash strapped city - can't afford beach benches - comes across with some matching funds. When people objected to the lack of process, they were threatened with the withholding of any more artworks in the future. “Well if you bad little children don’t like oatmeal, you won’t get any more food in the future.”

It isn’t as if people in Venice didn't have Visions about what to do about the traffic circle. In previous issues of the Beachhead, many creative and wonderful ideas about how to make the circle outstanding were published. And the Beachhead is certain there are more innovative ideas out there.

But the process was ignored, and about six business people who form the circle business association decided what they wanted, and bedazzled by Mr. Graham's fame, accepted the torso statue.

But in a renaissance style mix of expensive art and high politics the L.A. Times pursued the matter in an attempt to shame the people of Venice. Venice ain’t what it was, the editorial (Thursday, April 21) claimed, no more free thinkers and diversity. Just soaring property values and gentrification.

The Times said that the protest was over morality rather than quality. No, not necessarily. It was a matter of having an art thing dropped in the middle of downtown Venice that didn’t involve the community, nor did it represent the community. The proposed statue isn't even an original work. It looks like a knock-off of statues that he did that litter Beverly Hills.
Perhaps Mr. Graham might design a statue of Jefferson Davis and plant it is Watts, or maybe a statue of Emperor Maximillian in East L.A.

A Little Bit of Amsterdam…For Now

By Bram Toker

“The other day, a headline in the L.A. Times caught my eye. ‘City to Limit Pot Clubs.’” said my recent acquaintance, “I didn’t even know there were any in SoCal! I thought only those lucky folks up north were civilized enough to have them. I read further into the article—no phone number, no address for any pot club.

I was about to dismiss the article as pure fabrication like the spate of young writers who made up their news stories. I reread the article, looking for clues. No, the club owners claimed they were closing a public service, made regulations; no toking on the premises or in one’s car, no loitering or merchandising any other pharmaceuticals.”

I interrupted my acquaintance, “So are the pot clubs real?” “Well, according to the article I read,”…he wiped off the latte foam from his moustache with his napkin…”Wait a minute,” I said, “What article are you talking about?” I hate to be outtrended by some absolutely inherently hip acquaintance—you know the sort of person, when you mention you were at a party to honor Bill Maher, say, he would say, ‘Oh, I missed that party. I was in Monaco at the funeral, Stephanie looked gorgeous. I wish I’d been there, Bill’s a good head.’ And you know he’s talking about Hillary’s Bill.

“The April 2, 2004 issue, L.A. Times California section…anyway, some cities are looking to ban the clubs…”

“But they’re here? They’re really here?” My eyes welled with tears of frustration. “And now they’ll be gone before I even see one…”What medical condition do you have that warrants the medical use of marijuana?”

“What medical condition DON’T I have?” I snapped. “Several medical doctors have recommended ingesting ganga for the chronic pains that flesh is heir to.” My acquaintance stared into space then refocused on me “They’re here. Proposition 215 that Californians voted for is HERE! Marijuana medication is legal in California. Compassionate care centers do exist and they exist in SoCal or will until the City zones out.” He excused himself pulled down his fedora and slid out of sight on sneakered feet.

I sat at the outdoor table, panicked because I might never see Amsterdam with its Vlamink sky or its liberal attitude towards products cannabis, but also because my acquaintance left me to pay his bill. But my eye was caught by the back page of an alternative weekly paper. Compassionate care ads. Hmm.

So a few days later after calling the number listed in the ad, I called my M.D. Well yes, she said I do think reefer helps assuage the pain. I know it assuages pain. But no I won’t write a recommendation. Crazy I’m not she said. Click.

Ah, but hope abounds. For a fee, a moderate fee, a doctor, an M.D., would be at the compassionate care center to examine. After selling my first born, I left the stultified atmosphere of Venice and headed east to a recently incorporated city. On a sunny patch of street which housed a health food super market, thrift shops and cottages looking like Nathaniel West just left was my grail Compassionate Care Organic Farmacy (I.P. Cit.).

A large imposing security guard was standing by the doorway. I walked inside. A young woman asked for my California I.D. She was, I could tell, an aspiring actor. She asked me to sit in the waiting room. Some were already patients and were greeted with collegial warmth. Black softly dressed couple on a sofa, Native American décor, subdued lighting, an ear-ringed man with intriguing tattoos thumbed through a magazine.

Every once in a while a name would be called. They were escorted to the mysterious back section. A young Asian woman came in to see the doctor and was directed to an ATM machine discreetly stashed between the puffy couches. After a short (for a doctor’s visit) wait I was escorted to the doctor’s office.

He didn’t look like an M.D. but there was his diploma. I told him my doctor said I should use marijuana for pain and anxiety. He recommended chiropractic. He noted my doctor’s name and gave me a certificate “complies with prop 215 the Compassionate Use Act of 1996——Bram Toker is under my medical care. I have evaluated the medical risks of cannabis use with him/her as a treatment pursuant to 1136.2...I recommend/approve of my patient’s use of marijuana…etc., etc.” Signed Dr. yes medical license #—.

Back to the waiting room. Copy of certificate plus the original, and my California I.D. card, and a list of other organic pharmacies and centers from Long Beach to San Francisco all handed to me including a ticket to wait to go into the “farmacy.”

I was escorted into a place that was as quiet (even with the Rolling Stones in the background) and discreet as Cartier’s, Tiffany’s, or a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon’s office.

I was handed a menu. Mountain High, Red Beard, Budda varying prices well within “street” price, I’m told, never having bought any cannabis since the late ‘50’s. After studying it, I went up to the glass enclosed counter. Never had I seen such a variety of leaf and plants. Oils, infusions, distillations and edibles were also for sale. The slender curly haired man, one of several clerks (bar tenders? dispensers?) behind the counter weighed out my purchase carefully and put it in a sturdy bag. As I left I noted that the atmosphere of the waiting room was one of optimistic anticipation. And those exiting including myself looked complacent. The tall broad guard smiled and nodded as I left.

When I got home there was my small packet of “legal” high. In the brown paper bag along with the packet were rules regarding behavior—no driving while using, no heavy machinery, no smoking in the parking lot, no loitering, etc.

How civilized, I thought. Just to go in assisted by knowledgeable clerks (assistors? dispensers? Weediesters?), courteous and friendly receptionists, and interesting, diverse and articulated clientele. I almost felt legit.

But there are many clouds on the horizon.

This June, a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court might determine the future of such, as the L.A. Times so inelegantly called the compassionate care centers, “pot clubs,” not to mention the effect the federal Controlled Substances Act might have on the future of medical marijuana in California as well as several other states.

Where are those Confederate flag waving states rights patriots when we need ‘em?

The case is called Ashcroft vs. Raish and involves the rights of a physician to prescribe what she feels will improve her patient’s health.

Maybe Venetians in the near future will have their own dispensaries—or get busted for one seed.

Oh Wheel of Fortune

A Warm & Fuzzy Mothers Day

By Theresa Hulme

The U.S. Supreme Court presently hinges threadlike in a delicate balance of right, middle and barely left. Of the 9 justices on the bench today, 4 are over 70 years old. 2 are over 80. When one or more of these justices retires within the next four years, the already conservative majority that sometimes swings, will most definitely swing to the ultra- conservative right with a Bush appointee.

The present justices are responsible for selecting George W. Bush for President after the election scandals of 2000. Supreme Court justices dictate many laws that affect our daily lives and are appointed for life. Theirs or ours.

Of the current 9, 3 support women's rights, 3 oppose and 3 vacillate in ambiguity. Strangely, only two justices are women.

Though many in California live under the myth that the Golden State will be protected from the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, we need look no further that the Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Having displayed and admitted more respect for Hitler than for women and their bodies, the Gropenator, in his short time in office, has already openly attacked female majority professions such as nurses and teachers.

Mom, I feel sick. Though the writing is on the wall, many women are passively accepting the demise of their basic civil rights. Hidden under the cloak of Christianity, Bush’s ultra fake wing Administration is using empty religious rhetoric to vehemently defend a child before birth.

However, after the child is born, she’ll be born into increasing poverty with no health care, no living wage and attend the worst public education system in the industrialized world. She’ll breathe toxic air, drink dirty water, and have nursed from mothers milk laced with rocket fuel, thanks to the nuclear weapons manufacturers and military bases that are her close neighbors, anywhere in America.

As a mere economic unit, she’ll soon be pumped with corporate recommended pharmaceutical drugs. Eventually, at the mall or at school, a military recruiter will spice up a deal to serve a ‘patriotic’ duty and fight a fake war, in a poor, far away, dark-skinned Third World country. This is the Bush abortion policy.

The scheme is simple yet frightening and deadly: slowly chip away at civil rights (Patriot Acts I & II). Build-up the prison industrial complex and fill it with minorities, mostly blacks, Latinos & immigrants. Strip them permanently of the right to vote or participate in a democratic society. Dismantle the middle-class, shifting power and money to the corporate elite, less than 1% of the population. Create desperation among the working class by cutting social programs. Make education out of reach to those that can’t afford it, offering the military as bait for college funding. Exploit women and children through cheap, slave-like labor. Control media outlets, feed lies, and dumb down. Send in the corporate suits to push fancy drugs, numbing a majority of the population. In true capitalist fashion, fatten everyone up with fast food junk that sickens and isolates.

The nucleus of this scheme? Women comprise about 51% of the total population. If this segment can be controlled, restrained, manipulated and power over her body seized, the patriarchy reigns and only small fringe groups remain to fight a colossal evil. With women dependent, disgraced and demoted to second class citizens, the empire is easily able to continue its violent imperialist agenda.

Some sources report the actual death toll in Iraq exceeds 100,000, mostly women and children. If Iraq is a microcosm of U.S. social/foreign policy, it can serve as a reflection of what’s in store for American women under the new Regime: Corporate controlled patriarchal capitalism.

Once known as Mesopotamia, Iraq is the birthplace of civilization. If Mesopotamia is a metaphor for the womb, we eerily witnessed as Bush carelessly dropped bombs on Baghdad. As part of a military strategy, military commanders have regarded the rape of women (but not men) as a significant wartime bonding experience. The mere presence of war is a cause of rape. Though severely underreported, many of these rapes occur within the U.S. military, upon enlisted females. As Army Generals were cleared in the Iraq prison abuse scandals, so they are in cases of rape.

With no respect for Mother Earth, depleted uranium now permeates Iraqi soil and water. A generation of Iraqi babies drink poisoned mothers milk. In Texas, mothers milk is found laced with rocket fuel, from U.S. weapons corporations recklessly ejaculating poison into the earth.

Though the bombs on America’s women may not explode instantly with depleted uranium, the parallels are clear. Our demise is slower, sneakier and sugared with the empty rhetoric of ‘freedom and democracy.’ However, the end result is painfully obvious: the rape & destruction of our Mother Earth. Mom, now I REALLY feel sick. Anyway, to her and all Earth Mothers, Happy Mothers Day!

The Decline and Fall of Venice

By Ed Gibbon

Poor Venice, so far from the Goddess, so close to Los Angeles.
One hundred years ago Venice was built on wetlands with drug money. It’s been downhill ever since.

Abbot Kinney had a vision. It wasn’t from what he was smoking, Sweet Caporal tobacco, a deadly drug that ultimately killed him and many other users. Kinney turned a swamp into a mini-Venice, Italy, complete with canals, gondolas and high culture, and named it...Ocean Park! It wasn’t until 1911 that Venice became Venice. No matter. It’s the myth that counts.

On June 30, 1905, the canals began filling with ocean water. Thousands made the long trek from Los Angeles, but alas, for cheap thrills, not high culture. The amusement park, the beach, bars and gambling attracted the Angelenos, many of them just off the train from the mid-west.

Incessant fires, stagnant water in the canals and civil corruption were the main attributes that Venice shared with its namesake (at least the canals didn’t double as sewers in Kinney’s rendition).

Kinney’s smoking ultimately caught up with him in 1920. A month after his death, the pier burned down. The imperialists from Los Angeles saw their opening and began agitating for annexation of Venice. Promises of cheap water, civil improvement and a booming business climate were all the urging the Philistine businessmen needed to join the “new residents” sent to Venice by L.A. in voting for annexation. In 1925, Venetians lost their independence and are suffering yet.

Instead of civic improvements, Venice’s decline gathered speed under Los Angeles rule. The new hook-and-ladder truck owned by the Venice Fire Department was taken away and replaced by a clunker. The famed Venice Miniature Railroad was uprooted.

Los Angeles sent an army of occupation – the LAPD – and they’ve been with us since.

Fortunately, Abbot Kinney’s will stated that he was giving the canals to the city of Venice on the condition that they remain canals forever. Unfortunately, Los Angeles sued to break Kinney’s will and won in the Supreme Court. Traffic replaced serene gondolas in central Venice.

In 1930, oil was discovered in Venice. The Peninsula became a giant oil field. Had Venice still been a city, it would have been fabulously wealthy. Instead, it became a dump.
A few years later, Santa Monica Bay was polluted by sewage - for years. No one bothered to fix it. Venice was quarantined. When Los Angeles finally did get around to building the Hyperion Sewage Treatment Center, it needed somewhere to dump the sand and dirt. It was dumped on Venice.

By Venice’s 50th anniversary, Kinney’s dream could pass for Tijuana. In fact, it did, in Orson Welles’ movie, Touch of Evil. But the worst was yet to come.

In the early 60s, Los Angeles moved in for the kill. Using “code enforcement,” the building and safety department condemned 60 percent of the historic old buildings in Venice. Many of them housed bingo parlors and thousands of elderly Jews who were survivors of Hitler’s concentration camps and garment factories in New York. St. Mark’s Hotel at Windward and Ocean Front Walk, easily Venice’s most beautiful building was obliterated by L.A. wrecking balls despite a determined fight by its owners to save it.

By then, Venice had become an oasis of culture, although perhaps not as Abbot Kinney envisioned. The Beats - poets and critics of materialist society - flourished in Venice. They became a particular target for the wrath the Los Angeles imperium. The Gas House at Market and the Ocean Front, one of the first coffee houses, was destroyed to force the Beats out. Up on Dudley Avenue, the Venice West Cafe, was closed when patrons rose to recite poetry without a city permit. The battle for free speech spilled out onto the walks and streets of Venice and is still going on.

As the 60s progressed, cheap rents attracted more free spirits to Venice, to the outrage of Los Angeles authorities. Rock concerts on the beach turned into police riots, living in Venice while Black became a crime, and smoking far less dangerous herbs than Kinney did was called a crime wave.

New schemes from the good citizens of Los Angeles to destroy Venice emerged:

“Let’s run a freeway through it. It could go right through the middle of Venice!”
“Let’s turn the canals into a yacht harbor.”
“Let’s bulldoze North Beach and build hi-rises.”

The well-named Venice Survival Committee, Free Venice, the Peace and Freedom Party and other efforts to stand up against overwhelming power were vilified in the L.A. Times, the Santa Monica Evening Outrage (Outlook), and on radio and TV. No one stood up for Venice except Venetians.

By the 1980s, Venice witnessed its first Yuppie invasion. The media stopped playing up how dangerous Venice was with motorcycle gangs, V13, and its own ghetto. Now, Venice was becoming trendy. Expensive restaurants opened on Market Street and West Washington (now Abbot Kinney). Instead of being one of the cheapest rental areas, Venice became one of the most expensive. Still, thousands hung on to their rent-controlled apartments in their beloved Venice.

Twenty years down the line, the transformation continues. Los Angeles has stopped trying to destroy Venice by simply tearing down our homes and colonnades. Now they destroy our once-unique community by granting permits for bland monstrosities devoid of character. Even beautiful Lincoln Place, home to generations of working class and retired Venetians, is targeted to be condo-ized.

Today, almost every street in Venice has one or more of its own fortress-like giant boxes looming over carefully-designed Craftsman houses. Nearly every day, another oversized fence goes up to shield new arrivals from their neighborhood.

Down the street rumbles a giant SUV. Soon, as if by magic, a garage door rises. Without a word, the glorified truck glides into the open cavity, and boom, the door closes behind it. Was there someone at the wheel behind the tinted window? Was it an alien being who can only stand erect in a 30-foot-high cube? We’ll never know. The curtains are drawn and the door remains shut behind a high fence.

Alas, the barbarians have breached the walls. Venice is doomed.

Out of the Litter Box

By Ali Katz

This cat is not a happy cat. It seems the rip out the amenities crusade is going full tilt Boogy in Venice, what with doing away with benches pay phones etc.

But in other parts of the city, according to the L.A. Times, March 28, 2005, such as Vermont Avenue, new get that? NEW bus benches are being installed. Ali called the council office about the theft—the taking of bus benches and Sandy Kievman said that iron (wrought) benches are being installed—And, she added, they had nothing to do with the metal leaners. That was the province of the Metropolitan Transit Authority. Kitty called them, but they have yet to return the call.

Ali was also informed that those “leaners” are being used in Europe—Well Ali’s not going THERE any time soon, but isn’t it sad that the Europeans always take what‘s tinny and cheap from the U.S. and use that?

Ali Katz is also vexed that streetlights are installed in certain parts of the city that are attractive and have a 19th century feel to them.

These lamps could be shaded so as to shine on the ground and not in someone’s window.

Several years ago this type of lamp was proposed for the O.F.W. refurbishment. No go said Rec and Parks.

Now this cat doesn’t begrudge attractive pleasant lighting in other parts of Los Angeles. This feline just wonders why Venice doesn’t Qualify.

Linda Lucks community activist and one of the founders of the Venice Garden Walks was terminated by the Gubernator from her position on the State Medical Board. She was outspoken in her support of pro-cannabis M.D.s.

This cat tried to call the Gov. to find out why. Ms. Lucks was not re-appointed…He could not be reached for comment….What is that funny smell coming from the tent?…Could it be…CUBAN cigars? And aren’t imports from that commie island illegal? Oh, what to do.

And did you hear? The Gubernator got taken to task for using state employees to build sets for the Arnold to speak in front of, as he talks about cutting pensions for these very same state employees.

Well, maybe steroids don’t shrivel one’s cojones after all.

That’s all for Meeow!

Oh Rats Dept.: Forgot to mention Ms. Lucks was also a Beachhead “Collectivite” in the Day.

GRVNC Bashing Built on a House of Cards

By John Davis

On April 5th a meeting of the Los Angeles Board of Neighborhood Commissioners (BONC) considered the fate of the Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council.

At that meeting Commissioner Bill Christopher called the Final Arbitor of election challenges the cornerstone of the Neighborhood Council System.

However, this “cornerstone” is but a feather holding up a skyscraper of lies, all of which are based upon a fictional decision by the Human Relations Commission (HRC). The Executive Director of (HRC), Rabbi Allen I. Freehling only released a Staff Report from his subordinate Gary De La Rosa. That report claimed that a decision had been made regarding the GRVNC election of 2004. A STAFF REPORT IS NOT A DECISION.

DONE General Manager Nelson concocted a simple-minded scheme to get rid of the GRVNC.

Ask GRVNC to agree that the HRC would act as the Arbitrator and to “Decide” on 2004 election challenges. GRVNC at a public meeting agreed and took legal “Action” as defined under the Ralph M. Brown Act. “Action” has the same legal meaning as the term “Decision” under California law.

This is the core lie. This lie has caused Venice Stakeholders to be disenfranchised from a public process promised to them as voters reformed the City Charter to include local voices, Neighborhood Councils.

Without the approval of his bosses at the BONC, Nelson used his imperious pen to proclaim in public emails that GRVNC could not establish a quorum. He then revoked the Council’s money.

Nelson said his department received the HRC report and he declared it represented a “Decision” and or an “Action” of the HRC. Blustering irresponsibly as if on a power drunken high, he sent a public email claiming the HRC “Action” could not be overturned even the by Congress of the United States.

The legal course was for the HRC to hold a public meeting during which they were empowered by the Brown Act to make a decision. Venice waited for that to happen and it never did.

BONC Commissioner Bill Christopher said the “DECISION” is unmovable.

But there never was a “DECISION” or “ACTION TAKEN” by HRC. A Staff Report of the HRC cannot crusade as a decision. The two are mutually exclusive.

At three meetings of the BONC I presented Commissioners with proof that the Human Relations Commission never made such a decision because it was not reflected in their official records, the agendas and minutes of their meetings.

So, the BONC made a decision and accepted the lie of Greg Nelson as their own and now claimed that DONE and BONC would take over the GRVNC elections to make sure they are fair this time. Of course this is like turning a pack of wolves on one chicken in a henhouse.

The California Open Meeting Act preamble says the following:
In enacting this chapter, the Legislature finds and declares that the public commissions, boards and councils and the other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly. The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.

Schwarzenegger “girly-mans” under pension attack

By Marjorie Hinds

Bashing teachers and nurses is now well within the confines of acceptable political conduct. Schwarzenegger will, however, have to pay the piper for mixing it up with police and firefighters. April 7, 2005 the Gov. held a news conference and temporarily backed off his campaign to undermine California pension funds. While it is unclear whether the plan would actually tamper with police and firefighter survivor benefits, the suggestion of such was sufficient to force its withdrawal and retooling. This is only a breather, however. He’ll be back and the stakes are high.

Why should those of us who are not public employees give a damn what befalls the state pension system? Well, as it happens, the outcome of this skirmish over the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) may well portend the future of Social Security.

Why, if this is a local pension matter is the funding, and cheerleading, for Schwarzenegger’s privatization scheme coming from corporate interests and their allies nationwide? It appears these recalcitrant pension people are a meddling nuisance. They’re buzzing like gnats in the faces of culpable CEOs—just yammering on and on about corporate this and corporate that—accountability, malfeasance and the like.

CalPERS and the teachers’ retirement fund are sore about losing a combined 1 billion dollars at the hands of Enron and WorldCom. Pissed off and taking names, the pension funds are throwing their weight around—180 billion and 126 billion respectively. They are doing, collectively, what we are unable to do individually—they’re kicking some corporate ass.

Holding billions of dollars hostage during investment negotiations, their demands for corporate accountability include curbing excessive pay for executives, strengthening accounting standards, increasing transparency, opening corporate boards to shareholders and halting the privatization of public sector jobs. They have succeeded in altering business practices at hundreds of corporations including Disney, Apple, Safeway and Coca-Cola. Admittedly, the practical disruption to “business-as-usual” has been marginal. Nevertheless, any public intrusion into corporate governance engenders a backlash.

While dismantling an activist power base is a solid enough reason to privatize CalPERS, another incentive is, of course, the money. Wall Street bankers are down right orgasmic envisioning all of those dollars in the hands of novice individual investors. And yikes, what becomes of these individuals? With both Social Security and pensions up for grabs could Schwarzenegger be helping to create yet another special interest group—the elder homeless?
Urgent Action Needed to Save SSI

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) faces congressional cuts that would push millions of vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities deeper into poverty. Your representatives are currently considering two options: reduce benefit amounts for everybody or cut benefits entirely for some. Individuals cut from the program will likely lose Medi-Cal coverage as well.

Call your representatives and ask that they not cut the SSI budget!
• Representative Jane Harman (310) 643-3636
• Senator Barbara Boxer (213) 894-5000
• Senator Dianne Feinstein (310) 914-7300