TUESDAY, DECEMBER 22
How do political experts recommend we prevent sleazy scandals like the current one that has indicted four members of the San Jacinto City Council on multiple felony and misdemeanor counts of corruption? More involvement. “Voting alone is not enough,” says political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe. “You can’t go into the voting booth, walk out and not pay any attention to governance and assume you’re going to get the government that you voted for.” Sounds good. It’s hard to defend many people’s lack of interest in the political process. However, the alleged crimes committed by the San Jacinto Four weren’t exactly committed in the open. The case against them describes monthly lunch meetings at the home of indicted developer Stephen Holgate that were attended by indicted San Jacinto City Council members Jim Ayres and Dale Stubblefield. So was John Mansperger, elected to the council in 2006 and before that a member of the city’s Planning Commission. How were citizens supposed to get that kind of access to their government representatives?
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 23
The best part of the sweet obituary for former Big Bear Grizzly reporter Roger Beck is the passage the writer dug out of a 53-year-old story in which Beck wrote about the 1957 Malibu fire for the Los Angeles Mirror: “People are at their best when things look worst. Guys who’d cut your throat in a business deal came through like champions. Dames who’d have a fit over another dress like theirs at a premiere wrapped their silver-blue minks around shivering kids.” Beck was 88, and we hope that, somewhere, they still make them like that.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 24
Go ahead and call it a Christmas miracle if it makes you feel better—the San Bernardino Sun did—but unnecessarily traumatizing a poor, laid-off woman for more than a month before giving back only one of the two little dogs she lost doesn’t sound so spirit-of-the-season to me. Here’s the supposedly tinselly tale: a day after some gas company employees accidentally let out Martha Cuellar’s two little dogs on Nov. 20, she found them in the Inland Valley Humane Society shelter in Pomona. But the shelter wouldn’t release her pets until she paid more than $350 in fees. As Cuellar struggled to raise the money, the fees kept getting higher—up to $533 in just a week—and one of her dogs was adopted. Finally, some fees were reduced and somebody kicked in a little cash, and Cuellar got to take her sick, 12-year-old Chihuahua mix home for Christmas. Heartwarming? Fries my ass.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 25
I got your Christmas miracle right here: Kobe Bryant plays with agitated ineffectiveness to set the tone in a 102-87 beatdown at the hands of calm LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers—at home in the Staples Center. Miracle? Again, you can call it that if it makes you feel better, but the Cavs make it look pretty routine—and when spoiled Lakers fans throw a tantrum by hurling foam fingers onto the court, the whole scene looks like a debacle.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 26
The gym is crowded.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 27
Twenty-five years after 1984—the year of the all-surveillance-all-the-time nightmare foreshadowed by author George Orwell—the cameras in our world just keep on multiplying . . . and people continue to snooze through it. So goes the scenario laid out in today’s Press-Enterprise by reporter Jan Sears, who notes that citizens who notice at all tend to welcome all the so-called security cameras because, well, they feel more secure. Not me—and the increasing comfort that government officials feel with their ever-more-ubiquitous tools of power is even scarier. Orwell intended the term “Big Brother” to be ominous, and it used to be. But listen to how Redlands Police Chief Jim Bueermann describes the 50 swiveling, zooming cameras he has positioned around town—particularly those that include booming speakers that enable monitors to address the people who drift into their lens: “It’s like God talking to you.”
MONDAY, DECEMBER 28
Meanwhile, at the other end of the techno-spiritual spectrum, there’s Trapster—a free, downloadable mobile phone application that cuts Big Brother (or God, or maybe even Big Chief Jim Bueermann) down to size by locating such buzz kills as sobriety checkpoints, red-light cameras and speed traps. Is this a safety device or a tool for evildoers? Law-enforcement officials are undecided: some say it keeps a cement-foot driver from getting caught, while others say it might actually encourage people to ease off the gas. Maybe none of this is news to you—the San Diego-based company has been issuing the app since November 2007 and there are already 3 million in use—but why haven’t I heard about this? Trapster CEO Pete Penereillo explains: “These are just business travelers and regular everyday people who just don’t want to get a ticket.” I’m so much more than that.