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Ian Anderson is a natural-born storyteller, but spend five decades as the flute-playing, occasionally cod-piece-wearing frontman of Jethro Tull, and yeah, you’ll have some stories to tell.

Anderson, who called from his office in England recently to talk about his upcoming shows in Southern California, is continuing the celebration of Jethro Tull’s 50th anniversary, which kicked off last year – 50 years after the band’s first gigs at Marquee Club in London – and continue this year to celebrate 50 years since Tull made its live debut in the United States.

“We did three U.S. tours in 1969,” Anderson says. “Early spring, I think July, and then again later in the year.”

“As a child growing up in the U.K. shortly after the end of World War II, we were brought up on a diet of all things American,” he says. “American comics, American TV programs, if you were lucky enough to have a television in those days back in the U.K.

“And so we grew up with a steady diet, I suppose, of appreciation and envy of this incredibly brash and culturally exciting world.”

The tour billed as Ian Anderson’s 50 Years of Jethro Tull – he’s been the sole original member since Martin Barre left in 2012 – plays the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino on July 5 and FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine on July 6.

Since Anderson, 71, is so good at spinning a tale, we decided to get out of the way and let him talk about everything from why Jethro Tull decided to pass on playing Woodstock to how Anderson ended up a rock-and-roll flautist in the first place – Eric Clapton is responsible for it, he says. But we’ll start with their very first U.S. shows when Tull opened for another British band.

1) Opening for Led Zeppelin: “We were in that invidious position of going on before one of the world’s most loved and appreciated bands, musically speaking. So it was a tough opening act to do, but I think generally speaking we did OK. The first couple of times we had 35 minutes to try and show that we were not complete idiots, and we obviously managed to do OK since we were invited to do it again and again.”

2) Taking a Page from Jimmy: “The Zeppelins, they were a good act to open for because you really had to learn, and you could learn from them a lot of useful tricks about stage presentation and dynamics. Generally speaking on a good night they were the best band in the world,” says Anderson. “There was always something fresh to learn from watching them, except for me watching Robert Plant because he was in a class of his own. I couldn’t learn anything from him because I couldn’t dream of doing that kind of performance, either the macho bare-chested kind of strutting or the incredible operatic range of his voice. I learned perhaps more from the way Jimmy Page presented himself, his little bit of theatrical stuff, bowing his guitar with a violin bow, for example.”

3) Playing Newport Jazz ’69: “The jazz festival was a fairly staid affair, and not really a great venue for Jethro Tull. It had a night that was dedicated more to blues, well, non-folky, more electric music, but I’m not sure for most of the audience we were a welcome component of the lineup or not. But I do remember (jazz multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan) Roland Kirk coming backstage and saying hello to because he’d heard I’d recorded music by him on our first album. It meant a lot to me that he sought me out.”

4) Skipping Woodstock: “I said, ‘What’s the sort of shape of this festival, what kind of people are going to be there?’ (Our manager) said, ‘I think it’s going to all be naked hippies taking drugs.’ So I said, ‘Well, I think actually I can be washing my hair that day,’ because back then I used to have quite a lot of it so it was a plausible excuse.’ I didn’t feel it was the right thing for Jethro Tull so early in our career to be fixed with that label of being a hippie band.”

5) Coming to America: “The American boy (at Anderson’s primary school) used to give me his American comics once he read them, so I grew up knowing about all the things that were on the back page, all the sort of postal ads that you could off and get anything from a plastic Elvis ukulele to a ‘Wynn’ bicycle. And BB guns, which fascinated me. Of course, we’d seen lots of cowboy movies — that rather Midwestern kind of more rural America was the America that I thought was what it was until in my mid-teenage years when I was listening to jazz and blues. Then it was the upper Midwest — the Chicago thing became my sort of vague awareness of American, and through jazz musicians a little bit of New York.”

6) Messing with Texas: “The thing that impacted on me most of all about the USA was you couldn’t just talk about ‘the USA’ in the way that you might talk about Germany or Switzerland or Spain. Because America’s like five or six different countries in terms of social and cultural differences, as well as in terms of topography and the physical geography of that big chunk of a continent,” says Anderson. “You realize just how enormous and how diverse it was, and how different people were in their behavior and perhaps their acceptance of people like us. We were warned, be careful when you go to Texas. And I do remember stopping once in a station wagon when we were traveling, we got out at some gas station, and we suddenly realized that we better get back in the car and get out of there very, very quickly because some very threatening guys were coming down to take us to task for having trousers that were too tight and long hair and sort of Carnaby Street clothes.”

7) Learning from Eric Clapton: “Like many of my peers I was a teenager who fantasized about being a guitar player, and perhaps a singer. And so my first two or three years were doing that. But then a bad thing happened. I bought an album by John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, featuring a new guitar player by the name of Eric Clapton, and I thought, ‘I think I better find something else to play.’ And so in the summer of 1967, I traded in my Fender Strat guitar.”

8) Selling a special guitar: “Being a 1960s vintage Strat, apart from being owned by me it was also previously owned by Lemmy Kilmister — then from Rev Black and the Rocking Vicars — but of course more famous for Motörhead. He’d owned it before me, it’s a vintage Strat, so this guitar for sure would have to be worth £30,000, £40,000 today,” says Anderson. “But I traded it in for a £30 Shure Unidyne III microphone, which I rather coveted, it looked rather sexy. And for the balance — What do I want? — I saw this shiny flute hanging on the wall (for £30 pounds). So for £60 I got myself a real made-in-Chicago microphone and a student flute I couldn’t play.”

9) Figuring out the flute: “I had a go at it; I couldn’t get a note out of it. About four months later, December of ’67, I thought I’d give another try, see if I could get a noise out of it, and all of a sudden a note popped out of it: ‘Ooh, that’s how you do it!’ And then I got another note. Soon I had five notes. And I had the pentatonic blues scale, and I could play solos and riffs,” says Anderson. “A few days later I was playing it on stage in the early days of Jethro Tull in the Marquee Club, and people noticed. ‘Oh, there’s a band that plays the blues but they’ve got a flute player?’ And that, in marketing terms, was a point of difference in good marketing and promotion. People noticed it because we were different than other bands.”

10) Going on fifty years: “It stood us in good stead over the years, and over the years I’ve come to really enjoy the flute much more than when I started. I can do a lot of stuff that I couldn’t do before, but I can still do the stuff I did in the first week that I was playing it. That way of playing never leaves you. I can do that in my sleep, which sometimes I do. It keeps me awake at night.”

Ian Anderson’s 50 Years of Jethro Tull

Friday, July 5: Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Dr., Indio. Show at 8 p.m. Tickets are $59-$129.

Saturday, July 6: FivePoint Amphitheatre, 14800 Chinon, Irvine. Show at 8 p.m. Tickets are $33.50-$135.

For more: Jethrotull.com/tour-dates

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Matt Beaty, Alex Verdugo and Will Smith will always have last weekend.

Any retelling of their careers will include the time the Dodgers swept the Rockies in a three-game series, each game ending with a home run by a different rookie. That had never happened in major league history, and it might never happen again.

The only question is how the story of last weekend will be told. Will we be obligated to mention the feat occurred in a record year for home runs? Must we note that relief pitchers have a higher earned-run average (4.50) than starters (4.44) for the first time since 1969? Are the conditions of the modern game so extreme that last weekend could have been predicted?

The short answer is no. In one sense, that’s a shame. Baseball is in a state of civil war between its analytics and aesthetics. MLB executives are struggling to save front offices from the ruthless pursuit of efficiency at the expense of entertainment value. To that end, the Dodgers’ dramatic weekend sweep hinted at progress. Maybe a rising home run rate makes back-to-back-to-back walk-offs more possible. Maybe the dilution of bullpen talent has allowed for more late-game lead changes and less predictable endings.

Or maybe not.

Through Monday, 88 games ended in their final plate appearance, including 32 that ended with a home run. That’s a slower pace than 2018, when 214 games ended in their final plate appearance – 102 with a home run. Even though the home run rate has risen overall, and bullpens are allowing more runs, the rate of walk-off home runs is down. Hmm.

Maybe the walk-off opportunities are there in the ninth inning, but closers are winning most of those battles and pushing more games into the 10th. Wrong again. Through Monday, 8.45 percent of all games required extra innings, down from 8.89 percent last season.

That suggests, in all likelihood, teams are getting fewer chances to play extra-inning games because more games are ending in blowouts. Regardless of how you define a blowout, you’ve got a case:

2018 2019
Games decided by 1 run 27.5% 26.8%
Games decided by 5+ runs 28.0% 29.2%
Games decided by 6+ runs 19.4% 21.3%
Games decided by 7+ runs 13.2% 14.8%

OK, but with bullpen ERAs rising every season since 2014, surely we’re seeing more come-from-behind wins in the late innings, right? Not so fast. Through Monday, 43.8 percent of all wins were comebacks, an increase of less than 1 percent compared to 2018. In fact, when we compare the winning percentages of teams holding the lead after the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth innings, we see that the games have paradoxically grown more predictable in 2019:

2018 2019
Leading after 5 78.4% 80.8%
Leading after 6 82.7% 85.0%
Leading after 7 87.5% 87.8%
Leading after 8 91.6% 92.1%

What the heck is going on?

Comebacks aren’t occurring late in games but early, when the starting pitcher is still around. Bullpens are doing a better job at holding leads than they were a year ago. If they’re doing a worse job at preventing runs, their mistakes are usually masked by an equally ineffective bullpen on the other side, or an outsized early advantage.

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Two other factors worth mentioning: the Orioles and the Nationals. The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network co-tenants are double-handedly sinking bullpen statistics into the depths of the Anacostia River. The chosen relievers for Baltimore (6.34) and Washington (6.29) combined to post a 6.32 ERA through Monday. Subtract the two outlier teams, and major league relievers (4.38) would have a lower ERA than starters (4.44). The pitching universe would be spinning on its proper axis, or at least it would appear so at a glance.

It’s hard to label baseball’s bullpen problem a “crisis” when it’s being driven so heavily by two teams. The Nationals and Orioles are on pace for the highest ERAs by any bullpen since the 1953 Detroit Tigers. They ought to regress to the mean by October.

For the other 28 clubs, regardless of the cause of their bullpen woes, the effect remains something of a paradox. Relievers are on pace to throw a larger share of innings in 2019 than ever before – about 41 percent of them, a stat driven in part by the proliferation of “openers.” On the whole, relievers are allowing more runs on average. Yet the outcome of each game is rarely in doubt after the fifth inning.

As for the weekend walk-offs, the story of how Beaty, Verdugo and Smith ended consecutive games with home runs in their rookie seasons demands context. In 2019, it was a refreshing departure from what’s become a mostly predictable game.

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By ANDREW TAYLOR and ALAN FRAM

WASHINGTON — It took last-minute changes and a full-court press by top Democratic leaders, but the House passed with relative ease a $4.5 billion emergency border aid package to care for thousands of migrant families and unaccompanied children detained after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

The bill passed along party lines Tuesday night after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi quelled a mini-revolt by progressives and Hispanic lawmakers who sought significant changes to the legislation. New provisions added to the bill were more modest than what those lawmakers had sought, but the urgent need for the funding — to prevent the humanitarian emergency on the border from turning into a debacle — appeared to outweigh any lingering concerns.

The 230-195 vote sets up a showdown with the Republican-led Senate, which may try instead to force Democrats to send President Donald Trump a different, and broadly bipartisan, companion measure in coming days as the chambers race to wrap up the must-do legislation by the end of the week.

“The Senate has a good bill. Our bill is much better,” Pelosi, D-San Francisco, told her Democratic colleagues in a meeting Tuesday morning, according to a senior Democratic aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private session.

“We are ensuring that children have food, clothing, sanitary items, shelter and medical care. We are providing access to legal assistance. And we are protecting families because families belong together,” Pelosi said in a subsequent floor speech.

The bill contains more than $1 billion to shelter and feed migrants detained by the border patrol and almost $3 billion to care for unaccompanied migrant children who are turned over the Department of Health and Human Services. It seeks to mandate improved standards of care at HHS “influx shelters” that house children waiting to be placed with sponsors such as family members in the U.S.

Trump said he was displeased with the bill because it includes no money to help secure the border.

“I’m not happy with it because there’s no money for protection,” the Republican president said in an interview Wednesday on Fox Business Network. “It’s like we’re running hospitals now.”

Both House and Senate bills ensure funding could not be shifted to Trump’s border wall and would block information on sponsors of immigrant children from being used to deport them. Trump would be denied additional funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention beds.

“The President’s cruel immigration policies that tear apart families and terrorize communities demand the stringent safeguards in this bill to ensure these funds are used for humanitarian needs only — not for immigration raids, not detention beds, not a border wall,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.

Three moderates were the only House Republicans to back the measure. The only four Democratic “no” votes came from some of the party’s best-known freshmen: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ihan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

The White House has threatened to veto the House bill, saying it would hamstring the administration’s border security efforts, and the Senate’s top Republican suggested Tuesday that the House should simply accept the Senate measure — which received only a single “nay” vote during a committee vote last week.

“The idea here is to get a (presidential) signature, so I think once we can get that out of the Senate, hopefully on a vote similar to the one in the Appropriations Committee, I’m hoping that the House will conclude that’s the best way to get the problem solved, which can only happen with a signature,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

A handful of GOP conservatives went to the White House to try to persuade Trump to reject the Senate bill and demand additional funding for immigration enforcement such as overtime for border agents and detention facilities run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to a top GOP lawmaker who demanded anonymity to discuss a private meeting. Trump was expected to reject the advice.

House Democrats seeking the changes met late Monday with Pelosi, and lawmakers emerging from the Tuesday morning caucus meeting were generally supportive of the legislation.

Congress plans to leave Washington in a few days for a weeklong July 4 recess, and pressure is intense to wrap up the legislation before then. Agencies are about to run out of money and failure to act could bring a swift political rebuke and accusations of ignoring the plight of innocent immigrant children.

Longtime GOP Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma said Democrats were simply “pushing partisan bills to score political points and avoiding doing the hard work of actually making law,” warning them that “passing a partisan bill through this chamber won’t solve the problem.”

Lawmakers’ sense of urgency to provide humanitarian aid was amplified by recent reports of gruesome conditions in a windowless Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas, where more than 300 infants and children were being housed. Many were kept there for weeks and were caring for each other in conditions that included inadequate food, water and sanitation.

By Tuesday, most had been sent elsewhere. The incident was only an extreme example of the dire conditions reported at numerous locations where detainees have been held, and several children have died in U.S. custody.

The Border Patrol reported apprehending nearly 133,000 people last month — including many Central American families — as monthly totals have begun topping 100,000 for the first time since 2007. Federal agencies involved in immigration have reported being overwhelmed, depleting their budgets and housing large numbers of detainees in structures meant for handfuls of people.

Changes unveiled Tuesday would require the Department of Homeland Security to establish new standards for care of unaccompanied immigrant children and a plan for ensuring adequate translators to assist migrants in their dealings with law enforcement. The government would have to replace contractors who provide inadequate care.

Many children detained entering the U.S. from Mexico have been held under harsh conditions, and Customs and Border Protection Chief Operating Officer John Sanders told The Associated Press last week that children have died after being in the agency’s care. He said Border Patrol stations are holding 15,000 people — more than triple their maximum capacity of 4,000.

Sanders announced Tuesday that he’s stepping down next month amid outrage over his agency’s treatment of detained migrant children.

In a letter Monday threatening the veto, White House officials told lawmakers they objected that the House package lacked money for beds the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency needs to let it detain more migrants. Officials also complained in the letter that the bill had no money to toughen border security, including funds for building Trump’s proposed border wall.

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OK, I’m back, just like a bad penny, and I know you’re all just dying to hear the grisly details of my surgery and chemo, but wait, because I have something much more shocking to tell you: Yesterday, I spent $947 at Costco.

Seriously, I did. I knew it was going to be bad news when the checkout clerk gave a little involuntary “whoa!” as he hit the “total” button. But I still nearly passed out, right there in line.

Let me make it clear I wasn’t buying any patio arbors or furniture or really anything that would justify a big ticket. It was just … stuff. OK, I did buy a new camping cooler because it was a good deal for $70 and we really needed one, but other than that, I didn’t bring home a single thing that could be described as awesome or remarkable. I used to call Costco “the $300 store,” but now I have to reevaluate that.

Here’s where I went wrong:

Firstly, I brought my two young adult kids, who couldn’t stop flinging things in the carts. Yes, I said carts. As in plural. I already knew about the fatal “bringing the kids effect” at Costco, and on the drive there, I was warning them that I wasn’t going to spend a fortune. Ha ha. Looking back, that was just sad.

Kids: “Mom, can we get a case of Mexican Coke?” Um, sure. throw it on in there. Later, I realize it was $24 of sugar and chemicals, plus CRV.

Me: “Get those Froot Loops out of the cart. I’m not buying those. They’re disgusting and expensive. The reason they have to spell them ‘froot’ is because they have no nutritional value.”

They did manage to remove the objectionable cereal, while simultaneously tossing in corn dogs and something called Yummy Dino Buddies (which claim to be “all natural,” though I’m pretty sure there’s no chicken part shaped like a breaded dinosaur) and burying those underneath things we actually need, like the Kirkland margarita mix with the tequila already inside it. Don’t judge me. It was on sale.

In addition to my fatal error of bringing the kids, I was also driving around on one of those scooters they offer at the front of the store, since I’m still recovering from surgery. Remember the surgery? I’m still going to get around to it.

Now, here’s a tip: Never use a scooter. If I’d walked in under my own power, I would only have had about 15 minutes of steam for my engine. It would have been a surgical strike trip. Not to mix metaphors or anything. Get in, get the dog food and toilet paper, and get out. That’s my normal visit, to avoid impulse purchases.

This time, however, I was tooling around on a fun little scooter, trying to run into all the big random families that block the aisles without caring if anyone can get around them. OK, truth be told, I was avoiding them, but that is pretty hard to do. Those scooters really need to have air horns.

The problem with the scooter is that it gave me plenty of time to cruise up and down every single aisle, which normally I avoid doing like the plague. Did you know that Costco rearranges its shelves so you can’t just get in and out quickly? The stock clerks deliberately move things around so you have to hunt for them, knowing you’ll find impulse purchases along the way. Evil geniuses.

Anyway, it’s amazing how many things you can find to buy when you’re cruising Costco on an electric vehicle. Things you never even knew you needed. So I can’t completely blame my kids. Cheetah Boy followed behind me with one of the carts, and I kept yelling at him to put things in it.

So, I know not to do that again.

Well, in case you missed all the excitement, I have uterine cancer. They took out all my lady parts. Now I’m getting chemotherapy, even though I was sadly disappointed the first day to discover the nurses do not pass around Jell-O shots or pitchers of margaritas as I’d hoped. Chemo isn’t as much fun as you might think, but it’s better than the alternative.

Come back next week. I’ll tell you more.

Oh, wait. I’m out of room. And I never told you the

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Another piece of Southern California is set to turn into Hawkins, Ind., as Netflix prepares to debut the third season of “Stranger Things.”

Baskin-Robbins is transforming one of its Burbank stores into Scoops Ahoy, a sweet shop that figures in the super-popular supernatural series, which is set in a fictional Midwest town in the 1980s.

The pop-up will “give fans an experience ripped from the script,” according to a news release. It will open July 2, two days before the season debut on July 4, and run through July 14.

Baskin-Robbins’ “Stranger Things” tie-in began in June at all of its stores. Special ice cream flavors and treats include Eleven’s Heaven, Upside Down Pralines, Elevenade Freeze, and a Demogorgon Sundae.

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It will continue in July with U.S.S. Butterscotch, inspired by the nautical theme of Scoops Ahoy in the Netflix series.

Baskin-Robbins is also sending out a pop-up Scoops Ahoy ice cream truck, which will be at the pop-up store 2-5 p.m. on July 2. Other destinations haven’t been announced.

The Scoops Ahoy pop-up will be at 1201 S Victory Blvd., Burbank.

Santa Monica Pier is transforming itself for a “Stranger Things” experience this weekend, June 29-30. Universal Studios Hollywood will also bring back its “Stranger Things” maze for Halloween Horror Nights this fall.

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The good news is that 95% of Southern California beaches scored an “A” or a “B” for summer water quality in Heal the Bay’s 2018-2019 Beaches Report Card released Wednesday.

Orange County hosts to 10 of the state’s 33 “Honor Roll” beaches with perfect scores while Los Angeles County is home to two.

The bad news is that heavy rain this winter — 43% higher than normal for the region — resulted in just half of the beaches scoring higher than a “C” during wet periods. Los Angeles County was even worse, with only 30% scoring higher than “C” after rains while Orange County had 56% scoring higher than “C” during these times.

Five of the state’s 10 worst beaches for water quality were in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

“Rain washes pollutants and contaminants into the ocean thus lowering water quality,” says the report, which used water quality data from county health agencies. “Beachgoers who recreate at beaches after a rain event have an increased risk of contracting ear infections, eye infections, upper respiratory infections, skin rashes and gastrointestinal illness.

“Approximately 1 million ocean beachgoers contract illnesses each year in Los Angeles and Orange counties, with total healthcare costs of $20 (billion) to $50 billion.”

Contributing to the region’s dirty water over the past year were 96 sewage spills in Los Angeles County and 28 spills in Orange County, and the Woolsey Fire, in November, that burned about 97,000 acres near Malibu and Ventura.

Heal the Bay recommends avoiding the water at beaches with a “C” grade or below and staying out of the ocean for three days after it rains. The Santa Monica-based group’s NowCast app and NowCast online site predicts daily water quality at more than 20 beaches.

Climate change’s effect

With scientific assessments that climate change is leading to more extreme periods of rainfall and more extreme wildfires, the report notes the domino effect on ocean waters.

“Major wildfires … can have a big impact on water quality because fires damage sewage infrastructure and increase the amount of runoff due to vegetation loss,” the report says.

After the Woolsey Fire — a seasonal period Heal the Bay defines as “dry winter” — only 57% of Malibu beaches received grades higher than “C.” That was a marked change from the previous five years, when the 87% of those beaches received an “A” or “B” during dry winter months. In last year’s report, four Malibu Beaches received the perfect A+ scores to make the Honor Roll. This year, just one made the list.

“Governments, leaders and the public must take immediate action to mitigate the effects of climate change and pollution,” the report says. “Many local governments have made enormous efforts to identify and eliminate runoff entering the ocean, but across the board there are still improvements to be made.”

The report notes steps taken at specific locations to improve water quality. On a larger scale, more than two thirds of Los Angeles County voters last year approved Measure W, which will result in $300 million in new annual parcel taxes to be used to capture stormwater runoff and reduce pollutants entering the ocean.

Beach Bummers

The report defines three types of beaches and how they differ in water quality. Open beaches without obstructions or urban runoff tend to get the best scores in both wet and dry weather. Meanwhile, those that have stream, river and storm-drains flowing into the ocean tend to score poorly. So do enclosed beaches, which include those found at marinas, harbors and lagoons.

Heal the Bay dubs the state’s 10 worst beaches for water quality “Beach Bummers,” with Los Angeles County’s three contributions to the list all being enclosed beaches. Two of those three have made regular appearances on the Beach Bummers list over the years.

The harbor side of San Pedro’s Cabrillo Beach made the list for the eighth time in 10 years. The problem stems largely from the beach being enclosed by a seawall that cuts the beach off from the open ocean, trapping bacteria and other urban runoff pollutants in the area. At the same time, the resulting calm waters makes it a popular beach for families with young children, according to the report.

Mothers Beach in Marina Del Rey, another beach popular for families with young children, made its fifth consecutive appearance on the list. However, another longtime regular on the list, the Santa Monica Pier, is no longer a Beach Bummer, thanks in part to city efforts to redirect urban runoff into the sewer system for treatment before it flows to the ocean.

The beach at the terminus of Coronado Avenue in Long Beach made the list for the first time. Water quality there suffers both from being enclosed by breakwater jetties and from urban runoff coming out of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers.

In Orange County, San Clemente Pier, which is affected by runoff not only during rains but during dry periods when untreated urban runoff makes its way into the ocean through a nearby storm drain. Birds congregating and pooping in the ocean is also a problem typical to piers.

Also on the Beach Bummers list is Monarch Beach at Salt Creek, near Dana Point’s five-star Ritz Carlton resort, thanks in part to urban runoff.

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The 33 beaches statewide on Heal the Bay’s Honor Roll this year all received perfect A+ scores, rain or shine. The twelve in Los Angeles and Orange counties:

  • Malibu: Las Tunas Beach
  • San Pedro: Cabrillo Beach on the ocean side
  • Huntington Harbour in Huntington Beach: Trinidad Lane Beach, Coral Cay Beach
  • Laguna Beach: Victoria Beach,  El Moro Beach
  • Dana Point: Dana Strands Beach, Dana Point Harbor Youth Dock, South Capistrano Bay Community Beach
  • San Clemente: Avenida Pico, Avenida Calafia, Linda Lane Beach
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Johnny Mercer (Photo by William P. Gottlieb/Gottlieb Collection at the Library of Congress) Johnny Mercer, lyricist, singer and Capitol Records co-founder

“Moon River, wider than a mile/I’m crossing you in style someday/Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker/wherever you’re going/I’m going your way/Two drifters off to see the world/There’s such a lot of world to see/We’re after the same rainbow’s end/,,,Moon River and me.” (“Moon River,” 1960)

Nov. 18, 1909-June 25, 1976

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By LAURIE KELLMAN

WASHINGTON — Sixty seconds for answers, a television audience of millions and, for some candidates, a first chance to introduce themselves to voters.

The back-to-back Democratic presidential debates beginning Wednesday are exercises in competitive sound bites featuring 20 candidates hoping to oust President Donald Trump in 2020. The hopefuls range widely in age, sex and backgrounds and include a former vice president, six women and a pair of mayors.

The challenge: Convey their plans for the nation, throw a few elbows and sharpen what’s been a blur of a race so far for many Americans.

What to watch Wednesday at 6 p.m. Pacific on KNBC/4, MSNBC and Telemundo:

___

WHAT’S HER PLAN?

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s task is to harness the recent momentum surrounding her campaign to prove to voters that she has what it takes to defeat Trump. As the sole top-tier candidate on stage Wednesday, she could have the most to lose.

The Massachusetts senator and former Harvard professor is known for her many policy plans and a mastery of classical, orderly debate. But presidential showdowns can be more “Gladiator”-style than the high-minded “Great Debaters.” This is no time for a wonky multipoint case for “Medicare for All,” student debt relief or the Green New Deal.

So, one challenge for Warren, 70, is stylistic. Look for her to try to champion her progressive ideas — and fend off attacks from lesser-known candidates — with gravitas, warmth and the brevity required by the format. Another obstacle is to do so without alienating moderates any Democrat would need in a general election against Trump.

Being the front-runner on stage conveys a possible advantage: If the others pile on Warren, she gets more time to speak because the candidates are allowed 30 extra seconds for responses.

WHO’S THAT?

There may be some familiar faces across the rest of the stage, such as New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, 50, or former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, 46. But a few names probably won’t ring any bells at all.

These virtual strangers to most Americans may be enjoying their first — and maybe last — turn on the national stage, so they have the least to lose.

Take John Delaney, 56, a former member of the House from Maryland. Look for him to try to make an impression by keeping up his criticism of Warren’s student debt relief plan, among others.

Or Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, 45, who sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee. He has likened the Democratic primary to “speed dating with the American people.”

BREAKING OUT, GOING VIRAL

For several of the candidates onstage Wednesday, the forum is about finding the breakout moment — a zinger, a burn — that stays in viewers’ minds, is built for social media and generates donations, the lifeblood of campaigns.

In 2015, Carly Fiorina won applause and a short surge for her response to Trump, who had been quoted in Rolling Stone as criticizing Fiorina’s face.

“Look at that face,” Trump was quoted as saying. “Would anyone vote for that?”

Asked on CNN to respond, Fiorina evenly replied: “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”

For candidates such as O’Rourke, a breakthrough moment on Wednesday is critical to revitalizing a campaign that has faded. The 10 White House contenders have two hours on stage that night and up until the curtain rises on the star-studded second debate the next day to make their mark. Former Vice President Joe Biden, 76, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, 77, headline Thursday’s debate and are certain to take up much of the spotlight.

BREAKING OUT BADLY

An “oops” moment can be politically crippling to any presidential campaign.

Just ask Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the former Texas governor who, in a 2011 debate, blanked on the third agency of government he had said would be “gone” if he became president.

“Commerce, Education and the, uh, what’s the third one there?” Perry said.

“EPA?” fellow Republican Ron Paul offered. Yep, Perry said, the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Oops,” he finished.

Perry’s campaign, already struggling, never recovered.

WHAT ISSUES?

There’s simply no time for an in-depth discussion of issues. But listen for shorthand mentions of “Medicare for All,” free college, climate change and student debt relief as the candidates try to distinguish themselves.

It’s possible, too, that racial issues surface after an emotional House hearing on reparations for the descendants of slaves — and Booker’s criticism of Biden for saying he’d found ways to work with segregationist senators on foreign policy.

Speaking of Biden, listen for references to him and questions about whether he is in touch with the Democratic Party or of this moment, both suggestions about his age. The former senator and vice president won’t be on stage Wednesday, but he’s the front-runner and especially fair game.

TRUMP

This is the Democrats’ night.

But Trump has dominated the political conversation since that escalator ride four years ago, and he loathes being upstaged. It’s worth asking: Will he tweet during the debates? And if he does, will NBC and the moderators ignore him or respond in real time?

It’s hard to commit to anything in advance, but NBC News executive Rashida Jones said the focus will be on the candidates and the issues.

“Beyond that, it has to rise to a certain level,” she said.

During the first debate, Trump will be on Air Force One on his way to the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan. The plane’s cable televisions are usually turned to Fox News, which is not hosting the debates. For the second debate, he will be beginning meetings at the G-20.

Associated Press writer Zeke Miller and AP Media Writer David Bauder contributed to this report.

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Socialism has arrived in the United States and it’s living in an apartment building near you.

Los Angeles Councilman Mike Bonin is the latest politician to promote a policy based on the belief that privately-owned apartments kind of belong to everybody, and the government’s job is to distribute them fairly. He has proposed an “empty homes penalty” that would be placed on the November 2020 ballot for voter approval.

Bonin called this a “bold” action that would “confront one of the root causes of the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles.”

Bonin blamed landlords for “keeping units empty” while tens of thousands of people are “forced to live on the streets because of the high cost of housing.”

The cost of housing isn’t the only cause of the complex problem that’s generally called “homelessness,” but set that aside. Politicians who put on a show of anger and call for policies such as rent control and vacancy taxes are ignoring an important basic principle.

Private property doesn’t belong to the government, and the government can’t seize private property — or tax the value out of it — just because somebody else wants it or needs it.

If the government could do that, it could also tax people for having empty bedrooms in their homes, or even for unused money in a savings account. The premise is the same: one person’s need is a claim on everybody else’s property.

In a free country, it is not the government’s job to go around determining who has more than they need and who needs more than they have, and then redistributing everything through taxation or other methods of government force.

That’s called collectivism. It’s the idea that everything in a society belongs to everybody, and the government’s role is to make the outcomes of everybody’s decisions work out in a way that’s fair and equal.

So if you stay in school, work long hours and save your money, and you end up better off financially than someone who dropped out to travel the country with a backpack and a drug dealer, you better hope you didn’t invest your money in an apartment building in Los Angeles. If you did, Mike Bonin wants to tax your vacant units and give away your money.

This is beyond the kind of general taxation that pays for a safety net. This is a punitive, targeted tax, aimed at people who are in the business of rental housing, and it might drive them right out of it.

Other cities are trying similar policies. Voters in Oakland approved a vacant-property tax in November. A property that’s not “in use” for 50 days or more each year is subject to a fee of $6,000 per parcel, with the money going to fund homeless services, new affordable housing, and the reduction of “blight.”

But some property owners say they’d be happy to build on the vacant land if the local government didn’t make it prohibitively expensive to do so. One landowner, who is growing potatoes on the site he bought with a plan to build a duplex, said Oakland officials told him city permits for the building would cost $35,000 and take a full year to process.

Stop for a moment and look at that again. The city wants $35,000 just for permits.

The potato crop is doing nicely.

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Cities that want the owners of vacant land to build housing should think about incentivizing construction, not inventing new penalties.

Another factor in the housing crunch is the state’s policy discouraging development in outlying areas where land is more affordable. Because of the belief that California must “lead” on climate policy — “lead” is in quotation marks because nobody is following — the state frets over a metric called “vehicle miles traveled.” If the environmental impact report for a proposed housing project finds that people will likely drive long distances to work, the whole project can become infeasible.

Other factors in the tightening market include the growing use of units as short-term rentals on services such as Airbnb, and a significant amount of foreign investment, especially from China, in residential real estate.

Taxing vacancies won’t fix any of that, but politicians are short-term thinkers, and long-term damage is somebody else’s problem. If they rented these jobs, they’d never get their security deposit back.

Susan Shelley is an editorial writer and columnist for the Southern California News Group. Susan@SusanShelley.com. Twitter: @Susan_Shelley.

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So many people want to be president. Unfortunately, many have terrible ideas.

Sen. Kamala Harris wants companies to prove they pay men and women equally. “Penalties if they don’t!” she shouts. But there are lots of reasons, other than sexism, why companies pay some men more than women.

Harris also wants government to “hold social media platforms accountable for the hate infiltrating their platforms.” But “holding them accountable” means censorship. If politicians get to censor media, they’ll censor anyone who criticizes them.

Sen. Bernie Sanders wants the post office to offer banking services. The post office? It already loses billions of dollars despite its monopoly on delivering mail. Sanders also wants to increase our national debt by forgiving $1.6 trillion in student loan debt.

He wants to ban for-profit charter schools and freeze funding for nonprofit charters. That’s great news for some government-school bureaucrats and teachers unions that don’t want to compete but bad news for kids who flourish in charters when government schools fail.

Sen. Cory Booker once sounded better about charters, saying, “When people tell me they’re against school choice … or charter schools, I say, ‘As soon as you’re willing to send your kid to a failing school in my city … then I’ll be with you.’”

Unfortunately, now that Booker is a presidential candidate, he says little about school choice. He also wants government to guarantee people’s jobs and to pay more Americans’ rent.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wants to force everyone to buy fertility treatment insurance.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren wants to impose a wealth tax on very rich people. That would certainly benefit accountants and tax lawyers while inspiring rich people to hide more assets instead of putting them to work.

Warren also wants to ban all oil and gas drilling on federal land, have government decide who sits on corporate boards and make college free.

The Democrat who leads the betting odds, former Vice President Joe Biden, also says, “College should be free!”

Free? Colleges have already jacked up their prices much faster than inflation because taxpayers subsidize too much of college. Biden and Warren would make that problem worse.

The Republican incumbent has bad ideas, too: President Donald Trump imposes tariffs that are really new taxes that American consumers must pay. Trump says tariffs are needed because our “trade deficit in goods with the world last year was nearly $800 billion dollars. (That means) we lost $800 billion!”

But it doesn’t mean that, Mr. President. A “trade deficit” just means foreigners sent us $800 billion more goods than we sent them.

We got their products, and in return they only got American currency, which they’ll end up investing in the U.S. That’s good for us. It’s not a problem.

Luckily, the president has good ideas, too. He says he wants to shrink the code of federal regulations back to its 1960 size. It would be great if he actually did it. Trump slowing the growth of regulation is one of the best parts of his presidency.

Some Democratic candidates have sensible ideas, too.

Cory Booker proposed legalizing marijuana.

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Mayor Pete Buttigieg criticizes his opponents for their “college for all” freebie, saying, “I have a hard time getting my head around the idea that a majority who earn less because they didn’t go to college would subsidize a minority who earn more.”

And all candidates could learn from Hawaii’s Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who served in Iraq.

“I know the cost of war!” she says. “I will end the regime change wars — taking the money that we’ve been wasting on these wars and weapons and investing it in serving the needs of our people.”

Sadly, she wouldn’t give that money back to the people. She’d spend it on other big-government programs.

Politicians always have ideas other than letting you keep your money.

I bet we’ll hear other bad ideas this week when 20 of the Democratic candidates debate.

John Stossel is author of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed.”

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