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Hillary Bashing, Horowitz Style

America’s right-wing pundits have oft sounded the call for “a return to civility” in daily life and politics. So where were they when one of their own, L.A.-based former ’60s radical-turned-right-wing-guru David Horowitz, put up a Web site called SlapHillary.com?

The site features an animated hand reaching out and smacking a cartoon of the first lady across the face, so hard that her cyber eyeballs roll. Bad taste or not, the site is a smash; in its first four days, it registered 5 million hits, says Horowitz’s executive assistant Stephen Brooks.

“The fact is that David sees the whole thing as a joke, even if some people might find the aspect of violence towards women in the cartoon as offensive,” Brooks explains. “It’s only a cartoon.”

Just to show such commentary is all in fun, Horowitz has agreed to an interview with the hosts of an equally tasteless anti-Horowitz site, www.ronandfez.com/David.htm, Brooks says. The site gives visitors the opportunity to “sodomize David” (a cartoon Horowitz) with either Rush Limbaugh’s microphone, Bush’s “mole” or a rolled-up copy of the Washington Times.

First Amendment advocate though he may be in this case, however, Horowitz does not always come down on the side of the free flow of information. As resident right-wing columnist at Salon.com online magazine, he has argued that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are the real race profilers; accused critics of the movie The Patriot of being un-American; and shamelessly touted the campaign of the Great Conservative White Hope, George W. Bush. Fair enough; Horowitz is frank about his partisanship, even describing sitting in on a Bush strategy session.

But what neither Salon nor Horowitz has told readers is that the columnist’s stake in the big W.’s campaign may not be, just ideological but financial. Horowitz is a “Bush Pioneer,” that is, someone who has pledged to raise or has raised $100,000 for the Texas governor’s race. If he’s like other contributors, Horowitz is expecting some sort of payback for his contribution — and Salon is well aware of Horowitz’s fund-raising role. So why no disclaimer or disclosure along with his columns?

Horowitz’s candor makes such a statement unnecessary, says Kerry Lauerman, Salon’s Washington bureau chief. “David’s column isn’t political coverage, it’s opinion. The point can be made that he’s a little more than just partisan, sure. But he doesn’t make any attempt to hide it, so we let it pass.”

Giving a guy a free ride because he admits he is biased may be as ethically dubious as justifying misogyny by submitting to a little cyber-buggering. But no more dubious than Horowitz’s August 17 Salon column headline: “Why Gore Can’t Win.” Pundits . . . feh!

—Johnny Angel

Gardeners Blown Away Again

“This fall, blow them away in a little black number in straps,” the ad in the L.A. Times reads. Is it Versace’s latest evening gown? Or a Steve Madden pump? Try Restoration Hardware’s new leaf-blower.

The 20-mph electric portable, complete with a stylish shoulder strap, retails for $149. It air-sweeps leaves and litter, and reverses the flow to become a super-suction vacuum, the store says. The target market: homeowners between the ages of 35 and 55 with disposable incomes.

Another battery-powered electric leaf-blower is about to debut, and members of its target market, the city’s disposable-incomeless-Latino professional gardeners, are crying foul. This blower was developed by the city’s Department of Water and Power (DWP) in response to a 1997 city ordinance restricting the use of noise- and air-polluting gas models. More powerful than the Restoration blower, it will carry an estimated $300 to $500 price tag.

What’s raising a ruckus is DWP’s plan to recoup its $1.58 million investment on the backs of the gardeners. The $300 to $500 price tag on each of the 250,000 units, which will be sold through area hardware stores, includes a 5 percent sales royalty payable to the municipal power giant.

“It seems to me fundamentally unfair that the city stands to make a profit out of the hides of the gardeners,” says Adrian Alvarez, president of the Association of Latin American Gardeners of Los Angeles. “If we act like consultants, they do a prototype, we test it. In any other situation you would get paid for it . . . The city stands to make millions of dollars.”

DWP environmental programs spokesman Walter Zeisl responds that the program is for the good of the greater community.

“We are using public-benefit funds to prime the pump, but if this product is a success, then hopefully we will get all our money back and then some,” he says.

Alvarez is suspicious that the City Council will try to spur DWP’s sales by tightening the leaf-blower ordinance. Most of the city’s small mow-and-blow crews have gotten around the gas ban by switching to methanol fuel.

“It is supposed to be money allocated to help the citizens of Los Angeles. It sounds like a state monopoly,” Alvarez says. “Again, the casualty here is the gardener.”

—Christine Pelisek

White Fright

The secession movement in Los Angeles will intensify a new kind of racial segregation that is maintained by economic rather than legal barriers, according to a new USC study.

If breakaway campaigns in Hollywood, the San Fernando Valley and the Harbor area succeed, they will hasten Los Angeles’ transformation into a Detroit-like core of poor, politically marginalized minorities ringed by comfortable white suburban towns, says USC associate professor of history Phil Ethington. Ethington studied L.A. census tract data to measure neighborhood racial isolation from 1940 to the present.

Today’s Angeleno has to earn far more than his parents in order to flee to the suburbs, Ethington says. But the loss of unionized factory jobs during the economic downturns of the ’70s and ’80s stranded many non-white blue-collar workers in the inner city without the means to escape, he adds.

“Wealth has stepped in to replace Jim Crow,” says Ethington.

The best hope of reversing segregation is to keep L.A.’s current boundaries, which will encourage the formation of multiracial political coalitions, says Ethington. His study also found that political support for racially divisive measures like Proposition 187 grew with distance from central L.A.

“You create political community across these lines, provided there are jurisdictions that actually cross those lines. And that’s what Los Angeles City uniquely provides,” Ethington says.

Don’t tell that to Richard Stanley of Hollywood V.O.T.E., the breakaway group that recently submitted to the Local Agency Formation Commission 38,000 signatures favoring cityhood for Tinseltown.

“It’s a very naive notion to think that there’s some beauty in trying to force people with disparate needs and political, sociological and economic aspirations to fight among themselves to come up with some kind of common ground,” says Stanley.

Citing demographic data identifying half of Hollywood’s residents as foreign-born, V.O.T.E. president Fares Wehbe denies that the campaign is driven by white flight.

“I mean, God Almighty Himself cannot govern Los Angeles. It’s too bureaucratic,” Wehbe says.

While Ethington concedes that the proposed City of Hollywood is multiracial, its secession would have a domino effect, he says.

“The Valley would clearly exacerbate the racial segregation. The Harbor secession would have a similar effect, in that it shrinks the city down to a compact core that coincides more and more with the least white and poorest areas,” he says. Today Hollywood, tomorrow the Westside? “Given several of these successful secessions, it won’t take long before the only thing left in Los Angeles is its poor core,” Ethington warns.

—David Perera