Yo Quiero Su Voto
California voters may have said nogracias to bilingual education, but state lawmakers are apparently saying sí to Spanish lessons. You may recall that last fall would-be governors Al Checchi and Dan Lungren managed to eke out a few words in español just in time for the election. And Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante wasted no time in sending out a message asking the states ever-growing Latino electorate for their support. Now a small cadre of lawmakers are learning Spanish for those non-election occasions. Among the most visible is Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, who spent two weeks last November in Cuernavaca, Mexico, at the Bilingual Institute, undergoing an intensive language course. Cedillos aides say the former labor leader invested his own time and money because he wanted to brush up on his Spanish to improve communications with all of his constituents. And you may have noticed that Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa is giving more and more interviews in Spanish, thanks to a concerted effort to improve his español. "Hes been practicing a lot," said one staff er. As for the rest of Sacramento, Cedillos office has been getting calls from other lawmakers curious about learning the language of the states fastest-growing voting bloc.
OffBeat would be remiss if it didntoffer our readers a chance to take part in the freedom fight of the decade. Thats right, the Linda Tripp Legal Defense Fund (check out the Web site at www.lindatripp. com) is accepting donations of $20, $100, "even $1,000," from all the little people concerned about the welfare of the First Fink in the Lewinsky affair. "Now they have me in their cross hairs and I feel like David up against Goliath," Tripp confides breathlessly in a pre-Christmas fund-raising letter. Tripp, as you probably remember, is under investigation by a Maryland grand jury for allegedly surreptitiously taping Monica Lewinskys dewy phone confidences about her liaison with President Clinton. Tripp says she cant handle $350,000 in legal bills on her $90,000-a-year Pentagon PR salary. The bills include payments to her two lawyers and spokesman Philip Coughter, but not to the gym where the Blackwells Worst-Dressed List honoree recently whittled herself down to a size 8, a source said. Some 11,000 people responded to Tripps appeal, Coughter reports. One can only guess at their reasons: Do they support ratting out friends? Exploiting co-workers? No word yet on a total dollar figure for the fund.
Do You Know the Way to San Jose?
Now plenty of people say
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Later investigation revealed that Mendez had broken up with his girlfriend in San Jose, had a history of manic depression and was on psychiatric medications. Burbank Police Chief Anthony Loverme said Mendez seemed okay while he was being held for the FBI, but "had a lot on his mind." Why Hollywood? "He never was really clear about that," Loverme said.
Here at OffBeat we have taken akeen interest in Senate Majority Leader Trent Lotts ties to the white-supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens. So imagine our surprise when we found a homegrown link to the Southern extremist group in the person of archconservative L.A. Times editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez. As Ramirez acknowledged in an excellent January 26 Times article on Lotts connections, he spoke to the council about five years ago, during his pre-Times gig at the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Both OffBeat and Ramirez, it turns out, find the 37-year-old Pulitzer winners appearance the more puzzling because, as the son of an Asian-American mother and a Latino father, he is a member of ethnic groups that the council trashes. The council warns on its Web site that immigrants are "bringing their inferior cultures." Other council spewings suggest divvying up the nation by race.
Reached at his Times office Wednesday, Ramirez said he had no idea of the extremist views of the group when he spoke. But he has few regrets. "Nobody wants bad publicity, but if this group is what they make it out to be, it was probably good somebody from my ethnic background told them what for," said Ramirez. "If Ted Kennedy and the Kennedy family asked me to speak at their family reunion, Id probably accept their invitation, that doesnt mean I endorse any of the political philosophy." The message of his speech, which he has been giving for the last seven years, is anti-racist, Ramirez continued, quoting in part: "We are at the abyss of racial separatism, and it portrays a harrowing threat to the unit of our country." Of course, to say that the biggest racial threat in the U.S. is ethnic balkanization is not the same as challenging white racism. And Lott also defends himself by saying he didnt know the councils views a claim that the Times sources poked full of holes in last weeks article.