The only thing that really stands out about the debate in Hollywood between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is that the softball questions and heavy focus on their strongest policy issues simply provided a long free ad for both candidates.
And while it's pleasant to watch, it can't be good for Obama, because tonight's debate, unless something very big happens before it is over, means that none of the voters who have already decided are going to switch from Hillary to him. And he needs some huge switching in California and several other major states if he's to catch Clinton.
Predictably, both candidates are much smoother now in this, the seventeenth debate. But that leaves you praying for a moment that isn't utterly canned. Take it as a near certainty that a Clinton speechwriter or aide many days ago wrote Hillary's great line, "It did take a Clinton to clean up after the first Bush - and I think it might take a Clinton to clean up after the second Bush!" It earned her huge applause, plus she does herself a great favor when she laughs. But oh so canned.
And earlier, Obama got off some funny lines that will help the undecided voters warm to him - but his likable and chatty style simply serves to remind that the two candidates have so few real policy differences that this is little more than a contest of personalities, unless something amazing is said, or happens, before Super Duper Tuesday.
Aside from Wolf Blitzer's usual snarkiness and desperate attempts to get a controversy going with his questioning, the debate is cheery and fact-filled and pragmatic, and as a result it's a bore. It's slightly more interesting when CNN goes to the break, and the cameras rove across the famous faces of Diane Keaton, Pierce Brosnan - and hugely fat Rob Reiner, almost unrecognizable.
You're left wishing one of the TV or film stars will scowl horribly or hold up a tiny concealed sign for their choice for president. The most embarrassing moment so far has not been due to any hijinks by the media or the candidates, but from this VIP-filled audience: At about 5:50 pm, as CNN went to a break, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa saw a camera lens point his way and quickly stood up from his chair and slapped on that mechanical grin of his, thus grabbing his latest 15 minutes of fame.
Hours before the Democratic debate takes takes place at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, hundreds of supporters of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton filled the sidewalks along Hollywood Blvd.
In terms of numbers it was probably 85% Obama and 15% Hillary - at most.
Above, taking a picture of Gary Leonard, who is taking a picture.
The will call line for people waiting to get tickets for the debate.
CNN's Richard Quest, no doubt reporting on which candidate Princess Diana would be supporting if she was still alive.
The LAPD protecting the Planet Funk store.
Satellite trucks parked in the middle of Hollywood Blvd. - a mere fraction of what will be there for the Oscars.
CNN's random message board
Walkway from the Kodak Theater with TV lights already blasting
Wolf Blitzer. Every time people thought Blitzer might be on the air they began chanting Obama rally cries as loudly as possible.
All photos by Mark Mauer
The wily civil rights lawyer from Venice Beach just won’t go quietly. Even though Steve Yagman was found guilty of multiple money laundering charges as well as bankruptcy fraud and tax evasion in June, sentenced to three years in federal prison in November, and told to surrender to federal authorities on January 15, the tenacious attorney is still nowhere near the clink.
It’s somewhat of twisted story, but, according to sources at the U.S. District Attorney’s Office, it goes something like this: Yagman and his lawyer Barry Tarlow filed an appeal of the jury’s June 22 decision a few days after the verdict was handed down. He was then sentenced to three years in federal prison, starting on January 15. But Yagman received a postponement from the court, with a new surrender date of January 29.
I'm pretty much caught up on The Wire. After weeks of avoiding Slate's discussion and bickering with David Simon about plot points and cutting out the 12 page New Yorker article that I didn't want to read until after I had finished season four on DVD, I felt pretty good. For the first time since the show began, I'm pretty well caught up with the story line as it's playing out.
Then our features editor Tom Christie asked me, "Did you see what the Times did today? They gave away a major plot point to The Wire!" Tom is still stuck early on in season four and all of my conversations with him are peppered by him saying, "Don't tell me!" Any conversation at parties or dinners about The Wire is politely prefaced with "What season are you on?" so you don't actually give away a character's death.
As Tom continues talking I didn't realize the Times article he was talking about had given away a major point of the episode that ran on Sunday night.
Tom continued, "Right in the headline! they said that ... gets murdered!"
Then I yelled. Too late. I'd heard him say it, and now I've been robbed too. I haven't seen the most recent episode. I didn't know I'd have to sequester myself from the LA Times and editors still watching season four.
Don't read past here if you haven't seen Sunday's episode (that ran on Jan. 27, 2008 so there isn't any confusion). See what I did right there? I warned you. You'll not find that simple courtesy in the Times today.
The death of Christian Brando is officially a Los Angeles County Coroner's case. According to sources, the coroner's office took possession of the 49-year-old troubled son of actor Marlon Brando earlier today after Brando's mother called for a full-investigation into his death, citing “suspicious circumstances.”
Brando was found unconscious at his Hollywood home and was transported to Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center where he died several days later on January 26. He apparently died from complications from pneumonia according to a family attorney interviewed by the Los Angeles Times.
Storm drains in the ritzy Hancock Park area couldn't handle an inundation of water from a storm the National Weather Service says dumped 4.2 inches on Beverly Hills and 3.4 inches in downtown Los Angeles - more than some areas have received in the past year. Another storm could dump even more. See the full slideshow here.
Photos by Ted Soqui
County Museum board members busted in illegal art sting
The L.A. County Museum of Art got some unexpected visitors this morning, when federal agents arrived en masse with search warrants. The raid, the result of a five-year investigation into illegal dealing of Asian artifacts, according to federal search warrants, also targeted the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena and Silk Roads Gallery on La Brea Avenue. Silk Roads, which specializes in Asian art, is owned by Cari and Jonathan Markell, both of whom sit on the board of LACMA's South and Southeast Asian Arts Council, according to the gallery's Web site.
LACMA, which is gearing up for the opening of its new Broad Contemporary Art Museum next month, can't seem to catch a break. Last week, in an interview with The New York Times, Eli Broad - who funded the Renzo Piano design and building of BCAM, as the new wing is known, and who was expected to eventually donate much of his vast collection to LACMA - announced that he had decided not to donate his art to any institution and would instead continue to loan it. Although museum officials put on a good face, saying they never expected a full gift and were content to work with loans, the announcement was widely seen as a major disappointment for the museum - one in a long string of them. (The disappointment was somewhat mitigated by a large gift of modernist works from the collection of Janice and Henri Lazarof.)
You can download the entire search warrant issued to Los Angeles County Museum of Art here, but these two pages provide the most details of LACMA's involvement.
Fresh air for prisoners at Guantanamo
Abdul Hamid al-Ghizzawi, a Libyan meteorologist currently designated an "enemy combatant" and imprisoned by the U.S. government at Guantanamo Bay, has mysteriously contracted AIDS inside the notorious compound. According to his lawyer Candace Gorman, Al-Ghizzawi had already previously contracted Tuberculosis inside the facility, and may have been initially infected with HIV from a botched blood test.
Gorman says she found out about the diagnosis from a letter her client sent her, but that military officials would neither confirm nor deny the diagnosis. Says Gorman on her blog: "The military claimed it did a complete physical when Al-Ghizzawi arrived and the ONLY condition he suffered from at that time was Hepatitis B. So I guess there is good reason why they don't want to confirm the diagnosis."
This is the second time Al-Ghizzawi has garnered attention in recent weeks. A piece in the Forward last month by Leonard Fein, claimed that there was significant evidence that Al-Ghizzawi was being tortured inside Guantanamo as well as being denied medical treatment for his TB and Hepatitis B.
Fein's piece goes on to suggest Al-Ghizzawi has no business being detained as an enemy combatant in the first place.
A November 2004 tribunal unanimously determined that there was no factual basis for concluding that he should be classified as an enemy combatant. Ordered to re-open its hearing, the tribunal came again to the same unanimous conclusion.
Shortly thereafter a second tribunal was formed and held a hearing in Washington, D.C. — without the knowledge of Al-Ghizzawi — and decided to find him to be an enemy combatant, this despite the fact that no new evidence was introduced.
“No Guns” leader peddled guns while City Hall paid him to fight gangs
Hector Marroquin founder of the gang intervention group No Guns, was sentenced today to eight years in prison after pleading no contest to weapon charges. Charged alongside 51-year-old Marroquin was his 25-year-old girlfriend Sylvia Arellano, who is expected to be sentenced to four years in prison for weapons charges - including possessing a silencer.
The couple entered pleas before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Steven Van Sicklen on three counts involving the manufacture, distribution and transport for sale of an unlawful assault weapon. Marroquin was sentenced to eight years for each count, with the sentences to run concurrently.
Nicknamed “Big Weasel,” Marroquin, a one-time 18th Street gang member, was embraced by Los Angeles City Hall after he claimed to have gone straight as a result of being shot while defending his son from gang members.