Category Archives: Blog

A Valentine’s Day Story Worth Reading


The usual Valentine’s Day fare in newspapers and on television includes stories about the sharp and sudden rise in the cost of roses, where to buy the best candy, naughty nighties, singing greeting cards, a special dinner out for that special someone and so forth.  It’s Valentine’s Day ad nauseam.  Deja vu all over again as the American sheeple fall victim to one of the mightiest marketing scams ever devised.

Well, finally, a reporter has written a story worthy of reading on Valentine’s Day.  Kathy Kristof at the Los Angeles Times has kicked one right between the uprights with “Love is all you need?  Get real.”  Subtitile:  “Love me, love my credit score.”

Kristof writes:

 “No one is saying that money is everything. Romance, common interests, shared values and friends are important for the survival of a marriage too.

But couples must understand that money carries far more meaning than the simple things it can buy. How you handle money can telegraph how you feel about power, personal responsibility, charity and family.  And these are the issues that can pull a marriage apart.” -LA Times

This should be required reading for anyone considering marriage.

Just how serious the business of marriage really is can be pointed out by the presence of a google ad for prenuptial attorneys at the bottom of the page carrying Kristof’s story on the Time’s website.   “Low Flat Fees for Prenuptial Agreement Drafting and Review” the ad says.

Coincidence?  I don’t think so.

Oh, and happy Valentine’s DayDon’t forget to pick up the flowers and candy.

(Not that it matters, but Valentine’s Day was established by Pope Gelasius in AD 496 to honor several martyred saints who apparently held the name Valentinus, and had nothing to do with romantic love.  The whole thing got twisted around and connected to romantic love and gift giving somewhere in the high middle ages.  The mass marketing of paper valentines started in the early 1800’s in England.)

Keith Olbermann And The Cheyenne River Sioux

Keith Olbermann

It was looking bad for the Cheyenne River Sioux.  Their reservation,  which stretches over two counties in north central South Dakota, had been hit by an ice storm followed by a blizzard.    More than 1,500 homes were without power, some 14,000 people had no water and the Tribe’s emergency fund had been drained.  All this, in an already poverty-stricken area where unemployment is running around 80%.

Then Keith Olbermann got involved and things started turning around.   Keith told his viewers what was going on (did a bit of a rant about what was happening right here on our own ground in the U.S.) and said they could send donations to the South Dakota Community Foundation.

“The effect was immediate, Community Foundation president Bob Sutton said Thursday.

He was attending a function in Sioux Falls on Tuesday evening, he said. His Blackberry was set up to buzz him with an e-mail every time someone made an online donation to the Cheyenne River effort.

“Within the first 20 minutes, I had hundreds of e-mails on my Blackberry,” he said. “It was unbelievable. I had to go out in the lobby and check it; I thought something was wrong because it just kept buzzing.”

At the start of the day Thursday, the fund had grown to $220,000. By Thursday night, it was more than $250,000. In the 15 minutes he spent talking to a reporter, Sutton said 16 contributions came in, ranging from $10 to $500, from all over the country.” -Argus Leader


If you feel inclined to help, you can-


Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe/2010 Disaster Account

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman’s Office

Attn: Ice Storm Emergency Fund

PO Box 590

2001 Main Street (Tribal Offices)

Eagle Butte, SD 57625


Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman’s Office

Attn: Ice Storm Emergency Supplies  PO Box 590

2001 Main Street (Tribal Offices)

Eagle Butte, SD 57625

Los Angeles: Preserving A Sense Of Place

 The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the Century Plaza Hotel won’t be falling to the wrecker’s ball.  Martha Groves writes that the hotel’s owner and preservationists have cut a deal to save the historic hotel-

“As of now, plans call for “sensitive rehabilitation” of the hotel to preserve 400 hotel rooms while converting those on the top floors to 45 condos. Meeting space would be reduced, and a slightly smaller ballroom would replace the existing one. The developer plans to propose other buildings on the site to the rear and/or sides of the hotel and a low-scale structure with some retail shops or restaurants to enliven the front of the hotel.”  -LA Times

It’s a hopeful sign that another piece of older Los Angeles is being saved.   It’s wonderful for a place to have a sense of history and tradition.  Fact is, the city has a lot going for it even with the apparent ongoing push by developers to tear things down.  We still have Olvera Street, Hollywood and its famous sign, Broadway and the old downtown area, LA City Hall, Pantages and the other vaudeville/movie palaces, Musso and Frank Grill, the Original Pantry, Philippe’s, Pink’s, the old Herald Examiner building, Chinatown, the old downtown post office, Union Station and now the Century Plaza.  Too bad the original Schwab’s,  Chasen’s and Bob Cobb’s  old Brown Derby are all gone.

Original Schwab's Drugstore

               photo: ron olsen/

Schwab’s Pharmacy, was located at 8024 Sunset Boulevard.   In a case of art imitating reality, the pharmacy was used as a location for the classic film “Sunset Boulevard.”  In reality, its lunch counter was a popular hangout for young actors.  It is also the legendary spot where “sweater girl”  Lana Turner is said to have been discovered.   That may or may not be true.   Another version has Turner being discovered by the publisher of the Hollywood Reporter at the Top Hat Cafe on the southeast corner of Sunset and McCadden Place.  The publisher referred her to Zeppo Marx, and from there….well, she was off to the races.  Or so the story goes.

As is sometimes the case in Hollywood, the truth slips through the cracks as the image becomes reality.   Consequently, I’m not sure where Lana Turner was discovered.  I do know it was a popular pharmacy for the movie set, many of whom lived in the hills nearby.  They liked Schwab’s because the pharmacy had a delivery service which eliminated the need for the rich and famous to show up in person or send someone in to pick up their prescriptions.    That’s the straight scoop from the people who worked there.  I know, because I was there on October 22, 1983,  the day Schwab’s closed its doors for the last time.   I was doing the story for KABC-TV.   I snapped the photo above just before they locked the doors and went home.  Five years later, Schwab’s was demolished.

Chasen’s (Beverly Hills) was opened in 1936 by vaudevillian Dave Chasen on the advice of his friend Frank Capra and was called “Chasen’s Southern Pit.”  “New Yorker” Editor Harold Ross helped finance the operation.  “It was nothing more than a shack, but quickly became well known for its chili and was soon a favorite among Hollywood actors at the time. At first, Capra had to loan Chasen his silverware for the restaurant’s operation.[1] Marilyn Monroe, Shirley Temple, Cary Grant, Jack Benny, Jackie Gleason, W.C. Fields, James Cagney, Clark Gable, and F. Scott Fitzgerald were customers.” -Wikipedia

I’ve read that Alfred Hitchcock had his own booth.

As for the Derby, legend has it that Bob Cobb, a first cousin to baseball great Ty Cobb, invented the “Cobb Salad” for his diet conscious superstar clientele.    LA has a lot to offer, you just have to dig a little.  While the digging continues, it might be nice if our City leaders could think a little more about renovation as opposed to annihilation.  Just a thought.

Original Brown Derby Restaurant

                          photo: chalmers butterfield

(Trivia note:  Brown Derby founder Bob Cobb, should not be confused with the maestro by the same name of “Seinfeld” fame.  Also, I realize there are other noteworthy spots in the city and surrounding area.  Feel free to add to the list by clicking on “leave a comment.”)

Van Nuys Bumped As Busiest Airport

Apparently Van Nuys no longer has the busiest general aviation airport in the nation.  According to a piece in the Arizona Republic, the title now belongs to the Phoenix – Deer Valley Airport.

“We are ranked Number 1 for the busiest general aviation airport in the country,” said Gary Mascaro, Deer Valley Airport manager, who attributed the increase in business in part to flight schools.

The Valley’s general airport outperformed its longtime competitor, San Fernando Valley-based Van Nuys Airport, which had comparable landings and takeoffs.

That airport in California averaged more than 400,000 landings and takeoffs in 2005, when it clinched the world’s busiest general aviation airport.” -AZ Republic

An earlier story in the Los Angeles Times, points to an over-all drop in passenger traffic at Los Angeles Area Airports in 2009.  The decline is believed to have been caused by high fuel prices and the recession.



Paul Krugman thinks we’re “doomed.”  Here’s a bit from his column.   Click on the link at the bottom to read the rest.

“I’m with Simon Johnson here: how is it possible, at this late date, for Obama to be this clueless?

The lead story on Bloomberg right now contains excerpts from an interview with Business Week which tells us:

President Barack Obama said he doesn’t “begrudge” the $17 million bonus awarded to JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon or the $9 million issued to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO Lloyd Blankfein, noting that some athletes take home more pay.” -Paul Krugman in the New York Times

Blue Cross Opens Door On Regulation?

Washington, DC — “Blue Cross has opened an opportunity for lawmakers and regulators with its premium hikes of up to 39% in California, said Consumer Watchdog. In the face of questions from the White House and an investigation by California’s insurance commissioner, federal and state lawmakers should act to regulate health insurance premiums and force insurers to defend every increase.

In recent letters to policyholders announcing yearly premium hikes of up to 39% and perhaps higher, Anthem Blue Cross of California says it is “necessary to adjust our rates to cover the escalating cost of health care.” Consumer Watchdog, noting that a 39% increase is 1,500% above the rate of consumer inflation, said the insurer was simply gouging policyholders to raise profits in the face of a sinking customer base.”  -Consumer Watchdog

Reuters Photographer Released

The U.S. Military has released a Reuters photographer after taking him from his home in Iraq and throwing him in prison for more than a year without charges being filed.

“U.S. and Iraqi forces smashed in the doors to Jassam’s house in Mahmudiya town, south of Baghdad, in September 2008 and whisked him away.

He spent time in a desert prison on the Iraq-Kuwait border, called Camp Bucca, and the smaller Camp Cropper detention center near Baghdad airport.

Jassam was one of several Iraqi journalists working for foreign news organizations who have been detained by the U.S. military, often for months at a time, since the 2003 U.S. invasion. None has ever been charged, triggering criticism from international journalism rights groups.” -Reuters

Psychiatry Marches On

 “Mental Retardation” becomes an “intellectual disability,” and  “Asperger’s syndrome” becomes a mild version of autism.   Those are a couple of the changes in diagnostic language being proposed by the American Psychiatric Association.

“The manual suggests some new diagnoses. Gambling so far is the lone identified behavioral addiction, but in the new category of learning disabilities are problems with both reading and math. Also new is binge eating, distinct from bulimia because the binge eaters don’t purge.” -AP

Toyota Pulls Ads From ABC

The Guardian is reporting that more than 170 Toyota dealers have pulled their ads from ABC-TV, to protest news coverage of so-called “runaway Toyotas.”

‘”A marketing agency representing 173 Toyota dealers with showrooms in south-eastern states including Florida, Georgia and South Carolina told ABC it wants to shift spending to rival stations because of “excessive stories on the Toyota issues”.’ –The Guardian

Editor Sentenced To Five Years

Every now and then I have to remind myself that what is now referred to as China,  used to be commonly called “Communist China.”   The fact that it remains solidly Communist is pointed out by a story on a Chinese editor being sentenced to five years in prison for for criticizing the Chinese Communist Party.

The New York Times reports that Tan Zuoren, was given the sentence for writing about and against the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989.

Beyond that, it appears Mr. Tan was working on a piece exposing linkage between the Chinese business community and government officials that led to shoddy construction in the country’s schools.

The Times reports, “…he was assembling an independent report on the thousands of children killed when schools collapsed across Sichuan and nearby provinces during a devastating earthquake in May 2008.” -NY Times

On Haiti And Health Care

As the news continues to arrive from Haiti, I can’t stop thinking about our instinctive need to do all we can to eliminate human suffering.    The response is automatic.   In the final analysis we must depend upon one another for our security, health care and general well being.   Consequently, when visited by terrible suffering, civilized people respond without thinking about the cost.

One of the first responders from the U.S. was the search and rescue team from the Los Angeles County Fire Department.     It made me proud to be an Angelino, when I saw our guys gathering up their gear at the airport to fly out to Port-au-Prince.   They were going because people were dying and it was the right thing to do.   Other cities, counties and states responded in like-fashion as did our President, who sent troops, our Secretary of State and a hospital ship.   As a nation, we are responding as we should.  It’s the way civilized people respond to tragedy because in the final analysis, all we have is one another.

The parallels with the near non-response to assist our own people following the Katrina tragedy in New Orleans will surely be made. People will be talking about the irony of former President George W. Bush pledging his support and congratulating President Obama for his rapid response to the disaster in Haiti.   Mr. Bush, has a legacy to try and build and after-the-fact is probably better than almost no positive legacy at all.    He’s been out of office for only one year and already our 43rd President has become a historically sad public figure.  At least he’s backing the Haitian relief effort.  That’s something.  Perhaps it should be taken a step further.

During the blitz on London, with death constantly on their doorstep and their city lying in ruins, the British people took a look around and realized that health care was a right and not a privilege.  To this day, they continue to care for one another regardless of someone’s ability to pay as does the rest of the industrialized world, with one exception.  That exception of course, is the United States.

A recent study from the Harvard Medical School, points to nearly 45,000 Americans dying annually because of a lack of health insurance and their inability to get good health care.    That’s Forty-five thousand a year.  That amounts to the Haiti death toll happening every four years or so, right here in the United States.

As we continue to do all we can to help the people of Haiti, as we should, I can’t help but feel concern for our own people.  Americans who have been forced to stay at home and suffer because they don’t have health insurance and can’t afford a visit to a doctor or dentist.   People who have lost their homes to foreclosure because of the high cost of health care while we pony up billions to bail out the banking industry.

We aren’t demanding proof of health insurance from the people of Haiti before going to their aid.   The British, the Canadians and the rest of the industrialized world have recognized that health care is a right and not a privilege.   And yet our own Congress can’t seem to deal with the necessity of providing for the health care of our own people with a genuine public health option and not some smoke-and-mirrors plan designed to protect the financial interests of the insurance industry rather than providing the kind of health care that should be considered an entitlement in any truly civilized society.

We can help in Haiti, but we can’t seem to help ourselves.  Something we should perhaps be thinking about as Mr. Obama continues his mission, playing a David-like hero for what’s left of the American middle class to the Goliath of the health insurance industry and their bought and paid for water carriers in the United State Senate.


Late Add:  Emergency assistance needed here at home:   Not that things aren’t just ducky here in the U.S., but now comes word that an ice storm has hit the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in So. Dakota.  The people there (our Native Americans) are in need of food, medicine for kids and even shoes.  Right here in the U.S.A.  Think about it people.  Here’s a link to a Huffington Post story with info on where you can send your dollars.

Roderick Misses The Point

It seems Kevin Roderick of “LAObserved” and I have a difference of opinion.  With regard to my story on reporters missing the lede on County Supervisor Mike Antonovich’s Saturday news conference in La Canada/Flintridge, Roderick blogs-

“Olsen completely misses the dozen stories by Times reporter Paul Pringle examining management of the Station Fire.”

I don’t think so.  In fact, I included references to earlier reporting done by the Times.  But that’s not what my piece is about.

Apparently Mr. Roderick didn’t bother to read my writing.   My piece is about reporters missing the lede on a Saturday news conference, not about something that was written weeks or months ago.

The post he so roundly criticizes can be read in full below.

Did You Guys Miss The Lede?

Completely missing the lead on a story (spelled “lede” in journalism) , is among the worst mistakes a reporter can make.

Sometimes it happens.

I have to wonder if it didn’t happen on Saturday following a news conference at the scene of the mudslides in the La Canada/Flintridge area near Los Angeles.   Dozens of homes were damaged by the slides, some were left uninhabitable.

All of it was caused by the Station Fire that burned through the Angeles National Forest.  The fire broke out on August 26th and wasn’t fully contained until October 16th.

Burning 160,577 acres and claiming the lives of two firefighters, it “was the largest fire in the recorded history of Angeles National Forest (est. 1892) and the 10th largest fire in California since 1933.” -US Forest Service

Yesterday, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, complained that it didn’t have to be as bad as it was.   According to the Supervisor, there was a dispute between Los Angeles County and the U.S. Forest Service over the question of how the fire should be fought.  Antonovich said that had the feds gone along with the County’s wishes, they could have prevented 160,000 acres from burning and as a consequence, he said, there would be no mudslides in the foothill area today.

I vaguely remember talk about whether the feds should have done more to contain the fire early on.  A quick search with google turned up the following from a piece in the Los Angeles Times on October 6, 2009.

“Reinforcements from Los Angeles County were scaled back early in the battle, and federal officials now say they are investigating the actions that allowed the blaze to rage out of control. The fire, which began Aug. 23 above La Canada Flintridge, became the largest in recorded county history and killed two county firefighters when their truck plunged off a mountain road.” -LA Times

A later blogged report in the LA Times on November 13, 2009, reported that commanders in charge of fighting the fire had “underestimated the threat…….and reduced the number of helicopters and crews.”

And there’s more.

The Times also reported that helicopters did not arrive in force on the critical second day of the fire, Aug. 27, until several hours after first light and after ground crews started to attack the flames along Angeles Crest Highway.

In addition, the Forest Service had issued a memorandum three weeks before the blaze ordering managers to cut firefighting costs by minimizing their use of reinforcements from local and state agencies. Today’s report says costs played no role in the Forest Service’s decisions to use fewer reinforcements from Los Angeles County on Day 2 of the Station fire.-LA Times

I’ve done a little looking around, but I have yet to find anyone doing any real reporting on the charge Supervisor Antonovich has leveled, on what can only be described as the possibility of a huge error in judgment by the US Forest service which led to the Station Fire spreading from around 577 acres to 160,577 acres.

It could have been stopped at just 577 acres, but the Forest Service elected to let it go?

Did you guys miss the lede?


The top of a news story is spelled “lede” and not “lead,” to distinguish the written words in the lede from the metal (lead) the pressmen used to melt down to make typeface back in the old days.

The Unkindest Cut Of All

 Los Angeles Times

                               photo: chris eason   

On February 2nd they cut another inch from my Los Angeles Times.  I’ve been living with it this way for a few days now, but I can’t get used to it.

When I pick it up, I am left with the uncomfortable sensation that someone has sliced not one, but two or three inches from the right side of what used to feel like a legitimate “broadsheet.”   It now feels like the paper needs a prosthetic of some sort.

Somewhere out there, there has to be someone sitting on a pile of money big enough to rescue this paper.  Someone who can buy it, lock, stock and presses, and then give it back to journalism and Southern California.  We need the Times, you see.  We need someone to cover local news.  Someone with the reach to cover Southern California with solid investigative pieces that hold the bastard’s feet to the fire.   The west needs it, the country needs it.  The Los Angeles Times is a vital part of what keeps our city, state and nation functioning as a free society.   A watchdog against the vulgarians who would take it all away.

Somewhere out there, there must be someone with the money and the social conscience to make it happen.  Someone sitting on a pile of old money out in Pasadena, or a pile of new money up on Mulholland Drive.  Someone who will be satisfied with being simply wealthy, as opposed to falling victim to the business community’s popular obsession with quarterly growth projections that can’t be met without further devastation.

If you have all that money anyway, why not leave a legacy of truth, justice and the American way?   You know it’s the right thing to do.

Please do it soon, before they amputate another inch or two from the soul of Southern California.

(With more than 650,000 readers, The Times still has the 4th largest daily circulation in the country.  The Sunday circulation numbers are just a bit above 983,000.)