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(Oct. 19, 2009)

          I’ve seen tortured reasoning, but seldom something as Abu Ghraibed as a recent bit of politically correct crapola in the form of a brief commentary by KPCC’s popular John “Off Ramp” Rabe.
          Follow this, it’s worth it:
          Rabe was blogging about an excellent L.A. Weekly cover story/scoop, “The Assassination of Deputy Abel Escalante,” exposing the cold-blooded murder of a Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy as gang-ordered execution. Deep in this investigative report is a recap of a big national story in which a little girl was shot to death in gang crossfire in the Cypress Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. She was first reported to have been part of a family that simply made a wrong turn, while a later L.A. Times article reported evidence suggesting the family was trying to make a drug deal.
          Here’s Rabe, whose piece is just slightly longer than its headline, "Old Myths and Cliches Live On in L.A. Weekly Story about Escalante Killing:"
          “In other words, it was a ‘drug deal gone wrong,’ not a random killing. Of course it’s sad that a little girl was killed, but that killing didn’t prove that your average Angelino was at risk of being gunned down if they made a random wrong turn, which is how it was played in the national media.”
          Sputter. Cough. Gasp. Sneeze.
          Where to begin?
          Well, first of all, the circumstances of the girl's family’s presence in Cypress Park are uncomfirmed. So Rabe's conclusion, “It was a ‘drug deal gone wrong,” is stated as fact when it apparently remains open to question. A Times report, Rabe noted in the commentary, presented “good evidence” that the family was out to buy drugs. “Good evidence” is not a conclusive finding, something reporter Rabe seems to not understand here.
          But allow me to address a much more, oh, pesky, point:
          What in the hell does it matter if the kid was killed in a “drug deal gone wrong” with gang members, or inadvertently caught in a gang shootout? Either way, she is dead. . .because of gang activity! Yet Rabe thinks this is an important distinction! What’s more, the whole point of his commentary is not about gangs, not about murdered deputy Escalante---who was chosen at random and killed at home in a fiendish Mexican Mafia retaliatory "hit," the scoop chillingly reveals---and not about little three-year-old Stephanie Kuhen being ripped apart by bullets.
          No. Rabe’s point here seems to be. . .
          L.A.’s reputation.
          Gasp again.
          This veteran NPR alleged journalist goes out of his way to post on the KPCC website that the notion of, as he puts it, “your average Angelino,” being “at risk of being gunned down” if they make a “random wrong turn”. . .is wrong. He says the fact that this child was killed in what might have been a drug-deal gone bad---not "gang crossfire"--- proves that this notion is wrong.
          John, you’re off your ramp.
          Not only is the make-a-wrong-turn-in-L.A.-and-you're-dead factor absolutely true, but any cop in town will back me up on it.
          There are simply parts---many, many parts---of L.A. and L.A. county that you’d best stay out of if you value your safety. No matter your race. Any idiot knows this, except, apparently, Rabe, who is not just any idiot. Frankly, on a given night, damn near anywhere in L.A. can be a “wrong turn.” Some illustrations:
          I  was slowly creeping through a four-way stop one block off Hollywood Boulevard one night around 7, when a latino pedestrian in gang regalia decided that he didn't like my creeping---and flashed a silver gun under his shirt. A friend of mine was executed, point-blank, face-down, by gang punks on a sidewalk in Venice after dining at a cool restaurant near the gang-ravaged Oakwood neighborhood there (that, 29 years later, remains gang-ravaged.) Eighteen-year-old Harbor City football star Dannie Farber Jr. was shot to death last May while having some bird at Louisiana Fried Chicken in Compton. (Perhaps Rabe goes there for Sunday brunch.) Seventeen-year-old Los Angeles High football star Jamiel Shaw was murdered in Arlington Heights near downtown last March (at about 8:30 in the evening) when he didn't answer a latino gang member's territorial question, "Where are you from?" Stories of nice kids in “safe” parts of town who are gunned down in drive-by shootings became L.A. clichés long ago.
          So why would Rabe, a well paid KPCC journalist and veteran NPR reporter, take the trouble to make this point? Why does it matter to him that the child who was shot to death was not just part of family making a wrong turn in Cypress Park?
          Well, for one thing, Rabe owns a home in Cypress Park.
          So one must immediately wonder: was his commentary meant to clear his (gang-scarred) neighborhood’s “good name?” Was he sticking up for his 'hood? On the eyeball-rolling insane basis that the girl’s killing was part of a drug deal, and not a wrong turn? That this, in Rabe Land, seems to makes the killing more palatable? You know, it was good ol’, fair-and-square, traditional L.A. criminal activity---therefore, this neighborhood is really all right!
And I can't imagine that any conflict of interest figured into the commentary, but you would think that a reporter of Rabe's experience would have tried to avert any such possible appearance, out of ordinary professionalism.
          But this is only part of the gasp factor of Rabe’s little rant.
          Consider this head-spinner:
          “Of course it’s sad that a little girl was killed. . .”
          Wait a second, Rabe.
          Of course it’s sad? Of course it’s sad? Well, how goddamn grand of you, Radio Boy, to have allowed that “of course” the butchering of a tyke is “sad.” What stupefying compassion spills from your keyboard! Such searing, keen insight into the human condition! I could almost feel your tears running down my computer screen! Ah, you understand that a little girl cut by bullets until she is dead is a “sad” event.” Of course it’s sad. Yeah. Of course murder is sad. Of course a child getting a bullet through her tiny body is sad. Of course Jamiel Shaw getting his brains blown out is sad. Of course war is sad. Of course the Holocaust is sad. . .
          You’re cruisin’ for a Nobel Peace Prize, there, John!
          Let me correct you, Rampy, though it will likely do no good.
          For a child to be shot to death is just a wee bit worse, just a tad more upsetting, just a pinch more tragic, than "sad.” Such things are really well beyond words, at least mine, but let's just try out a few: fiendish, vile, despicable, crippling, cut-you-off-at-the-knees hideous, unfathomably heartbreaking, grind-your-brain-to-dust devastating, make-you-want-to-puke outrageous. Or my favorite term at the moment: savagery. Rabe, your offhanded phrase, "of course it's sad," belongs in a category with "we are shocked and saddened" and other hollow, cliched pronouncements that are unfeelingly invoked in the wake of unimaginable horror. It almost has a cavalier “let them eat cake” ring to it. I seriously question whether you understand the tragedy at hand here, and whether you feel anything about it other than an impulse to. . .defend L.A.’s (and your neighborhood’s) reputation. I think your perspective is on warp-drive.
          I see---the child was the daughter of bad guys who put her in harm’s way. No fault of bucolic Los Angeles, eh?
          Frankly, Rabe, I think it’s time for you to visit the little kid’s grave, if she has one, and have a little one-way conversation with her. Maybe you could start with, “Of course it’s sad that you’re dead.” Or maybe you could try to persuade her that L.A. is really a very safe, cool place to live, and maybe if she’s reincarnated, she can come back and try again!
          Feh again.
          Now, there is something else going on in Rabe’s commentary---and I use that term advisedly, seeing as it is nine teency paragraphs long. (These radio journalists, you know, can’t be expected to carry on as long as us hoary old print guys.) It opens with a suggestive remark about the L.A. Weekly, and. . .ends with a suggestive remark about the L.A. Weekly. Now, why would that be, you wonder?
          Only that a lot of rah-rah, I Love L.A., politically correct reporters and editors across town seem to be enjoying making snide remarks about the Weekly since former L.A. Times reporter Jill Stewart took over. They seem to object to the new Weekly’s hard-hitting attack of the many painfully obvious things that are so wrong with Los Angeles: from the smiley, priapic, philandering mayor, to schools in the toilet, to gangs and the Mexican Mafia essentially having their terrorist ways, decade after decade, to sociopathic developers amok. Subjects that are usually handled by major L.A. media with the same kind of accepting “of course it’s sad” attitude evidenced by Rabe.
          Stewart’s starting point, you see, is that these things simply are not acceptable. Which is exactly the attitude that an editor---and a newspaper---should take.
          I mean, how many times in the past year alone have you watched some broken, weeping mother wailing haplessly at a shapely, rich, facelifted TeeVee newsbimbo about a son or daughter being shot to death by gang members? Hey, just another day in of course it’s sad, life-in-the-big-city L.A., right? Well, the new Weekly doesn’t subscribe to this blithe tone, and is not pulling its punches.
          Yet Rabe’s commentary opens with this attack on the Weekly:
          “I don’t know if there’s anything else wrong in Christine Pelisek’s LA Weekly article about the killing of LA County Sheriff’s deputy Abel Escalante, but she perpetuates one probable myth.”
          I don’t know if there’s anything else wrong in. . .Wink, wink. The clear suggestion is that there might be, probably is. And the “myth” is, again, the background point---a passing reference in the Weekly article---that the Kuhen child was the victim of a “wrong turn,” as opposed to that “drug deal gone wrong.” Something that, by Rabe's own description, remains in dispute, therefore nullifying his claim of "myth."
          So Rabe apparently finds this little point---protecting L.A.'s reputation---more worthy of comment than the investigative report by Pelisek, which broke the rather staggering news that law enforcement officers are now random targets of retaliation by the Mexican Mafia. A reality that has L.A. law enforcement biting its nails down to the little rising moons.
          But wait, there’s politically correct Rabe more.
          Here is a paragraph from Pelisek’s article:
          “Maria ‘Chata’ Leon is the Leon family’s drug-dealing matriarch, who moved here from a lawless Mexican village and gave birth to 13 children — a half-dozen of whom became criminals. Her huge brood was for years Drew Street’s incurable disease. Working with the Avenues gang, they turned their densely populated Glassell Park neighborhood, adjacent to Forest Lawn Memorial-Park and just four miles from downtown Los Angeles, into a criminal enterprise.”
          And here is Deputy Rabe of the PC Police, on the attack:
          “Pelisek's writing is also a teensy, shall we say, cliché-infested.”
          And Rabe is, shall we say, coy. You get his implication, of course. That the article is trading in racial/ethnic stereotype. But Rabe apparently would rather be cute than make this accusation openly, as he dumps it on an anonymous source:
          “A fellow reporter,” he writes, “pegged ‘lawless Mexican village,’ ‘huge brood,’ and ‘incurable disease’ as ‘150 year old (sic) cliches used to describe Mexicans and Mexican Americans in L.A.’”
          Gee, do you suppose this “fellow reporter” might be one of several latino reporters employed by KPCC? If so, why did Rabe not identify him or her? Well, if these are clichés, one can only say that clichés exist for a reason. (And by the way, Rabe, how is it that these three so-called clichés are exactly 150 years old? I’d like to know the origin of these three expressions exactly 150 years ago.) I’ve spoken with a California drug enforcement agent who has traveled deep into Mexico on many investigations, and I can tell you that “lawless Mexican village” is a clinically accurate description for many “lawless Mexican villages.” Never mind that law enforcement is infamously corrupt in Mexico, and always has been. Never mind that the whole country is at the mercy of drug lords.
          Sheesh, Rabe.
          And I would say that 13 children in one family is most certainly and literally a “huge brood,” now wouldn’t you, folks? As for "incurable disease," yes, I would call this a very apt metaphor, seeing as it extends to massive criminal enterprise and outright tribalism that has thrived throughout Los Angeles, decade after decade. I refer to gangs, of course, just as Pelisek clearly does, and the fact that no amount of law enforcement, no amount of saintly effort by the great Father Greg Boyle and Homeboy Industries ever stems this terrorism. Yes, that's correct---terrorism. What else to call criminal gang warfare that yields murder after murder of innocent people, many of whom are. . .little girls?          
          Finally, here is what the KPCC personality meant to be his pithy, anti-Weekly coup de grâce:
          “Add them to ‘gang-scarred,’ ‘gang-infested,’ ‘nestled,’ ‘dark headlines,’ and ‘isolated and upscale,’ and you’ve got … oh, an LA Weekly magazine article.”
          And you've got an, oh, sneering, bitchy little Rabe remark. Yes, that sensationalist, nasty new L.A. Weekly! Once again trying to do some tough journalism in a city where knitted-brow, fabulously clad newsbimbos make their salaries from the corpses of nice African-American kids gunned down because they do not answer as to whether they belong to a gang. Where the major paper---never anything approaching hard-hitting---is now mostly crippled and confused.
          And where well-paid journalists such as Rabe sit at their little computers in their little houses and take little nine-paragraph politically correct swipes, and make sure we know that it’s very different for a little girl to be shot to death by gang members in a drug deal than for her to be shot to death by gang members by accident.
          Of course it’s sad.

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