Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Orange County, the right-wing cradle

From the Palm Beach Post-Times, Sunday, July 7, 1974

Orange County, the right-wing cradle
A Fertile Land of Firsts, It’s Patriotic Above All

By Kay Bartlett

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif (AP) – Just About anything will grow here. Most things will flourish.

Societies to fight income tax, counter committee to battle the “Communist infiltrated” PTA, even something called SHRIK (the Society to Harass the Reds and Intimidate the Kikes).

Miles and miles of freeway, acres of shopping centers, enough fast-food emporiums to feed a small nation.

People who stand in lines to buy a lot and a house in an instant village that was farmland a few months back, with the certain knowledge the value of their property will skyrocket in a year or two.

If that bores you, there’s a 75-year-old goldfish that does card tricks at Japanese Deer Park, one of the score of amusement palaces which thrive here.

Just south of Los Angeles and just north of San Diego, Orange County is a never-never land of affluence, sunshine and its own particular brand of patriotism.

It’s citizenry tend to add fuel to the image. Four-star Gen. Curtis LeMay, four-star patriot John Wayne, Sen. Barry Goldwater, an Arizonian who keeps an apartment at Newport Beach overlooking a bay.

Bordered by mountains on the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west, Orange County has been, among other things, a stronghold of the John Birch Society, a former stomping ground of the Ku Klux Klan, the fastest growing county in the United States (U.S. Census Bureau figures), and the home of the first drive-in church.

Richard Nixon was born in the northern city of Yorba Linda and periodically presides from the southern city of San Clemente. Between lies Disneyland, the institution that is Knott’s Berry Farm, an aerospace and electronics industry, one giant company that owns 20 per cent of the county’s land and a populace that believes there’s something slightly odd about anyone who would choose to live elsewhere.

Currently popular bumper stickers include “CommUNism,” “Hanoi is Fonda Jane,” “Kissinger My Ass,” “Would You Want Your Daughter to Date a Kennedy,” and “Nixon is a Liberal.” The “X” in Nixon is a swastika.

Politically, Orange County has long had a reputation for its ultra conservatism, a reputation that has been the subject of national magazine articles and popular jokes. It once prompted John Schmitz, a former congressman and 1972 presidential candidate of the American Independent party, to remark that he joined the John Birch Society to get into the mainstream of Orange County politics.

Many of my neighbors were Birch members,” says Mrs. Judy Rosener, who teaches a course in Orange County politics at the University of California at Irvine (UCI). “They were almost evangelistic about it. The thing that was disturbing to me was that they were well-educated, very bright and they took this thing very seriously.”

That was several years ago, Mrs. Rosener said. Since then Birch Society membership appears to have dropped off, or perhaps there’s less discussion about belonging. The society itself doesn’t give out membership figures.

Many residents claim the image attached to their county never was justified. And then you meet a resident like Anthony Hilder, a self-proclaimed “new rightist” and author of a book – “The War Lords of Washington” – which argues that international bankers conspired to involve American in World War II.

“I’m slightly to the right of Genghis Khan and far, far right of the Birch Society,” Hilder says. “If I was in charge, I’d bomb London, New York and Washington. That’s the seat of the international banking cartel that wishes to dominate the world.”

Roy Holm, mayor of Laguna Beach, one of the county’s 26 cities says, “I think Orange County has been portrayed much too simplistically. I don’t think Orange County was ever as conservative as it was portrayed east of the Colorado River.”

Most will agree that the county – 782 square miles and 1.6 million people – has more of a political mix now than it did 5 or 10 years ago. Still, it retains a uniqueness.

“Politically speaking, I guess you could say there are only two counties left in the United States – Orange County and Cook County (Chicago),” says George Delahanty, chairman of the county’s GOP Central Committee.

And Goldwater remarked that in his disastrous 1964 election bid against Lyndon Johnson he carried five states and Orange County.

Why did conservatism hang on when, between 1950 and 1965, the county was growing sometimes as much as 6,000 people per day? Some ascribe it to the agricultural economy that dominated for many years, and the traditional conservatism of farmers. Undoubtedly an influence, but one that does not explain why the conservatism lingered when the county’s population tripled and the immigrants weren’t farmers.

Engineers, technicians, scientists and skilled workers arrived. School teachers came as the schools increased, postal clerks, grocery store clerks – everyone necessary for an area whose needs suddenly triple.

In addition, thousands live here in retirement. El Toro Marine Corps Base has a population of 10,000. But the public information officer says 70,000 people have PX privileges. There are civilian retirement complexes. The largest, Leisure World in Rossmore, has 17,000 elderly.

“Orange County’s the kind of place that is very kind to people who want to do nothing but goof off,” says Gen. LeMay, among the retired. “In fact, that’s why I’m here.”

Many see in the Register, a Santa Ana newspaper with a circulation of 172,000, a major reason for the county’s conservative bent. Since 1905, the Register has editorialized unwaveringly against income tax, public schools and government in general. It refuses, for instance, to endorse political candidates because, as Jim Dean, the executive editor, puts it, “Government is the problem.”

Its late publisher, Raymond Cyrus Hoiles, would offer $100 to anyone who would debate him. His position was that government should not collect taxes for any reason. If you want a sidewalk in front of your house, build it yourself. Freeways should grow from private enterprise, Hoiles maintained.

The bearded executive editor, in stressing that schools would be better run by free enterprise, uses this analogy: “If the government ran the grocery stores, a loaf of bread would cost a dollar and it wouldn’t taste good.”

A major Orange County personality is Walter Knott, a rock-ribbed conservative, an Okie who migrated here in the 30’s and made millions with Knott’s Berry Farm. He’s a man who peddles politics as well as jam and jelly.

Then there was the late Jimmy Utt, a dapper man who sat in the U.S. House of Representatives from the 83rd Congress until his death in 1970. Known as “Mr. Conservative,” Utt usually was cheered back to Congress with 70 per cent of the vote.

When Utt died, he was replaced by Schmitz, who continued the ultra-conservative voting pattern.

Schmitz was defeated in the 1972 Republican primary, a development some view as a move away from conservatism. Others say it was an upshot of Schmitz’s attacks on Mr. Nixon at the height of the President’s national popularity.

“Schmitz was saying the emperor wore no clothes before anyone else noticed,” said a newspaperman.

“The people wanted to spank me but not defeat me,” says Schmitz.

Andrew Hinshaw, who replaced Schmitz, campaigned as “A real Republican.” He’s frequently described as a conservative. There are six men in the House representing Orange County and surrounding areas. Five are Republicans and one is a Democrat.

Dr. Richard Baisden, dean of the Extension Center at UCI, believes the county never was as conservative as its leaders.

“A lot of right-wing people controlled some key positions for years and years,” says Dr. Baisden.

And then a young career girl, a pretty youngster who worked as a guide at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, relates: “I told my mother I was moving to Santa Monica. She was shocked. She said, ‘But they are so liberal up there.’”

Dixon Gayer, a former newspaper columnist and now a professor of journalism, disputes the new view that the people are less conservative.

“They are more conservative here than ever before. It’s just that the organizations are weaker. It’s more underground now,” says Gayer.

Or, as John Zemanek, head of the very right-wing American Volunteer Group, put it: “We’re practicing obscurity.” He claims the AVG, also tagged the American Volunteer Guerrillas and the Alternate Volunteer Government, is still active, although membership is down.

At one point, AVG had a few thousand members, Zemanek said, but membership has dropped to 300 or 400 today.

James Townsend, publisher of a newspaper called the National Educator and a man sometimes called the hub of the right wing in Orange County, assessed the reduced membership this way:

“There were a bunch of retired colonels and other military people in the group. But they got scared of those guys running around all the time with guns sticking out of their pockets.”

Not so, counters Zemanek, a burly longshoreman and an expert marksman once ranked sixth in the state.

“We kicked a number of people out. Some of them were Reds. And we stopped making membership drives,” he said.

Zamanek disputes the charge that the AVG is, or ever was, a paramilitary outfit. “We’re basically an intelligence organization. Ninety per cent of guerrilla warfare is intelligence work.”

He cites as an example a scheduled hippie march on Disneyland several years ago. An AVG infiltrator in the hippie group, Zemanek said, suggested that the marchers pass out handbills showing Pluto, Goofy and Minnie indulging in obscenities.

The hippies did it.

“That, of course, turned the people against them. And they (the hippies) paid for the cost of the handbills and as far as they knew, it was their idea. That’s guerrilla warfare at its finest,” Zemanek said.

Gayer, who once lost a job as a columnist because he spoofed Orange County’s Birch Society, now publishes a small newspaper, “The Dixon Line,” which he describes as liberal. He has this theory why the county clings to conservatism.

People come here without any roots and without anything to believe in. Because they are seeking to be friendly, they come to believe what their neighbors believe. It doesn’t take very many people to influence a community.”

A more widespread theory is that people came to Orange County to find both the ocean and the mountains within their purview. They bought beautiful homes in a beautiful climate. Their children grew tall, nourished by sunshine and exceptionally good produce, and suddenly, life was never better, never brighter.

“These people want to conserve the middle-class values. These are the values upon which Western civilization is built,” says Schmitz. “But Orange County is just like anywhere else, only more so.

“In this age of welfarism, some people think it’s kooky to want to do it yourself. And that’s where Orange County gets its image. It’s not the kind of place where you come to get on welfare. But if you’ve got the get up and go, Orange County is the place for you.”

But Orange County is where sex education was pioneered, then banned in some districts; the county where a theater manager in the 60s banned a film festival because Charlie Chaplin was featured, the county in which one school system rejected Jonathan Livingston Seagull as high school reading because it dealt with reincarnation and Hindu philosophy.

With a few exceptions – secluded Laguna Beach, plus Newport Beach and San Clemente – the cities here blend into one another. Fullerton becomes Anaheim at no discernible point, Anaheim creeps into Garden Grove, Garden Grove into Santa Ana, Santa Ana into Orange.

“These little communities used to have identities and separate personalities,” says [Jim] Sleeper. “Now they’re all like sandwiches that have been kept in the refrigerator for three or four days. No matter what they ate made of they all taste alike.”

Whether Communism is to be feared remains a hot issue in Orange County. Zemanek, of course, says yes and allows as how his group watches a man down in Laguna Beach. Gayer says the only Communist he ever met in Orange County was a 70-year-old gardener. And Townsend believes communism is just a pawn of the real force: The secret societies of the international banking cartel, the Zionist movement and the internationalists.

“The Zionists are a powerful force, money-wise,” says Townsend. “It’s a very wealthy, very well-organized, very fanatical force. Anyone who doesn’t recognize the power of the force is naïve. It is alien and very dangerous to the people of the United States. Their goal is world control. They can buy a candidate for any office. They exert a tremendous influence on who wins the presidency of the United States.”

Townsend’s newspaper, The National Educator, is mailed across the country, but he won’t reveal circulation figures. It regularly attacks the school system, the National Education Association, abortion, the United Nations, sex education, both the Republican and Democratic parties, Darwinian theories of evolution and income tax. It named Mr. Nixon the “tax rebellion leader of 1973” and noted “Award presentation will follow recipient’s expected availability in 1976 or sooner.”

Townsend, a middle-aged six-footer, describes Mr. Nixon as a “wild-eyed liberal who did more to promote the concept of one world in his first five years in office than all the Democratic presidents put together. Well, maybe, except for FDR. Nixon takes the concept further than McGovern’s wildest dream. McGovern would never have gotten away with what Nixon has.”

Townsend heads the National Justice Foundation, a nationwide organization first formed in Orange County as the right wing’s answer to the American Civil Liberties Union. Other right-wing groups headquartered here include the Citizen’s Committee for California, which launched the draft-Goldwater movement in 1964, and a half-dozen anti-income tax associations.

“It’s become somewhat of a badge of courage to get arrested for failing to pay taxes,” says Gayer.

Orange County is deeply involved in conflicts between homeowners and environmentalists. It might have more homeowner associations and planning commissions per square foot than any other U.S. county.

For example, Larry Smith of Newport Beach is in court because the architecture committee of the Canyon Hills Homeowners Association says the basketball hoop he put up on his garage must come down.

Smith says he painted the backboard the color of his house. Even so, the association says the hoop must be in the backyard and not in the garage.

“You need to get an environmental impact study around here before you put up a fence nowadays,” says Register editor Dean.

Besides the private groups and organizations, much of the environment hoopla results from Proposition 20, a statewide requirement that studies must be made before any development can be done within one thousand feet of the shore.

One thing Orange County has not been accused of being is a center of culture.

“As I’m fond of remarking,” historian Sleeper says, “the last cultural innovation that came to Orange County was indoor plumbing.”

Or, as the man on the bus was explaining to a newcomer: “It’s a never-never land. We never have problems here. It never rains here, the riots and the unemployment are never here.”

It was raining as he spoke, and when he had finished his chamber-of-commercing, he allowed as how Orange County, dependent on freeways, certainly would need a special dispensation if the energy crisis brought gasoline rationing.

And so it goes, in the county that seems to be built on contradictions.

“Orange County was floating on federal aerospace money while people were running around objecting to federal grants,” said Hank Panian, a history professor at Orange Coast College.

“Orange County is on a continental water shelf and gets its water from a river in the desert.”

There was a famous aviator who filed an historic flight plan to go to California and would end up in Ireland.

And guess what? Wrong-way Corrigan lives here, too.

8-14: do you regret all the lying?

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Goals and Values and Twaddle

blather: long-winded talk with no real substance*
The whole concept of MSLOs [measurable student learning outcomes] as the latest fad in education is somewhat akin to the now discredited fad of the '90's, Total Quality Management, or TQM. Essentially, the ACCJC adopted MSLOs as the overarching basis for accrediting community colleges based on their faith in the theoretical treatises of a movement.... After repeated requests for research showing that such use of MSLOs is effective, none has been forthcoming from the ACCJC [accreditors]. Prior to large scale imposition of such a requirement at all institutions, research should be provided to establish that continuous monitoring of MSLOs has resulted in measurable improvements in student success at a given institution. No such research is forthcoming because there is none….
The Accountability Game…., Leon F. Marzillier (Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, October, 2002)
In the summer of ’13, I offered a critique of the awkward verbiage by which the district and colleges explain their values, goals, and objectives —aka SOCCCD'S G&V (goals and values) blather.
I wrote a post each for the district, Saddleback College, and Irvine Valley College efforts. (See the links below.)
This verbiage—stated in terms of “values,” “missions,” “goals,” “visions,” and whatnot—is often badly written. It is sometimes embarrassingly trite.
It occasionally communicates something worthwhile.
No doubt you are familiar with the usual objections to jargon. Higher education, too, has its jargon—an irony, given typical college-level instruction in writing, which urges jargon eschewery.
Sure enough, SOCCCD G&V blather is riddled with jargon and with terms misused and abused. For instance, in the case of the district’s dubious blather, the so-called “vision” is actually a purpose. Why didn't they just call it that?
As one slogs through this prattle, one finds that "visions" tend to be awfully similar to “missions,” with which they are distinguished. The latter in turn are awfully similar to “goals,” which must be distinguished from “objectives.” But aren't goals and objectives pretty much the same thing?
These perverse word games will surely perplex or annoy anyone armed with a command of the English language. In fact, readers will be perplexed to the degree that they are thus armed. Illiterates, of course, will be untroubled.
Here's a simple point: the district and colleges’ G&V blather tends to eschew good, plain English in favor of technical terms and trendy words and phrases (i.e., it tends to be bullshitty and vague). Thus, one encounters such trendy terminological turds as “dynamic,” “diversity,” “student success,” and “student-centered.” Even meretricious neologisms such as ISLOs and “persistence rates” pop up, unexplained, undefended.
Does anyone see a transparency problem with all of this? Shouldn't the public, or at least the well educated public, be able to comprehend statements of the colleges' goals and values?
In the case of the district, to its credit, all it really seems to want to say is that it wants to teach well and it wants students to succeed. Admirable!
So why all the ugly, common-sense defying, buzzword-encrusted claptrap?

Districtular poppycock: our “vision” and our “mission” and our tolerance of twaddle - July 31, 2013

THEY BUZZ: Saddleback College's "Mission, Vision, and Values" - August 4, 2013

IVC’s vision, mission, and goals: nonsense on stilts - August 5, 2013

THE IRVINE VALLEY CHRONICLES: no ideas, just clichés & buzzwords - Sep 30, 2013

*From my Apple laptop's dictionary