November 9-16, 2005

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Nūz Goes to Washington

As President George Bush fiddled while D.C. burned--first entertaining Prince Charles and Camilla, then ducking out of the country for a four-day trip to Latin America--only one reporter knew what W was really running away from: the prospect of Nūz grilling him about the CIA leak at a White House press briefing.

(Go ahead, call Nūz a megalomaniac, but the truth is that we were in D.C. last week and we did apply for a White House press pass, as part of our quest to see what it takes to gain access to a press briefing (See Nūz 's breaking of the Paul Sanford story in "T Is for Treason," Sept. 21, and "Dragon Slayers," Oct. 26), so our claim is way more credible than, say, Bush's claim that Saddam ever had WMDs.)

Anyway, we began our quest by calling White House Media Affairs the week before our trip to D.C.

"We only need 24-48 hours notice," said a White House staffer, sounding a little tense, which was hardly surprising since Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was just about to hand down five indictments to Vice President Dick Cheney's top aide, I. Lewis Scooter' Libby on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in the CIA leak case.

"Call back Monday," said the staffer, which Nūz did, even though it was Halloween and we were horribly busy putting the final touches on our costume for what is undisputedly the biggest party night of the Santa Cruz year.

Sadly, no one returned our call that day, so we spent Halloween night as a Pissed-Off Gangster. Our sentiment was probably shared by many other parade-goers who might as well have dressed up like penguins, given how they were hemmed in by the chain-link fencing that the police erected, along with sets of glaring floodlights, in the middle of Pacific Avenue.

Still, this spirit-dampening wasn't enough to squelch the cute Chicken Little who visited our office in search of candy, nor the Umbrella Man family, who were all dressed in pink, with the little girls holding big pink Gerber daisies instead of eye-poking umbrellas. And then there were cool sock monkeys, a great pair of Napoleon Dynamites, a Tigger, who was bouncing around on power rider boots, and a Wendy's smoothie, (or was it a bowl of chili?) with a finger poking out (Gross!). So, while we thought it was a good safety measure to close the main drag of cars for the night, we hope that downtown burgermeisters can stop complaining about all those people and instead take a page out of the Catalyst's book, which put out a net and caught all those loose $20 bills with a show featuring Mos Def--a safe harbor from the demons and angels out on the street.

The next day, which was Nov. 1, or All Saints' Day, the White House finally left a voicemail, even as Bush was announcing that he'd picked federal Appeals Court Judge Samuel Alito Jr. to take Sandra Day O'Connor's seat on the Supreme Court, the Democrats were closing down the Senate to push for a war probe, and Nūz was midflight to Baltimore Airport.

"Call back tomorrow between 8 and 10am, with your Social Security Number and your name spelled correctly as on state-issued ID just to get the process started," said a smooth-sounding White House staffer named Kim.

I Am Sam

After calling back with our vital stats the next day, Nūz visited U.S. Rep. Sam Farr in his office opposite Capitol Hill. Farr's office is the only one with a U.N. flag flying outside its door, a fact that reportedly so ticked off other House reps in the post 9/11 days that they sent Farr lots of American flags--which he then gave away at a citizenship swearing-in ceremony.

With many reps away at Rosa Parks' funeral, Farr reminisced about the civil rights activist, whom he'd met twice during her lifetime--"I was so arrested at how delicate she was, a slender petite woman. What a symbol. She deserved to be in the rotunda"--before reflecting on the overall atmosphere in D.C. that week.

"Haven't you noticed that there's a dark cloud over the White House despite the beautiful weather?" said Farr, before praising the American people for their spontaneous outpouring of money, supplies and goodwill in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

"The country responded, even if the administration didn't," Farr said.

As for Bush's avian flu proposal, Farr admitted that something needs to be done, but objected to Bush asking for $7 billion in help by making cuts from programs that help other poor people, like food stamps.

As for a Nov. 2 Washington Post article about the CIA's "secret prison camps," Farr said he'd never believed in conspiracies and secret governments.

"But I'm concerned that with this administration--decisions are being made in secret, and not just in public, but from inside the government itself," said Farr, as we headed to the Capitol to meet with Monterey Naval Postgraduate School officers.

Just then, Nūz bumped headfirst into Porter Goss, who became director of the CIA, following the June 3, 2004, resignation of George Tenet.

"You better be careful," joked Farr, as we parted ways, Farr to talk to officers, Nūz to call Whitehouse Media Affairs, who told us there'd be no press briefings that week, because of Prince Charles' visit and the Prez's trip to Argentina the next day.

"Sorry we couldn't get you in,' said WH staffer Kim.

'Don't cry for me,' joked Nūz. "Until next time."

"Yes, until next time," said the staffer with a laugh--a laugh that began to haunt Nūz when we got pulled over at Baltimore airport for a full-on body search the very next day.

We Are the Champions

Admittedly, Nūz isn't the biggest sports fanatic out there, but when we heard that the SANTA CRUZ SHARKS and the SANTA CRUZ HAWKS--our two local SPECIAL OLYMPICS SOCCER TEAMS--were heading to Sacramento last weekend for the Northern California Regional Championships, we couldn't help but put pick up our pom-poms for a moment to cheer them on.

The teams were led by head coach VERA ROMANDIA, who's been involved with the Special Olympics for the past 30 of her 54 years, and has been coaching in Santa Cruz for 15 years.

"It's the longest thing I've ever done, besides being a mother," says Romandia, who started coaching in Livermore back in 1975 as a tribute to her child with Down's Syndrome, who passed away.

"For me it's just such a nice balance to the rest of the world," says Vera about her longstanding commitment. "There's no egos, no B.S., and I just love that. ... The honesty is the best thing. They'll say, 'Hey coach, your hair sucks today.' If you ever want to know what's up, ask a special athlete and you'll get the truth."

The Sharks and the Hawks are made up of athletes with mental and physical disabilities, ranging in age from 10 to 50. The coaches are all volunteers, and every Saturday, they help the athletes with everything from putting on their shin guards and tying their shoes to soccer skills and strategy.

"It isn't necessary to have a lot of experience," says Romandia. "The main thing is patience, energy, excitement and just hanging out and helping."

Most of [the athletes] are into sports," continues Romandia, "and they're very serious about it. It's interesting because even the lower functioning ones, they understand what it is to win and lose. You look at them and they're acting out and you don't even know if they're listening, but they know the difference between bronze, silver and gold."

Romandia says the Sharks usually take home the gold in their division--"We're pretty used to it," she says, "we're a gold-winning team"--but such was not the case this year.

The championships were held at the Cherry Island Soccer Complex in Sacramento. The Sharks came home with a bronze medal, and the Hawks managed to snag a silver, but Romandia insists that the event is less about winning and losing than it is about giving the athletes a chance to try their hardest and be a part of something bigger.

"A lot of them live in group homes," she says, "so going away for a weekend, it's this big thrill in their life. They get to go on a bus and be a part of something bigger."

"It's addicting," says Romandia. "You get back so much more than you put into it."

If you're interested in coaching any of the local teams, call LIZ GRUMET, the sports manager for Special Olympics Northern California, at 408.392.0170, ext. 204.

Workers of the World

Even though the bus strike (and the subsequent and totally sweet week of free bus rides) is over, pro-union folks are trying to keep the momentum rolling. On Saturday, Nov. 19, from 3 to 6pm at the POET & PATRIOT PUB, JONATHAN BOUTELLE and JIMMY KELLY will host an event marking the 90th anniversary of the day legendary union organizer

JIM HILL was executed, via firing squad, by Salt Lake City, Utah, police. Hill, who was born in Sweden in 1879, later became a prominent figure in the INDUSTRIAL WORKERS OF THE WORLD (IWW) while living in California. After being accused of murdering a grocer and his son, and following a controversial trial that went all the way to the Utah Supreme Court, Hill was convicted and sentenced to death.

His famous last words? "Don't mourn for me. Organize!"

In his elegiac poem "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night," ALFRED HAYES wrote a powerful epitaph for the union legend.

"The copper bosses killed you Joe, / They shot you Joe" says I / "Takes more than guns to kill a man" / Says Joe "I didn't die." / And standing there as big as life, / And smiling with his eyes / Joe says "What they forgot to kill / Went on to organize." The event will celebrate Hill's life in song, poetry and speech. It's free, but donations (supporting the San Jose City College Labor Studies program) will be accepted. For more information, call Kelly at 831.427.2535 or Boutelle at 831.429.5156.

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