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One heck of a way to start a vacation! Thief switches license plates on stolen minivan: family of five heading for a camping trip stopped at gunpoint and briefly handcuffed...  

* Imagine these folks are gonna' have quite a story to tell their friends....  Seems the family of five was on the 405 Freeway this morning on their way to a camping trip when they were pulled over by officers in half-a-dozen police cruisers who thought -- mistakenly -- that they were apprehending someone driving a stolen car. 

How did this mistake come about?  According to Los Angeles Times report quoting an LAPD captain:

   "The minivan thief had swapped license plates with their van recently ... They'd driven the van without noticing the changed plate."

Also, the captain said the swapped license plate indicated the vehicle was stolen, which prompted an LAPD cruiser to start following the minivan on the 10 Freeway before it transitioned to the 405 Freeway. Officers waited to stop the vehicle until a department helicopter was overhead.  Police cars with their lights on followed the vehicle for several minutes before the minivan driver realized the cruisers and spotlight were meant for him.



Politicians, lawyers, journalists: The use/overuse of the word "absolutely"?

"Absolute overuse of word corrupts absolutely"

* Enjoyable column by Stuart Leavenworth, Sacramento Bee editorial page editor, on the use/overuse of the word "absolutely" in response to questions, rather than "sure", great" or "uh-huh", as often used to be the case.  Excerpt from Leavenworth's commentary:

   According to Webster's, the word "absolute" derives from the Latin word absolutus. Back in the Middle Ages,  it was used largely to refer to something free of any imperfection. "Indeed, my lord, it is a most absolute and excellent horse," says Constable in Shakespeare's "The Life of King Henry the Fifth."

   In modern usage, "absolutely" has become a way to express unequivocal affirmation, especially when grown-ups are around. The online Urban Dictionary equates "absolutely" with synonyms such as "definitely," "totally" and "for sure." According to UD, "absolutely" is "the one word that will get your boss/parent/authority figure to give you the 'deer in headlights' look and leave you alone."

   So there you have it. "Absolutely" has transcended from a supreme show of confidence to a reply intended to be the last word.

   So should you be concerned if an elected leader makes it part of his or her regular vocabulary?





Politics, Sacarmento: Meg Whitman, Laura Chick, Darrell Steinberg, Dan Walters column....


Another salary scandal? Former Vernon city administrator now collects more than $1 million per year as city's legal consultant.... 

* If you thought the compensation figures for Bell city officials were unusually high, seems that the top brass in Vernon -- another small southeast L.A. County city -- might not agree with you.  Following up on revelations regarding salaries in Bell, the Los Angeles Times today presents a look at what Vernon officials have been receiving.  From the LAT:

   Bell isn't the only city that has paid huge salaries: In neighboring Vernon, a former city administrator who now serves as a legal consultant has topped the $1-million mark for each of the last four years, records show.

   Eric T. Fresch was paid nearly $1.65 million in salary and hourly billings in 2008, when he held the dual jobs of city administrator and deputy city attorney, according to documents obtained by The Times through the California Public Records Act.  Described by city officials as an experienced finance attorney, Fresch was paid nearly $1.2 million last year, records show. Through July 31 of this year, he has earned about $643,000 as "outside legal counsel."

   Other highly compensated employees include Donal O'Callaghan, who was paid nearly $785,000 last year as city administrator and director of light and power, overseeing Vernon's city-owned utility. He now earns $384,000 a year overseeing capital projects for the utility after stepping down July 20 as city administrator.

   Former City Atty. Jeffrey A. Harrison earned $800,000 last year and City Treasurer/Finance Director Roirdan Burnett made $570,000, records show. The year before, Harrison was paid $1.04 million.


Gambling Control Commission knew of practice of welfare recipients withdrawing cash benefits at casinos....

* A couple months ago quite a bit of commotion was generated by news reports that welfare recipients had been allowed to withdraw cash benefits at casinos and other gambling establishments.  These reports, in turn, generated criticism from the governor's office of the fact that the state Gambling Control Commission had permitted such practices to take place.  Latest on this is that it appears that the commission had in fact been aware of the practice for some time and that, even after a regulation was passed to ban it, this was not enforced.  From the San Francisco Chronicle:

   Since the practice was disclosed two months ago, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration has repeatedly criticized the fact that a state agency under his control was allowing welfare recipients to withdraw cash benefits at casinos and other gambling establishments.  But records show a commission appointed by the governor had been aware that welfare recipients could collect the cash at cardroom ATMs since at least 2006, when the commission first considered banning the practice.

   The Gambling Control Commission, which oversees non-Indian-tribe gaming rooms, didn't pass a regulation banning the practice until 2009. And even after the regulation was approved, it apparently was not enforced. 

   A spokesman for the governor said this week that the commission is independent and that Schwarzenegger "knew nothing about" the issue until a news report in June.  Critics, however, say Schwarzenegger should have been aware of the situation, and they complain that the governor once again has used his administration's failings to push for controversial policies - in this case, the elimination of welfare.