Terror or "Error"?
As promised, over this past weekend I read Dr. Humberto Caspa's new book, "Terror in the Latino Barrio: The Rise of the New Right in Local Government". It's been 50 years since I've done a book report, so I'm not going to try to give you all the gory details. I'll just give you my opinion of the book. If you really want to try to find out if your name is in it you'll just have to shell out $17.00 or so at the local bookstore later this month or order it on Amazon. com.
NOT A GREAT BOOK - A GOOD BOOK
Let me start right off by telling you that in my opinion Dr. Caspa, whom I consider a friend, did not write a great book. He wrote a good book, full of authenticated facts, plenty of names, a pretty good time line of events and a lot of passionate opinion. He wrote a book that chronicles events in Costa Mesa over the past few years and draws conclusions from his analysis of those events. In most cases I agree with his conclusions.
LANGUAGE LEADS TO LEVITY
Unfortunately, although he holds a PhD, Dr. Caspa still has some difficulty with the nuances of the English language - don't we all? And, there are just enough typos and malapropisms sprinkled throughout the book to make his critics - particularly those of the Mensa persuasion - salivate about ways to use them to reject the premise of the book. That won't work, because his premise is rock-solid and amply documented.
DON'T FENCE ME IN
One example of an entry that brought a smile to my face is on page 76, where Dr. Caspa addresses the loitering day-workers at Lions Park. In his attempt to provide his readers with an image of Lions Park in their mind he includes the following description: "On one corner of the park, there is a barbed-wired baseball field on which city administrators organize softball and baseball tournaments." I'm sorry, but while this is no big deal in the grand scheme of things, the mental image of our kids playing softball in a field surrounded by barbed-wired cries out for comment. He, of course, probably meant "chain link fence", not barbed wire. I suspect you're smiling, too.
CRITICS WILL ATTACK
Dr. Caspa's critics will certainly try to refute some of his allegations - that's to be expected. He did a good job of documenting statements on which most of his opinions are based. There will be those who will attack his work as fiction - it's not. He headed off those critics with thorough documentation and attribution. Some will reject the title of the book, saying there is no "terror" in Costa Mesa. Those folks will likely not be members of the Latino community in our city, who today walk the streets very carefully for fear of unwarranted apprehension and deportation. This fear was exemplified by a young woman who raised her hand during Dr. Caspa's recent presentation at OCC to say that she never leaves her home without her green card for fear of being stopped for some minor infraction and summarily deported.
CHRONOLOGY IS THERE
Throughout the book Dr. Caspa attempts to provide the reader a chronology of events and introductions of main players in this little drama that we call Costa Mesa. He has done exhaustive research toward that end, all of which is footnoted for your reference. Quite honestly, while the information is there, I sometimes found the flow of the book a little herky-jerky.
Dr. Caspa discusses the various organizations, groups and individuals that have come and gone in the quest to "improve" the Westside of our city. He names names, lists accomplishments and those events for which some of the players should receive credit or blame. Many of the names will be familiar to those who follow city politics - Mansoor, Bever, Leece, Monahan, Steel, Robinson, Davidson, Egan, Bunney, Elmore, Garlich, Scheafer, Dixon, Foley, Roeder, Morello, Turpit, Burciaga, Johnson, Dodero, Berry, Snowden, Hensley, Acosta... the list goes on and on. Heck, he even mentions me a couple times.
Dr. Caspa discusses in detail the events of the past couple years, ever since Allan Mansoor attempted to deputize all Costa Mesa police officers as immigration screeners, including the unfortunate arrest of Benito Acosta. He does a good job of laying the groundwork so the reader can understand the evolution of events that set the stage for Mansoor's actions.
THE COMMON THREAD
The common thread throughout the book is the reference to one local activist and his pervasive influence on people and events in our city. This person has been called "Your Neighbor" on this blog and has named himself "Mr. U-Know-Who" on his own. Caspa makes very clear, unequivocal references to him by name throughout his book, pointing out in great detail what he perceives to be his unmistakable footprint on politics in this city for nearly a decade. Mr. U-Know-Who will not be a happy camper when he reads the book. That, alone, is enough to bring a smile to my face.
One interesting sidebar is that Mr. U-Know-Who implied in a very recent blog entry that he's upset with his hand-picked city council majority - he says they don't have the "gonads" to get the job done quickly enough - and indicated that he just might run for city council this year. He provided his list of goals should that happen. Apparently he feels HE has the testicular fortitude to get the job done. Many of us would relish having him in the race, but I doubt he has that equipment he seeks in others to do it.
Is Humberto Caspa's book worth reading? Absolutely! Much of what he says will come as no surprise to folks who have been following events in our city since the late 1990s. In fact, much of what Caspa says in his book has been chronicled on these pages since I launched A Bubbling Cauldron nearly three years ago - and before that in letters to the editor.
FACTS ARE FACTS
As I said, I agree with much of what Caspa says in his book - particularly his reference to the influence and impact of Mr. U-Know-Who on contemporary events in our city. Those of you who doubt such influence will have, in the form of Caspa's book, all the reference material you need to validate it as fact.
FIND IT AND READ IT
Buy the book or go to the local library and check it out. I'm sure there will be folks who deny Caspa's thesis. I'm looking forward to hearing what they have to say. This blog can be a forum for that discussion if they choose to avail themselves of it.
I admire Humberto Caspa for having the passion and courage to write this book. It took uncommon courage, for a lot of reasons, to present this view at this time in our city. I think it is a chronicle of an important time in the evolution - some might say regression - of our city and should be required reading for all those seriously concerned about the future of Costa Mesa.