Monday, May 05, 2008

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.

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.


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.


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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

A+ on the book report sir! Could not have said it better myself =)

5/05/2008 11:04:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Gracias, as they say in the Costa Mesa barrio...

5/05/2008 11:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a point to highlight - if the young lady in question has a valid Green Card, there is no chance whatsoever (absent gross negligence by ICE) that she would ever "be[ing] stopped for some minor infraction and summarily deported."

That perception is based on both ignorance and the opportunistic exploitation of these fears by pro-illegal immigration activists.

The FACT is that CMPD did extensive outreach to dispel these unfounded fears. Activists stoked those fears.

The FACT is that the ICE agent in the jail conducts investigations that lead to formal hearings - nothing summary about that. If the young woman was here legally, there would be no deportation.

Dialogue is beneficial, but it should be honest. If the young woman's perspective is her own - more work needs to be done on allaying the fears of some in the the community and clarifying the scope of any CMPD policies.

5/06/2008 01:08:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

rob, I agree. However, the young woman in question was clearly petrified of the prospect. Her perception was that she was at risk. Perception is reality. Better dialogue between the CMPD and residents to allay their fears is very important. Where once there was trust there now is fear within the Latino community. It took years to build the trust that existed before Mansoor's ICE proposals shattered it.

5/06/2008 02:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I think that it is horrible that this woman was petrified, and I hold Acosta and other activists directly responsible. Not once did ant city representative EVER even imply that anyone would be deported who was here legally. That fear is real, I have no doubt. The question is where did it come from and how do we dispel it?

It is time for us to get serious about the underpinnings of these irrational fears. Yes, we need to work with the community, but continuing to place all the blame on Mansoor's proposal is, in my opinion, counterproductive.

Chief Shawkey and the entire CMPD can reassure and condcut outreach full time, but those efforts are futile when countered by activists who lie to people and misrepresent what the City is trying to do.

ICE is in the jail. What many forget is that Los Angeles County had been working with ICE in their jails long before Costa Mesa was. Our program is hardly controversial or unique.

5/06/2008 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger Flo Martin said...

Geoff, you are eeeeeeeeeeeeevil!
"...testicular fortitude...lacks the equipment..." What a howl! You've made my day =)

5/06/2008 11:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

your right about one thing, that being the program is hardly unique.
However, the way in which our current admin has went about the whole thing is what has sparked fear. It is the constant banter aimed at the Latino community both the legal & illegal sides & hearing people like mr. you-know-who & his rants, the community knows that he was appointed by our admin for a committee & what is aim is.
The Latinos of costa mesa have expressed many reasons for their fears & many of those were expressed before people like acosta had even been heard of.
Do you not think that the latino community saw the racist propaganda flyers that were sent out in the last election? that was an absolute disgrace. If you were Latino & you followed any of the online comments re: CM & it's situation would you not live in a little bit of fear due to what you read? I think you would be, since your living with a little bit of fear of the latinos now.
Mansoor could have done himself a huge favor by NOT associating with Mr.youknowwho, might have gave him a little more credit when he says it's not a race issue.
Some here are very proillegal yet do not make absurd comments about race mixing his Tan Everyman Rants.
Sad to say but having nutjobs like you-know-who on your side has made this a race issue plain & simple & once the publice sees him for what he is maybe some good will come of it. But who knows maybe you like the fact that David Duke praise his writings, i for one doon't & think that speaks volumes about the nature of the current intentions.

5/06/2008 01:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

also rob, i dont mean any disrespect by my observation of your fear of latino's. My post was far from a personal attack & wanted to make that clear.

5/06/2008 01:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I absolutely DO NOT support or agree with U-Know-Who's Tan Everyman rants at all. I have also publicly criticized his alligators in the swamps characterizations of our local barrios (the use of that term is the one you highlighted, and not derogatory).

You hit on the real underpinnings of this issue - PERCEPTION AND ASSUMPTION.

The perception and assumption that, just because one associates with or agrees with some of Mr. Millard's ideas, proposals, platform, etc. they share each and every other idea, theory, and motivation of Mr. Millard's is absolutely FALSE.

A man much wiser than I am, who also posts here, has also commented on Millard's multi-faceted civic profile before. Mr. Millard can be right about issues other than race and ethnicity, and has proposed reasonable and effective ideas that have been implemented.

That is in no way an endorsement of all of his views, as referenced above. I have also very publicly disagreed with his views on the Westside.

But just assuming that everyone who has "nutjobs like you-know-who on your [their] side" of the illegal immigration debate shares his views on race and ethnicity is absolutely wrong. I cannot say that strongly enough.

From MY perspective, as someone who strongly opposes illegal immigration and strongly supports legal immigration, the allegations of racism and the ratcheting up of the racial strife were the result of activists on BOTH sides of the issue who exploited the base fears and prejudices of both sides.

The only way to reach common ground is, as always, compromise and understanding. Insisting that illegal immigration and all the related crime is perfectly acceptable and should be forgiven is an absolute non-starter. Insisting that a municipal government support and incentivize illegal immigration is also a non-starter. You will NEVER win my support or that of the 70% of Americans who oppose illegal immigration if you try to pass off illegal as anything but illegal.

On the other hand - insisting that every illegal immigrant be rounded up and deported is also a non-starter. We are talking about millions of human beings and families who are our neighbors and part of our society. There should be a path to legality, and every presidential candidate is headed in that direction.

There is a middle ground, but it cannot be acheived while people are so quick to brand others racist.

Our community is historically diverse. There should be no racial component to being a resident of Costa Mesa. Illegal immigrants should respect the nation they CHOOSE to live in and go through the process of becoming legal residents. That is NOT too much to ask. You want my respect? Respect me and my country.

I do not remember the racist fliers you describe, so I cannot comment on those - what did they say?

5/06/2008 02:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i hear you mr. dickson, & thank you for stating where you stand, it helps me see you in a different light & i again thank you for that!
im searching high & low for the flier, i though for sure it would have been posted on a local blog in the past, mr. west do you stil have that flier? im sure you know which i speak of.
i will keep searching for it.

5/06/2008 03:43:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

cmtruth, no, I don't have it and don't remember seeing it. I did hear about it during the campaign, but never saw it. I, too, would be interested in seeing it. Will you post it on your blog if you find it?

I'm enjoying the discussion... keep up the good work.

5/06/2008 04:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm looking for it!
it's the one that depicted Bruce G & another local. I will do my best to find it, i think people need to see it who did not & then get back to me that this is not a race issue!

5/07/2008 06:59:00 PM  

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