Saturday, June 13, 2015

Stephen Schochet (1962-2015)

For the second time in the last two months I am writing a tribute for a friend who is no longer here.

It sucks.

What can I say about my friend Stephen?

I met Stephen when we were co-workers at a tourism company based next to Los Angeles International Airport back in 1996. We worked together for eight years.

Strangely enough, we didn't become good friends while I worked at the tour company. We were more just acquaintances and co-workers.

Years later, after I left to work at a different company -- and my political ideology started to swing harder to the right -- was when Stephen and I became great buddies.

We had so many great times and great memories together. Part of the pain of losing friends is that you know that there won't be any more of those shared experiences that mean so much.

We went to so many Dodgers games. Trojan games. Bruin games.

Stephen took me to my first ever Lakers game -- event though I was not a big basketball fan.

Even though Stephen wasn't really a "group" activity kind of person, I persuaded him to get involved with Westside Republicans and also with the McCain campaign in 2008.

One of Stephens favorite moments with me was when we went to a Bruin game in fall of 2008. I saw the crowd around the game as a good time to campaign, so I walked around the stadium holding up yard signs and shouting "John McCain! John McCain!" and getting some odd looks from people. Eventually a few others joined us and we had this tiny crowd of about 12 people chanting and waving signs. But being that it was Southern California, we also faced some scorn and abuse. Stephen was really exhilarated by the experience and told me how much it amazed him.

"I can't believe you did that, Philly! That was awesome!"

Good times.

Stephen was an amazing human being, with many admirable qualities.

I admired his sense of fairness. He would call out his fellow Conservatives when they made wisecracks about Michelle Obamas appearance or weight. He considered it beneath our dignity to make those type of comments.

He was all about Conservative ideology. He prided himself on getting de-friended repeatedly on Facebook by people who could not deal with his logical and well-reasoned political arguments that shot their own philosophies full of holes. When confronted by the facts, they would quietly click the defriend button.

He was an author. He sold tens of thousands of copies of his books about Hollywood history and the backstories involved. He did hundreds of radio interviews to promote his books.

He was a great thinker, a great writer and a great public speaker.

One of Stephens favorite photos (above) was the one of him I took at a Dodgers game in 2009. He got to talk to Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles and get his photo taken with her.

That photo is how I want to remember Stephen. In happier times.

Losing Stephen sucks. There is no way around that fact.

He was a great friend, and I will miss him terribly.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Doing the math: Why Eric Garcetti should run for the U.S. Senate

I was thinking about this the other day.

If you do the math, there is really no reason why Eric Garcetti shouldn't run for the U.S Senate seat that is opening up in 2016 with the retirement of Barbara Boxer.

1) He is popular in Los Angeles and its surrounding suburbs. He could probably produce 200,000 to 300,000 votes in the area, which would probably be enough to get him past the jungle primary.

2) His popularity in Southern California, combined with his family and their combined pull in politics would make him a powerful counter-balance to Kamala Harris and her support in Northern California.

3) The 2016 election is an off-year for his Mayoral re-election campaign. At this point he faces no credible competition from the field for his job as Mayor in 2017.

4) He would be termed out of his job as Mayor in 2021. He could probably stay in the U.S. Senate for more than 20 years if he gets elected.

5) He has an intangible quality of likeability. Very few people hate him. He doesn't have a lot of enemies.

But, the main reason he should run? Republican voters!

If no Republican survives the jungle primary....(and at this point that is looking like a real possibility) then GOP voters are going to be looking for a sane, logical alternative to Kamala Harris.

6) For GOP voters, Eric Garcetti looks like Barry Goldwater if the other name on the ballot is Kamala Harris.

Trust me on this one. Garcetti should run.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

L.A.'s most wicked politicians can sleep a little easier tonight. Michael Higby is dead.

April 16, 2015  5:50p.m.

L.A's most wicked political figures can sleep a little easier tonight. Michael Higby is dead. 

I got the call about an hour ago from our mutual good friend Debbie Lopez (a.k.a. "Valley Doll") informing me that Los Angeles' best known (and arguably most notorious) blogger Michael Higby had passed away. 

It was surprising, but not shocking, as Michael had struggled with his weight and various physical ailments over the years. 

I wanted to get my first thoughts down before I read any obituaries of Michael in the media. I also called local scribe Joseph Mailander to commiserate over the loss of our mutual friend. 

What can I say about Michael Higby? 

Our relationship was never perfect, but I always respected and admired Michael. I met Michael after my failed attempt to get myself elected Mayor of Los Angeles back in 2009. 

During that campaign, Michael saw something he liked in me. Maybe it was my unabashed Conservatism.

Who knows? 

But he invited me to write for his buzz-worthy and addictive blog "Mayor Sam", named after former Mayor Sam Yorty. It was a golden ticket to spread my Conservative views among a crowd of influential LA political figures. And Michael Higby give me that ticket. I will never forget that. 

Michaels blog was more important than the LA Times and Daily News put together. Michael didn't have to worry about pleasing advertisers. He did what he was doing for fun. He enjoyed it. So did thousands of others. Readers eager to find scandal, exposés and political gossip went to Mayor Sam every morning for what seemed like a ten-year-long thrill ride.

And man -- what a ride it was!! 

I had more fun writing for Mayor Sam than I did running for Mayor. Everything that got posted on Mayor Sam had 3,000-5,000 eyeballs of City employees glued to it immediately. It was kind of like the National Enquirer of Los Angeles politics. 

Mayor Sam mattered. 

Michael Higby held politicians feet to the fire and made them squeal. When people got hurt by Mayor Sam pieces, Higby heard about it immediately. Professional degenerate Mike Gatto, the Assemblyman for the 43rd District, even went so far as to send his lawyers after Higby and Mayor Sam for some unkind comments about him on the blog. 

These same politicians weren't suing the Times or the Daily News. Those organizations have become so worthless and servile that they were practically wearing knee pads when they walked into the room to interview local elected officials. 

Mayor Sam mattered. 

When I blogged my endorsement of Christine Essel for City Council, she called me personally within the hour to thank me. 

Mayor Sam mattered. 

Michael Higby mattered. 

He was a giant on the Los Angeles political scene. He was probably more followed than any political writer or columnist at the Times or Daily News. 

He started his own little Facebook page about Sunland Tujunga called "The Foothills Observed". It was an instant hit, and easily became much more important than the local papers in that neighborhood. 

Michael and I didn't always agree on things. He actually fired me from the Mayor Sam blog. But I didn't take it personally. Long after that happened, we did Frank Sheftels radio show together several times. I even visited Michael in the hospital once. He seemed to be touched by the gesture. 

We respected and admired each other for our political views, and our fairness. We could always agree to disagree. That's the kind of people you want to work with. That's the kind of people you want to surround yourself with. 

Michaels death leaves a huge vacuum in the world of political criticism in Los Angeles. The local media are practically accomplices to the many crimes of the corrupt leaders of this city. Michael and Mayor Sam didn't let them get off that easy. 

In what I anticipate will be one of the biggest ironies of Michaels life, I wouldn't be surprised if the City issues one of their "certificates" or proclamations to show respect for Michael Higby and Mayor Sam for doing their best to keep city leaders honest. 

My friend Michael is dead, and I fear that Mayor Sam and The Foothills Observed may perish with him. But he leaves behind a legacy. 

Mayor Eric Garcetti knows who Michael Higby was.
So do Antonio Villaraigosa, Wendy Greuel and Janice Hahn.
Tom La Bonge and Paul Koretz would love to be able to forget who Michael Higby was.

But they won't.

 Much like me, they will remember Michael Higby until the day they die.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My Federal Lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles

On January 13, 2015, I filed a lawsuit in United States District Court against the City of Los Angeles.

It is my first time suing the City of Los Angeles, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it won't be my last.

Why did I file suit? There are several reasons....

1) The City prevented me from running as a candidate in a small local election, even though I had been a candidate for major political office in that district twice within the last 5 years. The City kicks far too many people out of elections. I feel this is unproductive and un-American. It robs the citizens and the voters of more choices and options at the ballot box. I feel that this is an infringement on voting rights in general.

2) The City has a bad habit of making up their own rules and acting in a tyrannical fashion. The City needs to be cured of that bad habit.

and 3) The City has rules and ordinances that are wild violations of the Constitution and various other protections afforded by the Bill of Rights. The liberals in this City do not have the power to ban or eliminate things they find politically offensive.

My prediction on how this will pan out?

I think the City and I will go back and forth for about a year. Eventually they will offer me a small financial stipend for my troubles and offer to change the wording of the ordinance mentioned in the lawsuit. As it is now, it will be very difficult for the City to defend an Ordinance that grants unlimited voting and election freedoms to wealthy property owners, while denying those privileges to others who do not own property.

I just don't see a judge or jury buying their side of the argument.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

25 years ago today....

25 years ago today this man said goodbye.
I can't imagine what our world would look like without him.