ROVER BOY: If Karl “Bush’s Brain” Rove had been invited to speak at UCSB two years ago, it would have been the talk of the town. Now, with Rove due to take the Campbell Hall stage this afternoon, it’s just the chatter in Isla Vista.

Barney Brantingham

Rove is so 2008, as passé as George Bush. He’s here to flog his book, Courage and Consequence, and who cares? Is he confessing? The hostile indifference is not just because Rove is seen as Bush’s warmongering accomplice, but because, although the Campus Republicans invited him, UCSB’s student government is kicking in nearly $13,000. That’s about half the cost of staging the Rove event, including hefty security. (Shouldn’t he bring his own?)

Students are admitted free. The general public will be charged $200; sponsors $800 for two tickets and a photo op with Rove. Asked one antiwar group: “Why Is Karl Rove Not in Jail?”

DAWN VS. NEWS-PRESS: For the first time, Wendy McCaw’s News-Press is due to face a jury trial, which starts today in Santa Barbara Superior Court. Former police and courts reporter Dawn Hobbs filed a civil suit claiming that she is owed an estimated $190,000 in unpaid overtime, missed meal and rest breaks, plus interest and fines for labor law violations. Jury selection is scheduled to begin today to start a 20-day trial.

GISÈLE VS. SYMPHONY: According to word on the street, ex-music director Gisèle Ben-Dor’s long-running arbitration action against the Santa Barbara Symphony moved into higher gear last week. The bitter battle reached the stage where former symphony boardmembers and senior management gave depositions, I’m told. Ben-Dor, who claims she was forced out, and tricked, misled, coerced, and forced to resign, seeks damages for breach of contract. Neither side is commenting, but in the past, symphony officials have denied her accusations.

SÍ FOR DRUGS: Vicente Fox, Mexico’s former president and an ex-Coca-Cola executive, shook up Westmont College’s President’s Breakfast the other day by calling for making drugs legal. To be clear, I asked him afterward: “Are you advocating legalization of drugs in the U.S.?” His reply: “Yes, I am, and in Mexico. All drugs.”

Not only has Mexico turned into a slaughterhouse and transfer country for a consumer nation, the U.S., but, Fox said, “Now we are a consumer market.” Forty to 50 people a day are killed in his country over drugs and drug crime, and the corruption has hurt the tourist trade and foreign investment, Fox said, as he paced the DoubleTree stage during his talk.

He pointed out that Prohibition-based violence in the U.S. ended in the 1930s when the ban on liquor sales was lifted. Fox questioned whether health problems from now-banned drugs are worse than those from alcohol and smoking. But I couldn’t find anyone in the sold-out audience who agreed with his legalization proposal. Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez told me that he disagreed with it, adding that the crime south of the border is so bad that he no longer dares visit.

TEXAS TALK: The Ventura County Star’s plan to terminate 15 or so copy editors and designers and outsource their work to Texas is no joke to those losing their jobs. But it has led to cracks like, “It’s now the Ventura Lone Star,” and questions about whether Texas editors will know the difference between El Rio (a Ventura County community) and the Rio Grande. That’s nothing, some say: The Miami Herald recently announced that it’s experimenting with outsourcing some editing to India. The Miami New Delhi Herald?

DIRTY DIAPERS: A Santa Barbaran noticed a group of people exiting a Mercedes Excalibur and leaving a soiled diaper on the curb. Returning later, he saw that someone with a quirky sense of humor had opened the diaper and slapped it on the windshield. Just then, the family returned, got back in, and, flustered, accidentally turned on the windshield wipers. They went squish, squish, squish with the mess.

LUXURY DIGS DROP: If you think the average Santa Barbara home has taken a hit price-wise during the recession, the California mansion market has seen the high end fall on its façade. For instance, according to the Los Angeles Times, the Italianate three-acre Terra Bella estate in Hope Ranch was listed at $39.5 million in 2007, but sold last fall for $12.8 mil. That’s a 67-percent difference.

LOST LOVE: Block letters on a T-shirt worn by a young woman walking in downtown Santa Barbara: “YOU LOST ME AT HELLO.”

FOUND LOVE: Sounds like computer dating is winning out over looking for love in all the wrong places. According to Westmont College, one out of every eight couples who married last year met online.

SCREECHING: Florence Foster Jenkins made quite a name for herself in New York back in the 1930s—by singing badly. So badly she was fun. Ensemble Theatre Company is staging Souvenir, the story of Jenkins (played and screeched by Neva Rae Powers) and her devoted piano accompanist Cosme McMoon (Edwin Cahill). It shows through Sunday.


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