‘Left-handed Somalians’

Heart of darkness: “Are you a writer?” Shawn Steele asks a Davis College Republican, identifiable by his bright blue “Best Party on Campus” T-shirt. Moments before his debate on “racial privacy,” Steele reaches into a folder, pulls out a copy of Liberty’s Flame (“Bringing Conservative ideas and values to the University of California, Davis”) and attempts to recruit a future right-thinking journalist.

It’s been two months since Steele stepped down from his post as chairman of the California Republican Party, but his level of fervor appears undiminished. He and Democratic Party adviser Bob Mulholland began the day debating race on a San Diego radio station, and now they’re back in Sacramento, doing it again for a campus audience.

The debate over CRENO (Classification by Race, Ethnicity and National Origin)—legislation that would prevent the collection of such information by universities and other institutions—is predictably feverish. Mulholland insists such data is necessary in order to have a paper trail in case of recurring abuses. He claims that Steele is separating race from other affirmative-action groups both formal (women, gays) and informal (veterans, wealthy alumni “legacy” admissions, sports scholars) in order to “throw red meat” to the right-most wing of the Republican Party.

Steele, on the other hand, insists society is already sufficiently colorblind to render such precautions unnecessary. Steele waxes satirical about reparations (blaming Mulholland’s English ancestors for mistreatment of his own Irish ancestors during the potato famine), and he repeatedly condemns the “darker side” of our nature that encourages folks to “stay in the tribe” instead of assimilating. “Do we really want a society,” Steele asks, “where we have a Big Brother that says, ‘This particular group of left-handed Somalians, they really have been mistreated for a very long time, and we’re going to change things. Yeah, we have to screw the Jews. Yeah, Asians, to hell with them; they’re just too smart anyhow. We’re gonna screw that community to help this community.’ Is that the kind of society we want, or do we want a society that aspires for our higher nature?”

After the debate, the blue-shirted young Republicans gather admiringly around Steele. As the conversation turns to hate-crime legislation, a heavy-set young man in a white T-shirt and military haircut complains that the law treats gays as though their lives were more valuable. Encouraged by nods of approval, he becomes more animated. “Hey, my life is worth more than a gay person’s,” he laughs. “That’s my opinion!”

Now, now, clucks Steele, turning away and redirecting the conversation to safer harbors. The young man looks perplexed but stays the course, continuing to hover at Steele’s right-hand side. Eventually he finds his way back into the conversation, and it isn’t long before Steele turns to him and asks, “Are you a writer?”

Roseville’s Downtown Tuesday Nights: Bites still has fond memories of small-town Community Days, where drunken volunteer firemen would parade down the street while a no-less-inebriated Richie & the Jive-Bombers performed impossibly rudimentary versions of “Taking Care of Business.” Such childhood images were revived—but ultimately contorted—by Roseville’s Downtown Tuesday Nights, which, in addition to all the usual fare (local bands, face painting, concessions and clowns), is promising an official document-shredding area. “Bring those confidential and personal documents to have them safely destroyed,” enthuses publicist Troy Reierson. It’s good to see that covering up corporate malfeasance officially has been added to the roster of old-fashioned community values.

Taking care of business: As Capitol insiders know, lawmakers are doing everything they can to end the budget crisis. Sort of. Concerned assemblymembers held a rare Friday session May 23 to, well, pad their paychecks. By avoiding a four-day break, members earned $125 per-diem payments for each day of the three-day weekend. The session, however, wasn’t wasted. Democrat Ed Chavez got approval for his bill to make boxers have their heads examined—literally—whenever they’re knocked out. And Republican Tony Strickland won passage of a groundbreaking bill to require any applicant who wants to open gambling establishments to be “a person of good character, honesty and integrity.” Finally!