Sometimes, all you can do is wonder |

Sometimes, all you can do is wonder

Barry Smith

For your amusement, as Rod Serling used to say to introduce “The Twilight Zone,” an assortment of curious occurrences in what passes for the real world:

n Some see the world in black and white. Some see it in shades of gray. In a Newport Beach, Calif., middle school, they see it in pink.

Six boys were banned from a class photo because they were wearing pink T-shirts. Apparently it has to do with worries by school officials about gangs. The color is associated with “dance crews,” which allegedly hold all-night dance contests and raves.

I had no idea. I’m having a hard time picturing a middle-school gang dressed in pink holding a rousing dance party. For some reason, an image of a gaggle of Michael Jacksons comes to mind.

“It’s dumb,” said Luis Solis, 13, one of the boys barred from the photo. “How come we can’t wear pink? We didn’t do nothing.”

But Jane Garland, spokeswoman for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, told the Associated Press the six students were also wearing black shoes, pink-and-black armbands and pink socks.

“The color pink itself is not a problem with us. We like the color pink,” she said. “But pink and black together … are known to be party crew colors. It’s how they are worn.”

I just hope they don’t find out about the Red Hat Society.

n At a time when the Park Service has been quietly telling its folks to cut back on some of the services in the nation’s parks, lawmakers in Washington are trying to figure out why it spent $352,000 to send hundreds of employees on trips to foreign countries.

One of the head-scratchers is a trip by the Alaska regional director to the Congo in February 2003 at a cost of about $9,315. I guess if you’ve been in Alaska long enough, a nice warm trip would be pretty appealing. But couldn’t he have simply gone to Las Vegas?

The Park Service also spent $32,860 for 10 trips to France during 2003.

The unfortunate thing, in my mind, is how many Park Service employees – the people you actually see working when you’re out enjoying the West’s splendors – will be tarnished by the spendthrift actions of a few administrators. Isn’t that usually the case?

By the way, those aren’t really cutbacks at the parks, no matter what you read. The Park Service folks have been instructed to refer to them as “service level adjustments.”

n In East Conemaugh, Pa., a man has been charged with identity theft – that of his 8-year-old daughter.

According to news reports, Cecil E. Cole III could not get phone service in his own name because he already owed Verizon on four phone bills. He used his daughter’s name to sign up for service last August, according to investigators.

Cole could receive a maximum of five years prison and $10,000 in fines. He could not be reached for comment, the reports said, because his number had been disconnected.

n It’s good to know some legislators get right to work on behalf of their constituents. A California state senator who has received $1.3 million in campaign money from Indian tribes that own casinos is promoting a ballot initiative that would permit unlimited expansion of tribal gambling.

Republican Sen. Jim Battin of La Quinta has written to 2 million Californians on his office stationery, urging them to sign a petition to place the initiative on the November ballot.

The Agua Caliente Band of Mission Indians, which owns two large casinos in the Palm Springs area, is sponsoring the initiative. The tribe has donated at least $363,080 to Battin since 1998, and would like to build more casinos.

“I’m real clear on Indian gaming,” says Battin. “I believe Indian gaming has been very beneficial to my district, to my constituency, to the economy of Riverside County and to the economy of the state of California.”

Not to mention his campaign fund.

n If I’m gonna bash lawmakers, I might as well take a shot at lawyers.

In Alabama, plaintiffs in a $300 million settlement over PCB contamination will receive an average of $7,725 apiece.

Their attorneys will get an average of $4 million each – including $29 million to the firm of California celebrity lawyer Johnnie Cochran Jr.

The largest legal payment went to the firm of former Alabama Lt. Gov. Jere Beasley; it received $34 million.

“The fees were approved by the court, and they are not out of line for a case of that magnitude,” said Beasley.

He noted that his firm reduced its typical rate by 5 percent.

So that’s a bargain, I guess.

Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal. Contact him at or 881-1221.