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One Day in American Values:

Republican Senator Rick Santorum, representing his party, himself and his state of Pennsylvania, has been out the last few weeks promoting his book It Takes a Family. Santorum is the father of six children, and maybe that alone qualifies him to write a book that tells people what to think. We can safely guess that Santorum’s kids are being told what to think, based on the book’s view that a married, self-supporting mother and father are the best kind of family.

The best. Any other configuration would be less desirable. Or maybe someday, if we keep electing omniscient conservatives like Santorum, illegal.

Hopefully, Santorum’s book will soon be heavily discounted, then stacked up on the remainder shelves right next to Bill Bennett’s Gambling Tips and Newt Gingrich’s I Used to Be Somebody.

Santorum might have found material for his next book of values in the events of just one day last week. For some reason, last Friday was a banner day for lessons in American values… each one seeming to relate to the other in a “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” sort of way.

Item One: Newspapers revealed Friday that Disney dropped Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo from its production line-up (the film is now released by Sony) because it found the sequel’s subject matter too coarse and believed it would not get a PG-13 rating. Hooray for Disney; they’re taking a bold stand. However, they’ll still get five per cent of whatever European Gigolo realizes in gross receipts, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Well, you say, “That’s business.” Which might also be the case regarding the light sentence for WorldCom’s Scott Sullivan, also a news item that same Friday. Sullivan was sentenced to five years in prison for his “central” role in the company’s $11 billion dollar accounting fraud. Sullivan’s boss, Bernard J. Ebbers, got 25 years for the same fraud. The difference? Sullivan squealed. Though Sullivan was described by a US District judge as the “architect” of the scam, his cooperation was a key factor in nailing Ebbers. Still, legal experts agreed: Sullivan caught a break.

But let’s move off business “values” and on to something that impacts the greater good: Preservation. Friday was also the day a story appeared describing the demolition of 1019 Roxbury Drive… the Beverly Hills house where American musical giants George and Ira Gershwin wrote some of their greatest songs. Preservationists argue that the demolition was “wholly avoidable” but that Beverly Hills has no “mechanism” to protect its historic and cultural treasures.

Our own city of Santa Monica has such a mechanism, but it also has a City Council that can overrule the City’s Landmarks Commission. That the Council has done so with something approaching regularity of late begs a question of values as well. No one is surprised that profit and the desires of wealthy property owners trump preservation in Beverly Hills. Heck, those people don’t even hang on to their own faces. But… whither Santa Monica and its treasures?

However, as the sun set on last Friday’s Day of Values, there was a burst of light: A final story told how 12 year-old Geoffrey Little was walking through an LAX parking structure with his Mom when he found a wallet containing $19,900 in cash. Mother and son hunted down the wallet’s owner and returned it along with all the money. Obviously, Geoffrey has been getting some good lessons in values. It is not known whether Geoffrey or his mother have read Rick Santorum’s new book.

This Week’s “Know Your News” Quiz

1) Wells Fargo will pay $34 million to

(a) settle improper processing charges.

(b) attach pens to bank desks.

(c) introduce “Psychic Checking.”

2) Airlines will boost fares

because of

(a) dry roasted peanut prices.

(b) soaring oil prices.

(c) revenue lost on “Psychic Checks.”

3) New episodes of “The Sopranos” will

(a) appear in January 2007.

(b) feature new character “Big Kitty.”

(c) have no guns, profanity, smoking, drugs, spouse abuse, or viewers.

Answer Key

1) (a) “Of course, there’s a settlement charge…”

2) (b) “If only Bush knew some oil people…”3) (a) “A few more years, their voices will drop…”

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