Robin Abcarian
Commentary, news and analysis
For Sierra resident, the well runs dry -- along with her options

Things were bad enough for Rochelle Landers before her well went dry. No job. No money for eye glasses or dentures. And now, for the last month and a half, no water.

Landers, a onetime school secretary, does not live in the parched heart of the state: the San Joaquin Valley, where some people get sand when they turn on the faucet.

She has an acre in the Sierra foothills, in a sparsely populated town an hour northeast of Sacramento with a seemingly abundant water supply despite the drought. Except for one thing: Her water comes from a well. And her well, which is shallow, has gone dry.

For someone with money, this would pose little obstacle. But Landers, 57, is stuck. She's tried to get work. But after interviewers see her front teeth, which crossed like swords after her molars fell out, they never call back.

Last month, when her faucet stopped working, Landers thought her water pump was broken. What did she know? She'd purchased her dilapidated home 18 months earlier, moving back to...

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Charging "Django Unchained" actress with lewd conduct smacks of payback

How disturbing that actress Daniele Watts and her boyfriend, the chef Brian James Lucas, have been charged with lewd conduct for that incident last month in Studio City. You remember that whole ridiculous exchange, of course. Someone called the cops to report that they were having sex in their car; when police arrived, Watts was standing outside the vehicle. Instead of showing the officer her ID as requested, she pitched a fit. It was embarrassing.

But while she may have been over the top, the responding officer, LAPD Sgt. Jim Parker, was beyond condescending. I wrote about that here. Parker had captured the exchange on audio tape, and in an understandable but self-serving act, released it to TMZ to forestall mounting criticism that this looked like yet another bogus, racially motivated stop. (Watts is black; Lucas is white.)

As my colleague Sandy Banks reported, Parker actually violated department policy when he decided to slip the audio tape to the gossip website. It went viral, and...

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Anita Sarkeesian bravely confronts sexist video gaming culture

Years ago, when I wrote about the fashion industry, I put together a slide show that married my feminist impulses with my love for my beat.

I had become appalled at the way women were depicted in fashion advertising. In so many ads, women were oversexualized, disembodied, made to look as if they had just been drugged or assaulted. When they were photographed with men, they were often submissive.

No one ever told me to shut up, or threatened to kill me or rape me for simply pointing out that it’s offensive to see women depicted over and over as objects of male sexual pleasure, and that we’d allowed an industry aimed at women to promulgate images that were, not infrequently, insulting to women.

Now we are in the Internet age, where the freedom of anonymity overpowers any urge to be civil. Feminist critics who are raising their voices against the sexist depiction of women in video games are being harassed and threatened by cosmically immature male gamers who seem to view rational,...

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Dustin Lance Black has a few choice words on Pasadena college payout

Oscar-winning screenwriter and LGBT rights activist Dustin Lance Black was on the phone. It was apparent from his tone that he was not very happy to be talking again about the series of unfortunate and avoidable events last spring that left authorities at his alma mater, Pasadena City College, reeling from charges of homophobia and incompetence after they invited, disinvited, then reinvited him as commencement speaker.

“This is a painful event that just won’t go away,” Black, 40, said from Memphis. He had just landed there from Chicago after appearing with two other LGBT activists--the NBA’s Jason Collins and the actress LaVerne Cox--at a fundraiser for a group that provides housing for people with HIV and AIDS.

On Tuesday, my colleague Jason Song reported that Black received a payment of $26,050 from Pasadena City College in exchange for promising not to pursue future legal claims. Former PCC President Mark Rocha, whose own severance agreement has prompted a lawsuit from an open...

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Women suffer disproportionately under harsh California laws

She’s probably told her story thousands of times, but when we talk, Susan Burton’s tale comes spilling out of her as if it’s the first time she’s shared it: in and out of prison for years for possessing small amounts of crack cocaine, never offered drug diversion or help with housing or work.

When Burton argues that Proposition 47, a ballot initiative that would reclassify many small-time felonies as misdemeanors, would have spared her years of a “turnstile” life, she is persuasive.

“I was sent up over and over again during a 15-year span,” said Burton, who fell into serious addiction in 1982 after her 5-year-old son was killed by a car. “I’d have maybe like $20 worth. Literally, I would get off a bus downtown skid row and try to make my way with my $200 ‘gate money.’ I had no ID, no Social Security card. I would re-offend, get caught and go back to prison.”

It was not until she found CLARE Foundation, which has provided recovery support to addicts in Santa Monica for nearly 45 years,...

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Microsoft CEO's sexist view of women, dressed up as advice
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