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Ex-actor vs. ex-actor in single-payer effort

Will Dobie Gillis' true love prevail over "The Terminator" in attempting to solve California's health care conundrum?

Calling GOP California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's health reform proposal a giveaway to insurers, Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, has introduced single-payer legislation for the third time in the State Assembly.

Like the governor, Ms. Kuehl broke into California's political scene after an acting career in which her most memorable portrayal was that of the intelligent but homely Zelda Gilroy, Dobie Gillis' wanna-be girlfriend in the 1959-63 sitcom.

As many baby boomers may recall, each episode of "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" usually concluded with Dobie making a philosophical observation while sitting by a reproduction of Auguste Rodin's "The Thinker," with actor Dwayne Hickman mimicking the sculpture's pensive pose.

Although Zelda relentlessly pursued Dobie in the original series, she succeeded only in confusing him with her intellectual banter. By the 1977 "Whatever Happened to Dobie Gillis," however, Zelda and Gillis had married and had a teenage son. By comparison, Mr. Schwarzenegger's onscreen characters have generally had more brawn than brains.

In their post-acting years, the governor spurned Ms. Kuehl's most recent single-payer effort with a veto last year.

Flippin out for flippin' off his flippin' boss. He's not flippin' happy

A Los Angeles Department of Water and Power employee, who was caught napping in a hammock suspended under his city-owned truck--and then gave a supervisor the finger when he was awakened--was rightfully fired, a state appellate court has ruled.

The March 1 decision by the California Court of Appeal in Los Angeles in Kenneth Flippin vs. Los Angeles City Board of Civil Service Commissioners overturned a lower court ruling that the board should reconsider Mr. Flippin's termination.

According to the opinion, a dispatcher and a supervisor--acting on a complaint called in to the department in April 2003--approached Mr. Flippin, who was sleeping soundly in the hammock and could be heard snoring. After his named was called loudly, "Respondent woke up and gestured at the two men by raising his middle finger," says the decision.

Later, when the dispatcher told the worker to remove the plastic container containing the hammock, which was affixed to the truck, Mr. Flippin replied, "You should rattle." When asked what he meant, Mr. Flippin replied, "You're a snake."

The department terminated the 16-year worker's employment on grounds that he was sleeping while on duty in public view, was insubordinate and "had engaged in misconduct seriously reflecting on the City of Los Angeles and its employees."

Among the appeals court's findings, it noted that Los Angeles departmental rules state that sleeping on the job is grounds for dismissal even if it is a first offense.

Convicted thief to lose pension to

Crime victims can get restitution for their losses by tapping their assailant's pension funds, says the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals in a divided opinion.

The issue in the Feb. 22 decision by the San Francisco court in United States vs. Raymond P. Novak was how the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, which protects employee's pension funds, can be reconciled with the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996, which governs the payment of restitution to crime victims.

In upholding an earlier ruling by a panel of the appeals court, the full court said in its 10-5 ruling that "crime restitution orders can be enforced by garnishing retirement funds, but with the funds only payable when the defendant has a current, unilateral right to receive payments under the terms of the retirement plan."

The case involves Mr. Novak and former wife Norma Ortega Nance, who from 1995 to 1999 engaged in a scheme to steal telephone equipment from Glendale, Calif.-based Nestle Food Co., resell the equipment and pocket the proceeds. Ms. Nance, a Nestle employee, had access to the equipment, which she passed along to Mr. Novak to sell. The scheme cost Nestle more than $3.3 million, court records state.

Mr. Novak was sentenced to 24 months in prison and three years supervised release in connection with the scheme. The government moved to garnish the pension of Mr. Novak, who worked from 1990 to 2003 at May Department Stores Co., a unit of Cincinnati-based Federated Department Stores.

The appeals court returned the case to the district court to determine whether, based on the terms of May's retirement plans, the government has to wait until Mr. Novak reaches retirement age to garnish the retirement funds.

Mr. Novak will turn 65 in 2012.

Cavemen pitchmen so popular even a network thinks prime time

GEICO's insulted cavemen have reason to cheer--they may be going prime time.

ABC is exploring development of a TV series based on the insurer's popular characters featured in some of its commercials.

Tentatively titled "Cavemen," the pilot--one of hundreds currently being shopped around TV networks--will focus on three, thirtysomething prehistoric characters battling prejudice on a daily basis in modern day Atlanta, according to a source familiar with the situation.

The pilot, which had neither script nor cast, will be shot by May, which is when the networks convene to hammer out the 2007/2008-schedule, the source said.

At this point, GEICO has no creative control over the potential show, but it would receive a royalty payment for the use of the characters should the show get picked up, the source said.

GEICO introduced its cavemen in spots in 2005, initially to promote its Web site, in which they appear insulted by a pitchman who claims the insurer's Web site is so easy to use "even a caveman can do it."

Ted Ward, GEICO's vp-marketing, said the TV show is "one of many" ideas the insurer is exploring for its cavemen characters.

The cavemen have been seen recently at the Academy Awards, playing golf with TV football analyst Phil Simms in a Super Bowl pregame show and online at, he said.

Contributing: Judy Greenwald, Sally Roberts, Joanne Wojcik