Friday, December 31, 2004

Due Process On Its Ear

An LA strip club advocate has smacked down the Los Angeles City Council. His complaint: councilmembers' inattentiveness violated his client's due process rights:

Armed with the videotape, Diamond filed a motion in Los County Superior Court arguing that the council's decision should be overturned because members violated his client's due process rights. When the council members are acting in a quasi-judicial capacity, as they are when hearing appeals on land-use decisions and other matters, they are required to listen, he argued.
The trial court sided with the city, but Diamond won on appeal. The
LAT article is quite funny (perhaps only if you're a leg-minded law student). Due process, however, especially when applied to legislative bodies in "quasi-judicial" situations is quite tricky. Another fatal flaw of the administrative state. At least the city tried hard, though:

In a footnote, the appellate judges scoffed at "the city's argument that the hearing was 'fair' because council members treated [the strip club] and its opponents alike."

The judges said both "had the right to be equally heard, not equally ignored."
And, of course, the article correctly points out that the ruling applies only to quasi-judicial, not legislative, proceedings. They don't have to appear to pay attention when passing ordinances. The article also quotes a local law professor who astutely asks whether the members' attentiveness would've changed the outcome. Most members in any body are fully briefed before the proceeding and already know which way they will go. Before anyone leaps at "prejudicial" charges, there is something to be said for deliberation before an emotional plea. It's not any better for one savvy actor to win over the better argument presented by a not-so-hot public speaker.

This kind of conflict captures several problems: 1) the aforementioned administrative state shortcomings, 2) the neverending battle between the perfect and the practical, 3) the shortcomings of political journalism (perhaps the writer here has practical experience working for a leg body, but likely not).

One councilmember said "It's impractical for us to sit there like students in a classroom paying attention to the professor."

Is that a true statement? Yes. Is it a oppo-commercial waiting to happen? You betcha.

There's no good answer. The realities of the job do demand that members' do 8 things at once or more. But a meaningful chance to be heard is important too . . . .

Mainly, however, I hate stories that make electeds look like monkeys, when, at the heart of it, they were doing their jobs to the best of their ability.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Partying On, Paying Attention

Wow, this guy is angry.

I don't totally blame him. He takes issue with the Kennedy Center Honors as an example of Washington going on its merry-making way while serious stuff happens elsewhere inthe world. I don't think holding the Kennedy Center Honors is dishonorable when there's a war on. And, frankly, I thought it was more of a downer than helpful-to-the-cause when actors urged simple black and less frills and strictly somber back-patting at the post 9/11 Oscar and Emmy Awards. But some of his broader points ring true: the administrative grandstanding, all show, little substance, and using those they claim to revere as props.

And on one Washington Party, in particular, I agree:

Washington's next celebration will be the inauguration. Roosevelt decreed that the usual gaiety be set aside at his wartime inaugural in January 1945. There will be no such restraint in the $40 million, four-day extravaganza planned this time, with its top ticket package priced at $250,000. The official theme of the show is "Celebrating Freedom, Honoring Service." That's no guarantee that the troops in Iraq will get armor, but Washington will, at least, give home-front military personnel free admission to one of the nine inaugural balls and let them eat cake.
Yes, yes, I'm biased - I wanted to be gown shopping for the other guy's inaugural, duh. But especially now, if you don't want to spend that $40M (shh, I know, private donations, but still, take a page from the X-files - like truth, money is out there) armoring vehicles or building concrete mess tents, send it to tsunami devestated countries where it would go a long way. Have a ball, sure, but maybe just A ball, or spend a bit less on the deli platters.

Even aside from the festivity flavored commentary, the man makes some good points. Read in full in comments below, or just register for the NYT site already . . . .

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

There's Always Room for Jello

Where "Jello" = "pointing out the vapid, idiotic alternaverse in which our President lives and administrates the country."

Today, I was confronted with the question: "but you haven't posted that much political stuff lately." I agreed, offering as a partial explanation that - though I joke about it - I think I am still recovering a bit from the campaign. I'm not quite in fighting shape again yet - not ready to take-in a whole Bush press conference (ha) or speech.

That doesn't mean, however, that I'm not capable of linking to a really excellent example of Bush being himself.

[Insert L&O 'Gu-GuN' Sound Here]

I have yet to meet a law student who didn't spend an excessive amount of first year watching Law & Order episodes (hey, there's like 5 in a row on Monday nights alone!) just because, well, it's kinda like studying, righ?

So Phoblog asks for a moment of silence for the passing of Jerry Orbach, beloved, cheesy-cop-one-liner-quipping Detective Lenny Briscoe.

Gu-GuN!

(anyone who can figure out how to spell that bad boy, lemme know.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

iGuess

The iPod: cool shiny music thingy or first cultural icon of the 21st century?

"Is the iPod a fad? Not really. It's the next stage of music listening,'' Bull said in an e-mail. "It represents a merging of aesthetics with technological functionalism ... thus permitting you to join the rhythm of your mind with the rhythm of the world.''

That, in turn, is causing a shift of the "celebration of culture'' away from large communal areas such as a cathedral, "a space we could all inhabit, '' to the world of the iPod, "which exists in our heads,'' he said.
Wow. and I was just happy I didn't haven't to haul all my cds to West Virginia . . . .

Sunday, December 26, 2004

SNL as Time Capsule

Up late on Christmas night - I should be asleep, saving energy for tomorrow's economic stimulus activities . . . . but tonight's SNL repeat is an odd time capsule of the year's travels.

It was probably the one one I caught on the road - in Philly, a few days before the election. Fun With Real Audio skewered McCain for his pro-Bush words. There's Eminem performing "Mosh," and I'm simultanously watching the SNL performance in a Philadelphia Holiday Inn and huddled around a computer in the cramped, headcold infested, hive of a 4th Floor GOTV operation - feeling pumped by the baseline and the sentiment. There's Weekend Update, which provided probably my only timely info on the Osama tape (hey, I was working real, real hard, alright).

It's impossible not to wax poetic over the year's events on a night like this - and to dream about the future.

It's been a long December/and there's reason to believe/maybe this year will be better than the last . . . . or if not this year, at least 2006. And then 8 . . . .

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Christmas Charity

Thank goodness this blogger, clearly disadvantaged in life, has this golden opportunity to make something of himself. Maybe this charming NYT profile will prompt someone to offer this poor, undereducated kid a job.

(thanks to Class Maledictorian for the link. and yes, before someone posts a snarky comment, of course I'm jealous. what blogger, or law student, or hell, anyone, wouldn't be?)

War and Peace and Christmas

From today's Washington Post, a remarkable story of the 1914 Christmas Truce. Worth reading today as you wrap up your holiday and say a prayer for peace:

It began in most places with nighttime singing from the trenches, was followed by shouted overtures and then forays between the lines by a few brave men. There followed, in daylight, a burying of the dead that had lain for weeks on the denuded ground called no man's land. After that, large numbers of soldiers poured over the front lip of the trench.

Throughout the day they exchanged food, tobacco and, in a few places, alcohol. Some chatted, usually in English, a language enough German enlistees spoke to make small talk possible. In several places, they kicked around a soccer ball, or a stuffed bag functioning as one, although contrary to legend there appears to have been no official, scored matches.

Mostly, the soldiers survived, which is what they wanted from the day. They did not shoot each other.

Friday, December 24, 2004

A Very Phoblog Christmas

Wherever you are and however you celebrate - I wish you a Merry Christmas full of blessings, family, love, and cookies.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Today in History: December 23

Did you know that today in history:

Wilson signed the Act creating the Federal Reserve? (1913)

George Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army on December 23, 1783, in the senate chamber of the Maryland State House in Annapolis, where the Continental Congress was then meeting?

And in:
1783
George Washington resigned as commander-in-chief of the U.S. Army.

1788
Maryland voted to cede a 100-square-mile area for the District of Columbia.

1823
The poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" ("'Twas the night before Christmas"), written by either Clement C. Moore or Maj. Henry Livingston, Jr., was published in the Troy Sentinel of New York.

1947
The transistor was invented by American physicists John Bardeen, Walter H. Brattain, and William Shockley.

1948
Hideki Tojo and six other Japanese war leaders were executed.

1986
Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager completed the first non-stop, around-the-world flight without refueling aboard the experimental airplane Voyager.

What else happened this day in history? Prize for the first reader to ID the event and year in the comments section below:

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Word of the Year?

The Chron is having it's word of the year vote - options include: blog, insurgent, red state/blue state, and others. Follow the link to vote in their online poll or feel free to suggest your own in the comments section below.

I'd say red state/blue state, already leading in the vote, is a good choice. I'm partial to blog, also, but naturally biased.

This isn't quite a caption contest, but I think my creative readers will have some good nominees (clearly, the implied singular of "word" includes space for phrase).

Learned Behavior

More good news about post-major combat operations Iraq:

"On the strategic level, we were expecting an horrendous month leading up to the Iraqi elections, and that has begun," retired Army Col. Michael E. Hess said.

Jeffrey White, a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst of Middle Eastern military affairs, said he is especially worried that the insurgents' next move will be an actual penetration by fighters into a base. "The real danger here is that they will mount a sophisticated effort to penetrate or assault one of our camps or bases with a ground element," he said. . . .

The attack also indicates that the insurgency is growing more sophisticated with the passage of time. One of the basic principles of waging a counterinsurgency is that it requires patience. "Twenty-one months" -- the length of the occupation so far -- "is not a long time to tame the tribal warfare expected there," said retired Marine Lt. Col. Rick Raftery, an intelligence specialist who operated in northern Iraq in 1991. "My guess is that this will take 10 years."

Another principle, less noted but painfully clear yesterday, is that insurgents also tend to sharpen their tactics as time goes by. Over the past 20 months, enemy fighters have learned a lot about how the U.S. military operates and where its vulnerabilities lie.

"The longer you are anywhere, the more difficult it becomes," said Hess, who served in northern Iraq in 1991 and in Bosnia in 1996. "They have changed their tactics a lot in the year-plus."

Several experts noted that insurgents appear to have acted on accurate intelligence. Kalev Sepp, a former Special Forces counterinsurgency expert who recently returned from Iraq, noted that the attack "was carried out in daylight against the largest facility on the base, at exactly the time when the largest number of soldiers would be present." . . . .

A byproduct of such a strike is that it tends to drive a wedge between U.S. personnel and the Iraqis who work on the base. "I think that this tells us first that our base facilities are totally infiltrated by insiders who are passing the word on when and where we are most vulnerable to attack," said retired Marine Col. Edward Badolato, a security expert.

Not all experts were pessimistic. Retired Army Col. John Antal said he expects more spectacular attacks in the coming weeks, but mainly because "the enemy is on the ropes and desperate to stop the elections."

But others were throwing up their hands. "This sure isn't playing out like I thought it would," said retired Marine Lt. Col. Jay Stout, author of a book about the 1991 Persian Gulf War against Iraq, in which he fought. He said he is no longer confident about what the U.S. strategy in Iraq should be.

"We have few choices: We can maintain the status quo while trying to build an Iraqi government that will survive, we can get the hell out now and leave them to kill themselves, or we can adopt a more brutal and repressive stance."

His choice? "I don't know the right answer -- I gave up guessing a few months ago."
And in other news:

The explosion, which came at noon, was at first believed to be caused by a mortar round or rocket that pierced the white canvas tent that serves as mess hall at Forward Operating Base Marez, near the Mosul airport.

But in an online assertion of responsibility for the attack, a radical Muslim group described "a suicide operation." Military officials said the cause of the blast was under investigation, and some security experts said the extent of injuries indicated that it was possible a bomb had been planted inside the hall. . . . .

Mortar rounds fall frequently on the post -- sometimes a half-dozen a day. This week, one insurgent group, the al Mustafa Brigade, boasted of firing 15 60mm mortars toward the Marez base, posting video of men in ski masks manning the tubes.

Most of the time, the explosions are shrugged off by soldiers as little more than a nuisance. Most are fired quickly and at random by insurgents who leap from cars in the city's busy streets without taking necessary measurements.

When mortars do strike buildings on the post, the information is usually kept secret to avoid tipping off attackers about the accuracy of their strikes. U.S. officers worry, however, that insurgent informants on the post may be passing targeting data to attackers on the outside to help them refine their fire.
I read in an article yesterday that this facility has been targeted and attacked some 30 times, yet the concrete and steel structure to replace it is still not finished. You'd think after the 22d or 23d mortar . . . .

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Aww, Shucks

While it may not be policy oriented, and it may not be of national import - it is semi-political, and it isn't everyday a friend's engagement is newsworthy. Must have something to do with his job:

Sean Elsbernd is, however, soon to marry. The city supervisor popped the question the other night to the lovely and smart Jennifer Johnston, who works as an attorney for the City and County of San Francisco. Lucky guy -- she's fantastic. The other night she was accompanying the supe on his rounds. He said they had to stop by the Conservatory of Flowers for a Parks & Rec holiday party. But when they arrived in the glassy bowers, there was no one there. Off in a corner, however, cupid's helpers had set a small table with a bottle of champagne and two flutes with the skyline of The City embossed on them. ... And there was a ring. That's when the supe moved the question. And got a speedy assent. ...
Congrats!

You Know the Drill

Keep praying for peace.

Monday, December 20, 2004

What's Next? A Holy Commeownion?

Or a Confirmootion?

A New Yorker has thrown his dog a Bark Mitzvah.

[Editor's Note: While we here at Phoblographer* aim to bring you only the most insightful, bleeding-edge commentary and analysis on the days national, state, and local news, we cannot pass up a perfectly good pun. Low-hanging fruit? Sure. But it's Christmas and the nog is getting to us.]

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Suprising Local Race News

The expected challenger to LA City Councilwoman Janice Hahn (sister of Mayor Jim Hahn) fell six signatures short in qualifying for the ballot.

John Fer, a former school principal who's big gun in the upcoming race was expected to be his Vietnam P.O.W. experience (with potential surrogate campaigner John McCain - no really), said he's disappointed.

It is a tough way to lose - before you ever begin. But from my brief encounter with Mr. Fer, I don't think the residents of LA's 15th Council district are missing out. Hahn has done a great job for the area - and though, as readers know, I am rabidly protective of veterans, solely being a veteran doesn't qualify you for local office. At one breakfast, Mr. Fer made a comment about taking care of another attendees property tax rates if elected. Um, no you won't, sir. See, it's called Prop 13 . . . .

So, Merry Christmas to Councilwoman Hahn. She'll get to spend less time campaigning . . . for herself - and all her time campaigning for her brother.

It Came Upon A Courtroom Clear

Did you know Washington still doesn't have a winner yet?

What they do have, however, is one busy court docket as Dem attorneys and King County ready their appeals from a superior court judge's blocking a count of newly discovered ballots in the governor's race. In this 50 vote or so squeaker, more wrongly rejected ballots have been discovered in King's County (home to Seattle). But why count them at all?

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Arend said it was simply too late for counties to reconsider ballots from the November election, even if such ballots were erroneously rejected by election workers.

"It is clear to me that it is not appropriate to go back and revisit decisions on whether ballots should or should not be counted," Arend said.
It is clear to you? I don't think there are another 5 words in the language that make me angrier than those.

Of course, Reep candidate and current winner, Dino Rossi's view is "sucks for King County:"

"If King County were allowed to keep adding more ballots, elections would never end," Lane said.

As for those whose ballots aren't counted, [a spokeswoman] said: "That is King County's fault. We cannot be held responsible for the fact that King County made a mistake."
Who, exactly, is holding you responsible? No one would blame you for losing. You should be held responsible for making ego-centric comments about other people's votes, however. Or perhaps you meant don't hold you responsible for your TRO that you filed.

So what did prompt this search for new ballots?

Officials discovered the mistake Sunday, when County Councilman Larry Phillips found his name on a list of rejected ballots and complained.

On Monday and Tuesday, county workers searched and found 573 mistakenly rejected ballots. Officials later noticed that none of those ballot envelopes contained names beginning with the letters A or B, and only two started with C. That prompted
Friday's search.

The trays containing ballots from voters with last names beginning with A, B and C were apparently overlooked because they were under other trays, Huennekens said.
It's true that at a certain point, it becomes inpracticable to recount anymore. This doesn't seem like the point, however. There's an identified problem limited to a certain, known universe of ballots . This is still a problem for their elections department or Secretary of State. It's not the court's say yet.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Insert Own Commentary

Audit Says Shelley Mishandled Vote Funds

Just passing it on. It would be impolitic of me to draw any kind of karmic conclusion from this story - so I won't.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Troubling Injuries Not Often Discussed

This New York Times article on the psychic costs of war is very similar to an LA Times piece from a month or so back that I don't think I posted on.

The focus: the mental wounds of the war aren't often reported - in the media, or, in fact, by the soldiers themselves.

It's these kind of health and support concerns that scream in my head whenever the President urges us to volunteer and help returning troops. Heartfelt thanks and tokens of appreciation should be offered. But increased veterans' healthcare funding would be better.

[see comments for full text of article]

Phoblogging at 33,000 Feet?

Trust me, you don't want that to happen.

Would allowing high speed internet access on commercial jets make Phoblog look forward to flying?

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Developing Story

Phoblog recently mailed several packages to servicemen overseas - one in the Navy, two in the Army. Today, one of the packages, mailed on November 16th from Mailboxes Etc type store in the DC area, was returned with a note indicating that due to heightened security concerns, mail over 16 ounces MUST be given to a retail clerk at a post office.

I try to keep this a family site - but - WTF?

I'm just beginning to research this now - and my first find was this graf:

Department of Defense asks public to help
The Department of Defense asks that the public not flood the military mail system with letters, cards, and gifts. Due to security concerns and transportation constraints, the Department cannot accept items to be mailed to " Any Servicemember ." Some people have tried to avoid this prohibition by sending large numbers of packages to an individual servicemember's address, which however well intentioned, clogs the mail and causes unnecessary delays.
Are you kidding me?

These guys and gals are putting their lives on the line and you can't figure out a way to secure the mail and get it to them. And you're worried about TOO MUCH mail? (And you can't keep the mail secure and scanned? The mail? Phoblog's dad, a decorated Vietnam Veteran, is livid and we'll be asking him for comment as well. If you have insight or information on this developing story, please email it to me directly (save the comments section for a more fully cooked post, which will come soon): christiana at phoblographer dot com (link in the side bar).

Look DOD, et al, if this is really the case - if mail is as delayed as I've heard it is, if the regs are such that no normal person can do the right thing to ensure proper receipt, if you're in the way of us supporting the troops (as you've asked repeatedly for us to do) - then Phoblog's going to do what she can to save Christmas.

The Great California Commute Debate

To take the 101 or not take the 101, that is the question. Whether tis nobler to suffer the highway hypnosis and boredom of the 5 in hopes of saving an hour or two . . . .

Translated for Northern Californians, I just said:

To take 101 or not take 101, that is the question. Whether tis nobler to suffer the highway hypnosis and boredom of 5 in hopes of saving an hour or two . . . .

Stories

This Chron article catches what made Kerik so attractive to Bush and what makes Bush so dangerous for the world:

"Kerik is a great rags-to-accomplishment story and Bush really likes that because it fits into is view of the American dream," Renshon said. "What's different about them is that Bush is pretty much a straight shooter. He's a straight-and-narrow kind of guy, and Kerik clearly is a lot less that."
It's always about the stories, isn't it? The cowboy hero from Texas, from solid, deep roots in the heartland - from a monied, priviledged, Northeastern family. The tragedy of 9/11 spun into a mythic battle of good vs. evil, transferred onto an easy, familiar enemy. The reality never matches, yet our heroism continues, ever-tilting . . . .

Alas, poor Kerik - he knew you not at all . . . .

Someone Who Has Taken Stiffs & Gifts Comment on This

An interesting story on law, art, and legacies from Phoblog's former temporary home, Philadelphia. Click here or check comments section if you aren't NYT registered.

Also in the news, the world comes that much closer to never having to leave the house again. Ever.

[To anyone who practices Wills & Trusts law and is offended by "stiffs & gifts," I'm sorry. But it is kinda funny - and using the lingo makes me seem like a real law student again, doesn't it?]

This Is Not A Post On The Peterson Verdict

Didn't watch it live. Didn't cheer. Don't much care. Don't much see its relevance to the many other truly life-or-death issues playing out across the world.

It is, however a post to ask your patience on the lighter load these days. I've been trying to put in a bit more time over at Metroblogging San Francisco, since I was an absentee captain for a few months, and I'm currently migrating south for the winter.

More blogging from LA soon.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Thirteen Days Until Christmas

Still plenty of time to pray for peace.

Light eight more candles, say eight more prayers.

Things You Learn By Googling

Perhaps I knew this already, but since I was relatively young at the time (old enough to attend political events regularly, though), I didn't remember it.

But check it out: Phoblog's Mom rocks.

All I Want For Christmas, Vol. I

All I want for Christmas is the chance to travel a bit more responsibly - like in this stylish Honda Accord Hybrid. See, not all fuel efficient cars need to look like eggs with wheels.

I drive a truck right now - not a horribly wasteful truck, but it does guzzle its fair share of gas.

The environmental benefits of driving a hybrid are obvious, of course. But for me, the most important aspect of this emerging technology is its potential to decrease our dependence on foreign oil. At this point, I'm not sure anything will detangle us completely from the Middle East - but I'd like to do what I can not to be part of the problem.

Energy independence is the new black.

Friday, December 10, 2004

And Never Leave the Originals in the Copier

So the reporter who helped a National Guardsman be recognized and get his question asked of Mr. Rumsfeld wrote about his efforts in an email to friends.

Said email was, naturally, promptly posted on the web.

Ethics professors at journalism schools are abuzz with commentary, of course. And it's more fodder for "liberal media bias" hunters.

I can't say for sure how I would feel about this story were the politics reversed. I'm biased myself and can't change that. However, I do find it unfortunate that the Administration will AGAIN be able to escape answering the real questions here by hiding in the fog of another favorable process story.

The party of "we'll have you know we've been called liars before!" is headed for another win.

Welcome to the new truth.

Update: Well, perhaps all is not lost - there are some hard facts behind the soldier's question - planted or not. Also - the NYT piece on the plant makes me a bit more hopeful that perhaps this won't be swept under the process rug. We'll see. (Both article pasted in comments, below.)

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Go Stags!

No Athenas here, but hopefully that will change someday soon.

Congrats to CMC's recently elected alumni:

* Griffin Bonini '87 was elected Superior Court Judge (Office #7 2004) of Santa Clara (CA) County.
* Ken Cheuvront '83 was re-elected to the Arizona State Senate, representing the 15th State Senatorial District
* Chuck DeVore '85, of Orange County, CA, was elected to the California State Assembly.
* David Dreier '75 was re-elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, representing California's 26th Congressional District.
* Sean Elsbernd '97 won his race for City/County of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors, 7th district.
* Simon Salinas '78 was re-elected to the California State Assembly, representing the 28th Assembly District.
* Steve Tully '88 was re-elected to the Arizona House of Representatives, representing the 11th State Assembly District, and was elected Majority Leader.

Truly Inspirational, Mr. Rumsfeld

Silver-tongued Secretary Rumsfeld responded to post-pep talk questions about necessary supplies and equipment in his usual, go-get-'em-tigers way.

When a serviceman asked him about a lack of vehicle armor for vehicles heading north into Iraq, Rumsfeld replied, "You go to war with the Army you have."

The article describes Army Spc. Thomas Wilson asking the Defense Secretary why soldiers had to dig through landfills for scrap metal and old bullet-proof glass to uparmor their vehicles. Rumsfeld "replied that troops should make the best of the conditions they face and the Army was pushing manufacturers of vehicle armor to produce it as fast as humanly possible."

If the need is there, I can't help but think of WWII when vast sectors of US industry were re-purposed toward producing necessary war items like tanks and planes. Americans were asked to forgo new cars, silk stockings, most things requiring metal, all in the name of keeping our boys Over There armed and prepared. To my knowledge, no such sacrifice has been requested of us this time around. As much as I oppose the war, if they aren't properly armed and armored over there, for god's sake, I'll give up whatever it takes. "Just make do," seems like a lousy way to maintain morale.

Of course, he didn't leave it at that:

And, the defense chief added, armor is not always a savior in the kind of combat U.S. troops face in Iraq, where the insurgents' weapon of choice is the roadside bomb, or improvised explosive device that has killed and maimed hundreds, if not thousands, of American troops since the summer of 2003.

"You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it can (still) be blown up," Rumsfeld said.
Gee, thanks.

Of course, even in his prepared, nonchallenged remarks, Rumsfeld sounded a bit hollow:

In his opening remarks, Rumsfeld stressed that soldiers who are heading to Iraq should not believe those who say the insurgents cannot be defeated or who otherwise doubt the will of the military to win.

"They say we can't prevail. I see that violence and say we must win," Rumsfeld said.
Again, I remind you, Mr. Secretary, "we must win" is not a reasonable counterargument to "we can't win." "We must win" isn't a strategy. It isn't even a tactic. It's a goal. An overriding ideal. But it does nothing to rebut those who argue the insurgency is far worse than we see on the nightly news - and is growing. Rumsfeld sees violence and it convinces him that we must win. Well, yeah, I guess. That's a nice thought - but how are you going to do that? Continuing to reject reality seems to be losing its efficacy, don't you think?

Update: Then, there's this:

Camp Pendleton -- On a gray wintry morning at this huge Southern California Marine base, President Bush offered an unusually sober assessment Tuesday of the war in Iraq, acknowledging that the insurgency is getting worse, that newly trained Iraqi soldiers are fighting poorly at times and that the war's casualties are taking a heavy toll on military families. . . .

Bush, who frequently has spoken in the past tense of victories achieved, talked of "eventually" stabilizing Iraq and commented almost wistfully about defeating the enemy in the future. He also said returning troops need more help than they are getting, a particularly poignant theme at this sprawling base, which has been hit harder than most -- 269 Marines killed in action in Iraq and thousands more wounded.

After declaring, "We should be doing more," Bush issued an urgent plea for Americans to support the troops with volunteer efforts and to give them the kind of welcome home that, he noted, returning Vietnam veterans were denied a generation ago.

"The time of war is a time of sacrifice, especially for our military families,'' the president said after describing some voluntary programs to assist the troops. "I urge every American to find some way to thank our military and to help out the military family down the street.''
Though the remarks are explained away in freedom-hater terms, to a large extent, I give some credit to the acknowledgement of truth. I also appreciate the call for Americans to volunteer and do what they can to welcome, comfort, and aid returning service men and women and their families. However, never forget Bush's efforts to cut Veteran's benefits, pay, and his administrations failure to plan properly for the physical and psychic toll of this war. Fostering a volunteer spirit is good - but commiting adequate government resources to all aspects of the war is better.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

More Found Political Humor

New York City, November 14 - The elevator Kerrys on:




I think to myself, no, in fact, help is not on the way. But I thank the elevator for its support nonetheless.

I don't think the other passengers knew why I was laughing . . . . or why I whipped out the camera.

What Foreign Policy?

Exactly.

Here is an insightful take on the practical problems with incoherrent Democratic foreign policy. For what will nonprofessionals walk door-to-door if the party sells out completely to the fervored Republican policy out of fear and confused ideals?

However, God is a registered Republican, which only leaves the Devil for the Democrats if they insist on messing with religion. If it turns out that Hillary and the other professional politicians decide that it is time for the party of Jefferson to accept Jesus as its personal savior, they are going to watch a lot of the nonprofessionals who did most of the leg work drift off elsewhere. Better a Green than a born-again political Jesus freak.

Before the pros send out more of their mendicant e-mails, they might spell out for us what it is that they’re asking people to back up with their dollars and their time. They might start with what the pros messed up the worst in the last campaign—foreign policy.

Tell us: What is the foreign policy of the Democratic Party? Is it the total warhawk position of U.S. Representative Jane Harmon [sic] of California and both Senators from New York? Is it the modified warhawk, as expressed by Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader? Is it the muddy warhawk, as dimly explicated by the Massachusetts Senator? How do these statespersons arrive at their policy positions? By auction to the ethno-religious group which kicks in the most money?

Tens of thousands broke their butts in the last election without knowing the party’s foreign-policy stand because of their fear of Mr. Bush. That’s over. He got in and he’s going to do what he does, which leaves the nonprofessional volunteers to decide if they will still give of themselves to a party without a foreign policy, or perhaps one with which they strongly disagree.

If the Democratic Party is going to embrace religion to get the Jesus vote, it is going to lose such a large chunk of its base—its active base, its money-giving base, its door-knocking base—that it is not going to win more elections in the future than it has in the recent past. The party’s pros are going to learn that it is one thing to swallow Jesus at the communion rail, and quite another to do the same at the ballot box. Nor is quavering for the Lord a substitute for a foreign-policy position.

For starters on that subject, there is Iran and its putative atom bomb(s). Christians and Jews United for War are laying down the same barrage about these weapons as we got hit with in the run-up to the Iraq invasion. This time, it will be surprising if our contemplated enemies are not working on a bomb and perfecting a means of
dropping it on the heads of Iran’s foes. The Iranians seem to have the skill sets, and they certainly have motive to force their way into the nuclear club as fast as they can. They can see that if a country doesn’t have the bomb, it may get the Iraq treatment; if it does have one, it gets the North Korea treatment . . . .
And that's just the beginning. We'll be returning to this later - for now, please do read this and send your thoughts. I'm still mulling - though it's never been a secret that I'd like to see fewer hawks helming my party.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

The Entertainment Report

Phoblog welcomes Joel Stein's new Los Angeles Times column. For some reason I'll never fully understand, a lot of folks hate Stein. For a brief period, he penned the last page column for Entertainment Weekly. Then he disappeared - to be replaced with rotating garbage that added nothing to the magazine.

For an example of extreme Anti-Stein ire, check out Nikke Finke's recent trashing in the LA Weekly. At one point, when harpooning something Stein said about himself, where he used the word "snot," she inserted "[sic]" which still puzzles me because, though it's a word my Mom disallowed at home, it is, in fact, recognized enough to not get sic-ed.

Stein's first column addresses the scripts behind popular reality shows. Kind of a duh, you have to figure, but with Stein, susbtance is good, but form is always spectacular. Finke takes him to task for his repeated firings and misfirings - but the fact that he's not afraid to smack the hands that feed him makes for great reading. Finke, it's clear, would never make such career-stupid moves, as she proves by slapping another "[sic]" behind Stein's quoted use of "Mike" Eisner. Stein's problem, apparently, is that he's too in-bed with his column subjects and too mean to them as well.

I think he's brilliant and I love his new linkability.

Update: Reader DS reminds us that Joel Stein's past work can be viewed at Stein's website.

Cringe-worthy Quotation of the Day

Via TPM:

"Kerik on critics of the war: 'Political Criticism is our enemies' best friend.'

(As quoted in Newsday, Oct. 20, 2003)"

The Magic of Web Advertising

Once I'm tech-savvy enough, I'll post a screen shot of this - but for now:

Clicking through the New York Times site tonight, I was surprised to see an ad for Bob Hertzberg. I suppose it makes as much sense as anything. I'm an LA voter and I am reading the NYT. I suppose it's that LA identity that allows us to run our mayoral races in a more nation-wide fashion than, say, Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

Anyone else noticed any, at least superficially, out-of-place political ads?

Nascarization: Fact or Fiction

An interesting NYT piece discussing red states, blue states, Nascar, newscasters, and blogging.

It seems like, post-election, there's a driving need to decide if America is a red-state trapped in a blue-state's media market, a blue-state bullied by red Fox News, or one big puddle of foreign-ire-attracting purple.

This piece's message isn't wholly clear to me. But I can't help but wonder if this "Nascarization" fear is a bit overblow - just more evidence of the fabled American power of overreation. Which is it? In what direction are we going? If we're going anywhere at all?

(see comments section for full text, if you still haven't registered with NYT. Which you should already)

Saturday, December 04, 2004

To Tell The Truth

Perhaps a difficult challenge for the President.

Tell truth on troops' stay, says Feinstein; She implores Bush to acknowledge need will last years

And on a semi-related note: I'm watching the Army/Navy game right now (go Navy! - sorry, Josh W. - not that they need my help, it's 35-7 Navy right now). The commercials, of course, are fairly service-related, and mostly Army. But one Navy ad I caught included the language "life . . . liberty . . . and the pursuit of all who threaten it." Through the magic of Google, here's the slogan's backstory.

Apparently, asskicking is another inalienable right Jefferson implied even if he didn't explicitly spell it out.

Another Day, Another Blog

Blogging has been light the past few days because, aside from real life appointments and whatnot, I've been working on setting up a site for my a local San Pedro project (which happens to be chaired by my Dad) that's been working for the past 16 years or so to light the Vincent Thomas Bridge.

And when I say, I've been working on a site, I mean, I was playing around with Blogger and then begged Phoblog's technical guru Josh, of Loud Dog Media, to help me set up the domain for the new site itself.

So, check out the Vincent Thomas Bridge Lighting homepage - and plan to be in San Pedro on January 30th as the state's 3d largest suspension bridge is lit.

Who Likes Comments?

In the past, I've suggested donations to various political causes and candidates, but haven't yet solicited funds for this site directly (and most likely won't, since my costs are fairly low right now). However, Comment This! - the comments service we use here at Phoblographer* - needs to raise some dough to stay alive. They pay a lot for hosting and need to raise $1800 by March. The Comments This! service has been working great and I'd hate to have to change. The comments have stayed wonderfully free of spam - and aside from the occasionally frustrating inability to edit comments, I'm happy with it. So, if you enjoy comments and want to save me the work of having to copy over for preservation all the comments so far, please kick in a few bucks.

Thanks!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Closure Encounters

Whether LA AFB will be will be in the BRAC chopping block, probably isn't really the question.

The question is: what is LA - or more importantly, California going to do to protect it?

As I mentioned below, this morning, I attended a local chamber of commerce breakfast. The presentation, as fate would have it, was on the consequences of LAAFB closing.

Here are some facts, from the powerpoint presentation I watched, that, judging by the headers, comes from the LAAFB Regional Alliance:

  • LAAFB's Satellite and Space programs generate nearly 50,000 direct and indirect jobs in LA County and more than 110,ooo in the state.
  • Total revenue for LA County businesses - $8 billion annually.
  • The Space and Missle Systems Center (SMC) at LAAFB manages $60 billion in contracts and employs 90% of the nation's military space workers.
  • Local aerospace contractors we might lose: Boeing Satellite Systems, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and more.
  • LA is also home to the Aerospace Corporation - one of only two Federally Funded Research and Development Centers connected to a military base. Their budget: $600 million.
  • To answer reader charges that LAAFB is a sub-par facility: Ground has already been broken for the LAAFB modernization - a state-of-the-art 560,000 square foot facility in El Segundo being built with NO military construction dollars:



So, do you like an economically strong Los Angeles County? How about California? How many more jobs would you like to see leave California? For South Bay readers: did you go to school here? What would our local schools be like without the base? Not only the families (from diverse backgrounds, all kinds of life experience, with very involved parents, but the special science programs and classroom enrichment opportunities from both the Air Force and aerospace industries.

Closing LAAFB doesn't make sense for the South Bay. It doesn't make sense for California. It doesn't make sense for the Air Force OR for national security.

Want to help? click here and see what you can do.

Update: It will be interesting to see if tomorrow night's mayoral debate will hit on this issue. Current Mayor Hahn, and challengers Hertzberg, Villaraigosa, Parks, and Alarcon are scheduled to attend. Hertzberg, Villaraigosa, and Alarcon have all served in the state legislature and should be keenly aware of the financial strain under which the state has been operating for the past few years. Then again, Hahn is no stranger, since the state has been bleeding local government for years too. I would expect all mayoral hopefuls would pledge to work tirelessly to protect LAAFB.

Turning a New Corner

After much hinting, there's no confirmation: we're upping the number of troops in Iraq. Sort of.

According to the article, most of the increase will come from extended deployments of units already in Iraq - meaning some troops will have served 14 month tours. The primary reason given for the increase is preserving stability for the upcoming (they're still upcoming, right?) elections. But:

Other military experts, however, said the escalation reflects the more intense nature of the war after the U.S.-led assault on the rebellious Sunni city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad.

"The ferocity with which the war is being waged by both sides is escalating," said Jeffrey White, a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst who is now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "It is not just that the number of incidents are increasing. The war looks to be changing in character."

Retired Army Col. Ralph Hallenbeck, who worked in Iraq with the U.S. occupation authority last year, said he is worried that the move represents a setback for the basic U.S. strategy of placing a greater burden on Iraqi security forces to control the country and deal with the insurgency. "I fear that it signals a re-Americanization . . . of our strategy in Iraq," he said.

Indeed, adding troops at this point is the opposite of what senior Pentagon officials expected when the war began in March 2003.

Before the invasion, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz dismissed an estimate by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to occupy Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein's government. "I am reasonably certain that they will greet us as liberators," Wolfowitz told a congressional committee, "and that will help us to keep requirements down."
Famous last words, eh? None of this sounds like good news to me. I'm sure someone in the White House can spin it better than it sounds here - though I hope the bare bones truth gets through to people first.

Lately, a lot of comments here have dealt with military families, and how best to serve them when making decisions on base closures and locations.

To digress momentarily, but on a related note, I attended a chamber of commerce breakfast this morning (I'll be posting about it later) during which I listened to a presentation on - of all things - efforts to save LA AFB. One statistic I heard was that the current plan is to downsize the military not just by a number of dollars or bases, but by 218,000 members as well. Make sense to you? Doesn't to me, either.

Let me loop that back into this discussion: the article notes that this is the 3d time the military has ordered troops to serve longer tours than expected. Initially, such extentions (rightly) "provoked anguish among family members who had been counting the days until the return of their deployed soldiers."

Since extentions have become more common, "the troops, their wives, and their children have become more accustomed to them."

I find that terribly sad.

And no, I'm not feeling sorry for military families. This is just another thing they shouldn't have to get used to. Imagine a 14 month deployment. That's a whole long time. Imagine having your heart set on a loved one's return date. Imagine serving and setting your sights on the goal line. Think of the consequences to morale. Then remember how little mental health support is being provided to service men and women returning home.

You might want to note, as well, the mention that our presence in Iraq could extend for 5 to 10 years. And what else might come up during that time?

Veterans benefits cut. Inadequate mental health resources. Extended deployments. All approved by guys who got us into war on false pretenses, conflation of enemies, none of whom served, most of whom had "other priorities."

Yes, active duty troops volunteered to go. But our responsibility is still to make sure we aren't asking too much or the wrong thing of those willing to sacrifice potentially everything so that I can sit here and blog safely.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Blawger Caption Contest

Thanksgiving may have passed, but if all your table was missing was snarky, turkey-themed, Bush bashing - take heart! Neo Tokyo Times has a contest for you.

I gave NT a hard time for holding his own contest (see his comments section) - but that was just photo-envy.

Go, click here and play his reindeer game.

For the Record

Because I'm fiercely protective of both my specific hometown - San Pedro - and it's city- Los Angeles, I just wanted to clear something up.

Los Angeles Air Force Base, one of the bases that will likely face the threat of closure is not located in what one reader called "the ghetto."

I'm guessing there are worse places to be stationed. Generally speaking, the Air Force takes the best care of its people out of any branch of the military, though I'm biased. (And I welcome comments from my Army and Navy readers.) Not because I'm in the Air Force, nor was I raised an AF brat, but growing up in San Pedro, I attended church at the local AF housing installation. I spent most weekends on base with my friends, also dealt with the emotional goodbyes as best friends moved far away. The base is gorgeous, picturesque, and historic. The working base itself is in El Segundo. Sure, it's not Marina Del Rey (about two blocks to the North), but it's a far cry from a bad neighborhood - check it out.

Closing LA AFB would devestate my hometown, economically, culturally, and - at least for me - personally.

That's the last of my two-cents on the issue . . . . for now.

P.S. check out the tragic settings in which LA AFB families are forced to live. Really awful.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Open Season in LA Politics! Wohoo!

Happy Holidays - the guns have been hired!

These are the same hired guns as last time," said Joel Kotkin, an urban historian and fellow at the New American Foundation. "They are gunfighters. They are people you hire to win an election by destroying other people."
And god bless us, every one!

Those helming the major campaigns are veterans of local, state, and national campaigns: Joe Trippi? Seriously? Nice going, Bob. And Trippi calls Alarcon's Richie Ross a "scorched-earth consultant but a formidable one."

The article mentions the collection of out-of-town superstars and local, LA-experienced types as a nice case study on the efficacy of each approach. We're a crazy city, but I don't think there's quite as much antipathy toward out-of-towners as exists in, say, Philadelphia. If the consultants were from San Francisco, that might be a problem - though, not as much as if this were an SF race and the gun were from LA.

Only time will tell . . . .

High Court Weighs High

The Supreme Court heard arguments on California's medical marijuana law today:

A Bush administration lawyer told the justices they would be encouraging people to use potentially harmful marijuana if they were to side with the women.

"If they're right, then I think their analysis would extend to recreational use of marijuana, as well as medical use of marijuana, and would extend to every state in the nation, not just those states that made it lawful," said Paul Clement, acting solicitor general.
Well, no, actually. No more so than the legal use of valium or vicodin encourages the recreational use of such drugs. Such abuse occurs, of course. But most medications can be abused. So it becomes a balancing test (ah, like so many legal questions) - what it's worth to those in need vs. the risk of abuse in those who don't need it. What do the supes think?

Justice Stephen Breyer said the government makes a strong argument that as many as 100,000 sick people use marijuana in California, and "when we see medical marijuana in California, we won't know what it is. Everybody'll say, `Mine is medical.' Certificates will circulate on the black market. We face a mess."
If pop cultural references are any indication, then anyone who has a) been to college or b) been a teenager, hasn't needed a black market certificate. I'm guessing they don't need to go to that much trouble. I'm in no way making light of drug abuse. My point is simply that if the government believes making pot medically available to those with valid need will have any impact on drug abuse - other than rhetorically - they are, again, doing their best to SOUND like they're waging a war on drugs without actually having to do anything.

Maybe the interstate commerce clause will save California's sovereignty. No, really . . . .

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Phoblog Salutes . . .

The man who tried to sink my license plate bill, but decided not to - Senator Burton, thanks for the memories:

"John Burton helped keep alive the New Deal in the new millennium," said Kevin Starr, state librarian emeritus, a historian of California. "He has to go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Senate pro tems in terms of his mastery of parliamentary procedure and his ability to maintain a relationship with not only his own party but with the Republicans as well."

Burton departs as Sacramento's most outspoken proponent of liberal activism. Always willing to push the envelope in his tactics, he pressed for stronger child-support laws and to bolster unions of all stripes, to aid California's weakest citizens — the homeless, the poor, farmworkers, prisoners and Indians — and to impose responsibilities on corporations that he believed were more concerned with their bottom lines than with the health and welfare of employees, customers and the environment. . . .

"He's an old-time politician who understands that in a democracy, you're not supposed to liquidate your opponents, not demonize them, but rather to work with them, because democracy is the politics of compromise," said Tim Hodson, executive director at the Center for California Studies at Cal State Sacramento.

Nah, It's Cool. We Didn't Need Those Jobs Anyway.

So, current Administration - you're fighting a war (or is that two? what was that other place farther North again?), gearing up for another in Iran, dealing with personnel shortages that require recalling 1000s of troops who thought they had served their time already. What's the best thing to do?

Close some more bases.

But not just any bases. The smartest bases to close would definitely be those on th edges of the country - the ones close to borders or on the edge of the country closest to countries like, say, North Korea.

Yeah, that's the ticket:

Across the nation, state and local governments are gearing up, both to protect local bases and to grab jobs that will be lost in other states. Though California is widely seen as the most vulnerable state, it has been slow to react and made only a modest effort to influence the outcome.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld aims to eliminate nearly a quarter of the military's infrastructure, which is considered surplus to the Defense Department's long-term mission of fighting terrorists and limited wars. The closures could equal all the reductions in the four previous rounds of consolidation combined.
The article discusses, realistically, the role of politics (bases at risk in CA, with hard lobbying coming from Colorado, New Mexico, Florida, and Maryland. Three out of four of those performed quite well in 2004).

Hopefully, of course, these closures will enable the government to refund more tax money - maybe as much as the average $300 of the last refund. Families, of course, will be free to invest that in their own anti-terrorism measures like duct tape, gas masks, and cipro.

Is anyone else concerned with this kind of planning?

Wow, I SO Did Not See This Coming . . .

In a surprise twist, Iraqi parties call for poll delay.

I just never would've guessed there wouldn't be elections in January like we were promised.* I mean, I totally thought that naysayer was crazy - talking nonsense about not being able to hold elections in Iraq with all that chaos over there.** Oh well, hopefully they'll just elect people anyway. Just push it on through.

* ctrl+F "January" - first and second hits, Bush quotations.
** ctrl+F "elections" - first hit, Kerry quotation.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

A Southern Thanksgiving

Did you know the South rejected Thanksgiving as a Yankee holiday in the 19th, and even part of the 20th, century? I didn't. And some Virginian's have their own historical evidence about the real first Thanksgiving.

(By the way, note that I am not commenting on the most recent military campaign in Iraq being dubbed "Operation Plymouth Rock.")

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

10 Things For Which Phoblog Is Thankful

10. Not having to outline right now.
9. My dog Patches.
8. Lean Cuisine.
7. New DVD releases.
6. Still having enough idealism to believe those paychecks and reimbursements from the DNC will come.
5. The brief period of courage that allowed me to walk off to look for, and work to save, America.
4. Jack Pitney, The Rose Institute, and my Claremont McKenna College education.
3. *
2. Those spending Thanksgiving in far off deserts.
1. Posting this from home while looking forward to a day of cooking and eating with my family tomorrow.

And of course, I'm very thankful for readers. If you're thankful for anything in particular that you'd like to share, you know where to click.

Happy Thanksgiving: may your turkey be large, your stuffing, uh, stuffy, and your tryptophan coma pleasant.

California Things I Missed

Okay, it wasn't bad enough that she changed a perfectly good museum name, then she wanted to turn it into a women's museum? Apparently, however, she's changed her mind.

Yes, Ms. Shriver, who saved us from the Golden State Museum, has dropped a plan to shift the focus of the now-California State History Center froma general history of, uh, the Golden State, to women.

Clearly, I'm not against women. Nor even a museum dedicated to them. However, I'd bet she has the juice to start a whole 'nother museum for that. There is, however, no less a need for a state museum.

Nothing Says Thanksgiving Like Puritanical Thinking

Stop worrying about crazed cell phones and start worrying about this:

The hypocrisy embedded in this tale is becoming a national running gag. As in the Super Bowl brouhaha, in which the N.F.L. maintained it had no idea that MTV might produce a racy halftime show, the league has denied any prior inkling of the salaciousness on tap this time - even though the spot featured the actress playing the sluttiest character in prime time's most libidinous series and was shot with the full permission of one of the league's teams in its own locker room. Again as in the Jackson case, we are also asked to believe that pro football is what Pat Buchanan calls "the family entertainment, the family sports show" rather than what it actually is: a Boschian jamboree of bumping-and-grinding cheerleaders, erectile-dysfunction pageantry and, as Don Imus puts it, "wife-beating drug addicts slamming the hell out of each other" on the field.

But there's another, more insidious game being played as well. The F.C.C. and the family values crusaders alike are cooking their numbers. The first empirical evidence was provided this month by Jeff Jarvis, a former TV Guide critic turned blogger. He had the ingenious idea of filing a Freedom of Information Act request to see the actual viewer complaints that drove the F.C.C. to threaten Fox and its affiliates with the largest indecency fine to date - $1.2 million for the sins of a now-defunct reality program called "Married by America." Though the F.C.C. had cited 159 public complaints in its legal case against Fox, the documents obtained by Mr. Jarvis showed that there were actually only 90 complaints, written by 23 individuals. Of those 23, all but 2 were identical repetitions of a form letter posted by the Parents
Television Council. In other words, the total of actual, discrete complaints about "Married by America" was 3.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

What's America Overreacting to This Week?

Exploding cell phone batteries prompt recalls

As many as 83 - Eighty-three! - of the countries estimated 170 million cell phones have exploded! Local newscasters everywhere rejoice.

[Disclaimer: no, Phoblog doesn't enjoy making light of others' injuries. Phoblographer* assures readers it is 100% against exploding cell phone batteries.]

How Bridge Building Is Like College Food Service

So this one time, at CMC, these food service companies were competing for a contract. Two of the finalists provided bids that were within reach of each other and made sense in the industry. The third came in $500 per student below the next lowest bid.

A prudent person might ask exactly how a company could offer such drastic savings. What exactly are you serving there, Aramark? How old IS that milk? CMC went with the underbidders and the students quickly learned what $500 less per student tasted like (one word, rhymes with "wrap").

The Bay Bridge's east span has become the bridge that ate the Bay Area budget. Now, there is a proposal to change bridges mid-bay. For between $200 and $500 million in savings, current plans for an innovative, landmark structure could be scrapped in favor of a different design. But in a project with a multibillion dollar price tag that aims to be an architectual jewel in the Bay Area's crown of sparkling bridges - that, by the way, spans a few areas of historically nasty seismic activity - is $200 worth it? Especially when no actual plans for this Plan B bridge have been drafted?

Definitely check out this article for some more compelling arguements and concerns over this potential latest budget casualty.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Romancing the War



While in DC last weekend, I had a chance to catch a preview of a new french film, Un long dimanche de fiancailles. The film, the title of which translates to A Very Long Engagement, chronicles Mathilde's quest to find her fiance who was lost and presumed dead in The Great War.

On Sunday, the New York Times ran an interesting film analysis and commentary of sorts: The Girl He Left Behind Gets a Movie of Her Own. The article's title alone fairly well captures a main reason I loved this film. It's about the girl. It's a war movie about the girl. The girl - girls, really - left behind. I'll admit now, after denying it for quite sometime (10 points to S. Angel), that things are more meaningful or provide more of a role model if the main character is similar to the reader or audience. I have to be honest: I read the Choose Your Own Adventures with the girls in the illustrations. I liked Nancy Drew, not the Hardy Boys. And no, I don't like war movies about only men. Well, I like some of them (especially the 1927 Academy Award winning Wings, oops that has a girl too). But for the most part, war films celebrate the linear nature of war in all its grand male-ness. Films that dare discuss or focus on the homefront, however, must confront that other half of the population.

That the film focuses on women, however, isn't the only thing that sets it apart. It's also a World War I movie - a war most of my generation understands solely through compulsory high school All Quiet on the Western Front term papers. There's little about World War I that doesn't turn your stomache. Millions of young men waited in muddy holes. Occasionally, they would run up over the top of their foxholes attempting to inch the line forward. Of course, doing so, put them directly in the line of enemy fire. Basically, from what I recall, each side took turns getting slaughtered until they called it quits on what we now celebrate as Veteran's Day.

The film captures the uselessness of WWI beautifully and heart-wrenchingly. As the NYT article describes it, "the trenches were where the romance of war went to die." A historical reality echoed in the film's narrative. WWI lessons, as imparted in literature and film, tie directly into current conflicts. From the article:

The antiwar argument practically makes itself, and part of that argument, powerfully stated in Lewis Milestone's famous 1929 film "All Quiet on the Western Front," is that indefensible wars are insidiously enabled by ignorance on the home front, by the dreams of vicarious glory dreamed by those who sleep in their own beds, far from the hellish reality of the battlefield. It's more or less unanimous, too, that the First World War signaled the beginning of a profound skepticism about the benevolence of states and the nobility of war: the Great War was, in the opinion of those lucky enough to survive it, a great con.
WWII mythology, captured in so many prominent, recent films and series, focuses less on the hopeless horror that permeates WWI narratives. Instead, it plays up the noble ends of the conflict - the bands of brotherhood, the sacrifices upon the alter of freedom. Alternately, post-Vietnam era films center on cynacism and confusion - though, I'd argue, since the 1991 Gulf War, they tend still to find a way to uplift the action. The article compares European war narratives with post-Vietnam Amerian war movies:
But for the French, who were fighting on their own soil, the girls left behind must have seemed tantalizingly close, less purely abstract than a G.I.'s sweetheart might seem to him after a few confusing months in Vietnam or the Sunni Triangle. The American experience of modern war has been primarily elsewhere; the chipper anthem of the relatively brief American involvement in the Great War was "Over
There."
Our war movies are about thrusting forward into hostile territory - landing on a beach, taking a hill, bombing behind enemy lines - rather than about digging in and defending our own.

The different mind sets generate a different dramatic emphasis in the depiction of combat. In European films about the First World War, the narrative almost always centers on the frustrations of stasis . . . .

And since Vietnam, practically all our combat narratives have concentrated on the near-hallucinatory sense of dislocation that comes from moving forward blindly in a dark jungle, because there's no place else to go and nothing, in any case, will look like home. . . .

Since Vietnam, too, movie audiences demand a far more graphic portrayal of violence; even in pictures about the Second World War, whose necessity was questionable, we expect to see gushing blood, blown-off limbs, exposed viscera - all the gross physical insults that movies made during that war discreetly protected us from.

This enormous increase in sensory detail in the war films of the post-Vietnam era helps reinforce the widespread cynicism about war that took root in Europe in the second decade of the 20th century and in America in the late 1960's: a saner attitude, on the whole, than the romanticized notions of battlefield glory that prevailed before the slaughter in the trenches. The downside of the orgiastic vividness of the combat violence in movies like "Saving Private Ryan" and "Black Hawk Down" is that it frequently seems to be about nothing but itself, to exclude any possibility of meaning in the terrible events. Mr. Jeunet, searching for a sort of intensity that doesn't altogether kill hope, settles on a magic-realist style for his battle scenes: a once-upon-a-time tone that suggests that some moral might actually emerge from this hell.
A Very Long Engagement succeeds because it manages to pull somekind of human hope out of a hopeless war. The film's basic truth, of course, is that all war is hell - hopeless, meaningless, linearly aimed at death. Yet, it doesn't relax into this truth - nor does it apply it beyond the battlefield. As the NYT frames it, Engagement doesn't dwell in the trenches. Credit the circular nature of a female narrative (literarily speaking, though, literally in this case as well) which mandates the departure from the kind of war narrative we're used to (as does the non-American experience).

On a less academic note, the movie itself is finely made - beautifully acted, filmed, and scored. I have never seen Amelie, but this film also stars Audrey Tautou and both were directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. From what I understand, the magic realism that echoes in Engagement is one of the director's hallmarks. It works well here. I was going to link to the trailer, but having watched it, I'm going to suggest you just trust my recommendation and go check out the film, which is in limited release starting November 26. About the only worthwhile part of the trailer are the titles describing the movie as about "The Beauty of Hope and the Absurdity of War" (wonder how long until there's a Presidential decree that anyone calling war absurd is unpatriotic - and anyone attending a FRENCH film on the absurdity of war shall be deported). The rest of the trailer has to carefully avoid letting interested people know the whole thing is in French. It just isn't the best advertisement for the film. Go check it out for yourselves. You'll like it.

By the way, just because I find these types of differences interesting, the poster above seems to be for the American release. The French poster is below. I'm guess Tautou's more of a marquee name in France - while here she's just That Pretty Girl Who Was In That Other French Movie. Our poster, however, implies sex. God bless America.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

When It Rains, It Pours

It's been a big week for Congressional procedural antics. First the DeLay rule, now a small provisions in a huge omnibus spending package that would've allowed specified committee chairs and their designees (staffers) access to anyone's IRS records. Sound like fun, eh? Josh Marshall addresses the issue in a string of posts starting with this one and continuing up the site, ending with this most recent post.

The amendment, which almost made it past the Dems, was apparently entered on behalf of House Approps Transportation (yea, trans) Subcommittee Chairman Ernest Istook of Oklahoma. Of course, lots of specified MOCs have access to all kinds of sensitive information - though nothing seems to stike the collective American nerve like tax returns (which are totally sacred, unless, of course, you're running for office, in which case, what are you hiding you fiscal and moral deviant?).

Josh asks whether Istook will face any disciplinary action, formal or informal.

Let's evalute that from technical and practical perspectives.

Technically speaking, I'm almost positive no rule was broken. This kind of slip-it-in tactic is hardly new. It's crafty and hard to do in the information age, but when you're passing phonebook sized bills, sometimes the temptation is too great. Also, I'm assuming (dangerous, but it's late and I wouldn't do a good job getting this all down right now), if it was, indeed, an "amendment" that it was voted on somewhere. Unless this bill was in conference (and even then), you can't just tack something one without following certain procedures. Either way, legislative bodies are responsible for regulating the behavior of their membership. See, e.g. DeLay, Tom. And, as we've seen, those rules are subject to change at any time for any reason. It's one of those perks of democracy the minority party isn't always in love with.

That leads us into the practical evaluation. Again, see DeLay, Tom for all the indication you need. 1) Istook likely did nothing "wrong," as easy as it is to vehemently disagree with the amendment. 2) If it was "wrong," it certainly wouldn't be "wrong" in a legal sense (immunity trumps all, my friends, since I figure you'd be hard pressed to prove this wasn't within the scope of his office). 3) If it was "wrong" according to any internal Congressional rule, he probably won't really pay for his actions.

The great thing about democracy, however, is supposed to be accountability. So I hope the DNC is out actively scouting strong challengers for that seat. There's great fodder for commercials here. Have at him.

I can hear the adds now: So call Rep. Istook today. Tell him to stay out of our private lives.

Josh's other questions are technical in nature - in terms of who authorized the amendment, etc. These things don't fall from the sky. There's a paper trail. (Here, however, I step way back, since I'm far more versed in California Legislative procedure anymore. But I'll admit these latest Congressional hijinx make me itch for another shot at the Hill.)

Friday, November 19, 2004

Just What the World Needs

A big Phoblog congrats to readers SJK, BL, and former roomie RM for passing the California Bar. I hear it's a pretty tough exam. (Fortunately, I won't be taking it for quite awhile.)

Rising Rhetoric: Building the Case Against Iran

Another term, another enemy. Iraq is SO last season.

For your consideration, this SF Chron article about the administration building a case against Iran:

Adam Ereli, the department's deputy spokesman, acknowledged Friday that "there are differences of opinion" on whether Iran has a covert nuclear weapons program.

However, he said, "we believe the arguments stack up in our favor. We will continue to press this case."

Ereli said the public should take a broad view of the situation.

"Don't just focus on a uranium enrichment program, on a nuclear plant here or a nuclear plant there," he said. "Look at the totality of the picture. And the picture is you've got undeclared nuclear activity, deliberate misinformation on nuclear activity, development of delivery systems and other technical research that, added all up, paints a very troubling picture."

Iran was one of three countries singled out by President Bush as part of an "axis of evil." He went to war with one, Iraq, and is backing diplomacy to try to halt nuclear weapons programs in a second, North Korea.

His approach to the third, Iran, is only now starting to take shape. It is marked by rising rhetoric.
How many fronts is too many?

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Going, Going, Back, Back, to Cali, Cali

A general update:

To celebrate waking up in my own bed (heaven) and my first day back in San Francisco, I did some of my favorite things: Kickboxing at Golden Gate Fitness, burrito from L'Avenida (heaven in a tortilla), coffee at Reverie, and some badly needed body work at Relax Nails (I do believe I am now the blogger with the prettiest toes). Oh and I had to go up to campus. But whatever.

It's my goal to steer this blog back toward its roots and away from the diary-esque tone it's had lately (with reason, granted). I still owe some more postage on the campaign - which is coming - promise.

But for now, I direct your attention to the newly unveiled Around the Capitol upgrade. It has some nifty features: you can personalize it for bills or races you may be tracking, editorials you like to keep up with, or blogs you like to scan (and I think we all know who you need to include on that list, right?). Props to Scott Lay and the gang for continuing to provide a good round-up of California political information - all in a very user-friendly format.

Go on - check it out.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

this is an audio post - click to play

Return to Cali: A Preview

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Governor Schwarzenegger for helping ease Phoblog's transition back into state coverage and commentary by providing material for articles such as this one:


Sacramento -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, after campaigning as a reformer who would cast special interests out of the Capitol, smashed every fund-raising record in his first year in office with a $26.6 million haul that doubled the amount raised by former Gov. Gray Davis in his first year.

The vast majority of the money came from special interests deeply vested in the outcome of legislative and regulatory decisions in Sacramento, including financial companies, auto dealers and manufacturers and health care concerns. In some cases, the governor, who took office a year ago today, has taken positions that benefited his contributors.

For much of the year, Schwarzenegger used a legal loophole to raise sums greater than a state law's $21,200 limit. And in recent weeks, as a deadline approached to close that loophole, Schwarzenegger stepped up his acceptance of those donations, raking in individual contributions as high as $500,000.

"He's taken more money from special interests than anyone in this state ever has," said David Fink, a policy advocate at the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, which has been a vocal critic of the Schwarzenegger administration. "He hasn't changed the political culture in Sacramento. It's the status quo. He made everyone believe in him, that he wasn't the typical politician, and he's just like everyone else."
Now, before my R-side Capitol readers take issue with my selectively quoting from this Chron article, let me say, yeah, I'm leaving out the parts where the reporter says that the Governor has not always acted in the interests of some of his biggest donors. And, in fact, the part that I do select implies that he's more often than not gone the way of the check-writers, while later in the article, it clearly says:
Schwarzenegger's largest industry backers are real estate and development interests, and even critics of the administration are hard-pressed to find evidence that he has done anything in office to benefit that industry.

That's good. I applaud that. In fact, I've long been idealistically believed that representatives and executives can take money from whomever they want and not necessarily partake in the activity that would earn them the "sell-out" title. So good for Schwarzenegger.

But since his activities are focused on bypassing representative government and forcing policy change via ballot measures, I'm going to continue to hammer his fundrasing and policy choices. The article mentions the possibility of Schwarzenegger calling a special election to deal with redistricting reform. Regular readers know that redistricting reform is actually something of which I'm in favor, and a good example of a case where the initiative process is probably necessary because it saves electeds from pressing a button akin to pointing a revolver at their collective foot (not that the same idealistic side of me doesn't believe enough members would have the courage to vote for badly needed reform - but just to be safe . . . .).

Of course, if the measure is any way associated with Ted Costa, my yes vote will be a lot harder to win. There are people in the state I trust to write that law - and until I see them holding a pen and a map, I'm far from convinced.

Mmm, feels good to be back on the Cali soapbox. I may be rusty, but I should be back in fighting shape in no time.

Headlines that Make You Go 'Hmmm'

Sometimes, you just have to react to the headline:

Cabinet Choices Seen as Move for More Harmony and Control.

Thank God. Because what this country really lacked for the past few years is wholehearted agreement within government.

Phoblog's Procedural Roots

In Congress, rules aren't made to be broken, they're just real easy to change fast.

Ah, Congressional rulemaking. It used to be a Phoblog speciality. Let's step into the wayback machine for a moment: The year is 1999, and Jack Pitney's Congress class helps me realize a life-long love of procedure and rules (hey, I was the kid who always wanted to be the door monitor in grade school). While in Washington, DC, I wrote a fat paper on Majority party procedure-wielding. And, of course, who could forget my stunning turn as Senator Robert C. Byrd during the Congress simulation. Watch me do procedure-circles around you, foolish Republican majority! I have an autographed copy of Walter J. Oleszek's Congressional Procedure (4th Edition) - yeah, I'm THAT nerd. Ah, the good ol' days.

So, you can imagine my delight this morning as I read about the GOP's push for a rule change to protect DeLay. Seems that rule they demanded to punish such indicted democrats as Dan Rostenkowski bacjk in the early 90s just rings unfair when it's about to be applied to the guy who helped them jam through an ethically-questionable Texas re-redistricting. The Reep argument goes something like this: aww, come on, now, the guy got us like 5 more seats - so what's an idictment anyway? It's an unproven allegation. Unproven!

From the article:

"That's why this [proposed rule change] is going to pass, assuming it's submitted, because there is a tremendous recognition that Tom DeLay led on the issue to produce five more seats" for the Republicans, Cantor said after emerging from a meeting in which the Republican Conference welcomed new members and reelected Hastert and DeLay as its top leaders.

Other Republicans agreed the conference is likely to change the rule if given the chance. An indictment is simply an unproven allegation that should not require a party leader to step aside, said Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.). Rep. John Carter (R-Tex.), a former trial judge, said it makes sense to differentiate between federal and
state indictments in shaping party rules because state grand juries often are led by partisan, elected prosecutors who may carry political grudges against lawmakers.
Ah, yes, and the Federal judiciary is completely free from bias or partisan encumbrances. But I digress. Do any of those rule changing arguments really persuade you? More likely, they persuade the American public to believe more strongly that Congress is full of self-interested, self-serving rule-changers - like a playground bully who can magically decide who's "it" based on his say-so. The state judge/fed judge dynamic is embodied in one proposal to allow leaders merely indicted by state grand juries to stay, but require leaders to step down (at least temporarily) if a federal court indicts. That's probably good. I mean, why should a MOC be held more accountable by a state court, a body closer to his constituents and community? I think that's just foolishness. Does that mean state representatives should take federal indictments less seriously?

More:

The House ethics committee on Oct. 6 admonished DeLay for asking federal aviation officials to track an airplane involved in the highly contentious 2003 redistricting battle, and for conduct that suggested political donations might influence legislative action. The ethics panel deferred action on a complaint related to TRMPAC, noting that the grand jury has not finished its work.

The Texas investigation is headed by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, an elected Democrat who has been bitterly criticized by DeLay supporters. Yesterday, Cantor called Earle's efforts "a witch hunt."

"It's a totally a partisan exercise," Cantor said. "It's coincidental with what's going on up here [in the Capitol], where they are trying every avenue to go after Tom DeLay because they can't beat him" on the House floor or in congressional elections. Changing the rule is not a sign that lawmakers think DeLay will be indicted, Cantor said, but rather a public rebuke of an investigation they feel is wholly unwarranted.
At a certain level, I suppose at least everyone is singing off the standard songbook. Dems cry partisan-foul at investigations (rightly or wrongly instituted) that can be shown, in any small way, to have a Republican involved. So I won't feign surprise at the Reep rhetoric on the investigation's legitimacy. At the same time though, if you connect some of the dots, we have DeLay pulling federal strings to interfere with a state process that basically guarantees he's electorally untouchable and now that the board is perfectly set, he's also positioned to cry foul at anything a Democrat dares do.

And changing the rules as a public rebuke of an unwarranted investigation? Congress writes it's own rules and its up to every legislative body to control its own members, from rule creation to enforcement. So, yes, it's within their rights to change a rule whenever it suits them. But the creation of the rule was a public rebuke of a sitting Congressman. Now it's a public rebuke of the type of rebuke. Too much rebuking here. From an acadmic perspective, it's a lovely, made-for-the-classroom example of the axiom: pass not a minority rule today that may return to bite you in your majority ass.

It just rings hollow, guys. The party of ethics and values is sure quick to excuse itself, isn't it? That's real leadership, kids. Do as I enact, not as I amend.

Update: From Josh Marshall comments twice on the topic - cleverly headlining one post, "House Republicans Embrace new pro-crime agenda." Love it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Rebuilding A Temporarily Dead End Country Road

Our West Virginia field listserv still keeps us in touch and today, this NYT article on what the hell happened in West Virginia was the topic of choice (see comments for entire text).

It's a bit of a discouraging article for Democrats - especially to those of us who were in West Virginia. Here are a few points of interest:

1.) The article begins by saying that WV Dems "could practically taste" a Kerry victory on the eve of the election. I guess I was already out by then. It never felt like anything less than an uphill climb - which, I'd argue - was actually a good thing for us field organizers. I woke up each morning with a burning sense of fight.

2.) "This election will make it respectable to be a Republican," said ousted WV Justice McGraw's campaign manager. That may be true - and it is a very bad thing for a state where FDR still hangs over many a fireplace.

3.) From the article:

But they were deeply dismayed by Mr. Kerry's showing. Four years ago, Vice President Al Gore all but ignored the state, and his loss could be written off to neglect. This year, Democrats were out in force for months registering voters, recruiting volunteers and defending Mr. Kerry's positions on gun control, coal mining and steel tariffs. Yet the margin of defeat grew.

"The Democrats did everything right by the playbook and still got blasted," said Robert Rupp, a professor of political science and history at West Virginia Wesleyan College.
It's the "playbook" reference that is a harbinger of bad things. Of all battlegrounds I can think of - West Virginia should have been the place where the old book still worked. With the exception (albeit important) of the eastern panhandle, increasingly a Washington, DC bedroom community, West Virginia isn't undergoing a lot of demographic change. Well, except in the wrong direction. People aren't coming - they're going. But the folks who remain should've been life-long, diehard, yellow dog voters. But those dogs don't hunt anymore. So while I don't fault anyone for using the old playbook, it's clearly time to start drafting a new one.

4.) Most terrifying of all: The Reeps are "confidently looking to challenge" Robert C. Byrd in 2006. Sweet Jesus. Were he to lose, it would be as sure a sign of the coming apocolypse as anything I could think of. According to the article, Byrd's anti-Bush campaigning will prove a liability in 2006. I'd hate to think that's true - but then again, Joe Manchin certainly displayed his cautious side by doing - in a word - nothing for the Kerry campaign. And he won by 60 points. I'll let you guess as to who I think more admirable. In his defense, Byrd says:

"I have always known where the values of West Virginia lie - patriotism, faith, family, opportunity, a clear sense of right and wrong, and justice," Mr. Byrd said. "The Democratic Party needs to get back to reflecting those core principles."
And that's what hurts most. At what moment was our guard down long enough to let the Democratic voters think that Bush was a better embodiment of those values than the Democratic party and its candidates?

West Virginia is the perfect case study - the confusion of the Democratic Party in real-time. And it had an excellent field program - at least from my vantage point. Strong people who wanted to win getting up everyday and doing what needed to be done. If we can fix West Virginia, I think we can fix the world . . . .