Wednesday, March 31, 2004

All the king's horses and all the king's men

couldn't put this country together again.

9 Killed in Separate Attacks in Iraq (washingtonpost.com)

Do not click this link, nor enter this photo gallery if you do not want to see truly graphic images of this morning's violence in Fallujah.

Pray for peace.

Air America - more air for an airheaded America

I mean that with love.

I hope this takes off - gets enough wind in its sails (that's the last air related half-joke, promise).

Here's my concern over the new liberal radio station, though. Rush, Hannity (who's kind of a nice guy in person, I know, I know, I can't believe I said that either, but that's how they gettcha) - those guys leave little doubt on who they are and who the represent. But Fox's niche is the whole "Fair and Balanced" schtick. We say biased, they say, nu-uh. By calling our side for what it is, will we get the other side to cop to their bias?

We'll see.

For now, I don't live in New York, Chicago, LA, or - wait for it - Riverside/San BernaRdino (which the NYT misspells - seriously, look it up), so I don't get to listen - though SF should add a station soon and if I secured speakers on this computer I could stream it.

I think it's fantastic progress. I wish it luck.

Ah, bloggers

It's such a community out here in blogger land - and by community, I mean, raging, jealous, why-can't-I-have-the-best-car-on-the-block, blog envy. It's ugly. But it comes with the gig.

Today, a new and exciting game was brought to my attention by an FOP: Neocon Bingo

Kinda speaks for itself. But grab yourself a card and play today. Best boxes: those labeled "They hate our freedoms," and "no, it's not like Vietnam."

Sparetime and the internet - so bad for American productivity yet so good for the comedy, true patriotism, and breeding more sparetime.

For a nice synopsis of the neocon web, who fathered whom, who works for what publication backed by which nutcase, see the original Mike Lind piece that inspired the game.

They need an attitude adjustment.

Chin up Iraq!

Fred Barnes thinks you need to buck up, lil' democracy!

He has some other choice words for you, Iraq. You're "sullen and suspicious and conspiracy-minded." (Just for the record, so am I, and so should any American with at least a 3d grade reading level and a quarter to buy a newspaper).

At least he gets one thing right: "Rather than professionalized, the Iraqi press has become politicized." It must be really awful to live in a country where people get their news from a politicized organization rather than an upstanding, bows-to-no-one, fair and balanced news organization.

But here, sigh, is the best part, saved for last - the perfect cadence on which to end this lesson for Iraq:

"I'd like to see one other thing in Iraq, an outbreak of gratitude for the greatest act of benevolence one country has ever done for another. A grateful Iraqi heart would be a sign of a new Iraqi attitude and a signal of sure success."

The greatest act of benevolence ever.

Nice.

Going massively stupid

Wondering how to keep straight the emerging patterns of leaks, counterleaks, statements, and "clarifications?" Here's a nice run down of some of Condi's better truths and the facts undermining them:

Condoleezza Rice's Credibility Gap

Here's one highlight that I especially liked:

9/11 and Iraq Invasion Plans

CLAIM: "Not a single National Security Council principal at that meeting recommended to the president going after Iraq. The president thought about it. The next day he told me Iraq is to the side." – National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, 3/22/04

FACT: According to the Washington Post, "six days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush signed a 2-and-a-half-page document marked 'TOP SECRET'" that "directed the Pentagon to begin planning military options for an invasion of Iraq." This is corroborated by a CBS News, which reported on 9/4/02 that five hours after the 9/11 attacks, "Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was telling his aides to come up with plans for striking Iraq." [Source: Washington Post, 1/12/03 . CBS News, 9/4/02]


By the way, it's worth clicking the CBS link above. Note the date, September 4, 2002. September 4! 2002!

How much of this stuff was coming out even back then. And how much people refuse to acknowledge now. Here are the last two grafs from the CBS article:

Now, nearly one year later, there is still very little evidence Iraq was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. But if these notes are accurate, that didn't matter to Rumsfeld.

"Go massive," the notes quote him as saying. "Sweep it all up. Things related and not."


Read it again with me:
"Things related and not."

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Beer takes a hit from buff guv

On one of my first nights back here in the capital city, I introduced some friends to Simon's - a local watering hole. While there, a camera crew from a local news station came in to get patrons' takes on "Governator Beer," produced by an Oregon brewery. So there I am, on camera, commenting on the beer. I said something to the effect of "It's okay, but I'd say it has a 3 year shelf-life, max." I felt quite clever.

Well, it turns out that the gov doesn't take kindly to his image being so appropriated - he's demanding they cease using his image on the bottle.

Fortunately, I already have my bottle (CostPlus). I'm waiting for the Davis beer - but still nothing . . .

-cd

About face!

More on the leadership strategies of President Bush. This piece isn't too in-depth - but it does highlight nicely the many instances of Bush's changes of heart.

Proof

That this guy is off-key on domestic issues too. Here's David Brooks on why kids shouldn't worry about which college to attend.

Better advice came from my senior year H.S. Journalism teacher, Mrs. Caverly, who told me the two most important decisions you make in life are where to go to college and who to marry.

She was absolutely correct on both.

Rice to Give Sworn Public Testimony (washingtonpost.com)

That swish you feel is the wind changing.

Monday, March 29, 2004

okay - one more for the road

The term "slack-jawed incredulity" comes to mind after reading this Thomas Friedman column in the NYT.

He hasn't watched one second of the 9/11 hearings because he's tired of bad news. Wah, wah, wah. The poor put upon life of a busy columnist. I know that producing these things isn't easy - but there are many, many worse jobs than having to immerse yourself in bad news so you can spin it your way and sell it to the millions of NYT readers in the world.

There's a few other choice nuggets in this column that kinda make my eyes roll back in my head - but that's for you to discover. What's your favorite of Mr. Friedman's dreams and why?

Of course, at the end of the day, why should we be surprised that he doesn't watch the 9/11 hearings? The pres doesn't watch any TV either and look what a great job he's doing.

The Chron is having a good day - and the phoblog is tired

So here are some reading assignments - don't ever accuse me of leaving you contentless in a barren webscape

On Bush and Kerry taping the Bank o' Cali for bucks: California a gold mine of donations for both Kerry, Bush / State is No. 1 in contributions to Democrat, No. 2 for president

On Whistle-blowers and the Countries that love them (or not): Daniel Ellsberg sees a new trend -- telling all while the issue is hot

And check out FOP, Jim Pinkerton's piece on Clarke at Salon.com: Salon.com | Shooting the messenger

Ah, nah, I don't think the NSF will take any right-wing heat for funding Berkeley's creation (soon, you'll recognize the pun of that word choice) of an evolution site for "beleaguered" science teachers. Yes, it's still 2004, but apparently science still needs a little help: Evolution education down to a science on Web / UC Berkeley experts offer advice on facing 'pitfalls'

And, so you don't accuse me of relentless west-coast-bias - here's some NY Times highlights:

Women's rights, no press rights, gee, glad we're giving them the democracy they deserve: G.I.s Padlock Baghdad Paper Accused of Lies

From the "Boy are my cheeks red" Dept in OEOB: President Asked Aide to Explore Iraq Link to 9/11

Ah, yes, we're starting to remember a few things now, aren't we boys. And girl? Best line: "Ms. Rice 'has appeared everywhere except my local Starbucks,' Richard Ben-Veniste, a member of the commission, said in an interview. 'For the White House to continue to refuse to make her available simply does not make sense.'"

And, finally, the always fun Maureen Dowd on the Daddy issue: Who's Your Daddy Party?.

Best part of this was another image of just how twisted Bush is in his view of the world and his actions in it - as evidenced by his sense of humor:

"The president seems oblivious to the swelling doubts about his policy in an Iraq sulfurous with treachery and blood. On Wednesday, he went to a press dinner here and made light of the fact that his rationale for invasion has evaporated. "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere," he cracked, showing a photo of himself searching under a table in the Oval Office.

This was awkward for some, because the dinner also featured the first presentation of an award named for David Bloom and a speech by his wife, Melanie. Mr. Bloom, the NBC correspondent who died in Iraq, probably would not have been there without the hyped claims of W.M.D."


No, Mr. Bloom didn't die in combat, per se. The blood cot could've surfaced and nabbed him elsewhere - like too many days behind a desk working online. But being in a tank probably didn't help.

I was very fond of David Bloom - he was an excellent journalist whose coverage I sought out daily until his death nearly one year ago. I still remember hearing the bad news . . . vividly.

Happy reading all. There'll be more, better, later.

Friday, March 26, 2004

That's not funny!

Okay, now, what'd I just say?

Bush's joke about weapons of mass destruction draws criticism

So the criticism starts - which is great - but we have to be careful, as a party, how we play this. Remember the us-them, coalition building effect of humor. Now, if we get school-marm-ish and holler about Bush's unfunny remarks, those who support him can unite with the prez (as quarterback or class president) and bully the dweebs who don't get the joke.

The subtle result is to downplay further Bush's failure to find weapons in Iraq. If it's okay to laugh about it, it mustn't have been so important to being with. We went to liberate too, anyway, remember. Pass the peas . . . .

'For Bush, elusive WMD become a laughing matter'

For the mothers and lovers of fallen soldiers, however, I'd guess it's not so funny.

Bush was at a dinner for US television journalists and employed one of the age old save-your-ass political tactics: self-deprecating humor. Unlike Clinton poking fun at his lame-duck-ness by scooting around OEOB hallways, Bush is poking fun at his failure to find WMD in Iraq.

Funny, funny, no?

Except, haven't, like, a bunch of people died in Iraq? And didn't they die because Iraq definitely had WMD that they were going to use on us - and soon?

Those who study comedy know that one of the most powerful things about it is the ability to trap your target by forcing him to say "That's not funny," sternly and seriously. Which, of course, makes the target all the more laughable. It bind the audience and the comedian against a common enemy.

Who's the enemy here? Democrats? Doves? Hippie-liberals who don't love their country? How about the dead soldiers? Where would they weigh in?

Mr. Bush, I'm not going to say "that's not funny," I'm going to say thanks for illustrating the level of your inability to comprehend the severity of what you've done - both to America and to 572 dead Americans. I'm not going to say "that's not funny," because I can appreciate and even applaud gallows humor. But you have to realize you reveal a little more of your soul-less self when you use what, to some, would be effective and dark irony, in a shallow, one-note-joke way.

Bush has shown perfectly how the deft employment of humor can exemplify and amplify a message. The message here seems to be "whoops!."

And someday soon, Americans will realize that's no laughing matter.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

*Please stand by . . .*

So, there seems to be a script error somewhere that's preventing some people from posting comments and causing the site to load incorrectly for others.

I'm working on it - or more precisely - someone who knows what to look for and what to fix is going to work on it (thanks, Josh).

Now for the science segment

Or, "fun with natural selection"

Fish are crazy, no?

Take this one:

Dr Norman was also fond of the fangtooth, "one of the most savage-looking of all the deep-sea fishes". Two sharp teeth poking out of its bottom jaw slide into pockets in its head, saving the fish from stabbing itself in the brain.

How many drafts you suppose they went through before they got that one right?

I'm always in danger of stabbing myself in the brain too - but that threat usually comes from either my razor sharp wit or a suicidal urge that creeps up whenever I read bills from certain members of the California State Legislature.

CMC - still in the news - and not in a good way

I don't think I've posted on the resolution to the situation at my alma mater, Claremont McKenna College. There was a "hate crime," anti-hate rallies, a day of cancelled classes, and the the revelation that the targeted prof DID IT TO HERSELF, at least according to the FBI and Claremont PD.

Whoops.

There's been lots of ink spilled over this - in the LA Times and today in the Sac Bee.

Unlike milk, however, there is use in crying over spilled ink.

The thrust of this article is that justice will be hard to find in dealing with the accused professor. Hate crime laws weren't drawn with an eye to, well, I guess self-hatred is what you'd call it. So the cops are looking to nab her on a misdemeanor charge of filing a false police report.

It does seem a bit light, doesn't it?

The column goes on to quote the current ASCMC president Marc Bathgate (who'd have arrived at campus after my departure, so I don't know him). He says, rightly, "the cynics are out in force now." He says the issue has become (warning: understatement ahead) "a little divisive" because those who saw the rallies as an overreaction feel vindicated.

I feel vindicated - but not because I thought the rallies were an overreaction.

I feel vindicated because that's my college y'all are talking about. I was way too involved in nearly every aspect of campus life - save athletics (though I was the RBI leader for the 1999 Green Intramural softball team and damn proud of it - suck it, North Apartments). I knew the administration, the faculty, and the student body relatively well. And I raged at every incident of student misconduct that was inadequately addressed by the administration.

But these incidents - the destruction of dorm property, messing with sprinklers or fire alarms, dumping trash cans, and a general inconsiderateness that comes with trust funds - were far different in character from this alleged attack.

Plus, what the media covered as a "rash" of racially motivated, hate-fueled incidents, was really only 3 things - not all of which happened at CMC.

Now, before you get me for saying ONLY 3 hate crimes - I'm not that heartless. No "hate crimes" are okay. But CMC is not a breeding ground for tomorrow's neo-Nazis, despite what the pysch and lit departments say about the geezers in gov and econ (calm, I have friends in all of those departments and they know I love them).

I feel vindicated because despite the misbehaving, typically ass-like students we have - we aren't that kind of campus. I applaud efforts to addresses campus misconduct. I just wish it applied to every badly-behaved CMCer, of which there have been many. I feel vindicated because I am glad we aren't those people. That we do not hate like that.

So the professor won't suffer the long arm of the law. Fine. So long as her actions aren't brushed aside by those painting CMC with hate as being "besides the point." So long as she is immediately dismissed and never finds a home in any institution of higher learning again. So long as she never becomes a hero to anyone for her work in changing the landscape using hate.

I love my college with a passion I reserve for very few things outside my family and close friends. It will always be my home - and anyone who dares deface it or defame the family name . . . . well, I'll do my best to see that they are treated in a deserving manner.

The column poses two, nearly equally unappealing options:

If police are right, a respected group of liberal arts colleges has been turned upside-down, its young people frightened and manipulated by a person they had trusted.

If police are wrong, the reputation of a teacher who spoke out against hate is all but destroyed.


I never believed it to be a CMCer. I hope I'm right. And I think the facts are on my side.

'Fresno's GOP Mayor Balks at Schwarzenegger's Agenda'

I love dissention in the ranks.

This mayor isn't really wrong. On a broader scale than the Prop 57 issue, the Gov really has been, and will, raid local governments. I still don't really understand how LA mayor Jim Hahn, can stand besides the Governor, even as the guy is reaching into his back pocket.

I'm hoping my one, known Fresno Reep reader will comment on this . . .

Political stickball

More from gadflyer.com, an email interview with John Kerry.

The last question is a little more off-beat. It is, of course, a softball question itself - but the answer is good. Wonder who wrote it . . .

The Gadflyer: Not long after taking office, President Bush installed a T-ball field at the White House. Some say T-ball is an apt metaphor for Bush's entire life. You're a hockey player. Will you install a hockey rink at the White House, and if so, what does hockey symbolize for you?

John Kerry: I don't know if it's a metaphor for his entire life, but I can tell you that when it comes to building a record to run on, he's been swinging at that tee for four years now with the same broken bat and America's getting tired of hearing the whiff.

I love the challenge involved in playing hockey. Wayne Gretzky was asked why he was such a good hockey player and he always said, "You know most guys go to where the puck is. I go to where the puck is going to be." For me, I think that's also a statement about life and politics. It's about which issues you choose to fight for and how much you're willing to look toward tomorrow's challenges today.

'the media are downright Buddhist in their abhorrence of imbalance'

Objectivity: Fair, balanced, and not necessarily healthy for truth.

This article from The Gadflyer explains the difficulty people are having in understanding exactly what weight to give the 9-11 Commission investigations.

The problem, author Sean Aday explains, "is that journalists often cling to the abstract notion of balance at the expense of truth, and can go fetal when confronted with unabashed deception by government officials. . . .

"The press needs to realize that objectivity does not mean manufacturing ambiguity where there is none. Sometimes lies are lies, and sometimes one side is more to blame than the other. At the end of the day, nothing is more important in journalism than getting the story right."

Why IS it so hard for us to want truth, or accept that sometimes the fair thing isn't balanced - that sometimes someone is wrong? I know that's part of the liberal upbringing (or indoctrination, depending on your level of cynicism), mine anyway, to always need to see the other side. But it's equally important to remember that understanding doesn't necessarily mean acceptance (a point I make frequently, especially on foreign affairs stuff).

Understanding is key - but we don't need to massage administrations' egos, nor ease the minds of fretful Americans uncomfortable with the notion that liars lead us and we've let them for too long.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

What's in name?

Ah - California's horseshoe - home to so many famous people, as this Sac Bee article, "Shriver is rising force as California first lady", describes.

Our first lady is full of initiative. Which I don't mind at all. Except I don't get the museum thing. How is "California State Museum of History" better than the "Golden State History Museum?" Strunk & White would prefer the latter - fewer words. And so would I.

Ah, politics

Anyone who knows the Phoblog, knows she's a raging, enthusiastic nerd when it comes to government and the legislature.

Usually.

Sometimes, however, they do boneheaded things and make everyone look real, real bad. Today's example, State Senator Jim Battin (R - La Quinta). He's pushing a gaming initiative using state letterhead. Now, he's paying for it, not the taxpayers, okay. But still.

The sheer nerve of it all - and he's a repeat offender as well. And the electeds wonder why a part-time legislature looks so damn attractive.

Just behave, damn you.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Like killing starfish . . . .

Regeneration is a tricky thing.

See, when you try to kill a starfish, you have to be careful about it. Just hacking it up won't do because even a few cells from the core of the fish left on the arms enable the arm to grow a whole new body. That's right - it's not just the animal that grows a new arm, it's the arm that grows a new animal.

From the same article above:

"Sheik Yassin's death is not going to harm or affect the movement. It's going to give us encouragement to go ahead with our program to achieve our goal," Hanieh said.

This isn't a judgment call on anyone's missles. This is a statement of fact. What happens when you try to destroy the core? How much will be left on the arms - how many more, stronger starfish will grow.

Let's look at the word: regeneration

\Re*gen`er*a"tion\ (-?"sh?n), n. [L. regeneratio: cf. F. r['e]g['e]neration.] 1. The act of regenerating, or the state of being regenerated.

2. (Theol.) The entering into a new spiritual life; the act of becoming, or of being made, Christian; that change by which holy affectations and purposes are substituted for the opposite motives in the heart.

He saved us by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Chost. --Tit. iii. 5.

3. (Biol.) The reproduction of a part which has been removed or destroyed; re-formation; -- a process especially characteristic of a many of the lower animals; as, the regeneration of lost feelers, limbs, and claws by spiders and crabs.

4. (Physiol.) (a) The reproduction or renewal of tissues, cells, etc., which have been used up and destroyed by the ordinary processes of life; as, the continual regeneration of the epithelial cells of the body, or the regeneration of the contractile substance of muscle. (b) The union of parts which have been severed, so that they become anatomically perfect; as, the regeneration of a nerve.

And the root word: regenerate
v. re·gen·er·at·ed, re·gen·er·at·ing, re·gen·er·ates
v. tr.
1. To reform spiritually or morally.
2. To form, construct, or create anew, especially in an improved state.
3. To give new life or energy to; revitalize.
4. Biology. To replace (a lost or damaged organ or part) by formation of new tissue.

-----

I didn't even know the Theological definition - but I couldn't have made up something that good if I'd tried.

Regeneration - the process of replacing what's been used up by the ordinary processes of life. In this case, it will lead to more death.

Peace: so 5 minutes ago

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and his security chiefs decided to try to kill the entire Hamas leadership, without waiting for another terror attack, security sources said Tuesday

Israel says it will strike at more leaders of militant group behind suicide attacks

Where's the shame in being the first side to lay down arms? I'll never understand why it's not okay to say, "enough."

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain . . . .

This is Krugman's take on the Clarke debate.

Now read Jim Pinkerton's piece on the same.

Hmm, interesting when writers from diverse backgrounds hit on the same possible answer: maybe Clarke thought the country would like to know the, I don't know, truth about what's going on?

I know, I know - I should stop looking for truth, right? Hell, I'm a law student, I'm paying good money to learn that there isn't any truth - just facts that either go your way or don't.

But still, a girl can dream, right?

The Mommy Myth

I'm neither alone, nor original, when I say that I do, with all honesty, frequently stay awake nights wondering how to balance all the aspects of my American dream. Do I even want kids? Not right now, frankly. I'm told that will change. Maybe. At any rate - here's an interesting article from the Washington Post on the book:

"The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined Women," which she wrote with Meredith W. Michaels. It's an exploration of what it means to be a mother in modern-day America and how, the authors conclude, the media (and right-wing politicians) have perverted motherhood into such a "psychological police state" that no mother could ever get it right, no matter what life choices she made.

"[W]e adore our kids," the authors write. "But like increasing numbers of women, we are fed up with the myth -- shamelessly hawked by the media -- that motherhood is eternally fulfilling and rewarding, that it is always the best and most important thing you do, that there is only a narrowly prescribed way to do it right, and that if you don't love each and every second of it there's something really wrong with you."


This is hardly an original gripe either. It's interesting, however, to note the undeniable selfishness that runs through the article, and we can infer, the book. No more school treats from scratch, no more four hour drives to soccer games, no more putting the kid at the center of the universe 24/7.

I happen to feel exactly that way right now. But I also didn't make the decision to have kids. The authors draw a distinction between the old idea - "having it all" - and the new embodiment of that idea - "having to do it all."

Well, yeah, we do.

Unless we decide not too.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Partly-cloudy-ness of the Blemished Brain

Phoblog returns, rested, well-sunned from a weekend in Southern California. Sometimes all you need is a beach, a blanket, and a few hours of uninterrupted staring at the waves. They say the Pacific has no memory . . . .

And speaking of memory - check out this company. Brilliant promotional scheme, yes. But not unattractive either. I'd guess that upon hearing the premise, your mind automatically sprang to someone you'd like to erase, right?

(For related reading, see "Eloisa to Abelard" by Alexander Pope)

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Blog expert on Spain

Check out this great post from Talking Points Memo that a deeper analysis on the Spanish election than most of the columns from yesterday were based on. Read it and check out the Washington Post column to which the post links.

Update: As I was reading the Post article, I took a moment to scroll through the photo gallery. The Spanish are using a black ribbon to symbolize rememberance of the attack. This has me thinking about the race to symbolize events - we need an immediate shorthand to unify our feelings, our expressions of grief and solidarity. Our ribbons were red, white, and blue - frequently flag motifed or just stripped. Their is black, not red and yellow. Do this say anything about the collective American psyche? Or are ribbons just a matter of who gets there first? Some ribbons have caught on: red, pink, yellow, and red/white/blue are easily understood by a viewer. Some others - apparently blue is for colo-rectal cancer awareness, did you know that? - aren't so mainstream.

But Spain went for black. Traditional, understated, universally acknowledged color or mourning. It seems to focus more on the event, the attack and the deaths, than on nationalist pride a moment of national pain. Perhaps the ribbon color should've been an indicator of the election results.

Another photo shows Spaniards in an anti-terrorism demonstration with hands raised, palms painted white. The caption says it's a sign of peace. White is a color of peace (doves, etc), but upstretched hands suggest surrender, white palms are quick substitutes for white flags. But that would be the neocon interpretation, wouldn't it? See, the Spaniards "peace" is really a surrender to the terrorists.

What else of white palms? What other palm colors are there? Red, of course. Hands stained with blood. White palmed Spaniards claim their innocence - this war is not theirs. Are they really clean? They did have troops there. But it wasn't there idea, was it? That's not much of a defense. I can't post the photo here, or I would. But it's easy to find. Go to this article and look for the photo gallery link on the right side of the page. It's worth it. 1000s more words than I can get down myself effectively.

The very last photo in the series is an upraised hand, palm painted red, with a black ribbon at the center.

Perhaps this is all just a bit of a throwback to college lit classes - where students spend hours overanalyzing simple decisions that were never meant to be drenched in so much meaning.

Spring Break

Heading to Margaritaville . . .

Okay, maybe not quite, but this week is Spring Break for many youngsters out there, so why not for me. Travels earlier in the year mean that I don't get this whole week - but there's still some time to head for points south, sunny and sandy. Of course, there's a nasty SoCal phenom known as June Gloom to deal with. Yes, yes, it's March, but it's also 85 degrees here in Sacramento, so guess what, the whole state is acting like it's summer already. For good weather, I should probably stay here. But there's booze in the blender elsewhere, so down I go, some quality time with my roots to heal what ails me. No Mexico, no Senor Frogs craziness. But some flip-flopped beach strolls are in order.

This Phoblographer needs to be a good worker today and might not have web access this weekend - so, dear four readers, take this time to catch up and comment, comment, comment - because content shouldn't be a one way street.

But since you asked - here's an article on Iraq.
For Iraqis in Harm's Way, $5,000 and 'I'm Sorry'

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Two points for Mr. Krugman

Here's another view on Spain and the fallout.

This graf gets it right:
"The Bush administration, which baffled the world when it used an attack by Islamic fundamentalists to justify the overthrow of a brutal but secular regime, and which has been utterly ruthless in its political exploitation of 9/11, must be very, very afraid."

Though I don't think they are very afraid, nor need they be too afraid, because the other column was right that we'd probably still reelect Bush if, god forbid, Something Bad happened in October.

This I agree with as well:
"The truth is that Mr. Bush, while eager to invoke 9/11 on behalf of an unrelated war, has shown consistent reluctance to focus on the terrorists who actually attacked America, or their backers in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. . . ."

"So when the Bush campaign boasts of the president's record in fighting terrorism and accuses John Kerry of being weak on the issue, when Republican congressmen suggest that a vote for Mr. Kerry is a vote for Osama, remember this: the administration's actual record is one of indulgence toward regimes that are strongly implicated in terrorism, and of focusing on actual terrorist threats only when forced to by events. "

Read both columns - and share your thoughts.

This needs more blogging

I posted some on this article already. But there needs more. In fact, it needs a threading. My thoughts will be in italics, and his will be regular (I know I need to be uniform, sometimes I'm italics, sometimes the quoted text is, but you're smart readers):

Perhaps Al Qaeda will win new recruits as a result of this triumph. But even if it does destroy Afghanistan and Iraq, it still will not stop. Retreating nations like Spain will still not be safe. For Al Qaeda's mission is not about one country or another. It is existential. "You love life and we love death," the purported terrorists said in the videotape found in Madrid. . . .

It would be nice were it so simple. We love life, they love death. I don't think it's that simple - though it's a very effective message with which to creep out anyone listening. It would be easier if that were the answer. Because then we'd have to love death just enough to kill the people who only love death - then we can get back to loving life, see? But it can't really be that simple - not at its heart - regardless of how many programmed drones it takes to plant a bomb or hijack a plane.

If a terrorist group attacked the U.S. three days before an election, does anyone doubt that the American electorate would rally behind the president or at least the most aggressively antiterror party? Does anyone doubt that Americans and Europeans have different moral and political cultures? . . . .

No, I don't doubt it at all - but am I supposed to be happy about it? I don't know if I'd be wholly sad. But here's the thing. When we were attacked we did go after (at least part of) those actually responsible. As of now, we don't really have good, er, any evidence that Iraq was involved in 9-11, though I'm sure Saddam wasn't upset. This point doesn't resonate with me the way he means it to.

Nor is America itself without blame. Where was our State Department? Why hasn't Colin Powell spent the past few years crisscrossing Europe so that voters there would at least know the arguments for the liberation of Iraq, would at least have some accurate picture of Americans, rather than the crude cowboy stereotype propagated by the European media? Why does the Bush administration make it so hard for its friends? Why is it so unable to reach out?

Wait, wait, wait, whoa nelly. I thought foreign governments influencing voters was a bad thing? Why DOES the Bush admin make it so hard for its friends? Well it doesn't anymore. Why? We don't have many left.

This is a watershed event. It will change how Al Qaeda thinks about the world. It will change how Europeans see the world. It will constrain American policy for years to come.

Sigh. I fear the future. Especially the immediate future between now and November.

Bush Urges Kerry to Name World Leaders Who Back Him [insert your own obvious joke here]

Sometimes this stuff writes itself.

So, the White House is still flapping about on this story- which, it turns out may have been made a mountain out of a molehill by a faulty tape recording and a now second-thoughtsing reporter.

Admin officials are calling for the names of these other leaders? Sure they are? Why? Oh, I don't know, you guess.

So, in America today, if you look like you might get an A (or an O for outstanding) under "Plays well with others," we want to know exactly with whom you plan to play well so we can figure out whether we can kick their ass in a fight. Nice. Real, real nice.

Noble VP Cheney said, "At the very least, we have a right to know what he is saying to foreign leaders that makes them so supportive of his candidacy."

Is there anyone reading this who doesn't envision Cheney as Mr. Burns as he says this? Exccccelent.

556,000 words on Iraq

Portraits of Sacrifice

Even a few help . . . .

I don't necessarily support the random running off of solidiers. But this guy certainly has an educated opinion on the subject and his decision to leave is probably not random or cowardly. It's a huge risk to take. There were some articles awhile back on the leave program and how it may be more harmful than helpful to soldiers' minds. Many don't even come back. Can you imagine? You get to come home, hug your mother, pet your dog, kiss your girl or boy, but you have to get back on that plane in 14 days?

I don't know if I could stand it. Could you?

'Spanish voters elect violence'

I don't know about this column by Debra J. Saunders in the SF Chron. I don't agree with it, of course, but I'm still piecing together the best response. It's hard though, given that her arguments are so pervasive in today's America.

I don't think they elected violence. Kinda seemed to me like they elected peace.

Update:
Here's another neocon column on the naughty, cowardly Spanish.

And here's the sentences I'd like to nominate for the first Phoblographer* Bullshit Bit of the Day Award:

"There are millions of Americans, in and out of government, who believe the swing Spanish voters are shamefully trying to seek a separate peace in the war on terror.

"I'm resisting that conclusion, because I don't know what mix of issues swung the Spanish election during those final days. But I do know that reversing course in the wake of a terrorist attack is inexcusable. I don't care what the policy is. You do not give terrorists the chance to think that their methods work. You do not give them the chance to celebrate victories. When you do that, you make the world a more dangerous place, for others and probably for yourself."


WTF? I'd love to think millions of Americans have dedicated enough thought to Spain to come up with any conclusion at all. But either way - if enough groups attain a separate peace, then what do we get? Peace. Not bad, eh?

And about not giving the terrorists a chance to celebrate victories: I recall seeing a video of a bunch of terrorists sitting around gleefully laughing about how well their plan had worked and that the buildings actually fell over - a bonus! What should we have done to prevent that celebration? Held up the towers with long sticks?

You can't think of methods without thinking of motivations - as was mentioned by phoblog friend Jim Pinkerton, below. I think they celebrate either way. Perhaps more at the margins. But when people die they win.

I still don't know the answers for all of this. But this column certainly doesn't help anyone. Well, no one brave enough to put on a uniform, at any rate.

Comments!

So, you eager readers, today is your lucky day. Or my unlucky day, depending on how this works.

I've used the free service CommentThis to add to my blog the ability to - you guessed it - comment on posts. Because this is a free, lower-tech commenting program, I have no power to edit or delete posts. And neither do you. So, if you have something thoughtful, funny, praising, angry, disagreeable, or insulting-but-intellectually-so to say, go ahead. But keep in mind it will be there forever and, as many a bumper sticker in San Francisco will tell you, mean people suck.

Behave yourselves, please.

This is lucky for me because it gives me feedback on the site. It's unlucky for me because if all my posts say "Comments - 0" after them I won't look too cool, will I?

Knock yourselves out, my faithful four readers.

The pain in Spain stayed mainly on the train . . . .

(oh, come on, you were all trying to come up with a play on that line - every journalist in America itching to use something along those lines . . . .)

But what's next? Maybe nothing, now that they're new leadership has sworn to remove Spain from Iraq an no longer support Bush's bad policies.

In today's column, Jim Pinkerton addresses the neocon response to Spain's move - what was one day "we're all spainiards" quickly became "you're soft on terror."

He cites the troublesome fact that Saddam had nothing to do with this incident. So if he didn't, who did? Are we safer now? I don't recall us hanging any Spanish flypaper. So what happens now?

It seems that someone else, a group of someones, has decided to get all preemptive themselves. They don't seem to be Iraqi, but they are defending - at least in their minds - Iraq and other Arab countries from western destruction. So why is their preemption worse than ours? Because there was no warning? Because there were no uniforms?

Certainly there is no moral superiority, or even equality, in randomly targeting noncombatants. But to step, Scout-like, into someone else's shoes: is it really that hard to understand their motives? To understand isn't to condone, or even to tolerate, but it is the first step to unraveling this mess.

It's not hard to turn this into a screen play. David/Goliath stories always sell. The we-can-do-it,we-can-save-Christmas, we'll just have a dance in the old barn, schtick - that's been moving people since, well, forever. It's kind of hard, though, to turn us - the US or the coalition of the still-sorta-begrudgingly-willing - into David in this case.

If Spain is attacked again, it's a victory, sorta, for us. But if they don't - which they probably won't, at least for a good long while - then where do we stand? Alone, it would seem.

So really, though, what's the answer? Are we safer? Are we better off today?

Next up: this has made me think about the "who's in contol of the button" argument, Howard Dean, George Bush, and the Bush Doctrine. More on that in a bit . . . .

Springtime at the Capitol

The monuments are blooming again.

Many cite Sacramento's cold, rainy winters and extraordinarily hot summers (and the Kings) as a good reason never to live here. But lost between extremes is spring - a lovely, mild, soothing season that arrives just as you're about to lose your mind in a whirl of committee hearings, post-election depression, and sweater burn-out.

The weather here has be glorious the past week or so (at least, that's what I hear, and what I see evidence of as I enter or leave the office). The city is home to many flowering trees, lush lawns, and abundant gardens. Capitol park has all of that and more - namely monuments and protesters hidden among the trees and camilia groves. You can keep the latter, but the former are some of the state's greatest hidden treasures.

My favorite is the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial, in the northeast corner of the park. Surrounded by some form of white flowering tree, the circular walls are lined with the names of California's fallen. Inside are stunning sculptures of servicemen: in POW camps, in hospitals, on the battlefield, sitting in reflection.

With a soft breeze shaking lose the tree petals, a quiet moment spent in this sanctuary can be more moving and powerful than anything else you're likely to visit in this part of the state - or anywhere else, for that matter. Perhaps the spot is especially meaningful to me because the first time I saw it - complete with the blooming trees - was with my father, a decorated Vietnam Veteran.

Even with the war in Iraq, I don't think my generation feels any connection to war or its tragedies. But if you get a chance, find a veteran somewhere and take him or her to see the memorial at this key point in the year. You don't have to talk, ask for stories, just stand there quiet and thankful that it wasn't you who had to go. Take a moment to honor those who have died and please pray for peace.

Monday, March 15, 2004

okay - here's a new twist

What separation? I don't see any separation.
Two New York ministers hit with criminal charges for marrying gay couples

Third Rail

Democrats Lose the Latino Vote

In my world, visibly raising an eyebrow on this subject is a dicey as questioning US-Israeli relations. So what I won't do is question the wisdom of building a party based on losely held together, specialized interests, divided along racial and ethnic lines. Nope, that's just not something you'll see me do here.

Bush Haiku

From an email forward. A little funny for your morning. Thanks, sis.

This is a short poem made up entirely of actual
quotations from George W. Bush. These have been
arranged, only for aesthetic purposes, by Washington
Post writer Richard Thompson. A wonderful
Haiku poem like this is too good not to share.


MAKE THE PIE HIGHER

I think we all agree, the past is over.
This is still a dangerous world.
It's a world of madmen and uncertainty
And potential mental losses.

Rarely is the question asked
Is our children learning?
Will the highways of the Internet
Become more few?

How many hands have I shaked?
They misunderestimate me.
I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.

I know that the human being
And the fish can coexist.
Families is where our nation finds hope,
Where our wings take dream.

Put food on your family!
Knock down the tollbooth!
Vulcanize society!
Make the pie higher!
Make the pie higher!

The party of states' rights!*

*eh, sorta.

Here's a piece by a former professor mine. Love him - but completely disagree with his opinion here.

"This is a time for choosing.

"The options are (1) to do nothing, thereby allowing a few activist judges to redefine marriage as they see fit, or (2) amend the Constitution to reflect the settled will of the people.

"To protect marriage and preserve constitutional government, we must proceed with the democratic process of amending the Constitution."


Um, "settled will?" Honestly, come on now, it's not settled, and yes any minority is significant on a topic this big and important. This is a time for choosing, indeed. I choose love over hate. Open over closed. And family over most everything else. Sorry, Professor Spalding, I'm going to have to go ahead and disagree with you on this one.

And furthermore: bad Republican! no biscuit! what about states' rights?

One man, one woman | The San Diego Union-Tribune

Weintraub on Leadership

Daniel Weintraub: Governor's views on how to lead may ensnare him

The governor's fealty to the voters is admirable. But it also raises questions about his leadership style, and where he draws the line. A true leader takes account of the public's view and then does what he thinks is right, even if it's not popular. If Schwarzenegger is going to take his cues from public opinion, does that mean he has no core beliefs of his own, or that he will never pursue them if they aren't shared by a majority of his fellow Californians?

That, in fact, was the biggest problem with Schwarzenegger's predecessor, Gray Davis. Until just before last year's recall election, Davis almost never did anything that was not supported by a large majority of the people. But on the two biggest problems he faced - the energy crisis and the fiscal meltdown - this method froze him into inaction, because the only plausible moves were highly unpopular.

Davis rarely talked of following the polls, apparently seeing such an admission as a political liability. But Schwarzenegger revels in it.


This is an interesting column on the Gov's leadership style and methods. But I think he ends up giving him credit at the end that I didn't see coming at the beginning. Plus, I think one point that Weintraub brings up but doesn't emphasize is Schwarzenegger's enviable ability to poll public opinion and then sway it to his advantage. He's a MOVIE STAR for pete's sake. Judging by the way visitors to the Capitol fall over themselves like idiots to stand in front of His door for a photo - well - this is one lucky leader.

He can say he feels one way, but, however the voters feel is fine with him. He can then, depending on the situation, allow the will of the people to save him from the hard decisions, or have another half-million dollar/person dinner and toss some commercials on TV to change the will of the people his way. Not bad at all.

Look out - it's a big day in license plate news

So, I missed this the first time around - but here's a Bee editorial on why specialty plates are a bad deal. Their view: "Government should get rid of all the extraneous messages and let license plates be just license plates."

And, here's an op-ed on why the Bee has bad plate policy. Of course, its authors are involved in the Yosemite Fund - which directly benefits from the specialty plate program, but whatever.

Full disclosure - my pitch for the CMLP in an earlier post today stems from my involvement in its creation. I was a fellow in the office of its sponsor, Speaker Emeritus (I know, I know, but all the former speakers insist on using the title, and I adore Herb, so whatever) Herb J. Wesson, Jr. So that plate is my baby.

But the Choose Life people are 100% correct - our process is so plainly in violation of the Constitution it's kinda funny. The process should be changed. And the legislation on fixing the problems is pretty good. One thing it addresses, which should be emphasized, is that future specialty plates won't be full-plate designs, like my plate or the Yosemite plate. They'll be modeled after the current firefighter plate - a graphic in the far left character position. It's a much better idea. Check out Michigan's special plate program. They have many, many designs, and can afford them because it's just a simple decal you slap on an otherwise uniform plate.

Though - a google search to find that previous link reveal all is not peachy in plate land. Apparently, Michigan law enforcement cites some of the same concerns about the legibility and recognizability of their plates. Read the article for more on the Michigan process.

Eh - mine was better . . . .

'course I could be biased . . . check out this op-ed on The Stupidest Idea This Week From Your California Legislature. It's a little angrier than mine and still doesn't cover the subject of fractional citizenship. But hey - this guy's a professional. Wait, no, he's "free-lance" - which probably means "otherwise unemployed."

Why stop with 14-year-olds?

Let GR8 PL8 Ruling Stand

Uh - oh - specialty license plate news! These stories come along so rarely they demand a good blogging when they do.

By the way - if you're a Californian and are interested in a specialty license plate - may I recommend the California Memorial License Plate. It really is the best.

Let GR8 PL8 Ruling Stand

Friday, March 12, 2004

Yup, 3d parties will be viable any day now . . . .

Mercury News | 03/12/2004 | Party worries over tally

Read it and then spend a few hours wondering what definition of "fairly" is being used in the following sentence:

``John's a fairly decent guy,'' Hinkle said. ``But frankly we'd prefer that he not run again.''

Bush's PR strategery - downhill fast and early

Defensively Going on the Offensive (washingtonpost.com)

"The fact that Bush, who ran as a plain-spoken outsider, would rely so heavily on Washington language was a fact little remarked upon in 2000."

Is everyone ready for a fun seven and a half months? Wohoo! Let's get campaigning!

'The Camera Never Lies, but the Software Can'

This article in today's New York Times seems appropriate given the name of this little endeavor.

I've received a few questions about the name of the site - which is explained in one of my intro posts (March 4, below). This article speaks to the awesome power of images - not a breakthrough statement, to be sure. But some still hesitate to call photography art. It impacts life on several levels in the way most paintings don't, that's true (I doubt the Haystacks ever caused a candidate to dip in the polls, even the chilly Haystacks in winter). But they are us, captured, and we react accordingly.

War images are powerful - in fact - you're mind has probably already flashed its own war photo as you read this: a girl naked and screaming from napalm in Vietnam, a sailor passionately kissing in a New York street. They are art. They move us. But they can deceive as well. Perhaps it's that power that draws me to the medium. Alone in a dark room, chemicals, silver, and light create truth. Or lies. The choice is in what we capture and what we see.

The proliferation of motives

My younger sister called yesterday to say "so what happened with those terrorists attacks?"

At first I thought maybe something had happened while I was out running - probably the only point in my day that I'm not with internet, TV, or radio reach. But no, it was just Spain. I don't mean "just" as a belittlement - though realistically, most Americans probably had no idea that Spain has long battled separatists, etc. No, come now, be honest, you don't even know if Irish people - or are the English people? - are still blowing things up in Belfast. Were a truly honest poll possible, I think it would reveal the general non-surprise, don't care attitude here with regards to the rest of the world. After all, though it usually happens between Israelis and Palestinians, people Over There are always being blown up. We're comfy here - we only have to fear the Reall Big Stuff. Falling skyscrapers and whatnot. Our buses don't explode. And no one rides our trains anyway.

At any rate - who did it? ETA, Al Qaeda? And if it's the latter, what does that mean?

Let's ask the experts:

Jim Pinkerton, Newsday columnist and friend of Phoblographer*, had this to say about yesterday's Madrid attacks:

" . . . if Al Qaeda does prove to be the culprit, then it will be hard to argue that Saddam Hussein was responsible for this, too, won't it? And cast further doubt on the Bush argument that Iraq was the most urgent target, huh?

"And it would remind us that the real issue is securing our own homeland, which is mostly wide open, since these attacks make it plain enough that terrorists don't need a state-sponsor, they just need a Few Bad Men. The homeland security budget for the US is about $40 billion, we have spent $200 billion in Iraq so far.

"And so, in addition, we need to be thinking about the proliferation of motives, as well as means. That is, if we keep attacking others, others will find a way, sooner or later, to hit back. Afghanistan was unavoidable, but Iraq, everyone now agrees, was a war of choice. We might wish to cut back on those kinds of war in the future. [emphasis added]

"The Spanish government, of course, is eager to blame the Basque ETA, because to admit that the destruction and carnage were perpetrated by Al Qaeda or some other Islamist group would be to, in effect, admit that Spain's participation in Iraq just cost 200 or so Spaniards their lives, plus the injuries, plus the massive damage to Spain's business economy and tourism.

" . . . But no matter who was responsible, it's a bad augury for the US, and all its public transportation--plus its public everything else--if it is discovered that a finite number of Islamists can do that much damage, once again. All without orders from Saddam."

Phoblographer* concurs.

Pay attention, America. This is your brother.

Op-Ed Columnist: Our Wounded Warriors

The troops who are selflessly sacrificing their bodies and their dreams in Iraq (as troops always do in war), are not getting a lot of attention here at home. Most of us are busy with other things — presidential politics, Martha Stewart's rise and fall, the use of steroids in baseball.

[Visit the Wounded Warrior Project web site.]

Nearly one year of war later . . . .

'Selfless' Spirit Killed In an Ambush in Iraq (washingtonpost.com)

BAGHDAD, March 11 -- .....On Tuesday night, Holland and Robert J. Zangas of Trafford, Pa., became the first American civilian employees of the Coalition Provisional Authority to be killed in Iraq. Gunmen wearing Iraqi police uniforms stopped their vehicle at a makeshift checkpoint near Hilla, 60 miles south of the Iraqi capital, and shot the two Americans and an Iraqi translator to death, according to U.S. and allied military spokesmen.

Fern Holland had an interesting life. Not one I could lead - that's for sure. Africa, Siberia, Iraq. She lived with an intensity of purpose.

Next Friday will mark one year since the Iraq war began. I would argue that it continues still. So would many others. I read something yesterday that celebrated how the death toll had fallen to less than one soldier a day - .79, to be exact. That truly is an Accomplishment, isn't it?

Thursday, March 11, 2004

'The band of brothers against the slime machine'

Fight it, brother Max. Fight it for my father, fight it for Kendall, fight it for the soldiers yet to be born.

Squandering the trauma of September 11

This quotes one of Phoblographer*'s favorite columnists (still). It's from the Guardian. What? British people have their own newspapers? Yeah, I know, shocked the hell out of me too.

Court says no cake for you

California Supreme Court halts gay marriages pending spring hearing

I'm really not a great law student - but I'm not sure how splitting the issues here (first, did SF have the right to issues marriage licenses based on their belief that the CA ban is unconstitutional, and second, whether the law is in fact unconstitutional) helps the speedy administration of justice.

The big kids will handle the SF issue, while the larger public policy question gets punted back to the lower courts. Okay - I get it, sorta - but still - you know it's going to get back to you somehow. At that point you either take it or you don't, but you still have the final say even if its just by way of silence.

Josh Marshall on John Kerry

The link to Josh's blog, Talking Points Memo, is on the left. It's a great site. Dude is good on the analysis. I've been pondering Kerry the Candidate lately, and I think that this discussion of how to handle Kerry's war vote and subsequent views is interesting.
Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: March 07, 2004 - March 13, 2004 Archives

[p.s. while browsing some TPM back-posts, I came across a reference to Funyuns. TPM linked to a truly brilliant review of the snackfood that was so popular in my elementary school but that is also undeniably the worst food substance ever created (after poi, of course). So please, I beg you, read this and brighten your own day.]

I'll see your vote, and raise you a quarter

This is the op-ed that almost was . . . now, I share it with the phoblog family:

“They're all going to laugh at you! They're all going to laugh at you!"

Two groups of people know that line well: movie buffs who love demonic prom killer Carrie and Californians.

Last Monday, Senator John Vasconcellos announced his proposal to let 14 and 15 year old Californians to cast one-quarter of a vote and 16 and 17 year olds to cast a half a vote. There are 21.5 million eligible voters and around 2.4 million Californians between ages 14 and 18. But this adds up to one bad idea.

The concept is noble - afford our youth a stake in our political process - but it does not address the problem it seeks to correct. Supporters cite two statistics: in November 2002, only half of all registered voters and only one-fifth of voters aged 18 to 25 cast ballots. The key word is "registered." Those numbers get worse if you measure turnout against the population of eligible voters. Both turnout percentages will fall under this plan as we increase the denominator while ignoring the ailing numerator.

Here's another concern: since their votes count for between ¼ and ½ of my vote, can kids under 18 run for office as a team? The California Elections code requires candidates to be registered voters. If a 14-year-old's vote counts as ¼ of a regular vote, does that make him or her ¼ of a regular candidate? It would follow that four 14-year-olds could hold office together. Better yet would be two 15-year-olds and a 17-year-old with a driver's license to drive the team to fundraisers.

Or why not require all able-bodied 14 through 18 year olds still living with their parents to drag them to the polls? It would get them involved without running afoul of those pesky equal protection laws.

Equal protection laws? Well, though the courts may uphold some forms of age-based discrimination, they would be hard pressed to uphold a law reducing the voice of one whole American by three-quarters. Why not give them 3/5 of a vote? I wonder what response that particular fraction would trigger? What part of the one person, one vote formula remains unclear?

Allowing 14- to 17-year olds to vote will not empower them. It will not make elected officials accountable to California youth any more than they are accountable to California's 18 to 25 year olds who are currently watching their UC and CSU fees raised and services slashed. The 26th Amendment was necessary - if you're old enough to go to war, you should be able to select the officials who will send you there. But the existence of the right to vote alone does not create responsive leadership any more than giving people the vote makes them vote. If we want compulsory voting why not make registering to vote a graduation requirement for all California public school students? Why not make it a requirement for admission to UC?

Californians, that sound you hear is the laughter of your fellow states. What we need is more and better civic education. What we need is for 18-year-olds to speak up for themselves and their younger siblings and to tell their parents to do the same. What we need is for kids to ask not what their election code can do for them, but what they can do for voter turnout.

College Classes Canceled to Protest Hate Crime

Sadly, this took place at my alma mater, Claremont McKenna College. It's not the first time we've had incidents either. Despite, however, the comments of some students in this article, the predominant culture on the campuses is not one of hate.

We just have some damn unfortunate children who were never held responsible for a thing they've ever done. And the main problem is - we don't seem to kick out vandals when we catch them. As I told the Board of Trustees several years ago - if the school lets these people stay around, then whoever's next will push the envelope a little farther. And now look what's happened. I don't know if the crimes were really motivated by a sincere racially-based hatred of the Professor. More likely, it was some punk guys who wanted to do things the worst possible way because it would get the biggest rise out of people. They aimed at the heart - but they didn't really care whose heart they got.

College Classes Canceled to Protest Hate Crime

'snuffed out in a meaningless war'

Military Families vs. the War (washingtonpost.com)

"I'd love to say I back [the president] 100 percent, but I can't," she says, weeping during a telephone interview. "How many more people are going to die because he can't say, 'I'm sorry, I made a terrible mistake'?"

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

[Insert own joke here]

Haha - sluts!

Study Finds That Teenage Virginity Pledges Are Rarely Kept

See, now THIS youth voting proposal is a good idea . . .

MULLIN INTRODUCES BILL THAT ALLOWS HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS TO PARTICIPATE IN VOTING PROCESS

SACRAMENTO-Assemblymember Gene Mullin (D-South San Francisco) announced the introduction of ACA 25, a constitutional amendment that facilitates high school student involvement in the political process. This measure is sponsored by Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, the state’s chief elections officer.

"As a Government teacher for over 32 years, I have worked to bridge the gap between student participation and the electoral process," said Assemblymember Mullin. "ACA 25 will combine non-partisan voter registration efforts with civics education, to increase youth-voter turnout."

Currently, 11 states permit citizens who will turn 18 by the date of the general election to register to vote and cast ballots in intervening primaries, special elections and municipal elections. These states are Arizona, Delaware, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. Iowa permits 17 year-olds to take part in the presidential caucuses.

"We can’t restore faith in our political process without the participation of our new young voters," added Secretary of State Kevin Shelley. "This measure is a great first step in accomplishing this."

ACA 25 allows a person who is 17 years-old and will be 18 years-old at the time of the next general election, to register and vote at that general election and in any intervening primary or special election that occurs after the person is eligible to register to vote.

For more information on state efforts to increase voter participation and ensure the smooth conduct of elections please visit the Secretary of State’s web page at www.myvotecounts.org

You were right, I wish I'd been there.

For a few, blissful days, I was . . . .

"To those who joined Dean's rebel cause, I salute you.
From the time of Samuel Adams and Thomas Payne, and
yes John Brown and Martin Luther King, the people
who've moved this country have not been those marching
for the American Band, but those gutsy few out ahead.
You Dean kids, of all ages, can now take your place in
that proud tradition. You can tell your kids that you
were with Dean."
-Chris Mathews, February 22, 2004

Insurgents disguised as police kill two American civilians, Iraqi translator south of Baghdad

War is over - stay angry over gay marriage and ignore the death elsewhere.

Insurgents disguised as police kill two American civilians, Iraqi translator south of Baghdad

What have you done for me lately?

Below is an email exchange from a listserv for YD leadership. The link to the article in question is below - it's a topic I've blogged before - moving the damn primary back to a sensible date here in CA. You have to read from bottom up to get the chronological flow right - but it's an interesting snapshot into the policy discussions between youth leadership in the state. Adam and I agree more than we disagree - so this is one of the few times we part ways. He's a smart guy, though, so remember his name . . .


Dear Adam,

At the risk of clogging the list serv, I feel compelled to respond to your message to Secretary Shelley, though I will not copy him on the message.

I agree that the timing of the primaries may make things a bit more confusing for college students, however, I think that we are forgiving students too many sins if we allow a June primary as a reason for student irresponsibility. There are many, many students in California. And they do then to vote Democratic (a point, however, that by law and by ethics should not weigh into the decision of the Secretary of State). But they a) don't vote enough and b) are not reason alone to continue with a faulty system that wrecks down ballot races.

Democracy is difficult - in fact - it's a huge pain in the ass. From the student taking finals to the mom juggling 2 jobs and 3 children's extracurricular activities, there are a thousand ways that various election day dates inconvenience some section of the population. But there are options. Absentee voting, for one, would allow a student a large amount of control over where and when to cast a vote.

If a student is smart enough to get into Berkeley or UCLA or CSUN or wherever, then he or she is smart enough to juggle civic duty with homework and finals.

This argument, while reasonable, makes us (students) seem selfish and unable to factor in the greater needs of the state. Ask not what your Secretary of State can do for your, but what you can do for your Secretary of State - then let's get our butts in gear, register voters, and make them fill out absentee ballot requests.

A June primary date does not disenfranchise California students, it enfranchises Californians.

Respectfully yours,
-cd


>Date: Tue, 9 Mar 2004 22:29:03 -0800 (PST)
>
>Dear Secretary Shelley,
>
> Thanks for the e-mail. I certainly respect your decision to move the primary back to June, but let me offer perhaps the student perspective. June is summertime for semester schools which means students have just moved, are moving, are off somewhere doing internships, or, in the case of quarter schools, are in the middle of finals. June is simply a bad time for students and, as we know, students vote Democrat--usually. In any case, the most important thing to remember is voter disenfranchisement and if voters feel disenfranchised at a young age then they will likely have a negative association with voting and thus will not vote or vote less frequently in the future.
> I am sure there is an argument in favor of this change in primary dates, but as a student I can tell you that this directly hurts us in many ways, alienating us from the political process. Thanks for asking for my opinion.
>
>Sincerely,
>
>Adam Borelli
>U.C. Berkeley student
>
>National Committeeman, California Young Democrats
>Member, Ventura County Democratic Central Committee
>
>"California Secretary of State, Kevin Shelley" wrote:
>
>March 9, 2004
>
>Dear Friend:
>
>Attached for your information is a recent column from the Los Angeles Times concerning efforts to move back the date of the California primary from March to June. As always, your comments on this or any other matter of interest are appreciated.
>
>Best wishes.
>
>Kevin
>
>**********
>
>GEORGE SKELTON / CAPITOL JOURNAL
>
>If Politicians Admit a Mistake, It's Time to Listen
>
>George Skelton
>
>March 8, 2004
>
>
If Politicians Admit a Mistake, It's Time to Listen

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Random trivia

According to my Diet Peach Iced Tea Snapple, Koalas and humans are the only animals with unique fingerprints.

Should I doubt the veracity of that claim just because it's printed on a bottle cap?

Part-time legislature, here we come

I'm not for a part-time legislature, make no mistake. But I don't see how I can keep arguing against it when we have proposals like this one making national news:

sacbee.com -- Politics -- 14-year-olds would rock the vote under this plan

Yes, one of our own, a great man to be sure, has proposed that we lower the voting age to 14. But wait -it's not that simple - were it that simple, perhaps it would be more defensible.

The total proposal would have the votes of 14 and 15 year olds count for 1/4 of a vote, those of 16 and 17 year olds count for 1/2.

Now, now, dear reader - please don't run your head into the nearest wall. There's hope in the world yet - I think.

I'm working on a bigger rant on this - so stay tuned.

UC Officials Note Racial Disparity in Admissions

"Even though state law bans preferences for minorities, black and Latino high school seniors who applied to University of California campuses last year were accepted for admission in numbers somewhat higher than appear warranted, UC officials reported Monday. "

Higher than warranted?

It's funny - or perhaps completely, uh, warranted - that different policy arguments raise the ire of different parts of my genetic makeup. This one gets my Mexican pissed off.

"But UC Regent Ward Connerly, a critic of affirmative action who was a leader in the Proposition 209 campaign, said the gap between those who deserved to be admitted and those who actually were admitted might actually be wider than the UC report suggests."

"Moores' analysis, however, helped launch a debate on whether the university's policy in recent years of considering personal factors, such as hardship, alongside academic qualifications has weakened the caliber of students."

Weakened the caliber of students? Based on what? Their numbers? Their paper-based personalities? Is it possible we have a more qualified, experienced, broadly talented student body in California?

There's frequently a disconnect between numerical achievement and actual achievement. I look great on paper if you leave the numbers off. In fact, I'm one hell of a catch. Wanna know what my SATs were? Not great.

Disgruntled caucasian parent, I know you're sad that you spent $1k on little Timmy's Kaplan course (that kept him from interacting with his friends, from growing or finding passions or talents), and he got 1560 And the big kiss-off from Cal. But you know what - whatever brown child got in "in his place" probably left more of a mark on that campus - and will leave more of a mark on the world - than little Timmy and his 1560 points worth of qualification could ever dream of.

UC Officials Note Racial Disparity in Admissions

Monday, March 08, 2004

Too hard to choose one quote from this column to paste here

Here's Maureen Dowd's column on the pop of John Kerry. There are some troubling parts - like his saying SNL is his favorite TV show (one can only hope he commented on it's uneven performance since it's deserved Emmy nod a few years back - otherwise, what does that say about his sense of humor?)

"Mr. Kerry is not a simple brush-clearing, ESPN-watching fellow. Just as he has an almost comically vast palette of aggressive masculine sports and hobbies, with costumes and gear, he has a vast palette of cultural preferences."

Some people will hit him on this - saying it strengthens the oppo's message that JOHN KERRY CANNOT MAKE UP HIS MIND. And yet, I'm starting to grow fond of the guy - ever since that shot of him orange-bowling on his campaign plane (if it was staged - give that staffer a raise). I too could be just as happy reading pulp trash as a Biography of An Important Person. I could be just as happy knitting as holding public office (as long as no one forces the former on me). If John Kerry likes everything - great. At least he's tried it.

I have a feeling no one ever made GWB try foods he didn't think he'd like. I bet he goes to El Gato Gordo for dinner and orders the Gringo Burger.

Op-Ed Columnist: J.F.K., Marilyn, ?Camelot?

'the relationship between comedy and politics has never been more entangled'

Anyone who knows me - especially from my college days where I nearly - and this is no joke - minored in comedy - knows that this is one of my favorite areas of academic study. So here's an NYT article on my two of my three passions - in it's entirety (so you needn't register if you haven't yet):

March 8, 2004
Strategy and Spin Are Cool, but Voters Like to Laugh
By BRUCE WEBER

ASPEN, Colo., March 7 — These days wherever politics goes, comedy follows. Or maybe, as illustrated at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, which concluded here on Sunday, it's the other way around. Just about everywhere you turned, politics weaseled its way into the jokes.

Playing M.C. at a late-night stand-up session, Drew Carey talked about undergoing surgery. He had an angioplasty and received a stent, he said, the same operation that Vice President Cheney had, "except they left in the heart."

Members of the editorial staff of The Onion, the satirical newspaper, discussed a variety of their invented headlines, like "Israelis, Palestinians Agree to Share Headline" and "U.S. to Form Own U.N."

And even the playwright August Wilson, who was on hand to receive the Freedom of Speech Award, began an autobiographical monologue with a tart, politically resonant wisecrack: "My ancestors have been in America since the early 17th century," said Mr. Wilson, who is of course black, "and for the first 244 years they didn't have any trouble finding a job."

It may be natural that political humor peaks in a presidential election year, but it is also true that the relationship between comedy and politics has never been more entangled. More than three decades ago President Richard M. Nixon appeared on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" to intone the mantra, "Sock it to me" and make self-deprecating fun of his dour, unhip image. Campaigning in 1992 Bill Clinton, then a governor, sought to underscore his connection with a younger generation — and divert attention from attacks on his character — by playing the saxophone on "The Arsenio Hall Show."

But by now comedy has become such a standard tool for politicians that candidates for high office like Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Edwards have announced their intentions to television hosts like Jay Leno and Jon Stewart.

"You know, we're a fake show," Mr. Stewart, the host of "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central, responded to Mr. Edwards's disclosure that he was running for president. "So this may not count."

The point is that if comedy has long been a critical weapon used by commentators against politicians it is now also a standard political tool used by politicians to defuse criticism and to court voters.

To be at the Aspen festival was to be acutely aware of this chicken-egg relationship, the Möbius-strip quality of the continuum shared by comedy and politics.

"The proof of that is that we're here," said John Podesta, the president of a liberal think tank, the Center for American Progress, and the former chief of staff for President Clinton, referring to himself and Mike Murphy, a Republican political consultant who was the senior strategist for Mr. Schwarzenegger's successful gubernatorial campaign in California.

"Pop culture has become so important in politics that those of us who are out running political campaigns would much rather put the candidate there," Mr. Murphy said, meaning on an entertainment or comedy show, "where there's quick, wide publicity and acceptance, than sit him in a Tim Russert hot seat and have to do, you know, trigonometry on Sunday mornings."

Mr. Podesta and Mr. Murphy were central figures in a raucous Saturday panel discussion that was called "Who's Funnier — the Left or the Right?" but mostly went to prove that it is difficult if not impossible to discern where politics ends and comedy begins. As Stephen Colbert, a correspondent on "The Daily Show," remarked when the panel was over: "The challenge for a comedian is to go out and make jokes that can't be co-opted by politicians. Those are the golden nuggets we look for."

The panel, which a little embarrassingly consisted entirely of white men, conducted itself in language that was often equally politically incorrect. (The moderator was a woman, Campbell Brown of NBC's "Today," weekend edition.) The discussion began with a general agreement: the title question was ambiguous and unanswerable. There are witty people on both sides of the aisle, the panelists acknowledged, and if the Republicans are a more mockable target than the Democrats at the moment, that is only because they are the party in power.

"You always want to attack people that are higher than you — or think they're higher than you," said Mr. Carey, whose sympathies (despite his joke about the vice president) are generally conservative. And the liberal cartoonist Garry Trudeau concurred.

"Satire has always been this kind of disorganized resistance to established power," he said. "If you go back a few hundred years the court jester pulled the king's beard. He didn't go out and randomly criticize the serfs."

The panelists were also relishing the election to come, especially with its brand new target.

"What exactly is funny about John Kerry?" Ms. Brown asked, and Matthew Cooper, the White House correspondent for Time magazine, replied: "The guy is a target-rich environment for comics. He's so stiff you sort of picture him sitting at home in a powdered wig watching C-Span2. He told one of my colleagues at Time that he thought of himself as a rebel. I mean, John Kerry being rebellious is having red wine with fish."

Mr. Trudeau made the distinction between satirists, who operate with a distinct point of view, and humorists, people like the late-night network hosts who play to all sides. For those in his position, he said, President Bush "is considered the gold standard, and we would be crushed if he lost."

Mr. Podesta made the point that for a politician capable of wit, it can be a brilliant tool. The news about Monica Lewinsky and its aftermath, he said, robbed President Clinton of one of his most potent political weapons.

"You know, you couldn't go from his grand jury testimony on to Leno and start joking around about it," he said. "And so there was a period, probably for a year, in which I think President Clinton had a harder time using humor, which he was so good at during other parts of his tenure."

The most representative exchanges during the discussion were those that fractured the sought-after spirit of bipartisanship. It became increasingly difficult for the panelists to keep to the subject of comedy and politics. Instead their instincts took over and the conversation devolved into an often humorous, often abrasive political argument.

"The 2000 election was a remarkably funny event," said Greg Proops, a comic best known for his appearances on "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" "I was surprised that after that election Haiti didn't invade us to install a democracy."

Mr. Proops broke into hysterical, derisive laughter at many of the comments by Phil Hendrie, the syndicated radio broadcaster, who said he considered himself a liberal even though he supported the war in Iraq and did not favor gun control.

The two men seemed visibly irritated by each other, but they were not the only ones whose dander rose. Exchanges like the following were common:

Mr. Carey, referring to the president's willingness to recognize his penchant for misspeaking, began: "What's great about what Bush does is that he makes fun of his own problem, and right away you forgive him for it."

Mr. Proops: "No, right away you forgive him for it. I think you'll find he's not quite as self-effacing and a man of the people as some people might imagine."

Mr. Colbert: "I'm still waiting for Bush to make a self-effacing joke about executing the retarded."

Mr. Carey: "Well, it's not like they plucked a retarded guy off the street and said, `We're going to shoot you.' "

Mr. Colbert: "Oh, it's not like they retarded him. It just happened."

Mr. Carey: "Well, when the retarded guy kills somebody in your family, we'll see if you change your tune."

And suddenly, politics didn't seem so funny after all.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Strategy and Spin Are Cool, but Voters Like to Laugh

'Usually, they're one continent and two careers apart'

They're both too cute for words. But this piece and the one linked below are very well written. I try not to let this blog stray into the personal often, but sometimes, it makes sense to cast a wide net. It may be that these companion features spark special interest in me given both background, recent history, and my career goals.

Politics, as Gavin says, are "life-consuming" - so if your passion is there, you have to consider what it will do to every aspect of your life. This isn't covered very broadly or very often.

Gavin Newsom adores his wife who's never home and he's OK with that, mostly

'I prefer the Italian version: prima donna.'

This article has it all, San Francisco royalty, left-coast inferiority complex pains, and the battle for the future of the women's movement - all in one pert, well-placed, former lingerie model.

Take this for example:

"Why can't a couple have two major careers? And why is it weird for the woman to be the bicoastal one? Men do it all the time! To these people who question our marriage, I want to ask: How is your marriage doing? Mine is just fine. If you have respect and love for each other, there's no reason this can't work out great for everyone."

Aww, cute, isn't it?

Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom helped make her husband mayor. Now it's her turn to see how high she can climb.

News with a capital 'Duh'

CNN is omnipresent in most legislative offices. Over my shoulder, Wolf tells me Kerry drops a "bombshell" - apparently Kerry says that other world leaders have told him they want Bush out of the White House. "Unnamed foreign leaders are supporting his bid for the White House."

So brings two points to mind:

1.) The GOP rapid response: Look! Traitor! Foreign leaders want him to win? Of course they do, they are enemies of the American people, so they want an enemy of the American people, an unpatriotic Mass liberal who can't help but flip flop because he has no backbone, to be President.

"It won't be long until the White House calls him the French candidate." - CNN commentator.

2.) DUH! That's what gets me about media coverage of politics and government. It's the preaching to the lowest common denominator. This wide-eyed, can you believe what the rest of the world thinks, naivate.

The rest of the world is capable of thinking for itself, is within its rights to express those opinions, and has the benefit of a far-sighted, outsider perspective. But don't worry - we've never gone wrong parading ourselves as better-than-you know-it-alls. Everyone loves us. We've been good neighbors.

Duh, honestly, just Duh.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

RNC - always on your side

The RNC is advising TV outlets of moveon.org ads' illegality. Nice of them, no? But don't worry, it isn't content-based:

""I write not because of the misleading allegations contained in the advertisement, which will be answered in due time, but because running this advertisement breaks the law," Vogel's letter said."

Ah - glad they cleared that up.

CNN.com - RNC�tells TV stations not to run anti-Bush ads - Mar 7, 2004

Friday, March 05, 2004

CREEPy

Ah, spies like them . . .

Best line: one of the accused spies "said it was fundamentally wrong to consider the Democratic documents as confidential, because they were easily accessed."

Um, okay.


GOP stole peek at Dems' papers / Memos were on judicial nominations

Terrorism, defined

From Pat Buchanan's review of An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror:

"Evil has existed since Cain rose up against his brother Abel and slew him. A propensity to evil can be found in every human heart. And if God accepts the existence of evil, how do Frum and Perle propose to "end" it? Nor can any nation "win the war on terror." Terrorism is simply a term for the murder of non-combatants for political ends."

Thursday, March 04, 2004

'I have a dead heart.'

Cleansing Iraqi Bomb Victims Takes Its Own Toll

Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it, like my heart's going to cave in.

Welcome, weary travelers . . .

. . . Those tired from too much trail time, fatigued by faulty coverage, subdued by status quo rantings.

This is an updated introduction for those just emailed about this project. I like to think of myself as a Leader (thanks, Claremont), but sometimes, you have to follow. Trends, mainly. And who doesn't have a blog these days? Eventually, I hope to have a website. But for now, this free blog will do just fine. There's so much noise in the netiverse that I don't expect much traffic. But the Chronicle did publish an op-ed of mine once - so that's at least one piece of evidence that others can be interested in my opinions.

I read a lot of news everyday - though many, okay, one person, probably doubts that highly. And the Google toolbar (a must-download if you don't have it), has this great "Blog this" button that makes sharing my rants with you so easy it's criminal. But it also saves you from an email box full of my mind. So you should be thankful.

This is just one voice. But big things start with one or two voices. Here's mine. I don't have a fancy mission statement. Sometimes I don't even have a clue. But now I have a forum - one to which you're invited as often as you'd to share ideas or call me crazy, praise me or damn me (or simply file material for later oppo). I hope to provide shovels for the professionals, things with which they can help bury what needs burying (bad ideas, bad presidents, but never truth) - or uncover what needs uncovering.

To drench in meaning - to make sure nothing is lost on me or on you or on us. It's pretty much all we can do, isn't it?

A note on this blog's name: It’s hard to be original, isn't it? Don't pick something cutesy or eye-roll-inducing. Don't pick something obvious or easily lost in translation or variation. But "cd's blog" just didn't seem edgy enough. And any play on something political or partisan or ideological or movement-based would've limited my reach.

It took awhile, but I once convinced someone intelligent of the importance of photographs. Why photography was as much an art as painting, despite the use of a machine. It can only see what we tell it to see, yet we can't tell others how to see it. We control the focus, aperture, duration, composition, and contrast, yet we cannot control the resulting impact. Photographs require a minimum of four eyes to have Meaning, like all art. I was never good at drawing or painting, but I can use a camera - just as fiction is not my strong suit, but observation, what one college professor called "creative journalism" is.

And so Phoblographer* is born. You can see the "blog" part and now understand better why it's inserted into the photographer's role. The * is shorthand for what motivates me (always).

So if you read it, I hope you enjoy it. If you don't, I don't blame you - I forget to check even the really good blogs, like Talking Points Memo (link on the left), with enough regularity.

But just think - if I ever become Someone - you can say you read me when . . . .

Something non-election, non-war, non-gay-marriage related

Didn't think I had it in me, did you?

Here's a piece from the San Francisco Chronicle on new Fed regulations designed to make possible the establishment of same-sex classes or schools.

I've heard the arguments on both sides - seen the studies. Girls flourish when free of the harsh, competitive vibe of boys. Teachers, male and female, favor boys in math and science classes - and subtly don't promote the sciences for girls. My godmother even runs a well-known, all girls prep school in Los Angeles. She's a big fan of all-girls ed. I went to college across from a girls school - NO - a Women's College (see Catherine, don't get mad).

In the article, one educator says:
"Both girls and boys, especially at middle school, get caught up in social behavior related to impressing the other gender," he said. "Having a single-sex environment can allow them to focus on their own development ... without worrying so much about impressing the girls or impressing the boys."

To which I say, that's great, but boys still run themselves stupid trying to impress girls - and chicks still become stupid in reply.

It's interesting to see how this concept plays in San Francisco - bastion of liberal "equal everything for all"-ism.

Here's my thought, though: There is a lot to be said for taking away the negative impact of boys on girls in education. They are favored in math and science. They do get a lot of classroom attention. They are the next student body president, they are the quarterback, they are, well, It.

But boys exist. That's the cold, hard truth. Boys are out there. Girls have to work with them in business, in government, in arts and sciences. There are few single-sex industries available. There's no way to wall off gender issues forever. So better learn to negotiate the interplay in school. Better learn to be competitive and take nothing from no one early.

Not all girls have the "screw you" vibe that runs strong in my blood. But I think few will acquire it if they are too cozy in school.

Plan to let schools divide sexes / Bush proposal to pay for all-girl or all-boy classes