Friday, May 28, 2004

Harold Meyerson on Antonio Villaraigosa

In his LA Weekly column, Meyerson presents his case for Villaraigosa taking another stab at LA City Hall.

He describes Villaraigosa's current job and current extracurriculars, including his role as a Kerry campaign co-chair - and the later payoff that could come with that. But:

Problem is, Villaraigosa’s passions and visions are all of Los Angeles. “The one job in America that I want is to lead the most dynamic city in the world,” he says. “The city is a magnet for me; it has this attraction and power — and I don’t mean the power of office. It has to do with the sense of the possible; you can taste the energy here. That’s the allure of this job.”

That's probably the first statement of Villaraigosa's with which I completely agree.

And Meyerson is 100% correct when he says our fair city (and you'll excuse me while I slip into hometown mode) needs "all the civic passion it can get."

I've never been a big Antonio fan. I supported Hahn last time around - in part because he's a Pedro guy and I'd hoped that our far-removed corner of the city would get a little more love. That hasn't really come to pass though . . .

It's going to be a fun race to watch . . . .

Like the corners of my mind . . . .

Misty water colored memories, of the way we interned . . . .

Back when I was an intern, we had to put together our own happy hour guide. Or more precisely, we had to get our copy of the worn, well-thumbed copy of the guide handed down from class to class. If there's one thing my alma mater prides itself on - besides its excellent academic reputation - it's our ability to mix, or at least find, a decent cocktail.

And, of course, I could've used this age-appropriate guide in those days. It doesn't list our beloved Tequilla Grill, RH, but any underage dancer would be remiss if they missed the subterranean thrill of incomprehensible latin dance music.

Anyway - sorry for the bit of nostalgia - but some things are meant to be thought about again, at least occassionally.

Well, Brandy Chastain took off her shirt . . . .

Drop shot prompts dropped shorts at French Open.

Also - "He was fined $500 for abusing his racket earlier in the match." Enter your own "Department of Racket and Family Services" type jokes here.


A little post:

The egrets are outside having lunch. They saunter gracefully through the water, regal, deliberate, until they find food and then - bam! all hell breaks loose as they plunge crazy-like to grab whatever's there, feathers ruffled, tail-up in the mud.

And today there are two yellow and black butterflies hanging out in the grass. They should be on wires, muppet style, the way they arrange themselves in the air.

This job is turning me into jr. nature girl. Something I'm really not . . .

Misplaced Patriotism

And the Tyranny of Evenhandedness.

Read today's Krugman column in the New York Times.

People who get their news by skimming the front page, or by watching TV, must be feeling confused by the sudden change in Mr. Bush's character. For more than two years after 9/11, he was a straight shooter, all moral clarity and righteousness.

But now those people hear about a president who won't tell a straight story about why he took us to war in Iraq or how that war is going, who can't admit to and learn from mistakes, and who won't hold himself or anyone else accountable. What happened?

The answer, of course, is that the straight shooter never existed. He was a fictitious character that the press, for various reasons, presented as reality.

Because if you look long enough, it all becomes art . . . .

. . . and metaphor, and meaning, and maybe a little madness too.

Back in my old 'hood, they're having a gallery exhibit of cell phone photography. My phone takes pictures too, but I've never done a thing with them (other than see - "hey, check out my dog," or "hey, check out me and former Governor Gray Davis." no really, I have a picture of me and Gray in my phone).

From the article:

"Another thing that stands out is the insubstantiality of the images, the sense of impermanence. This is not an exhibition of framed photographs to be purchased and hung on your wall, but a show that emphasizes the communication aspect of the new wireless photography, the thrill of zapping a photo to a friend in Brooklyn as you stand on a street corner in London. Who knows if you'll ever look at that photo again?"

And your vocab word of the day: moblogs.

That's fine - but remember who your Phoblog is . . . .

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

More diction for your day

Fox is trying to rewrite conventionally understood terms (as well as American foreign policy, it seems) sometimes to almost absurd results, as this post from the Libertarian Jackass blogs.

It is interesting to ponder the differences between American and Arabic culture when it comes to suicide. In this country, it seems less of a political statement than it is the ultimate expression of selfishness. I wonder how many bridge-jumpers there are in the Middle East? Ponder for a moment death as a luxury, death as a necessity, and killing as a necessity.

Don't send those angry emails - I don't think killing should ever be viewed as necessary. But the more we think on these things, the closer we - perhaps - get to understanding everyone's motivations here.

From, 'Face transplants inch toward reality'

Doctors in Kentucky have begun preparing a document to be submitted to an ethics panel at the University of Louisville School of Medicine seeking permission to perform a face transplant, the lead researcher in the endeavor told CNN.

Face plants, however, the researcher commented, may continue to be performed without an ethics panel review.

Diction of the day

From the SF Chron: Bush speech alarms even war enthusiasts

Washington -- Even the staunchest supporters of President Bush's Iraq enterprise were less than cheered by his speech to the nation Monday night outlining the path forward, some describing the administration as being in a state of panic.

In particular, the neoconservatives who provided the intellectual argument that an invasion of Iraq could provide a template for democracy in the Middle East are expressing open alarm that this effort is dangerously off course.

"There's no question the administration has been in total panic mode, and they don't need to be, because Iraq is salvageable," said Danielle Pletka, vice president of foreign and defense studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank that has been a hotbed of support for the war. "But I think there is still so much indecision about what to do that it's going to be hard for them to do the right thing." . . . .

If I were an Iraqi, the fact that my country were "salvageable" would give me great peace of mind, I'm sure.

Chatter up!

Do you think by using "chatter" in the title, the men in black are adding me to some ominous list somewhere?

Probably on it already under "Dissenters: Democrats: Dean, supporter of."

At any rate, I've taken to listening to NPR on the morning drive (is it illegal for SF radio stations to play actual music in the morning? Was LA this bad?), and of course, the buzz today is about the, well, buzz.

The chatter - that all-purpose word to describe the amount of a specific type of villainous communication going on out there - is particularly heavy right now. Do we know where to look out or when? No. Do we know for whom? Well, Al-Q, but also, you know, whomever.

Should I stop wearing my favorite yellow shirt and start wearing the orange one? Will the Phoblog's page color finally be fashionable again?

Oh no, you should be scared - oops - I mean alert - but they aren't changing the alert level. Among other reasons - apparently local governments have been begging Congress to cut the crayola inspired fun because every time they do it costs millions in initiating response protocols and whatnot.

I both hope and fear that this is a bit of an exaggerated ploy. I hope it is because I don't want anything nasty to happen anymore than you do. I fear it is because that's proof of just how wild-eyed and conspiratorial the administration has become. I still think we'll see chatter spikes in July, September, something fantastically dire will be said in October - and the current powers will hope to ride that wave right through November.

The NPR report cited the Madrid bombings and reported on American concerns that the same kind of election hijacking might occur here. I'd think it wouldn't - Americans don't get peacenik-y, they get even. With someone. Frankly, anyone. But not the leadership that might've helped get them into this mess

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

readership woes

So I tend to keep up on the stats as the month rolls by and what started off with promise is now slouching across the finish line. If there was ever any questions about content driving blog readership (and really, how could there be?), there's none now. Work has taken its toll.

But I'd urge you to dig back into the archives and rant to me about how I was wrong, or how things have changed, or how you missed this little gem here and pass such info on - this girl has stat goals and she's thiiiis close to staying on pace . . . .

If anyone wants to sit at my house on a work day and wait for the cable guy, this'll go much faster. ;)

More later.

Interesting read

Read this: Campaign Ads Are Under Fire for Inaccuracy.

A sample:

The degree to which the advertisements push the facts, or go beyond them, varies by commercial. While Mr. Bush's campaign has been singled out as going particularly far with some of its claims, Mr. Kerry's campaign has also been criticized as frequently going beyond the bounds of truth. . . .

"Even people who don't think there is much information in these ads and say they don't learn anything from them tell us they believe factoids they could only have gotten from these ads, and they're wrong," said Brooks Jackson, director of, an Annenberg Public Policy Center Web site that vets political advertisements for accuracy. "It's beyond subliminal — it's something else I haven't come up with a name for."

It's not the first time

That's what's most sad about this random death.

A similar fate for a Long Beach resident during his welcome home party a few months ago.

No way to pretty up these deaths.

Monday, May 24, 2004

People talking without speaking

"i sent american troops to iraq to protect america not to become an occupying force. . . the new iraq will always have a friend in america." I'm missing large parts of this - but a I do note that when he waxes on about why we're there and what we've seen, it's another conflation of everything we've been through - no wonder Americans think Saddam was flying the planes that day. And now I'm hearing the big finish. Nothing says a new day in Iraq like a Susa march.  Posted by Hello
"Iraqis are a proud people who resent foreign control. As we would." This is all I've heard so far that I've been able to lock into as I'm multitasking. But if anyone else is listening/watching, I'd love to know what came before/after that and how that helps his point. These are times that try a blogger's soul, lemme tell you. Posted by Hello

Great Egret

This is my bird friend that I blogged about yesterday. He's an egret, as it turns out. And though I'm sure I'm seeing several, I'll give them one general name. Think I'll call him Buddy. There was a little one today too. Maybe I'll take up bird watching. Okay, yeah, that's doubtful . . . . Posted by Hello

Not adding up

I agree that disregarding the state law requiring completion of Algebra I for seniors is a bad idea.

But the extent to which I get riled over this depends if the 5% of seniors lacking the class is a significant population. That might require math past Alegbra I, however.

Frankly, I can't believe kids get all the way to the 12th grade without having completed Alegbra O-N-E. Full disclosure: I am a math nerd. Former math nerd maybe. But my inner nerd thrives even today, after four years of mathless college and two years of mathless (mathphobic) law school.

Just how nerdy am I. About this nerdy. But I digress.

The article captures the frustration over our lowered expectations:

Let me understand: Kids who don't like school and aren't particularly good students may feel pressure to learn, so we should just not ask them to meet any higher standards?

Well, when you put it that way . . . .

I can appreciate the difficulties schools face. Our kids are overachieving at underperforming. But let's not contiue to slash expectations and excuse effort. The article also cites the complaint that the requirement is particularly hard for non-English speaking students.

Okay - there may be a shortage of bilingual teachers - but math itself, get this, has no language. It's the one thing that should be easier to get through, than say, the Lord of the Flies.

I think if kids were pushed from elementary school on, they'd be taking Calculus by graduation. And it's useful. And stop letting girls whine "it's harrrrrd." And stop letting them all whine "i won't usssssee it."

It's not. You will. Step up a little, everyone.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

It's better than being attacked by a swamp rabbit

Josh Marshall riffs on Bush's bike whoopsie, wondering if it might be to Bush II what upchucking in Japan was to Bush I. He also links up a few press hits on "training wheels," one a quip, one a foreign policy plan. Gotta love that.

Finally a citation

In law, you can't make a point without a citation. There's no progress without footnotes, you see.

So it is in that mindset that I appreciate this Chron article which explains SF snobs, confirming their existance and commenting on their cause and effect.

One choice philosophy from a Novato mom: "There are some shorthand indicators that tell me whether a family exposes their children to the finer things of life or just lets them wallow in junk. I'm sorry -- I don't choose to foster relationships with families who hold their birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese."

And though I do agree with this:

Pauline Kael was less tolerant. The late New Yorker film critic, who hailed from Petaluma, observed that she could simply never have a relationship with anyone who thought "Dances with Wolves" worth watching.

I can't agree with that:

Nor are we like our fellow Americans in the Deep South, assessed by "What's your family name?" or the Northeast, where it's "What school did you attend?" or even Los Angeles, where it's "How svelte are you and how successful was your last cosmetic surgery?"

Note in that last quote the none-too-subtle slap at LA. Thanks. Sort of a bonus example of the article's theme.

The city, excuse me, The City may be growing on me - but I'll always have fun snob-watching on a Saturday night. . . .

More clever to whom?

Close to the end of this fairly airy article on The Simpsons, we get this gem of an analytical statement:

"Because it's about the media, this episode has more clever references than most."

Just have fun with that on your own.

New Blogger stuff

This is a test post using the new bloggerbot photo posting whatever. It's a picture of Reverie Cafe (aka: cd's first year refuge from the 'loin) that I found at craigblog. I hope he doesn't mind me using it. It seemed like a good inaugural photo since I've talked about it several times today. Posted by Hello

Wetlands, dry work

My new office has a lovely view of - well - some type of body of water that must have a technical name, but all I've got is "wetlands" so that's what I'll go with. In the morning, its boggy and muddy. As the tide comes it, it fills up and along come all sorts of wildlife. Right now there's a large, white, utterly graceful bird sauntering around. Step, step, step, go his long twiggy legs. With each step his neck and beak jut out in frong, and the rest of his body sort-of half slo-mos along with him. Jut, step, draaag. Repeat. Not sure what he is. Heron? Crane? Do I have any birdwatching readers? Whatever he is, he's beautiful and my only company on this long, legal afternoon.

A big day for a little blogger

I dragged myself out of bed at an unholy sabbath day hour this morning because I just have That much to do. Not really a problem because it was a good reason to hit my favorite coffee refuge (though now they sell beer and wine which could become a problem later), Reverie, in Cole Valley. I grabbed my Municipal Law Handbook (a poor substitute for the Chron or the Times of your choosing), some tunes, and settled in a prime window seat for a medium decaf, nonfat amaretto latte. Weather was mild. Pedestrians and dogs, friendly. Met a bulldog named Winston - adorable if a bit low on the IQ. Cole has great dogs, irish setters, jack russells, pit bulls, great danes, and mutts galore, each cuter than the next. Makes me miss my dog.

Anyway - the dogs, while nice, aren't the best part of this story.

As I'm slugging through the 1000+ pages of municipal material looking for The Answer, the guy sitting next to me taps me on the shoulder and says he just has to know what I'm studying. It's a reasonable question given the sheer size of the volume. I tell him in the abstract what it is and what I'm doing. I ask him what he does.

He says he runs a family of community based websites. I think, hmm, he looks familiar. I say, what site? He says . . .

Can you guess?


I met Craig. Which, really, is kinda cool if you think about it. I mean, how many of my friends' apartments, couches, roommates (or one-night-stands) have come from his sites? I'd rank the meeting up there with my New Hampshire Josh Marshall encounter.

Yeah, I nerd out on a lot of stuff - but chances are, so do you, or you wouldn't even be reading this.

Craig seems to be a genuinely nice guy. He's fairly adamant about putting his web savvy to good use on a larger scale- helping government connect, etc. He's got a sort of gentle, self-depricating charm that makes for good Sunday morning conversation about things like Golden Gate commute times, the nature of government services, and, of course, dogs.

He mentioned his blog at one point and I had to restrain my urge to say, hey, I got a blog too. Such comments would've bordered on the everyone-has-a-screenplay/novel syndrome that fells a majority of Los Angeles social interaction. No one needs that.

Meeting the blogger-behind-the-blog in real life almost calming in its shrinking-the-world effect. Last week, I taught my mom to use craigslist. Today, I met Craig.

It was a nice start to what's going to be a long and busy Sunday . . . .

(Update: seems I'm completely unoriginal in my dogs, Cole Valley riff, read this: Of Dogs and Delicacies / Craig lists some of his favorite things in Cole Valley)

Friday, May 21, 2004

Oh, that's where it is . . .

I was wondering where I'd left it.

Is it a dream?

No, it's Blogger giving us a way to IM, yeah IM, photos directly to our blogs. Tear.

It will automatically resize and add captions. No HTMLing or hosting problems. If I could, I'd hug the team at Blogger for helping me live up to my own site name. You can even post screen shots.

Sure I may be at work until 10 on a Friday - but knowing I get to play with this nifty feature soon makes my day!


This nation cannot afford the luxury of her dangerous rhetoric.

Funny. I thought that's what we were fighting for.

Ladies and Gentlemen, if I may, a proposition

If either side is going to say the other's actions are putting American lives at risk, can we all agree that both sides are putting American lives at risk?

Because if it's one, it has to be both. They're standing in front of other people's bullets, guys. That's not safe either.

[Update] - this article is just too rich with good stuff. I'll post the whole thing in the comments box.

But two of the best grafs I've ever seen in a paper:

Rep. Tom Reynolds, the chair of the House Republicans re-election committee, said, "If Nancy Pelosi has nothing to offer our troops, who are living and dying thousands of miles away, besides taunting them by saying they are dying needlessly and are risking their lives on a shallow mission, then she should go back to her pastel-colored condo in San Francisco and keep her views to herself.''

Pelosi lives in a red brick home in Pacific Heights.

But really - read the whole thing.

Two new films do some News Watching

Check out this NYT article, The War's Dark Side: Filling in the Blanks, then try to catch the films themselves . . .

One of the film's most illuminating statements is his: "When I watch Al Jazeera, I can tell what they're showing and then I can tell what they're not showing by choice. Same thing when I watch Fox on the other end of the spectrum." O.K., but how are we supposed to know what's missing? Filling in the blanks is exactly what most TV viewers cannot easily do.

"Control Room" offers enough glimpses of what we don't know to induce paranoia in even the best-informed viewers. The film captures immense hostility toward American actions in Iraq, anger that existed a year ago but is just now truly registering here. And Lieutenant Rushing says that "no American connects the Palestinian issue" with the war in Iraq, but that everyone he has met in the Arab world sees them as "the exact same thing" — an eye-opening observation for most people.

Also of note:

American news now routinely offers sound bites from Arab television to show how we are being perceived — but that is usually the nationalistic subtext, how they see us. These occasional, partial views don't enhance our understanding much.

Where to watch the discussed films:

"CONTROL ROOM" opens today at Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, South Village, and nationally through June and July. Film Forum information: (212) 727-8110.

(for our NYC readers)

"WAR FEELS LIKE WAR," to be shown on July 6 as part of the "P.O.V." series on PBS (check local listings).

Running smoothly again

Just a quick post to let you know the errors are gone and Phoblographer* should be loading smoothly again.

Thanks for your patience.

There's that word again

See it down there? "Part-time?"

From yesterday's OC Register:

Frittering legislators
The Legislature needs to get serious about budget reform and stop wasting
its time passing frivolous bills.

The California Legislature needs to get serious about its job. Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger presented his May revision budget proposal on May 15 and
Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill presented her analysis on May 17.

The Legislature should be devoting its full attention to the budget instead
of frittering away time passing mundane or counterproductive bills. Much
still needs to be done to eliminate a structural deficit that Ms. Hill
estimates to be $8 billion a year. Even Democrats who like spending money
should want to to eliminate waste and pork.

Yes, there is some good news. On May 18, 17 Senate Democrats signed a public
letter written by Sen. Jackie Speier of Daly City that called for
withdrawing funding for the state prison guards' whopping 11 percent pay
raise scheduled for fiscal 2004-05, which begins July 1. That raise was part
of the 34 percent raise through 2006 Gov. Gray Davis signed in 2002 with the
prison guards' union. The union gave Gov. Davis more than $2.6 million in
campaign contributions.

Gov. Schwarzenegger has said reducing the raises could save up to $300
million. Although the senators' letter is not law, their action, because the
17 are Democrats, gives the governor bipartisan clout to negotiate a compact
with the guards that would help solve the state's budget problems.

On the negative side, however, the Legislature continues to waste energy on
harmful, needless and trivial legislation. Here are some of the
time-wasters, beginning with three cell-phone bills:

SB 1800 (Sen. Kevin Murray, D-Los Angeles) passed the Senate May 18. It says
a "person shall not operate a vehicle in an unsafe manner that results from
engaging in a distracting activity while driving," including such activities
as using a cell phone, "adjusting the controls of an audio or other
entertainment device," smoking, "interacting with children, animals,
passengers or objects in the vehicle." This is silly micromanaging. Existing
reckless driving laws are adequate.

SB 1582 (Debra Bowen, D-Redondo Beach) would ban drivers under age 18 from
using cell phones. Again, existing reckless driving laws are adequate. And
few cell-addicted teens will comply, making them scofflaws. It will be heard
in the Senate Appropriations Committee on May 20.

AB 2785 (Assemblyman George Nakano, D-Redondo Beach) would ban bus drivers
from talking on cell phones. This might be a good policy, but it should be
decided by local school districts. On May 17 the Assembly approved it.

AB 1854 (Joseph Simitian, D-Palo Alto) would mandate that headlights must be
turned on during "inclement weather." Like many bills, this one assumes that
Californians are idiots. It passed the Assembly on May 17.

SB 1652 (Sen. Murray of Los Angeles) would require, after Jan. 1, 2006, that
new developments with 25 or more single-family homes must have "an
unspecified percentage" of homes (to be determined in a later rewrite of the
bill) that have "solar photovoltaic energy system" providing about half the
electricity the home uses. Proponents say the added cost of from $11,000 to
$20,000 would be amortized over time through lower electricity costs of
about $55 per month. But the market should decide such matters - especially
with sky-rocketing housing costs in California making housing less
affordable every day. The Senate passed the bill May 17.

If any of these bills passes both houses of the Legislature, we recommend
that Gov. Schwarzenegger veto them. He needs to send a message to the
Legislature that it needs to stop wasting its time - and stop harassing free

These bills also show why he's right to support making the Legislature
part-time. Then it might cause less mischief.

-- A-ha - now you see it. They do sound like kinda dumb laws, don't they? No, wait, some of them sound like good ideas, but should all good ideas be codified? What do you think? --

A few thoughts on war being hell

Today's Herbert column tells of an interview with Sergeant Mejia, the soldier who had a weekend off and just didn't go back. He's facing a court martial for desertion.

Some highlights:

Sergeant Mejia's legal defense is complex (among other things, he is seeking conscientious objector status), but his essential point is that war is too terrible to be waged willy-nilly, that there must always be an ethically or morally sound reason for opening the spigots to such horror. And he believes that threshold was never met in Iraq.

"Imagine being in the infantry in Ramadi, like we were," he said, "where you get shot at every day and you get mortared where you live, [and attacked] with R.P.G.'s [rocket-propelled grenades], and people are dying and getting wounded and maimed every day. A lot of horrible things become acceptable."

He spoke about a friend of his, a sniper, who he said had shot a child about 10 years old who was carrying an automatic weapon. "He realized it was a kid," said Sergeant Mejia. "The kid tried to get up. He shot him again."

The child died.

All you really want to do in such an environment, said Sergeant Mejia, is "get out of there alive." So soldiers will do things under that kind of extreme stress that they wouldn't do otherwise.

"You just sort of try to block out the fact that they're human beings and see them as enemies," he said. "You call them hajis, you know? You do all the things that make it easier to deal with killing them and mistreating them."

When there is time later to reflect on what has happened, said Sergeant Mejia, "you come face to face with your emotions and your feelings and you try to tell yourself that you did it for a good reason. And if you don't find it, if you don't believe you did it for a good reason, then, you know, it becomes pretty tough to accept it — to willingly be a part of the war."

Of course, one of my immediate reactions to his descriptions was sort of a callous, war-is-hell-you-signed-up-so-deal-with-it kind of resignation. Maybe that's just because I'm tired. But the root here is what I've said before here: it's fine to cite the voluntary nature of our current military to justify not feeling worse for what's being done to our soldiers - except that it's our leadership's and our responsibility not to take advantage of their willingness to dehumanize themselves for a bit on our behalf.

Whoa - dehumanize. That's a strong word. But that's kinda what needs to happen, right? Go back and read Mejia's words. You make the Iraqis the "other." Give them a shorthand name and make them less human so it's easier to shoot and kill them. You build some walls in your mind, compartmentalize your actions and motivations and then you can sleep at night, curled up next to your gun, RPGs whizzing overhead.

But what if you can't make things line up? What if you can't make the outside match the inside? The given motivation match what you're seeing every day? Then we have a problem. A big one. Humans don't do well with that kind of dissonance.

It makes me think of a small treatise I heard from a respected legal/political philosopy mind a few weeks ago about life in communist Russia. It was a story about a professor who was teaching biology. He had to teach what the regime wanted taught, even though it was clearly wrong. Clearly wrong in the sky is green kind of way. But you teach it and you just believe inside what's actually true. But you say something long enough, you start to buy your own press, and you begin to lose your own battle with truth. His line on this was that there are only 3 ways to deal with life in the USSR: vodka, revolution, or suicide.

I've meandered a bit from Iraq - but I think the danger and the psychological problems are analogous. We'll have soon - I hope - a bunch of guys come home dealing with what they not only saw but what they did. The more fault lines they hit, the more dangerous it becomes for them to exist within their own minds.

From a legal standpoint, it will be interesting to see what happens with Mejia. From a human standpoint, however, it will be more than interesting - it will be more like life and death.

Friends Like These

So, Chalabi is misbehaving:

Many people in the Bush administration have been growing angry at the way Mr. Chalabi keeps biting the hand that fed him so well for so long.

Biting the hand that fattened him up. Gee, can't remember another time that's happened. We've never helped out anyone else who later turned on us and led to massive American casualties. Good thing this is an isolated incident.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

David Letterman Top Ten list

May 11, 2004

Top Ten Ways Dumb Guys Would Lower Gas Prices

10. Sell gas by the half-gallon

9. Sneak up to gas stations in the middle of the night and switch the
price numbers

8. Cut out that expensive ingredient that gives it that delicious gas

7. Forget OPEC, start getting oil from Wal-Mart

6. Step one: Oprah buys all the gas. Step 2: Oprah gives the gas away.

5. Build time machine, drive back to 1965 when gas was cheap.

4. Fill car with root beer. Cars won't know no better.

3. Release the recipe so people can make their own

2. Drive really fast so you're not driving so long

1. Invade Iraq

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

A non-opinionated legal note

The best legal word ever?

Estoppel. Besides being a fun word to say, it's a fun concept. Half "gotcha!," half "hey, unfffaiiirrr."

But it always sounds like it should have something to do with popples.

In the grand law school tradition

A hypothetical:

If an employee handbook included the line: "No employee may use company Internet access to post opinions on the Internet, particularly any opinion of a political or discriminatory nature," to what extent do you think that would limit the operation of a website such as, oh, let's say, Phoblographer*?

I'm going to have to make the move to nightblogging. Which will take some time. Stay tuned though - not every post needs to include opinions.

Here's one quick non-political opinion thought: Palo Alto cops shot a mountain lion yesterday that was in a tree in a residential neighborhood. People are "outraged" at the brutal killing. Local news on several channels devoted lengthy stories to the shooting.

In the Western Addition area of San Francisco, a 26 year old black man was shot and killed just minutes after leaving the funeral of his 17 year old cousin. Not as much screen time was devoted to this shooting. The word "outrage" was not used.

Draw your own conclusions.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004


So, here I am, first day of work. Bet there's news today, but I don't know what it is yet. Let me know, k?

What I do know is that my keyboard is both loud and space-bar defective.


Monday, May 17, 2004

Today's News

So we have:

1.) Iraq's Governing Council leader is killed.

2.) Mass. is marrying same-sex couples.

3.) An "overzelous press aide" took the camera off Colin.

4.) Questions about American Idol call the very principle of a democratic America into question.

Off course the Idol story is the big one today.

Here's one more - an American Prospect piece on our favorite Dem Leader: How Nancy Pelosi Took Control

(Interestingly, the cover art on the issue - which I'll try to post later - depicts Nancy as the "We Can Do It" war-era icon, it's the second time I've seen her so rendered. The first was at last year's state convention. Apparently, the image sticks.)

I'm off - happy reading.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

On the road again

Summer break is just too short these days. After 16 days of relative freedom, it's back to work with my bad self. I fit a lot into these past few weeks. I rediscovered the beach and the joy of getting smacked around by waves. I got as tan as I probably can get (from eggshell to ecru). Made some friends. Lost an important one. Read a lot of news. Blogged plenty. Caught up with friends and mentors. Didn't run enough. Drove too much.

And so this Phoblographer signs off, packs up, and hits the road. Blogging will be spotty as I transition to a new job and prepare to do battle with the fine folks at Cox to get them to be speedy bunnies on the cable internet hook-up. So take the down time to register yourself at all the on-line papers I link to so we'll all be ready to get back to clicking and blogging asap.

New jobs give make me crazy, so think good thoughts my way. New rants to come soon . . . .

p.s. There are a grip of load errors on the page right now, so it seems. Sorry if they are screwing up your load times and performance, etc. I'm on it, as are my web guru and the fine folks at Blogger. Hope to have it cleared up by the time I'm up and running again. The thought of not being able to check email and the blog, etc, for nearly 24 hours makes me twitch. Oy vey! (and I'm not even Jewish!).

One more thing to make LAX more user friendly

So, maybe no more cell phones at LAX, the Rose Bowl, etc. Anti-terrorism of course. Which is logical - since even on the West Wing last week, the roadside bomb was detonated via cell phone.

What do you think?

Uh-oh, those Saturday Nights

From the Phoblog Pop Culture Files:

Tonight we bid a fond farewell to Jimmy Fallon. Smart. Funny. Hot. Half of the Weekend Update superstar team (along with head writer and fabulously witty Tina Fey).

You will be missed.

Diamond lanes are a girl's best friends

So some free-thinking San Jose guys got annoyed at solo flying carpool drivers so they took some photos and posted the should-be-$271-poorer drivers on their website,

Site's down now - they cite threats from who we can assume are angry drivers. Thank Hutch for the links on this story.

This makes me think about some recent legislation that came before my beloved Assembly Transportation Committee. Over the years, many groups have attempted to open HOV lane (that's High Occupancy Vehicle lane) access to any number of groups (disabled, etc). The lates efforts would give access to a limited number of low emission or hybrid vehicles (with long, complicated acronymed names and standards, but think Prius). Some Zero Emission Vehicles (that's right, ZEVs, cute, eh? everything gets its own name), are already in.

Here's the deal though - those in favor of such legislation cite carpool access as an incentive for people to buy lower emission vehicles, decreasing oil dependency, helping air quality, etc.

But - there's already waiting lists at most LEV dealers - people are already buying the cars - so why give them an extra goody.

Also, and more importantly, such proposals violate the policy underlying the HOV lane system. HOV lanes are there to decrease congestion. Some legislators argued that the goal of decreasing the number of cars on the road is to improve air quality.

They would be wrong.

Improving air quality is a fabulous bonus. The real goal is to decrease the number of cars on the road. Less congestion means better commute times. Better commute times are good for the economy. A free and mobile workforce, right? Everyone's happier, everyone's to work faster, home faster, less stressed, etc.

Don't clog the carpool lanes too. That gives us 5 lanes of shitty traffic instead of 4. Swell. Thanks legislature. I suppose it's only fair. At least those drivers have someone to chat with as they are trapped in their personal 405 hell.

So protect diamond lanes. Be mad at those bastards who sneak in because they are just SO much more important than the rest of us in our gas guzzling trucks and SUVs plodding along our asphalt estuaries.

Here's an alternate policy proposal - turn some of those HOV lanes into HOT lanes (AB 2032). The T rhymes with, uh, T and stands for toll (and stands for toll). High Occupancy Toll lanes are regular old HOV lanes to which you can purchase access, turning them into toll lanes.

In NorCal, HOV lanes are only HOV lanes during commute times (one of my favorite activities is driving in diamond lanes during 10am and 3pm and feeling like I'm getting away with something) - so this HOT lane would mean that drivers must have FasTrack transponders in their vehicles or they'd risk getting pulled over by our CHiPer friends (patrol cars have scanners that can actually check for valid FasTrack passes in single occupant vehicles. scary, eh?).

So what about that? Lexus Lanes, anyone? Still goes against public policy right? Is it any better that at least they are paying for it? In one of the proposed HOT corridors, the toll monies go to improving public transit and building more HOV lanes within the demonstration project area.

Here's your last factoid of the day: those FasTrack transponders? The ones that let you whiz through bridge toll plazas (for you SoCal-ers, think toll ways like the 73)? There are readers throughout the freeway system (they look like lensless cameras pointed at the highway, if you've seen one, you know how that's an oddly apt description) that pick up transponder signals and help the powers that be evaluate traffic flows and patterns - congestion, problem areas, etc.

Cool, eh? I plan on using one this summer. Gets me a buck off the Golden Gate toll. Bringing it down to a bargain $4/day. Damn Special Districts.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Snicker snicker

Hey, here's a proposal the trial attorneys are sure to get behind!

I'm not sure who the sympathetic side is in this article. Is it the famous Governor? The always popular legislature? The suffering plaintiffs? The giving attorneys?

All the jokes here are of the low-hanging-fruit variety. Go pick yourself some funnies.

Race day

So, Sunday is Bay To Breakers. It's 7.46 miles o fun through San Francisco from, uh, well, the Bay to the Breakers.

Seems there's some concerns for the naked people this year.

At any rate - I won't be singing the Hayes Street Blues this year. Next year I plan to run it - I just seem to end up in the wrong part of the state around this time every year. I won't, however, miss the Courtland Pear Fairthis year. Fine family fun. And a 5 mile fun run to boot. (you have to love any event where the tag line is "Always the Sunday in July." descriptive? no. informative? sure.)

Some criticize this race for not being out-and-back, (it's just out, how do you get back? have a nice 7.46 mile walk back) - but I think it sounds like the kinda nutty runnin' fun I'd enjoy. But for my San Francisco readers and runners, good luck.

'The Control Room'

This NYT article begins by contrasting Pfcs Lynch and England. The age old angel/whore characters make their war cameos.

But more specifically, the article is about images. About spin. About controlling and shaping information. From Al-Jazeera to Fox News - perhaps far apart in message, the two are tactically twins.

And our role? "[W]e were very good at feigning ignorance about our own propaganda while decrying Al Jazeera's fictionalizations."

How much of this war has come down to questions of images? Not even the images themselves, but rather their veracity, their stories. We are a nation obsessed by process. Form over substance. Method drowning out the madness.

Mommas don't let your babies grow up to be interns . . .

Hey, this kinda stuff don't happen in my Capitol . . .

Friday, May 14, 2004

It's a sign. says, rightly, "when you put a sign on the freeway, people will read it until someone takes it down."

Check out the site of pix from various freeways - one highlight reads, "Real Soldiers are Dying in their Hummers/So you can play soldier in yours/10 miles per gallon, 2 soldiers per day." Or from the very black humor department - "32,000 Dead and I'm still paying $2.29 for unleaded."

Sheesh, if only it were just $2.29.

Is it callous humor? Yes, but remember, commuters live by a different code anyway. Remember the Bay Bridge jumper? When all the motorists started shouting "Jump!" when the tortured soul was holding up traffic. says it's "dedicated to free speech and guerilla artists everywhere." I agree with their messages and I don't find freeway signs too problematic (though my inner former trans staffer worries about fender benders caused by motorists reading and not driving. not too much worry though).

From their manifesto: "Before the internet, before television and radio, photography or even the invention of the printing press, there was the sign. Five hundred, one thousand, even three thousand years ago, if you wanted to get your message out, you made a sign. " Damn if they aren't right.

And why does he do this?

1) It's my right. Free Speech by individuals, particularly of a political nature, is what keeps democracy alive. I have just as much a right to put my signs on the freeway as Clear Channel does to build billboards. It's not Free Speech if you have to pay for it.

2) It's my responsibility. As a citizen of the United States of America, it's my duty to defend my country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I do this because I love my country and the principles of freedom, fairness and equality it was founded on. I do this because I support our troops and do not want to see their lives wasted in a war built on lies. I do this, simply put, because I am all those things that the Limbaughs, Coulters, Hannitys and O'Reillys in this world say that I'm not: a Patriotic American.

3) It's my pleasure. Don't let the simplicity of the concept fool you: Freewayblogging is a lot more than just randomly sticking signs on the freeway. Pursued to its maximum effect, freewayblogging combines the arts and sciences of rhetoric, painting, engineering, psychology, physics and sneakiness. I encourage everyone, whatever their political bent, to try it. Unless, of course, you have nothing to say.

I like number 2 especially.

So what, his boss doesn't either

In Iraq,:

Rumsfeld said lawyers are advising against release of any more pictures of prisoners being abused, but he rejected the notion that withholding them would suggest a cover-up. "I've stopped reading newspapers," Rumsfeld told the troops. "You've got to keep your sanity somehow. I'm a survivor."

Read this on that statement.

Even as a joke, I can't believe he said that. I can't say that's not funny, because in a very black way, it is.

Does it scare anyone? Do we really think he means it? Does it matter? It doesn't seem like the administration acknowledges current events, not really, anyway. So does confirmation of that matter at all?

And he's a "survivor?" Beyonce would be proud. What, pray tell, has he survived? One heavily guarded swing through a war zone? Might there be others more accurately called "survivors?" If I were a flash expert, I'd make a little satirical cartoon depicting Rummy et al. in a Survivor, the TV show, parody. Watch as they navigate the hazardous jungle of the Hill. Avoiding mosquito-journalists and seeking to win the immunity tiki or whatever it is. Of course, in Bush's case, a Rumsfeld resignation probably would've been the immunity tiki.

He's a Survivor? I guess they all are. The question is, will we be?


From the NYT editorial:

Mr. Rumsfeld told the soldiers that they had broad public support at home despite the Abu Ghraib scandal. That is obviously true. It is also beside the point. The proper way for Mr. Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld to show support for the troops is not to use them as a screen from the heat over the mismanagement of the military prisons. It is to fix the problem, now. The solution is real changes, not cosmetic ones like yesterday's announcement that Abu Ghraib's inmates would be moved within the prison grounds to new temporary quarters, which have been dubbed Camp Redemption. . . .

Rather than assuring his uniformed audience — and the world — that the administration is moving heaven and earth to wipe out the rottenness within the prison system, the defense secretary simply urged the soldiers to ignore the politics back home.

And broaden your horizons with the UK take in this Guardian report.

Phoblog's May Movie Pick

It's the 1980 Olivia Newton John/Gene Kelly/Michael Beck roller-disco, Grecian muse classic, Xanadu.

Sample dialogue:

Kira: Have you ever heard the expression "kissed by a muse"? Well, that's what I am. I'm a muse.
Sonny: Well, I'm glad someone's having a good time.
Kira: Oh, don't make jokes; I'm serious.

C'mon, kids. Grab this gem and make it a Blockbuster night.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

There is a difference

Without commenting qualitatively, of course, this kind of story illustrates that fundamental differences between the sexes, in fact, exist. Nurture may have a lot to do with us, but nature always comes first.

And after you read this obituary from today's LAT, you might want to check out Jeffrey Eugenides's Middlesex. It's a fantastic novel that explores gender identity, cultural heritage, and a host of other familial ups and downs.

No no no no no no no no

Reform Party Endorsement of Nader Could Land Him on Key State Ballots:

WASHINGTON — The Reform Party endorsed Ralph Nader for president Wednesday, providing the independent candidate a potential shortcut onto the ballot in the contested states of Florida, Michigan and Colorado. . . .

Democrats widely blame Nader for the narrow loss of the party's 2000 nominee, Al Gore. This year, Democrats fear that Nader — who is positioning himself as a "peace candidate" to court voters who oppose the Iraq war — could siphon crucial support from Kerry's left flank.

Democrats, seriously guys, let's get to work . . . that would be ALL of us, Mr. Kerry, Mr. Sanders . . . .

More on the shifting sands of current foreign policy

This article profiles Rashid Khalidi, director of he Middle East Institute at Columbia.

Several notable things in this article -

First, almost a throwaway line not directly related to the article on the nature of Washington Journal callers looking for "a little anger endorsement:" "Tell me mine is the rage that matters most, so many callers seem to say."

Khalidi argues from a knowledge is power stance, rather than the power is power stance from which seems to flow so much of American policy these days. A critic dismissively says:

"What one finds, particularly in an election year, is that the world is filled with two kinds of people," says Pletka, who acknowledges Khalidi's credentials as a historian but not as a student of inside-the-Beltway policy making. "The kinds that make policy and the kinds who felt that if only the policy people had read their book, their memoir, their article, the policy would be different."

Khalidi's argument, however, rises a bit above calling the other guy a sore loser:

Khalidi's argument is that the world isn't divided into the lucky experts who get to make policy and resentful experts shut out of the conversation. Rather, it is divided between experts and ignorant political ideologues.

I would add "willfully" before "ignorant," but besides that, it's as adroit a description of our current lot as I've seen.

There's something here on the somewhat sinister shades of name-calling going on right now. It won't take too much searching my archives to see that I use the word "neocon" quite a bit. So, in advance, I'll go ahead and disagree with AEI's Ms. Pletka here:

"Neocon" and "neoconservative" are among Washington's most fraught rhetorical markers, used by some people in much the same way that "liberal" was once used to dismiss an entire category of supposedly failed thinking. Others, including the AEI's Pletka, see a more sinister resonance.

"I think the phrase 'neocon' is much more popular among people who think it shields their anti-Semitism," she says. "But it doesn't."

The most valuable word at any given time is the one which will silence your enemy. . . .

Which goes to the heart of one of the ideas in Khalidi's book: that the debate about Israel and Palestine, and proper U.S. policy in the region, has become so bitter that even experts dare not discuss it. In his book, he bemoans "the pervasive atmosphere of intimidation and fear that makes many experts on the region reluctant to express themselves frankly."

And another smart observation:

He has no patience for people who think "they hate us because we're us."

"They like us, they like our values," he says. "They hate our policies."

The good article ends on a disheartening note, however:

If one needs a clue to the book's fate, look to his C-SPAN appearance. On the screen, as he speaks, are three phone numbers: One for supporters of President Bush, another for Democrats, and a third for unidentified. He's trying to speak to America, but America is coming back at him, neatly channeled, into partisan categories. And America sounds too angry, this morning, to read a book.

This is sadly accurate, isn't it? There's just no discourse. Not on the Middle East, not in America today. Question blind, or even just regular, siding with Israel? You're an anti-Semite. Question the administration's policies? You're unpatriotic, you've just killed soldiers. There's an incredible unwillingness to talk anymore. So much falls in the third-rail category . . . we may as well just fess up to being a monorail people.

That noise you hear is the BS-o-meter screeching in disagreement

On the main page of is the headline "Rumsfeld Calls Abuse Scandal a 'Body Blow.'" But it's the subhead that had me in stitches:

"Defense chief denies that surprise trip to Baghdad is meant to quell criticism over Iraqi prisoner abuse."


If you believe that, I have some sandy WMD to sell you . . . .

Why is a raven like a writing desk?

Or, why is a blog like a Tamagotchi?

I have had two people comment on the volume of blogged stuff on the Phoblog here. It does seem like a lot at times. One friend likened it to a pet that you have to feed or walk in the evenings. And yes, it is kind of like that.

I've been thinking how it's like a Tamagotchi. Do you remember those?

They were quite the thing, circa 1997. I can still remember when my then-boyfriend surprised me at a Math Fair (yea, I was that kinda nerd, go ahead, have your fun) with my very own clear blue one, kinda like in that picture. I still have it somewhere - long-dead battery and all. Anyway - you had to feed it and love it and whatever else or it shriveled and died. Pretty heavy for a keychain toy. When it died it had these little wings . . . all Tamagotchis go to heaven, apparently.

Oh, before they died they could get surly and pissy too. It was fun.

Anyway - the long drawn out analogy here is that, yes, this blog is a pet of mine. It's a project. A labor either of love or of frustration. It's a bit of an obsession at time. But it gives me a voice. And relieves coworkers and family of listening to my rants live (though if you ask nicely, I'll still put in personal appearances when need be). There's so much to say right now. So much truth to seek and pass on.

So yes, it is like a pet. A demanding, omnipresent pet. But in a twist, if I don't tend to it, someone else might - not here on Phoblog, but elsewhere. There isn't much scooping in the blogworld, but no one likes to be too behind the times.

So I blog a lot. And I hope I always do. The Tamagotchi died. I have higher hopes for Phoblographer*.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Another new kid on the blog

A big welcome to Unfunded Mandate, a new blog by another former CMCer and Rose Institute alum, we fondly refer to as Hutch.

Some blogs start from political movements, some from hobbies. Unfunded Mandate stems from one Missourian's need to defend St. Louis to the death.

We all have our motiations. But he does have a catchy name.

This one manages to stay on mesage

Here's a decidedly non-blurred line on loving the war, hating [some of] the warriors - from Safire in today's NYT:

Taguba said, "A few soldiers and civilians conspired to abuse. . . ." But the names Taguba's report named were not important enough for those who want to use this scandal to justify their opposition to this war until the nation wearies of the conflict and the Bush administration can be ousted.

Those of us who believe in the nobility of exporting freedom cannot trivialize the scandal. But we need not let our dismay at the predations of some self-photographing creeps overwhelm the morally sound purpose of our antiterror campaign. Nor should the dereliction of some officers detract from the brave and upright service of almost all our warriors.

The names named were not important enough.

And I guess since we can't see to export any goods, we may as well export ideas. What's the returning import, though? Probably something ugly.

Beware the coming balance of trade.

From the tube

I just saw a clip of an interview with the American prison guard (the woman with the short hair holding the Iraqi on a leash) saying that they felt nothing they did was past what they were told to do.

I should read the Taguba and Red Cross reports before I wax poetic on where in the chain of command this came from - especially since I heard there was a 3 star general's memo that gave such orders. But I can't help but think the order was something a bit more vague. Break them however you can, boys and girls. Do whatever it takes. Think about what they've done to your brothers in arms. And it just escalates from there.

Why does it have a sexual bent? Why do so many stand-up comedians resort to dick and fart jokes? Because base level humor and humiliation is borderless. There is no culture in which the actions depicted in these photos would not be an ultimate form of humiliation. It packs extra punch in the Arab/Muslim world, especially when you have women doing it to men.

Is there something wrong with me that these actions just aren't so shocking? No, let me amend that. It's not that they aren't shocking, it's that I don't see the need to essentialize them as the actions of a few depraved hearts. I think every single human is capable of depravity. All of us. You, me, your mom, my brother, whoever. As soon as you stick them on the outside you set up the next incident.

And, by the way, how many more times can we as a civilization handle hearing "I was just following orders," as a way to escape responsibility?

Maybe that's why I really am not cut out for military service. I might tell 'em to shove it.

Or worse yet - I might not.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

What have we become?

From LA Observed: Another journo nabbed at LAX.

Elena Lappin, a Brit -- you know, the allies -- got off her plane from London and made the mistake of telling U.S. officials she would be mixing a little freelance journalism with her sight-seeing. Her story, told on the L.A. Times op-ed page today, includes being cuffed, searched, perp-walked, held overnight in a downtown cell and ignored when she complained about feeling sick.

Where are we? Who are we?

'Video shows beheading of American captive in Iraq'

The fallout begins, graphically and horribly:

"'We tell you the pride of all Muslim men and women in Abu Ghraib and other jails is worth blood and souls.'"

There are a lot of heavy quotations in this article - it was hard to pick one. But I think this one wins because, when it comes down to it, and probably especially in this culture, pride is so, so important. And, really, at the base of it all, what war isn't about honor?

Civilization and all its discontents is built on a pissing contest, isn't it? And who's mother wears combat boots? And who was here first or started it first or fired the first shot or humiliated the first prisoner?

Look what we've done. Just look at us, where we are. So where do we go from here? It's going to get worse before it gets any better.

On Blogging and Human Nature

Josh Marshall once again gets it on the issue of the day - or days - which continues to be Abu Ghraib.

He cites Senator Inhofe's outrage over the outrage. The Sentaor, as others have before him, argues that the prisoners in the photos were in jail and given their location they were probably murderers, terrorists, insurgents, etc, some, or many, with American blood on their hands.

Josh cites to another article saying that between 70% and 90% of inmates were there by mistake. And that according to CNN, McCain walked out during Inhofe's statement.

Here's what troubles me - even without the 70%/90% stats. How can we be satisfied with leadership that devolves into "well they started it"-ness? I guess it's human nature to duck responsibility - no likes to get in trouble or to be disliked. But citing an offenders sins as an excuse for mistreatment? Aren't we better? Isn't our moral superiority, er, clarity, our Almighty-derived freedom, our civility what separates us from those-that-want-only-death? Can't we rise above? There is NO excuse for what happened there. To attempt to sleep better by saying they were probably murderers anyway - I'm sorry, it doesn't cut it. We're losing humanity by drops and gallons over there.

These dueling arguments - that we were wrong at Abu Ghraid v. they were wrong first and that's how they got to Abu Ghraib - have made me think more about the death penalty here generally. That and the Kamala Harris flap in San Francisco. I'm not sure if I'm 100% in favor of it or against it at this point. But I think we have to acknowledge a certain baseness if we sanction killing. Maybe it can't be avoided. But I want more open-minded leadership - more deliberative leadership that can recognize - and if need be make peace with - hypocrisy.

And on blogging - it seems to work a lot like briefing your legislator boss. Somewhere there's a huge file that gets distilled into a bill. The bill is synopsized in an analysis which is then paraphrased verbally at a briefing which turns into a blurb on a document and then sometimes even into a thumbs up or thumbs down offered from across the room. So here there's volumes of evidence into an article into a headline into a post into my post. That's kind of the world, though, isn't it.

Somewhere there's one huge book with absolutely all the information, answers, and of course - and most importantly - questions. But it's all been summarized into 8 million blog posts. Crazy.

Thanks, Josh, LJ, LA Observed, and all the other blogs out there - and Google for the blogger button that makes my ripping and linking possible.


Read this
NYT editorial on what's going on. Most compelling sentence: "These practices go well beyond any gray area of American values, international law or the Geneva Conventions."

We shouldn't need a handbook, a training manual, or a set of international agreements to prevent this kind of behavior. Just like frat boys shouldn't destroy furniture and stupid kids should play with matches in the woods. Some things just happen because, as a camp friend once said, "little boys are stupid." That they're stupid isn't an excuse, it's an explanation to help you understand why. But this goes beyond that, doesn't it? Or maybe it doesn't. Maybe this is what happens when the other crap goes unchecked. It really makes you wonder . . . .


Read this for now - more on the neocons' emerging strategy.

More later . . . gotta be responsible student girl for awhile . . .

Monday, May 10, 2004

5 Thoughts to Ponder

On the Politics of Fear:

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." - H.L. Mencken

"Naturally, the common people don't want war...but, after all it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship...Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country." - Herman Goering at Nuremberg trial in 1946

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

On Religious Fanaticism:"Their credulity debased and vitiated the faculties of the mind: they corrupted the evidence of history; and superstition gradually extinguished the hostile light of philosophy and science." - Edward Gibbon

On Checks & Balances: "A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." - James Madison, from a letter to W.T. Barry, August 4, 1822

'Rules of San Francisco Dating #1-8'

So I was checking out some craigslist stuff for my mom. I decided to check out the "best of" segment and came across this gem: Rules of San Francisco Dating #1-8

The how-to on Sushi is priceless, as is this line on how to turn a booty call into a relationship:

If you are a gay male, look at the catalogs in his bathroom and see if there's anything circled. You know what to do.

And check out this appliance, soon to be a must-have for every home.

Add this to the Central Valley and San Diego

The 909 is in the GOP house, apparently.

The IE (Inland Empire for you non-SoCal types) is getting an identity - starting with the "IE" moniker that's part of the OC/LA/Two letters lingo.

'Unmarried, Female and Turned Off by Politics'

Okay, we all know I don't fall into this category, but it's interesting to think that we have another sleeping giant out there just waiting to be awakened by the right candidate.

Also - scroll to the bottom of the article and note the voter turnout stats. They're higher than I'd have guessed.

Public Enemy Number One

Statements that I pray remain true - Exhibit A:

Nader, who has yet to qualify for any state ballot . . .


He's suing of course - to get on the Texas ballot.

Lest I be accused of one-sided-ness

Duck and cover: An Israeli settler protects his daughter as Palestinian assailants fire on his fellow settlers, who were holding a memorial ceremony on a road near the Gush Katif settlement in the Gaza Strip. The settlers were marking the spot where a pregnant woman and her four young daughters were killed by militants last week. (SF Chron)

See, it's all bad. This kid doesn't really understand the difference between herself and some equally terrified Palestinian kid somewhere. But this how they both must grow up.

I note as well how dissimilar the expressions are. He seems almost calm - maybe bored by the unfriendly fire. That's pretty sad too.

Survey says . . . .

I received this via email, so I don't have a link. Here it is in cut & paste form, with some things highlighted for your consideration. I'm going to thread in blue as well:

Released: May 9, 2004
The Election Is Kerry's To Lose

By John Zogby

I have made a career of taking bungee jumps in my election calls. Sometimes I haven't had a helmet and I have gotten a little scratched. But here is my jump for 2004: John Kerry will win the election.

Have you recovered from the shock? Is this guy nuts? Kerry's performance of late has hardly been inspiring and polls show that most Americans have no sense of where he really stands on the key issues that matter most to them. Regardless, I still think that he will win. And if he doesn't, it will be because he blew it. There are four major reasons for my assertion:

So Kerry will win. Unless he doesn't. Doesn't get more 100% than that.

First, my most recent poll (April 12-15) shows bad re-election numbers for an incumbent President. Senator Kerry is leading 47% to 44% in a two-way race, and the candidates are tied at 45% in the three-way race with Ralph Nader. Significantly, only 44% feel that the country is headed in the right direction and only 43% believe that President Bush deserves to be re-elected - compared with 51% who say it is time for someone new.

In that same poll, Kerry leads by 17 points in the Blue States that voted for Al Gore in 2000, while Bush leads by only 10 points in the Red States that he won four years ago.

Second, there are very few undecided voters for this early in a campaign. Historically, the majority of undecideds break to the challenger against an incumbent. The reasons are not hard to understand: voters have probably made a judgment about the better-known incumbent and are looking for an alternative.

Third, the economy is still the top issue for voters - 30% cite it. While the war in Iraq had been only noted by 11% as the top issue in March, it jumped to 20% in our April poll as a result of bad war news dominating the news agenda. The third issue is the war on terrorism. Among those who cited the economy, Kerry leads the President 54% to 35%. Among those citing the war in Iraq, Kerry's lead is 57% to 36%. This, of course, is balanced by the 64% to 30% margin that the President holds over Kerry on fighting the war on terrorism. These top issues are not likely to go away. And arguably, there is greater and growing intensity on the part of those who oppose and want to defeat Bush.

These numbers suprise me. I didn't know Kerry was so high on the economy. Of course, the "war on terrorism" rating is the most annoying of all. It bothers me because we really can't know if this war on terror is effective until we're bombed or something and therefore know it's INeffective. No news is good news in that department, I suppose. But with all the chinks in the administrative armour showing now, how can people still blithely believe that we're safer. I still don't get why Dean was such a baddy for asking if we were really safer with Saddam captured. I know I have a few Reep/right readers who will email or comment to let me know, though. Also, that there is "greater and growing intensity on the part of those who opposed and want to defeat Bush" is great. But intensity doesn't equal voters. I like intensity (intensity of purpose, right?), but by November, you can keep fervor, I want turnout.

The President's problem is further compounded by the fact that he is now at the mercy of situations that are out of his control. While the economy is improving, voters historically do not look at indicators that measure trillions and billions of dollars. Instead, their focus is on hundreds and thousands of dollars. In this regard, there is less concern for increases in productivity and gross domestic product and more regard for growth in jobs and maintaining of health benefits. Just 12 years ago, the economy had begun its turnaround in the fourth quarter of 1991 and was in full recovery by spring 1992 - yet voters gave the President's father only 38% of the vote because it was all about "the economy, stupid."

The same holds true for Iraq. Will the United States actually be able to leave by June 30? Will Iraq be better off by then? Will the US be able to transfer power to a legitimate and unifying authority? Will the lives lost by the US and its allies be judged as the worth the final product? It is difficult to see how the President grabs control of this situation.

Finally, if history is any guide, Senator Kerry is a good closer. Something happens to him in the closing weeks of campaigns (that obviously is not happening now!). We have clearly seen that pattern in his 1996 victory over Governor Bill Weld for the Senate in Massachusetts and more recently in the 2004 Democratic primaries. All through 2003, Kerry's campaign lacked a focused message. He tends to be a nuanced candidate: thoughtful, briefed, and too willing to discuss a range of possibly positions on every issue. It is often hard to determine where he actually stands. In a presidential campaign, if a candidate can't spell it out in a bumper sticker, he will have trouble grabbing the attention of voters. By early 2004, as Democratic voters in Iowa and elsewhere concluded that President Bush could be defeated, they found Governor Howard Dean's message to be too hot and began to give Kerry another look. Kerry came on strong with the simplest messages: "I'm a veteran", "I have the experience", and "I can win". His timing caused him to come on strong at the perfect time. As one former his Vietnam War colleague of told a television correspondent in Iowa: "John always knows when his homework is due."

Let's hope so. Frankly, I'd be happier if he could turn in some drafts along the way.

Though he is hardly cramming for his finals yet and is confounding his supporters, possible leaners, and even opponents with a dismal start on the hustings, the numbers today are on his side (or at least, not on the President's side).

We are unlikely to see any big bumps for either candidate because opinion is so polarized and, I believe, frozen in place. There are still six months to go and anything can still happen. But as of today, this race is John Kerry's to lose.

There's not enough attention paid to the Nader factor here. It's disturbing that only 11% - 20% of voters rank Iraq as their number one concern. But that's enough of a chunk out of the Dem base to cause some real trouble if some fall off the DNC wagon - as many may. Zogby generally has a good read, but look back to his "Kerry wins unless he doesn't" analysis and it's easy to see that this is still anyone's game.

Oh honestly . . . .

Barf -

Safire pleads: Hang in there, Rummy! You have a duty to serve in our "long, hard slog."

Cocksure, incurious, and lazy

What are: three words to describe the current commander in chief?

That's Josh Marshall drawing from Jacob Weisberg in a great post about the state of the union and the recent bad news flood. You should read it yourself - it starts off with an Andrew Sullivan quote on credibility and accountability. Another example of a pro-war type starting to see that out is better than in these days. But read Josh's explanation of the larger context and then read Sullivan himself.

Let's return to the Weisberg piece for a moment, The Misunderestimated Man - How Bush chose stupidity.

First off, great name - it's an adaptation of an introduction to a "Bushisms" book. He makes a good point about the folly of labeling Bush a dunce (as, I'll freely admit, I frequently do):

What's more, calling the president a cretin absolves him of responsibility. Like Reagan, Bush avoids blame for all manner of contradictions, implausible assertions, and outright lies by appearing an amiable dunce. If he knows not what he does, blame goes to the three puppeteers, Cheney, Rove, and Rumsfeld. It also breeds sympathy. We wouldn't laugh at FDR because he couldn't walk. Is it less cruel to laugh at GWB because he can't talk? The soft bigotry of low expectations means Bush is seen to outperform by merely getting by. Finally, elitist condescension, however merited, helps cement Bush's bond to the masses.

I would say that last comment about cementing the bond is important - especially given his tendency to use humor and "believe me the American people know"-isms to snub the "elite" and praise the Texan in us all (that he himself comes from one of the most privilidge dynasties of all time seems to have slipped his and the country's minds).

"Aggressive ignorance," is perhaps the best two-word evaluation of the President.

And on the rebirth of a somber hard-worker:

After half a lifetime of this kind of frustration, Bush decided to straighten up. Nursing a hangover at a 40th-birthday weekend, he gave up Wild Turkey, cold turkey. With the help of Billy Graham, he put himself in the hands of a higher power and began going to church. He became obsessed with punctuality and developed a rigid routine. Thus did Prince Hal molt into an evangelical King Henry. And it worked! Putting together a deal to buy the Texas Rangers, the ne'er-do-well finally tasted success. With success, he grew closer to his father, taking on the role of family avenger. This culminated in his 1994 challenge to Texas Gov. Ann Richards, who had twitted dad at the 1988 Democratic convention*.

Curiously, this late arrival at adulthood did not involve Bush becoming in any way thoughtful. Having chosen stupidity as rebellion, he stuck with it out of conformity. The promise-keeper, reformed-alkie path he chose not only drastically curtailed personal choices he no longer wanted, it also supplied an all-encompassing order, offered guidance on policy, and prevented the need for much actual information. Bush's old answer to hard questions was, "I don't know and, who cares." His new answer was, "Wait a second while I check with Jesus."

So we have a guy who likes order - a patter that's comfortable - whether it's the easily spotted order of the bible with its golden rules and handily numbered commandments or the ordered disorder of a disobediant son who sees the right path and simply chooses the other one. He sticks with something until it's convenient for him to change. So he changes context, but not really ever form. Willful academic failure gives way to willed business success, sorta, and then willed political victory - but always at the behest of an outside force - his father, Bill Graham, Cheney . . . .

But his acting out never really went away - his textbook frosh psych-ing of his father (I hate you but I need your approval, you never spent time with me, now go away) is evident in everything from his political life to his policy choices (if there's any difference between the two):

This Oedipally induced ignorance expresses itself most dangerously in Bush's handling of the war in Iraq. Dubya polished off his old man's greatest enemy, Saddam, but only by lampooning 41's accomplishment of coalition-building in the first Gulf War. Bush led the country to war on false pretenses and neglected to plan the occupation that would inevitably follow. A more knowledgeable and engaged president might have questioned the quality of the evidence about Iraq's supposed weapons programs. One who preferred to be intelligent might have asked about the possibility of an unfriendly reception. Instead, Bush rolled the dice. His budget-busting tax cuts exemplify a similar phenomenon, driven by an alternate set of ideologues.

An "aggressively ignorant," "dedicated fool."

Cast your ballots accordingly.

[Update - Check out this TPM post also: Just to pass on some added information, about which we'll be saying more. There is chatter in Pakistani intelligence circles that the US has let the Pakistanis know that the optimal time for bagging 'high value' al Qaida suspects in the untamed Afghan-Pakistani border lands is the last ten days of July, 2004. Gee, what else is going on at the end of July, 2004 . . . there was something on the calendar, I want to say, maybe, Boston? God, what was that? . . . .]

How do you say 'incredible' in Arabic?

The nation owes Rummy a "debt of gratitude?"

Uh, thanks?

So I guess no one is asking for any resignations this morning.

This is blogworthy stuff the president is spewing - although it's his standard riff on what hot sh*t we are in Iraq and how everyone over there, except the ones baking the cakes for our walk, are murderers and terrorists. Glad he cleared that up, again. I hope you're watching, Iraqi people. See, we're not so bad and you're not so bad off.

Someone comment on the rest of his blurb - I gotta go see a guy about some art . . . .

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Go Stags!

Checking up on what links to phoblog - I came across Robert Tagorda's Priorities & Frivolities. He says (and yeah, here's where trackingback would probably be helpful):

Collegiate Networks
And here I sat envious of Stephen Bainbridge, Eugene Volokh, and Phil Carter, who share UCLA Law School connections; Dan Drezner, Jacob Levy, and Pejman Yousefzadeh, who have University of Chicago ties; James Joyner and Steven Taylor, who have teaching experience at Troy State; and Patrick Belton, David Adesnik, and Josh Chafetz, who know one another from Oxford. Yet, all this time, two fellow Claremont McKenna College graduates inhabit the blogosphere by my side. To top it off, both are former colleagues at the Rose Institute of State and Local Government, where I learned the joys of redistricting and reapportionment.

Christiana Dominguez writes Phoblographer*. It has a decidedly liberal perspective, as you can no doubt tell from this snipe at Tom Friedman and this endorsement of E.J. Dionne. Amber Taylor, a "recovering Objectivist and small-l libertarian," publishes Class Maledictorian, which has recent entries on emergency contraception, gender-neutral bathrooms, and rabbits.

Both ladies are bright, so pay their sites a visit. If nothing else, click their links endlessly and help raise our alma mater's online profile!

Thanks for the shoutout. And, oh look, my permalinks aren't linking right from his site either. Fab. And I didn't know about Amber's site, so let's check that out now. . .

Amber is characteristically brilliant and blisteringly witty on her blog, Class Maledictorian.

Check her out - she'll most likely own you, or at least a controlling interest of you, someday soon.

Hot damn, it's a new phase of Blogger

Wow. So Blogger went down for awhile today and when it came back - poof - all kinds of nifty new stuff. So perhaps some changes are in store for the Phoblog. Blogger has it's own comments app now, though I'd hate to lose what's already in the comments on the posts . . . .

And I can post via email. Nifty keen, indeed.

Okay - time to learn this stuff . . . . Watch for new stuff soon.

Update on the post below

From the famous last words department -

As I was reading up on Zakaria, I came across this gem, from a piece called, The Arrogant Empire, dated December 10, 2003:

In one respect, I believe that the Bush administration is right: this war will look better when it is over. The military campaign will probably be less difficult than many of Washington’s opponents think. Most important, it will reveal the nature of Saddam’s barbarous regime. Prisoners and political dissidents will tell stories of atrocities. Horrific documents will come to light. Weapons of mass destruction will be found. If done right, years from now people will remember above all that America helped rid Iraq of a totalitarian dictator.

Of course, the following paragraph is more accurate:

But the administration is wrong if it believes that a successful war will make the world snap out of a deep and widening mistrust and resentment of American foreign policy. A war with Iraq, even if successful, might solve the Iraq problem. It doesn’t solve the America problem. What worries people around the world above all else is living in a world shaped and dominated by one country—the United States. And they have come to be deeply suspicious and fearful of us.

Two to chew on

A pair of articles stimulate some conversation on the direction we're headed, and where the neocon chatter is headed:

First, Fareed Zakaria says in his Newsweek column, The Price of Arrogance:

Leave process aside: the results are plain. On almost every issue involving postwar Iraq—troop strength, international support, the credibility of exiles, de-Baathification, handling Ayatollah Ali Sistani—Washington's assumptions and policies have been wrong. By now most have been reversed, often too late to have much effect. This strange combination of arrogance and incompetence has not only destroyed the hopes for a new Iraq. It has had the much broader effect of turning the United States into an international outlaw in the eyes of much of the world.

Whether he wins or loses in November, George W. Bush's legacy is now clear: the creation of a poisonous atmosphere of anti-Americanism around the globe. I'm sure he takes full responsibility.

So he sounds pretty against where the war has brought us. But he doesn't seem against the war itself. He wasn't when it started (Why It's Now or Never With Iraq by Fareed Zakaria). It will be interesting to watch the neocon decision makers and supportive commentators who helped get us here. Those who speak now condemning the war who said nothing at the start stand to cleanse themselves of their initial sins. It's kind of sad, if you think about it. They can line up shoulder to shoulder with those who've opposed the war from the beginning and just trust that forgetful minds will rule the day.

Turning from commentary to reporting, here's a Washington Post article on the shocking thought that maybe we aren't winning hearts and minds after all:

Deep divisions are emerging at the top of the U.S. military over the course of the occupation of Iraq, with some senior officers beginning to say that the United States faces the prospect of casualties for years without achieving its goal of establishing a free and democratic Iraq.

Their major worry is that the United States is prevailing militarily but failing to win the support of the Iraqi people. That view is far from universal, but it is spreading and being voiced publicly for the first time.

You see, tactically, we're winning all over the place. But tactics are only good so far as they go. If the underlying strategy is faulty, then the best victory you get is pyrrhic, right? That's not flag-waving worthy. Not for my country. Not for my flag.

Even those closest to the conflict are having doubts. Tale this very model of a modern major general, "the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, who spent much of the year in western Iraq:"

"I lost my brother in Vietnam," added Hughes, a veteran Army strategist who is involved in formulating Iraq policy. "I promised myself, when I came on active duty, that I would do everything in my power to prevent that [sort of strategic loss] from happening again. Here I am, 30 years later, thinking we will win every fight and lose the war, because we don't understand the war we're in."

And this isn't the only military man voicing concern. Read the article - there are many, many more, all saying the same thing. We came in with no idea of how to get out. What does Wolfowitz say?

"There's no question that we're facing some difficulties," Wolfowitz said. "I don't mean to sound Pollyannaish -- we all know that we're facing a tough problem." But, he said, "I think the course we've set is the right one, which is moving as rapidly as possible to Iraqi self-government and Iraqi self-defense."

Pollyannaish? You may not mean it, but you sound it, and it works better with and on ten year old ringlet-ed girls. Steak and ice cream for all! Things aren't so bad.

"Like a lot of senior Army guys, I'm quite angry" with Rumsfeld and the rest of the Bush administration, the young general said. He listed two reasons. "One is, I think they are going to break the Army." But what really incites him, he said, is, "I don't think they care."

And that's the biggest problem. They don't care. To them, soldiers, young white, brown, and black men and women are just exclamation points, emphasis to apply to their message, their goals, their wild-eyed crusade for . . . well, something.

But perhaps the best example of how misguided the powers that be are comes at the end of the article. When asked about the "antagonism" of military types, Wolfowitz says: "I wish they'd have the -- whatever it takes -- to come tell me to my face."

HE is called those in uniform facing down death in a desert cowards?

He said that by contrast, he had been "struck at how many fairly senior officers have come to me" to tell him that he and Rumsfeld have made the right decisions concerning the Army.

You know, I read about those kinds of senior officers. Yesmen, I believe they are called. It's bad to start buying your own press, sir.

Who still believes these men? They refuse to see what's going on. They're more content to talk than listen. See no evil. They hear no evil. But they continue to speak evil.

Now it's time for those who see their Big Ideas failing and bleeding all over to scamper about for cover and cleansing. Many will succeed because we aren't doing enough to hold them accountable.

The only thing we can do is - to quote a rapper, of all things - "read more, write more, save the globe."

Friedman stumbles upon a good idea:

From today's column:

I visited the Japanese cellphone company DoCoMo in Tokyo 10 days ago. A robot made by Honda gave me part of the tour, even bowing in perfect Japanese fashion. My visit there coincided with yet another suicide bomb attack against U.S. forces in Iraq. I could not help thinking: Why are the Japanese making robots into humans, while Muslim suicide squads are making humans into robots?

Okay, so the idea I get from this isn't so much where he's going. But why not automate the whole war? I know, I know, it's not like it's a new idea or anything. But what is it about war that we feel we need to fight ourselves?