Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Yet Another Problem With a Legal Education

The growing inability to speak without footnoting your statements. For example, I was struck immediately by something in Bush's handwritten note on Condi's advisory one that Iraq was soverign.

But did I blog it? Noooo. Am I going to blog it now? Sure. But only because I can cite Ms. Dowd for saying it in print:

"Let freedom reign.
Couldn't Karl Rove and his minions at least get that "ad-lib" right about freedom ringing?"

Please Conjugate the Verb 'To Snooker'

I knew when I was reading it that something smelled fishy in today's Safire column. I couldn't put my finger on what - well - on what one thing anyway - was causing the problem. Of course, Josh Marshall suffers from no such loss of words. Not only does he get the same ick feeling, he's able to ID specific factual errors underlying Safire's arguments.

Foul and fuming, Veep stays on the ticket

Besides loving him for his abiding love of my naive Los Angeles, I love the way Harold Meyerson's quick and razor edged commentary on November's second banana's captures the Cheney wordsmithing flack and flicks it back at the right. The reason he sees for the F-ing slip up?

[The Administration] invaded Iraq because they believed erroneous evidence (and may still believe it, all actual evidence to the contrary) or, more plausibly, because they could, because they knew they'd feel better afterward. Of course, because they discarded the occupation plans developed by the State Department, the CIA and the military and opted to go into Iraq with no occupation plan whatever, they don't feel better afterward. The place is a bloody mess. No wonder they're cussing at Democrats. It's one of the few small pleasures their current life affords.

Before you hit send

You might want to read this article, and think about it for a moment.

I suppose it may just be a matter of knowing who might have access to your email. Don't like it, don't use it. But, as baby lawyers are taught from day one - it's always about that slippery slope . . . .

Here's an interesting, novel, free, and easy way to help American service men and women.

Yesterday, I finally checked out WIL WHEATON DOT NET (yeah, that Wil Wheaton - funny guy, good blogger) and one of featured links was to

The concept? Gmail is free and can handle gigantic files, meaning troops can get photos, movies, and other datagobbling messages from home without mail bouncing back home.

I've had a gmail account for awhile now, but I don't really use it. Hadn't even noticed the "invite" feature until the Wheaton/Gmail4Troops sites prompted me to figure it all out.

Hope it helps. If you have gmail invites, consider doing the same.

Independence Day

I’m already dreading the multitude of articles, TV pieces, etc, that will frame this week’s handover in Iraq with our Independence Day celebrations here in America. Seems tailor made, doesn’t it?

But thinking on the Fourth, for a moment . . . This will be my first San Francisco July 4th. The past 4 years have seen me in different places (with different partners, but that’s a different story) celebrating the holiday in similar ways. But I wonder how this change of setting will change the party.

Two years ago, I lounged in the grass framing a posh East Sacramento home, watching the neighbors parade by (literally) with kids in festooned red wagons and firemen with shiny trucks waving at the bbq-ers and watermelon eaters waving back. Oh the undeniable Americana of it all . . . . We ate all day – burgers, hotdogs, strawberries, you know, the usual. We swam. We sunburned. We lit off surplus fireworks from the local fundraising booth at which we’d been volunteering until god-knows-how-late.

Last year, same menu, but in Los Angeles, listening to a close friend’s stories of his recent journalistic travels in the Middle East, watching local fireworks, and several more, Mraz-like, from the freeway, late at night.

But this year, I’m Bay Area bound – away from my family and the familiar, I wonder what the 4th looks like here. Not to bow to stereotype, but in anti-war Baghdad by the Bay, America looks different. There aren’t many lights at Christmas. There aren’t many flags on Memorial Day – will there be any on the Fourth? My plans include partying in Emeryville (from which 3 or 4 big fireworks shows can be seen around the Bay, so I’m told). The menu? Truly American, said my hostess, eclectic and diverse. My mouth was set for turkey dogs and hamburgers – but the main dish? Enchiladas. And it is beautiful that way.

In a city where the flags are more often rainbow than red-white-and-blue, and the voters are usually bluer than the red rest of the country, patriotism is expressed as much in how we break traditional notions of American as it is in how we celebrate it. And if dissent truly is the most American expression of patriotism, then I can’t imagine where I’d have a more independent Independence Day.

[This piece is cross-posted at SF.Metroblogging.]

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Part-time Issue Leads to Full-time Headaches

Phoblog readers aren't strangers to my views on the (de)merits of a part-time legislature. As a semi-insider - or at least one who was inside for enough time to make me damn near a seasoned veteran in this post-term-limits era - I know full well the good and the bad that goes down under the dome.

This California Journal feature takes a thorough look at some of the lesser known controversies sure to arise from a effort to bring the part-time initiative to the ballot - namely, the legal headache of deciding whether such change amounts to a revision or an amendment.

"What the hell?" I can hear you say. Same thing. No, not exactly. This is California. More importantly, this is government, so nothing is ever obvious or even Webster-able. To really oversimplify - amendments tinker 'round the edges. Revisions fundamentally alter the structure of government - the balance of power between the branches. Though the article does an admirable job getting into the minutiae of this legal reasoning, it can't really answer the question.

I'm betting that should the courts adjudicate this question, their decisions will turn on whether there's a de jure shift of power between the branches. Obviously, to me anyway, there will be a de facto shift as the Executive Branch continues it's lumbering ascendancy. The practical outcome must be a stronger Executive. But the practical outcome and whatever outcome perceived by the courts seldom match up.

On the merits of the proposal itself:

"Of course I'm serious about it," Schwarzenegger told the California Journal. "I think there is [an] endless amount of bills that are created by legislators when they are not fully occupied with working challenges and serious challenges. And some of them are always occupied with serious challenges, especially the ones that are in charge of certain committees and stuff, they're working very hard. But there's others, you know, where it's better if they just go and take care of business and then go back to work, whatever they do."

Well, yeah, that's true, there's lots of crap that moves through the system. But to this argument, I offer a twist on sage advice: Hate the player, not the game. Redistricting reform (real reform, not Ted Costa sloppy reform, not this open primary mumbo jumbo that's already deceiving voters and journalists) could give us competitive districts and maybe even real leadership. Better players, better game.

And from the It's A Small World category:

Gary Kovall, a legal scholar and senior fellow at the The Rose Institute for State and Local Government, said changing the Legislature to part-time is both popular with the public and legally defensible as an amendment, and not a revision. Kovall has co-authored a definitive study on California's 1966 transition from part-time to full-time Legislature . . . .

. . . . Kovall proposes limiting the sessions, while maintaining bipartisan interim commission that would make recommendations for legislation, thus giving lawmakers a leg up on worthy bills. "In the interim, there's a lot of thought and research going on. It's kind of what Nevada does. Perhaps it's heretical to say we should look at Texas for anything... but they do well with a short session every other year. They get bills done and they take care of their state."

Full disclosure - I worked at the Rose for 3+ years in college and was its Student Manager my final year. I know Gary Kovall well (great singing voice, by the way). But I totally and completely disagree with him here. Natch.

A bipartisan interim commission? Are you kidding me? So much of the admin-heavy California rule and law making process is already in the hands of the invisible and unaccountable and now you want a commission? Nuh-uh. No way. I vote for people because I can un-vote for them later. I don't get to appoint the commission directly, I'm sure, so I don't get to fire them either. No deal.

How does creating a quasi-legislative, policy proposing body help establish a more efficient, effective California? It doesn't.

What about just slowing the stream of bad legislation?

Too, Schwarzenegger wants to limit the number of bills. Already, senators are limited to 50 bills each per session, and members of the Assembly to 40, although there are exceptions to the rules, and Democrats control the rules. Formally limiting individual bills is all but certain to expand the number of omnibus, complex "committee" bills and boost the power of the committee chairpersons who negotiate them. Since lawmakers have two constitutional duties, write bills and vote on them, would a bill limitation comprise a constitutional revision?

I've said that before. I think members should get 5 bills and lose 2 for each dumb one they introduce (if they get into negative bills, that means they have to repeal stupid ones already passed). Who decides which are dumb? I don't know. Jon Stewart? Me? I don't have anything after August '05 . . . .

I hadn't thought about the revision angle on the bill limitation question - interesting.

Yes, the wiley legislature would surely turn to committee bills and we'd begin seeing omnibus, US Congress-like, proposals. That would be bad.

The best first step reforms all derive from a better mapping plan. With redistricting reform comes competition. With competition - hypothetically, anyway - comes better, stronger leadership. Stronger leaders can whip members into shape internally, thereby easing the threat of reforms surrounded by the specter of unintended consequences.

And getting rid of term limits would help tremendously. Or at least changing the current scheme. But that won't happen until the Legislature proves itself to the public and earns back their trust. I don't know if that's possible, but I like to think it is.

So read this California Journal piece and post your thoughts.

Well, I did it

Tomorrow is the end of the fiscal year and the close of another campaign finance reporting period. So I finally did it. I logged on and donated to the Kerry campaign.

Guess all those flashing ads on the newspaper sites I read finally worked. It is amazingly easy - it takes more time and clicks to pay my credit card bill or even to post this item.

I don't really contribute often (duh, I don't really have the bank account for that): I gave to the anti-recall effort. I gave to Howard Dean. I'm going to give to a Palo Alto City Council candidate because as of this Thursday she'll be a fellow Emerge alumna. And now John Kerry. Because I want him to win. Because I want Bush et al out. Because I want my country back.

So if you want to see how it works, grab some plastic and click here.

Headline I'm not even going to touch

On the frontpage, this headline:

"Bush Says Iraq Should Be Example for Rest of Middle East."

Example of what. Example "to?" maybe.

If I were a struggling Arab state, I know I'd be queuing up saying "me next! me next!"

Nah, just kidding. After all - they only hate us because we're free. 'Course, does that mean now that they're free, they hate themselves.

Maybe we should export Senator Vasconcellos's self-esteem movement next . . .

More from today's NYT: An editorial that doesn't exactly praise yesterday's events:

Two days early, with a veil of secrecy and a tight security lockdown, Washington's proconsul in Iraq, Paul Bremer III, handed a hollow and uncertain sovereignty to Iyad Allawi, a former Baathist collaborator of Saddam Hussein who spent most of the past three decades exiled in London, the last one of those in the pay of America's Central Intelligence Agency. It goes without saying that this is not the sort of outcome the nation envisioned when we sent our forces to liberate Iraq last year.

Moving the transfer date was a sensible precaution against anticipated insurgent attacks. But it underscores how arbitrary the original date, June 30, was all along. Rather than being timed to coincide with a growing capacity of the new Iraqi authorities to take on the challenges of running the country and preparing it for democratic elections, the June date was fixed upon last November to ensure at least the appearance of progress as the American presidential campaign got under way.

. . . But Washington cannot shed its responsibility for what happens from here on out. The Bush administration has handed off the symbols of sovereignty. But if Iraq dissolves into dictatorship or civil war, the White House will not be able to hand off the blame.

Oh, but won't it be fun to watch them try?

And read Krugman:

Plans for privatization were eventually put on hold. But as he prepared to leave Iraq, Mr. Bremer listed reduced tax rates, reduced tariffs and the liberalization of foreign-investment laws as among his major accomplishments. Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time — but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics.

It's the gift that keeps on giving . . . .

So what you're saying is things don't look good

At least one columnist isn't afraid to remove the rosey shades and look into Iraq's probable future (and its recent past, for that matter):

What remains to be seen, of course, is what Allawi & Co. will do. Most likely, the country will revert back to being Iraq. That is, Bremer's improbable experiment in conservative utopianism - in which Americans who didn't speak Arabic force-fed Western-style institutions into the Iraqi body politic - will be quickly undone. . . . .

. . . Allawi's muscle is the Americans. But how long will that last? President George W. Bush swears that the U.S. military will stay "as long as necessary," but he might not be president for too much longer. Even if Bush is re-elected, how long will American forces stick it out in the face of continuing violence - all to prop up a regime that increasingly resembles the old one? Its promises notwithstanding, the United States is a fading presence in Afghanistan, where we seem content to let that country be divvied up by jihadists, warlords and opium dealers.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Say Cheese

This truly impressive photo-blog (linked from SF.Metroblogging), has some gorgeous shots of San Francisco scenes and skies. Nice composition, great resolution and use of color. It makes me want to do so much more with my digital camera. So check it out.

Dude, CMC's getting a Dell (commercial)

My alma mater's mid-century, retro look has made it Dell Computer's choice location for a series of Back to School computer spots to air in July and August.

I'm not sure if the college should be entirely pleased with the retro description, but hey - we do have one of the most spotless, well-groomed and maintained campuses in the country.

The only detail on the ads is that one features a hallway slip'n'slide "and other rambunctious examples of notoriously collegiate activities."

For the record, I never saw a hallway slip'n'slide, though Green Beach was frequently the scene of slip'n'slide mayhem.

Look for 'em . . . .

(And if you're a CMC alumna or alumnus, remember to get those donations in by June 30 - you only have a few days left! Look, you can even do it right online!)

The Spirit and the Letter

A Sacramento mother is encouraging photos of her son's coffin at a ceremony held at Sac Airport, protesting the administration's policy against images of returning coffins.

The prohibition, however, affects only military installations and planes, so her protest is described accurately as against the spirit and not the letter of the policy.

It's still a good point, though.

The article also points out the small row over the release of Pat Tillman training photos - similar images have not been released after the deaths of other soldiers.

And continuing contemplating images, I also wonder about the US Marine abducted and being held captive in Iraq. (Interestingly, the headline you'll see if you click on that link above is "US Marine Missing in Iraq." I wouldn't say he's missing - we know where he is - if not geographically - and it's not good).

Listening to the news coverage of the abduction this morning, I learned that Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force has been missing for several days and was presumed AWOL. How many soldiers have gone AWOL in Iraq? I haven't heard of any, really (though I have heard of some going AWOL by extending legitimate leave here in the States). I have no basis for this question (as in, nothing that implies an affirmative answer), but I wonder if the conclusion that he was AWOL and not in danger had anything to do with his nationality.

Here's a report from a an Atlanta local news station:

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said the military is working under the assumption that the Marine has been kidnapped -- but he indicates that hasn't been confirmed.

Kimmitt said the Marine had gone on an "unauthorized absence" around June 21 -- and that officials suspect he may have been heading to Lebanon. The general didn't give more details.

The Marine is a Muslim of Middle Eastern origin.

There are also reports that his family is doing everything they can to convey to the captors that Hassoun is an Arab and a Muslim. I wonder how much that will help him, however, considering he is wearing the infidels' colors.

Hassoun's unit is based at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, CA. Same unit as one of my closest friends - who to my knowledge is still serving his second tour in Iraq.

Punt - Two

Ruining months of planning by program directors at the news networks, the US - uh - Coalition handed authority back to the Iraqis.

And Bremer and others got the hell out of dodge. Troops get to stay, though - so don't worry. I'm sure things will be calm now.

There's also footage of Bush checking his watch and then shaking Blair's hand - implying he new (not surprising) about the early transfer and was sufficiently proud. While watching it, I couldn't help but recall Farenheit 9/11 and the footage of Bush's (non)reaction to news of the planes hitting the towers.

We wake into a whole new world. Wonder what comes next.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Watch your language

From a Phoblog reader, this Wash Post bit on how to stay a team player while talking about Iraq. It's like fight club, apparently. First rule of the war on Iraq - there IS NO war on Iraq. There's just a war on terror. Here are the other gems - for your reading pleasure:

With voter anxieties about Iraq shadowing this year's campaign, pollster Frank Luntz has some advice for fellow Republicans: Mind your language.

Luntz, according to a strategy paper that fell into the hands of Democrats, says minor changes in language used by politicians can lead to major differences in voter perceptions -- turning a potential liability into an asset.

Among his suggested talking points, in the nine-page section on Iraq and terrorism:

• It's not the war in Iraq -- it's the war on terror. "You will not find any instance in which we suggest that you use the actual word 'preemption' or the phrase 'the War in Iraq' to communicate your policies to the American public. To do so is to undermine your message from the start," it said. "Your efforts are about 'the principles of prevention and protection' in the greater 'War on Terror.' "

• Remember: better there than here. " 'Prevention at home can require aggressive action abroad' is the best way to link a principle the public supports with the policies of the Administration," it said. " 'It is better to fight the War on Terror on the streets of Baghdad than on the streets of New York or Washington.' "

• Don't forget the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. " '9/11 changed everything' is the context by which everything follows. No speech about homeland security or Iraq should begin without a reference to 9/11."

• Don't forget Saddam Hussein. " 'The world is a better place without Saddam Hussein.' Enough said."

• And don't forget the troops. "Nothing matters more than Americans in the line of fire," it said. "Never, ever, EVER give a speech or issue a press release that makes no mention of our troops."

In an e-mailed response, phrasemaker Luntz declined to comment on his paper.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Spoiler Convention

The Greens are meeting and are split over what to do with Nader.

The Green candidate with the most delegates going into the convention:

Mr. Cobb said that, if nominated, he would campaign vigorously for all Green candidates in the 40 states that he does not consider critical to the outcome of the presidential race.

But in those other 10 states he identified as battlegrounds, like Ohio and Pennsylvania, Mr. Cobb said, he would ask Greens to vote their conscience when it came to president. To Mr. Nader's supporters, that is tantamount to telling party members to vote for Mr. Kerry.

"The battle here is not between Nader and Cobb," said Peter M. Camejo, a Green activist from California whom Mr. Nader recently named as his running mate. "It is between Nader and Kerry. The Greens who want to vote for Kerry are supporting Cobb. And we can't let that happen, because Kerry is against all of the values of the Green Party."

If Kerry is against all the values of the Green Party - what does that make Bush? And Nader doesn't even want to be the Green nominee - he just wants the endorsement so he can cull a big coalition of "people too dumb to do math and see pragmatism as a road to a more idealistic future."

And how's this for serious let's-fix-the-country-ness:

Mr. Nader, by contrast, has called Mr. Kerry "statesmanlike" and told some audiences that they should attend Nader rallies only to scare the Democrats - though he has rejected calls not to campaign in swing states.

Thanks for the compliment, but scaring Demcorats is s goal?

Or this gem of self-involved thinking:

Mr. Cobb, who has made an issue of Mr. Nader's absence, said, "I think it's going to cost him the endorsement."

Kevin Zeese, a Nader campaign spokesman, said Mr. Nader was not in Milwaukee because he did not want to dominate the proceedings.

Wow, gee Mr. Nader - thanks for staying home so the little Greens can have their fun. Just as long as you get the endorsement, right? Why on earth would the Greens want to give him that when he's no longer even associating himself with their party?

Don't sink the country, guys.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Phoblog stock is up

No really - apparently there's a fantasy blog market - and I have value: BlogShares - Phoblographer*

But I have a teensy weensy market share.

Why aren't you complimenting my new suit?

From the same White House Briefing article - a description of a testy President and his Irish TV interview:

When Coleman said most Irish people thought the world was more dangerous today than before the Iraq invasion, Bush disagreed and responded, 'What was it like Sept. 11th, 2001?

What? Because today isn't like 9/11 we're safer? There's about one thousand ways to dissect that statement. For starters, frankly, on 9/11, I was perfectly fine - physically anyway - as were most Americans. At any given moment now, I could become unfine. I don't think Bush's actions have fixed that unfortunate possibility one bit. And I believe that's what the Irish reporter was getting at. Sure, any day we're not being attacked is a great day. But - well - what the hell is the comfort in that?

Here are a few excerpts from the interview:

Coleman: "The world is a more dangerous place today."

Bush: "Why do you say that? . . . "

Coleman: "I think there is a feeling that the world has become a more dangerous place because you have taken the focus off Al Qaeda and diverted into Iraq. Do you not see that the world is a more dangerous place? I saw four of your soldiers lying dead, on the television, the other day. . . . "

Bush: "You know, listen, nobody cares more about the death than I do.

Coleman: "Is there a point at which --

Bush: "Let me finish. Please, please, let me finish, then you can follow up, if you don't mind. Nobody cares more about the deaths than I do. I care about it a lot. But I do believe that the world is a safer place, and becoming a safer place. . . .

"People join terrorist organizations because there's no hope and there's no chance to raise their families in a peaceful world where there is not freedom . . . so the idea is to promote freedom and at the same time protect our security."

If you scroll down to this text in the article, you can watch the interview video and the report prefacing it explaining how much "Europe hates Bush, the 'Toxic Texan.'"

I want my damn country back now, please. You've messed it up enough. Put it down and let someone else try to fix it for real now.

'The Cost of Liberty'

You must look at this Washington Post photo gallery of a young Iraqi woman who works as a prostitute to support herself. Note, especially, Photo 7. Then look at Photo 15 and see where the gun is in that photo.


I laughed yesterday as I posted about Cheney's frank exchange of ideas with Leahy. But this puts an even nicer frame around it:

(excuse the family unfriendly language - but if it's good enough for the Vice President, then . . . )

" 'Fuck yourself,' said the man who is a heartbeat from the presidency. . . .

"As it happens, the exchange occurred on the same day the Senate passed legislation described as the 'Defense of Decency Act' by 99 to 1. . . .

Sigh, sometimes, it all just writes itself . . . .

Update: Kurtz on Post Editor's defense of printing the whole obscenity.

It's kind of an intricate reasoning, but whatever - I'll buy it.

Hey, big meanie - hope your dog never gets lost

Schwarzenegger seeks to speed killing of strays in shelters to save money

Shoot - it only saves $14m? That's chump change. I'm no PETA freak, but jeez, this is awful.

Another example of how we fail girls

Good points in this Chron article citing the creep-factor of counting down to girl-celebrities' coming of age:

The coming of age of a female celebrity has always been a strange loophole in society's sexual mores. We live in a nation where schools send girls home for showing too much skin and a 38-year-old singer's jack-in-the- box boob becomes a federal case. But adult males get a flier to revel in the prospect of deflowering a Kournikova, Olsen or actress Lindsay Lohan (she's 18 in eight days!) - knowing it would have resulted in a statutory rape charge just a few hours earlier.


Secondary Colors

Anonymous author strikes again. Not Joe Klein, I'm pretty sure.

A new Anonymous has written another indictment of America's misguided war on terror.

He still does TV interviews, but usues a sort of end-stage Barbara Walters lighting scheme (because really, how much vaseline on the lens until we can't see anyone at all?) to obscure his identity.

Fortunate Son in Chief

I linked to Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son" in the post below. But reading the lyrics again myself, I can't help but be taken aback by their relevance today. A Phoblog friend has been pointing out for more than a year now all the parallels between Iraq War era America and Vietnam War era America. I can see it too - not that I lived the first, but I can read as well as the next girl.

This song, however, as art often does, brings the point home more. It captured the times then. And I think it does a pretty damn good job of getting Now as well. Here it is:

Some folks are born made to wave the flag,
Ooh, they’re red, white and blue.
And when the band plays hail to the chief,
Ooh, they point the cannon at you, lord,

It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no senator’s son, son.
It ain’t me, it ain’t me; I ain’t no fortunate one, no,

Some folks are born silver spoon in hand,
Lord, don’t they help themselves, oh.
But when the taxman comes to the door,
Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale, yes,

It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no millionaire’s son, no.
It ain’t me, it ain’t me; I ain’t no fortunate one, no.

Some folks inherit star spangled eyes,
Ooh, they send you down to war, lord,
And when you ask them, how much should we give?
Ooh, they only answer more! more! more! yoh,

It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no military son, son.
It ain’t me, it ain’t me; I ain’t no fortunate one, one.

It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate one, no no no,
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate son, no no no

Kerry Grows a Message

And it's firmly in the, uh, center, and that makes our friends at the DLC all smiley and warm inside.

Bruce Reed, president of the Democratic Leadership Council and a longtime Clinton aide, fretted openly during the heyday of Howard Dean last year that the party was moving to the left. Today, Mr. Reed describes Mr. Kerry approvingly as "a pragmatic centrist in the Clinton mode."

Familiar faces from the Clinton years, like the economic adviser Gene Sperling, are now at Mr. Kerry's side; James P. Rubin, a State Department spokesman in the Clinton years who advised Gen. Wesley K. Clark during the primaries, is now traveling with Mr. Kerry full time.

But Mr. Kerry's message also reflects a very different time from the 1990's, framed by three unsettling years of terrorism, war and political division. Mr. Kerry's favorite refrain these days is a plea to "let America be America again." It is a quotation from a Langston Hughes poem that he uses to evoke the idea of restoration - for the economy, for a tax code that he asserts is increasingly unjust, for the dreams of the middle class and, perhaps most of all, for the country's foreign policy.

The Langston Hughes line has received some attention in the slogan evaluation department already.

This Yahoo news story from early June (thanks to Phoblog reader Jared for the link) offers one message critic praising the line for suggesting that "someone's hijacked the country, without being a frontal attack."

The poem from which the line is taken, however, pairs the uplifting call with the certainly dissonant "America never was America to me." Not quite as uplifting as the confetti and balloons would have you believe, is it? As the article says, there was little in Hughes's 1938 America for a black American to celebrate - in the poem, the America-ing desired wouldn't have been a re-birth for Hughes, but a chance to finally be let into the America trumpeted in, mainstream (read: white) poetry, song, and art. As the article says:

That exegesis of Langston Hughes would puzzle Democratic delegates in Boston in July, vibrant with life and mission. And it wasn't just that Langston Hughes had had a one-night stand with skepticism, along the way to capturing the need to let America be America again. No, Mr. Hughes had a very specific view about history, and his view was clear on the question of which historical road America should travel:

"Christ Jesus Lord God Jehovah,
"Beat it on away from here now.
"Make way for a new guy with no religion at all --
"A real guy named
"Marx Communist Lenin Peasant Stalin Worker ME.

Langston Hughes was asking America to "be America again," meaning, not an America that history had known and chronicled, but an America realizable in a new and different vision. The land of Marx and Lenin and Stalin. Mr. Kerry's campaign team is going to have serious homework to do before introducing Langston Hughes as the poet laureate of the Democratic Party in 2004.

Of course, no one will educate delegates, or American voters, on Hughes: The Man, the Poetry, the Message. That's not how we work here. Pop culture borrows and, frequently, well, castrates any meaning from some of our most biting American art. I can't help but think of the Tommy Hilfiger commercials (or were they Ralph Lauren or Sears?) that open with the first line of CCR's "Fortunate Son". The line sounds great over shots of rainbow Americans in patriotic clothing, living it up in Martha's Vineyard: "Some folks are born made to wave the flag/Ooh, they're red white and blue."


Oh wait - what's the next line, kids?

"And when the band plays hail to the chief/Oof they point the cannon at you . . ."

Seriously, read the rest of the lyrics. They're selling you something that doesn't exist. Just like Kerry is selling an America that hasn't always existed for many people. It's not an awful thing to do, not even a gaffe - I'm a bright-eyed believer just like lots of other people. But the cultural evolution and coopting of heavily symbolic language should be noted.

Back to the NYT article - note this tagline - something I heard him use in NH in January:

And he invariably brings Democratic loyalists to their feet when he declares: "The United States of America should never go to war because it wants to. We should only go to war because we have to."

It's interesting that when it's a "wanting" to go to war situation, America is "it" - but when it's a "need" situation, America is "we." He's subtle but effective in the way he's alligned the rhetoric - the wanted war given to some other, outside force. The needed, patriotic, necessary endeavor is Ours.

This is what I don't get about Kerry. On the technical achievement score - the guy's 6s all the way. But artistically - the oompf he packs in a speech, just not there. At least not for me. When I was in New Hampshire, squeezed in a Nashua high school gym with hundreds of screaming Kerry fans, I was struck by how unmoved I was. I trust him more than Bush. I think he's more competent than Bush. But he is, to quote Plato (via Legally Blonde) "reason free from passion." There's art in his words - but not much in his heart.

Have I wandered off message? Yes and no. I should be an absolute booster for Kerry - not give any room to Reeps, or worse - Greens/3ds, to say "see, even YOU don't like Kerry." But that's not accurate either. We should all see by now that blind allegiance to anyone, cause, thing, mantra, philosophy, or strategy results at best in failure and at worst in blood-soaked failure. I will be reasonable and deliberative in my support for the almost-nominee. I will hold him to an extremely high standard. I will vote for him, campaign for him, do whatever I can for him. But I can also ask him to be better.

I want a message from him and I want one now. I don't want recycled DLC rhetoric - a "Wah wah neglected middle class" message that must grow to meet the awesome challenge we are facing in November. I want leadership. I want passion. I want - here it come - America to be America again. But before that can happen - I need Democrats to be Democrats again.

The Seoul-ford Wives

To roll my eyes or not to roll my eyes - this article on wife boot camp in South Korea test my cultural sensitivity limits.

More bird sense: The Mucky Ducks

Because I know you love it -

It's been a big egret week - they must be on a rotating schedule. This morning however, as the tide is slowly draining out, there are these little brown ducks feeding in the shallow water outside my window. They're face planted in the muck, eating. I've never seen a duck do that - but basically, they're just floating flat in the water on their bellies. It's pretty cute - you know - for ducks.

Theater gives a big 'Cheney' to the MPAA

An Oakland Theater is saying they won't honor the R rating on the new Moore flick. They aren't giving a reason, they just aren't doing it. Good for them. Apparently it has an R for battlefield footage - but I can think of lots of less educational junk that gets a PG-13.

I hate the MPAA anyway - so good for the theater.

UPDATE: This Chron cartoon is very funny.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

A Frank Exchange of Views

Man, but if this isn't the funniest thing I've read all day . . .

Seems Mr. Cheney had a bit of a lapse in decorum on the Senate floor today.

Walking off to look for America

As I mentioned in an update a few weeks back. Phoblog is packing her bags later this summer and hitting the road. Never done it before, don't know if I'll like it, but I'm hopeful.

So, with that, I issue my first request to Phoblog readers for travel advice. Have you trekked from CA to New England yourself? What's not to be missed? Where's the good, hidden eats, views, activities, monuments, natural wonders, etc.

I've still got over a month till I leave, but watching the freeway from my window, I can't help but think about the long road ahead. Email or post comments accordingly.

It's a year when we've all come to look for America. I'm just really going to go out and search.

Hypothetically speaking . . .

For fun, let's say . . .

What if someone wanted to film a documentary about President Bush and advertise its availability? The documentary would be available in non-broadcast form, such as video tape or disc, but it might be promoted via radio and television commercials. Would the commercials for the documentary referring to a specific candidate, such as Bush, trigger the "electioneering communications" provision of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act?

Gee, why does this sound familiar?

This is a real question posed by someone from an "obscure" organization called the Bill of Rights Educational Foundation to the Federal Elections Commission. Pair this request with the announcement by another conservative group of plans to file an FEC complaint against Bush, and it all adds up to Moore or less the same thing.

(The background for this post comes from a news update via a clip service I get - so I apologize for not having a link to that right now - but the draft advisory opinion is numbered AO 2004-15, and is on the agenda for the June 24 FEC meeting here).

The draft ruling concludes that the proposed ads would be electioneering communications subject to BCRA's funding restrictions and disclosure requirements 60 days before the general election because they would refer to a clearly identified presidential candidate. The FEC found no applicable exceptions to the proposed ads. It finds no safe harbor in the media exception - which applies to "established media companies" and waives campaign finance limits for "news stories, commentaries, or editorials" discussing candidates. Wouldn't a documentary be all of those things together? Albeit in a different forum.

Moore's people think he has a good case for supporting his project's established media company status. Former FEC counsel Larry Noble, of the Center for Responsive Politics (nonprofit, watchdog), says he expects Moore will face challenges anyway.

The guy filing the question, David Hardy, says he thinks the draft violates First Amendment, free speech principles. But he says "election laws are elections laws." How true he is on that - they're all about limiting speech in the quest for vocal equality. But it seems Hardy does have his own documentary - so this isn't the first wave of an attack on Moore - uh, yet/sorta.

What's the overarching concern here? That your local AMC is going to turn into a propaganda machine (more than traditionally anyway), that movies will become a great way to skirt election laws? Maybe. But a swift rise in Moore's type of movie seems unlikely. And ineffective.

How many hard-line Reeps will pay for Moore's product. I'm guessing not a lot. Might he pick up some new swings away from Bush, sure. But who benefits? Kerry? Kerry fans will see the movie and just still not like Bush. What if it helps, gulp, Greens and 3d party creep Nader, as FOP Pinkerton opines in today's Newsday column.

Frankly, I don't think I'd go see an hour-plus indictment of Kerry if one were produced by some admin-friendly filmmaker. Who doesn't know Moore's angle? How effective is it? Is it worth the myriad unintended consequences possible from FEC action against Moore's movie?

Easiest way out is for him to just get creative during the 60 day pre-election period. Just don't say "Bush," show Bush, etc. But the base concern here may be misplaced. I'd like to think this movie will save the country - but it might just endanger it by energizing 3d party voters who place misguided votes for Bush via their votes for Nader.

It's an interesting hypothetical - but the real world applications go beyond first impressions.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Okay, really, let it go

So I don't get it. Maybe this is an ignorant viewpoint, but I don't get our Cuba policy. And it's getting tighter. Now, Cuban-Americans only get to go home once every 3 years. And everyone else - well, "almost impossible" for us to visit now.

Why? I don't get it. After so manyyears of choking them off, Castro hasn't upped and left. The Cubans haven't kicked him out.

And we trade lots with China, right? And they are still commies too, right? So what gives? Are we still scared about communism sweeping the globe? Isn't that, like, so five decades ago?

Well - this'll sure show those poverty stricken Cubans!

Stepping away from Phoblog's usual insightful commentary

It seems that someone's intern thinks that I have said something to validate hen-worship.

Let's be clear, in my sports update, I was merely commenting on a funny soundbite. I am in no way defending hens as used by the Pomona-Pitzer wannabe sports empire. Real sports happen above 6th Street, below 9th Street, and West of Mills. Sagehens in the wild, I'm sure, are trampled by the mighty Stag if they aren't stepped on by the wise Athena first.


We now return you to your regularly schedule blogging. Thank you. Posted by Hello

'Kerry Outmaneuvered in a Rare Attempt to Vote'

The headline of this article alone reads a little like an Oniony slam against the candidate.

Everyone looks a little dumb here trying to depoliticize a political football both in content and procedure. The Reeps look like whiny babies and Kerry looks a bit pandering - though unlike most cynics, I do believe Veteran votes to Kerry are among the most important he casts (remember, unlike the Reep admin, Kerry actually went to war - you know, himself).

It's all dumb. And the calculation of missed votes is always only ever tinged with reality.

'Course, the fact that Kerry DID vote for that idiotic indecency measure bothers me. Parents! Turn off the TV! Change the channel! "Indecency" laws are, like, so mid century.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

The Phoblog Sports and Poultry Update

I know what you're thinking. Sports update I get. Poultry update, sure. But the two together? Oh ye of little faith:

But here's my question: Is the chicken a proper symbol of cowardice? Are chickens really chicken?

"They certainly are not,'' Francine Bradley of UC Davis tells Open Season. "It's a uniquely American idea, and it's not based on fact. Your question pushes my button of irritation because we hear this all the time. As a poultry scientist, it disturbs me greatly. Chickens are known for their bravery and tenacity.

"A gamecock is a chicken. It has been picked out for its aggressiveness and then bred for fighting. The only thing I can think of is that maybe early, people used 'chicken' (to epitomize cowardice) when they meant 'hen.' "

Oh - what - so the girl birds are chicken? Uh, er, cowards? Huh. Fine.

Not a good enough reason

Found on The Hill website (via L.A. Observed)

“First time I was asked.”
— Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) explaining why he agreed to campaign for his old political adversary, President Bush, last week

I still don't like it, though.

So what you're saying is, he's really, really bad

More from Krugman on just how bad Ashcroft really is.

The story he relates here about a secret cache of weapons in Texas is frightening - both in fact and in implication.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Phoblog goes Photog

For your enjoyment - here are some snapshots from my weekend around town. It was an arty few days - with museum trips, good food, and quality time with friends. If you care to read more about my trip to the museum and the fab dinner after - check out my post over at SF Metroblog. I'll be posting more over there later about the weekend. So for now - have some fun with these pictures:

Your Phoblog risks life and limb to bring you this photo of some fun art deco art items. No photos in the special exhibits? Hmm, I had to get spygirl and shoot a photo out of my purse. As you can see - it didn't yield the clearest results - but I thought it was worth the, uh, shot, to capture this image of the 30s Brownie cameras (there's 3 of them in a row there). It's all about preserving the theme, kids. Posted by Hello

Here's one more from the museum Posted by Hello

This is Phoblog's attempt to get arty with her digital camera - taken at Coit tower. Posted by Hello

Art Deco is everywhere - including the top of this apartment building across the street from Ghiradelli Square. Posted by Hello

Art Deco really IS everywhere - like in this picture of ginger ice cream served in a Fiestaware dish at Ebisu (and yes, the sushi there is as good as the awards imply). Posted by Hello

Oh hooray - look how much these 2 love America

Just enough to do everything they can to re-elect George Bush.

AP NewsBreak: Nader selects Green Party activist as running mate

Nader picks Camejo "a move sure to boost his chances of winning the Green Party's endorsement this week and its access to ballot lines in 22 states" and DC.



The number of angels that fit on the head of a pin.

Here's Safire highlighting the nuanced difference between headlines and stories. He's kinda right - the paper's last week said no Iraq-Al Q connection, but what they meant was that there was no 9/11 connection - that Iraq didn't help with that part. Okay, true.

But, while perhaps I couldn't find a line on the record in which Bush says "Saddam helped," I think it's more than fair to say he repeatedly allowed the sitauations to converge, overlap, and seem more entwined than they ever were. If anything - shouldn't Iraq seem more sympathetic since they gave OBL the brush off?

At any rate - his anger here doesn't really help solve anything . . .

In defense of lawyers

Something I'm often not.

This Bob Herbert column from today's NYT shines a bit of light on tort reform. He points out the folly of making malpractice suits out to be more frequent than they are. And of making big, wealthy-and-getting-wealthier insurance companies seem like poor victims in the wilds of litigation.

Lethargic? Need Energy?

So do cars, and here's an article on researchers looking for ways to convert glucose into energy (something I think my body is doing right now).

The article cites the difficulty of getting hydrogen for fuel cells because, as the social butterfly of the periodic table, it just isn't alone for very long - and getting that H can cause as much enviro-damage as just using gas in the first place.

But glucose, apparently, doesn't give up its energy so easily either.

The world is greedy with its energy - but that makes sense, people don't like to give up power - why should molecules?

And the technology could go other ways too:

Dr. Kravitz and fellow Sandia researchers are developing an array of tiny glass needles, as slim and sharp as a mosquito's proboscis, that could, for example, be imperceptibly "plugged in" to a soldier's arm and used to convert glucose from the human body into energy.

"Suppose you could make a patch that went on the arm and had little micro needles that didn't hurt," Dr. Kravitz said. "Now the soldier just needs to eat an Oreo cookie to keep his radio going."

I can't help but think if they perfect biomass engines then that oreo could literally power the whole army.

So something on your arm could suck that excess glucose out and turn it into useable energy? Crazy? Yeah - but the scientist says the research could not only solve the world's energy problems, but - since excess glucose is stored as fat in humans - it could also fix the obesity epidemic. Kind of makes you wonder if the slimmest folks out there will be the ones driving SUVs.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Catch up day

So, Phoblog is on an in town vacation today - that means I'll be reading the real life, hard copy, hold it in your hands paper - and I'd recommend the same for you. Use today to catch up. Or to sigh the guest book. Or just check back later and I'll have something new.

Wish it were sunny here, but I'll make the best of it.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Hey New Jersey! You deserve to be part-time too!

LJ points to this article on the valient New Jersey Legislature's effort to save Ladies' Night at bars. Now, as a lady, I'm all for ladies' night. Actually, okay, I don't blame the Legislature, I blame the people wailing about civil rights violations posed by drink specials based on gender.

I guess, on a certain level, they're right. But we still pay more for dry cleaning, haircuts, and about 1000 other things - so really, a $3 Cosmo special isn't too much to ask for, is it?

Can't find the best word for 'ugh' to go here

They beheaded the American in Saudi Arabia.

Al-Qaida group says it has killed American hostage, posts photos on Web site

I'm sure if I looked, I could find the photos - but I don't think I'll look, and I definitely won't post here.

Man, I miss the Building

From the "hey, it's not my problem" files - it seems that procedural antics in the State Legislature have left a pension bill (The pension bill) to twiddle it's thumbs in the rotunda.

It seems the Assembly is trying to punt a controversial issue back to the pink house without having voted on it. In reply, the Senate locked the doors on the bill - no really, literally, they have a bill bouncer at the door now.

I'm going to see what I can find in the way of a backstory on this one - it's too much fun . . .

Mouthy Furniture

"Every stick of furniture sniffs: drop dead," according to the original appeal of deco to class, not mass. There's an exhibit opening at the Met in New York of Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann who epitomized the neo-classical wave that crashed upon French art in the years after World War I.

Deco happens to be a favorite - so if there are any NYC Phoblog readers who check this out - let me know. I'll be headed to the SF Deco exhibit this weekend . . . .

Deco says so much about changing society - besides being beautiful, it's tailor-made for armchair art musings on form and function. Good stuff.

Stop it, John

Here's what I don't get. You know McCain doesn't like Bush. I doubt he respects him that much either. He's said pretty bad things about Bush on the Daily Show (yes, that show matters because if you note who's on it, you'll have to note who must be watching). So why, then, is McCain campaigning with George W. Bush?

I like McCain a lot. Maybe I like the lose canon types - I liked Dean too. But when he sticks up for Bush - ugh - cringe - shiver.

During one stop at Fort Lewis in Washington state, Bush says "There is no cave or hole deep enough to hide from American Justice."

Well - so far there's at least one that's been deep enough so far, but nevermind about that.

Bush has so thoroughly ruined the phrase "American Justice" by using it as a shorthand for preemptive action that I'm surprised either of those words on their own don't make me a bit queasy.

Another highlight was Bush's statement that it was a "privilege to be introduced to the men in uniform by a man who brought credit to the uniform." This from the guy who landed on a carrier in a flight suit after ditching opportunities to be a real-life army-man during Vietnam. Foul. McCain really is a credit to the uniform - Bush should've said - man, thanks for taking one for the team and going 'cause I really didn't want to miss Pint Night at Big Billy's Hall of Foam.

The Phoblographer* Status Report

Things are moving right along here at the Phoblog. We're on track for a record setting month - so thanks for reading, linking, telling your friends, etc. Feedback is mostly positive, but remember, if you have ideas, comments, rants, etc, send them on in.

Our RSS feed is still all S-ed up. We're working on it - I think my web guru is still in Europe. I'll be begging him for help when he gets back.

In other exciting news - I've started a new experiment. I'm now also blogging over at SF.Metroblogging, one of the new sites from the fine folks at It's vastly different from this site - less politics, more arguing over where the best SF pizza is. It's part of my effort to a) keep myself writing and b) force myself to bond more with this city. Phoblog is still the place to come for the insight and policy - the new site will be a place to go for the pop-Phoblog stuff. We'll see where that takes us.

The new forum brings up some interesting thoughts though - mainly from a conversation I had a month or so ago with a reader who questioned my judgment based on a subsequent post on a site I had linked to. If it's true that you can tell a lot about a man from his friends, and I think it is, then you can also tell a lot about a blogger by her links. There's so much disreputable, ill-conceived, flat wrong, or just bad content out there, one has to be careful to preserve her e-street cred.

At the same time, however, it's a huge, free world out there, and I'm eager to investigate it. So what I'm saying is this: if you take issue with content on sites to which I've linked - especially content posted by the administrators of those sites after the item to which I've pointed you, don't shoot the messenger. In fact, I'm not even the messenger, so I really don't deserve a shooting. Likewise, I don't personally know any of the other metrobloggers - but I'm looking forward to reading their content and hope they look forward to reading mine.

Is this a slightly hedging, protective post? You betcha. But it's also a request for open minds - something of which we're painfully short in this country right now.

Other Updates: Let's see - what can readers look forward to now? Besides more of me on the web - we're going to have more of you here as Phoblog hits the road and brings you live Convention coverage from Boston in July (courtesy of TBA special guest audiobloggers). In August, I'll hit the road for a bit of Americana fun after I rotate my tires, check the oil, and roadtrip in search of white sand and good lobster. Along the way, more of the high quality, high impact ranting and pontificating you've come to love. So keep reading, commenting, emailing, linking, and forwarding Phoblographer* to your friends. Check out the SF Metroblog. And thanks for exploring with me.

Two quotes

Here's two items that a CYD Board member uses to close his email - pretty choice offerings:

"Bluntly contradicting the Bush administration, the commission investigating
the Sept. 11 attacks reported Wednesday there was 'no credible evidence'
that Saddam Hussein helped Al Qaeda target the United States." (Fox News,
Wednesday, June 16, 2004)

"'Hell no!' another administration official said when asked if Cheney would
retract his statements after the commission investigating the Sept. 11
attacks found no evidence that Iraq aided al Qaeda attempts to strike the
United States." (Reuters, Wednesday, Jun 16)
this is an audio post - click to play

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Yeah, but even the scientist called it a 'mutation'

Better living through genetics: DNA Tweak Turns Vole Mates Into Soul Mates

Once they have been converted, the voles hang around the family nests and even huddle with their female partners after sex.

The research, Young said, could help shed light on monogamy — a rare social behavior — and hints that perhaps specific genes could play a role in human relationships.

But don't expect gene therapy for human swingers.

"This is not something that we should be playing around with," Young said.

Young continued, saying: I mean, come on man, give a vole a break. You don't know what it's like, coming home to a crowded hole everynight with dozens of offspring and the wife all "let's huddle, why don't we huddle anymore, and why didn't you get the dry cleaning? And how do you think we'll put these kids through college on a researcher's salary? Uh. I'm just saying, a guy has to have a release, be he man or vole."

Even if the findings could lead to an elixir for fidelity, a single gene would not solve every problem at home. The genetically altered meadow voles spent more time with their partners, but unlike their naturally faithful prairie relatives, they did not help care for the pups.

That, Young said, probably depends on other neural pathways.

"Like the neural pathways that operate to get your wife to make your mother-in-law go back to Omaha. Or the pathways that make you want to work on building another stupid science fair project just because 'oh, daddy, you're a scientist, help me make another stupid volcano'"

Young also said he would continue his research into male behavior modification once he received his grant for further study of "Chromosome NAG2" in females.

From the 'Dude, let it go' files

He's still doing it! In reacting to findings appearing to be the "most complete and authoritative dismissal of a primary reason Bush sent other people to die, Bush is still insisting there was an Iraq-Al Qaeda connection. How come?

"The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and Al Qaeda, because there was a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda," the president said.

Oh. I see.

Anyway - just read the rest of the article - I don't have the energy right now to point out the 18,000 layers of idiocy in Bush's statements this morning. Here, go have fun with it.

Fortune Cookie of the day

Phoblog fun fact of the day - my favorite cookies (okay, one of) are fortune cookies. For some reason, the produce market on the corner by my house sells them by the bag - the big bag. It sort of takes the fun out of it when you can have them whenever you want, instead of the carefully portioned out one you get after a meal at a Chinese place.

At any rate - today's fortune is:

You will make a fortune with your friend.

How, exactly? What kind of fortune. Like the kind I just got out of this cookie? And when you say "with" my friend, how exactly, do you intend for me to do this. Most of my friends won't fit inside a cookie . . . .

Ornithological Update for the Day

So, it's been light on egrets here lately - but the geese are in town. There are about two dozen bobbing around out there - and from this distance they look a bit like iddybiddy Loch Ness monsters. The don't do much out there - they aren't half as exciting as the egrets - or as lonely looking as the duck-ish bird (I'm sure it is a duck of somekind, but it isn't a mallard) that's always by itself.

Occasionally the geese change direction and swim this way or that way - but not for any discernable reason. They also seem to have split into Shark and Jet-like constituencies. Not sure what that means, but I'll report back if there's a rumble . . . .

Okay, it was funny when the other guys did it

But I don't think you need an intern, LJ.

I think I'm my own intern . . . Actually, I prefer extern, thanks.

Seriously, though, LJ has picked up my starfish metaphor. It may not help that we basically link back and forth to each other, but to whatever extent I can help spread world peace through a careful application of marine biology, well, I girl has to blog what a girl has to blog.

Ha! Phooey on your Golden Gate!

See, San Francisco, they wanted to get our Library Tower (I just can't call it the U.S.Bank Tower yet), not your bridge, not your pyramidy building. We're number one! We're number one!

Okay, seriously though - this goes back to something I've commented on before - though maybe not on my blog. There was this need after 9/11 to own some of the pain, to be more connected to history. Yes, we all were affected. And yes, it happened to Us, the country, but there's a way in which the grieving and the war cries and the flag stickers could be made more powerful if you had a vested interest in what was going on. It's why stip malls in Omaha hired new security guards (yeah, I know about the Ohio mall thing).

We all wanted a reason to be on alert. And though maybe it would be most terrorizing if they did start attacking Denny's Donuts in Minnesota, it's probably not as likely.

But come on, it is a sick badge of honor that they were going to get LA first. Of course, by making this point, I almost undermine my long standing view that the intraCalifornia strife runs from N to S, not the other way, I still say that's true. How? Because it's my blog. Thanks.

With all due respect, dear readers

I gotta drop a little BS bomb here -

This explanation of Senator Vasconcellos thinking the "Daily Show" wanted to discuss changes in election law - implying a serious news story is BULLSHIT. There. I said it. And I'm not sorry.

The gist of the story is that the Sacramento County elections official featured in a recent TDS piece on the Senator's ridiculous proposal to fractionally award votes to minors was "hoodwinked" because she's never heard of TDS.

Okay - perhaps I will let her go and feel a little bad - though she should realize the show's primary goal was to make the Senator look stupid, not her.

For the Senator to claim any kind of "Whoops, you got me" on what happened is absolutely, without a doubt, one of the dumbest kinds of denials ever. To be fair, the article doesn't get too in-depth on Vasco's reaction to the bit. But, people, really. This is the Capitol we're talking about. It's staffed by people between the ages of 18 and 35 or so - with some fringe on either end. These people watch the Daily Show. They talk about it. They laugh about it. They would recognize Rob Cordrry in the halls - in fact THEY DID becaue I got emails about it from sources who shall remain nameless.

Both officials have staff. All staff have computers. Most ever computer has internet access. Those with internet access have Google. Those with Google can google THE DAILY SHOW and find out rather quickly what they are dealing with.

I have no sympathy with these people. Maybe when they make fun of that 90+ year old southerner who always runs for president it's a little unfair. But any one with the kind of job, staff, resources, and we would hope, COMMON SENSE of the Sac County official and State Senator . . . . for them, I shed no tears.

On the plus side - the article does point out the sizable role shows like TDS and SNL play in the national political discourse, for better or for worse (and I'd say for better because I value comedy like that).

And speaking of comedy, Jill LaVine says in the article that she realizes "politics can be a joke, but elections shouldn't be."

And she's totally right. Which is why TDS was focusing on the bill to begin with.

And where the article gets it wrong is when it describes the show as "all about bumbling public officials." It's not. Are they there, yes. But the point of TDS is NOT to turn people off from the process - it's to get them to tune in. The show says "look folks, this is who you got, and these are some of the goofy decisions they are making," but never that I have seen has the show said, implicitly or explicitly, "so you better stop voting because they are all morons." It's not about that.

Senator Vasconcellos had a great goal - get people hooked into the process earlier. But his means for achieving that goal were stupid. Just dumb. You can't give people a fraction of a vote. It doesn't work that way. It was an idiotic idea that deserved a good fun-poking. Maybe someone out there has a better idea and this gets them to volunteer it. Or maybe not.

At any rate - I apologize for the rant. No, no I don't. Because this is what bothers me about political journalism. It's never the whole story. So much nuance is left behind. Or basic facts like - I would bet a SIZABLE sum of money that I could tell you exactly what at least one member of Senator Vasconcellos's staff is doing at 11pm everynight. . . . .

Phew. There, I'm done.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

cd Ink

[I don't have a hard copy or a link to the pay-service online version, but - since I can be a self-horn-tooter, here's a Daily Journal article in which I am featured. I would say I am 85% accurately quoted. There are some nuances from my conversation with the reporter, but nothing too objectionable. I did say that I wanted a future in politics (in addition to/instead of/related to a job in the legislature), and I do not work in San Francisco per se - but any more detail on my location is imprudent. Enjoy! - cd]

June 16, 2004

A Hastings Clinic Puts Externs in The State Capitol to Study the Legislative Process Up Close

By Linda Rapattoni
Daily Journal Staff Writer
SACRAMENTO - Lawyers and legislators don't always speak the same language. Law student Christiana Dominguez wanted to bridge that gap.

She joined a select group of students in a fledgling legislative clinic offered by Hastings College of the Law this year that placed them as externs in various offices at the state Capitol.

"I heard there's a barrier between staff that don't have a legal background and counsel analyzing bills or lobbying bills," Dominguez said. "[The clinic] puts me in a position to translate between these two worlds that don't exist independent of each other and frequently ignore each other."

While some of her fellow students were surprised at how politics dominates nearly every aspect of the legislative process, Dominguez had already served as an Unruh fellow in former Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson's office.

"It's kind of frightening how insulated law students can be on how a bill becomes a law," Dominguez said. "I don't fault them for it, but I fault the lumbering and slow-to-change legal education system."

Hastings is out to improve that for its students, and perhaps a few others across the state. That was one of its goals when it initiated its legislation clinic.

"Courts no longer define the law, they interpret statutes," said professor Michael Salerno, the clinic's supervisor. "When there's a legal dispute over a statute, how the statute was constructed and where to go to ascertain the legislative intent is a very, very valuable skill you don't get in law school, but you do get here."

Other law schools set up government externships in Sacramento for students. But Salerno said the Hastings clinic is the most comprehensive.

"This program is unique because it's on site. Students are required to take an introductory course, and they are placed in pre-arranged positions - they don't find them on their own," Salerno said. "There's a curriculum that goes with it that all are required to participate in, and they are very closely supervised."

Each student worked under a lawyer in the Capitol and met with Salerno at least weekly and often two or three times a week for four months.

The students took various positions - one in the governor's office, several with lawmakers and others with legislative committees. Each got a different view of the legislative process and shared those views with the others during regular meetings with Salerno.

It was eye-opening for many.

"I'd see how certain organizations like labor groups would typically associate with political parties, and how people voted along the party line according to who the sponsors were," said second-year law student Chris Callegari. "You could almost predict the way it [the vote] would go compared with the merits of the bills. I'd see well-intentioned interest groups that aren't stakeholders and they'd be given a chance to speak in committees, but just as a matter of protocol."

Said Jennifer Euler, who graduated with a law degree in May, "The politics are big. When it comes down to which bills get heard, or if they're on the consent calendar or when they are heard, I think it's very political - and much more political than I expected."

Dominguez said she learned new things, too, as an extern with Assemblyman Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto. It gave her a opportunity to meet with more lobbyists and constituents than had her earlier fellowship in Wesson's office, she said.

"What was educational to me, and bothersome at times, was the extent to which everyone involved in the process has to work with so many people, reasonable and not reasonable," she said. "The sheer acrobatics to balance all of that - and people came out of the woodwork you were not expecting. You need to be able to put people together and make them happy, or in a way they don't know they're unhappy."

Hastings professor David Jung, director of the school's Center for State and Local Government Law, said the clinic is an extension of a program launched 20 years ago by the late professor Julian Levi and former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown.

That program, modeled loosely on similar efforts in other states, provides students to research legal issues of relevance to the Legislature.

Levi believed a publicly supported institution should return a benefit to the public, Jung said.

"Professors Salerno and Jung came to me last year with a proposal to establish the clinic," said Hastings Chancellor and Dean Mary Kay Kane.

"It came at a time when, obviously, we didn't have many funds, and clinics are very expensive because there are fewer students than in classrooms," she said. "But it's part of our whole mission. One of the things we do well is train lawyers who go into government."

Hastings will open the clinic next year to students at other law schools in the University of California system and selected private law schools.

"It's a very radical idea for students to register or cross-register," Jung said. "There are hurdles to that kind of thing. But it's simply too good of a program not to offer the opportunity to schools that wouldn't want to set up a program, but would like to have access to it. A lot of law practice is about networking. There's no reason students shouldn't be making those connections as early in their careers as possible."

Salerno, a deputy legislative counsel, is the key to the program because it is important to have someone on site who knows how the Legislature works and where to make the placements, Jung said.

Salerno said students in the clinic were a little unhappy being asked to start the school semester earlier than usual by showing up in early January for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's first State of the State Address. Following the speech, Salerno arranged for the students to meet Diane Cummings, a policy consultant for Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, D-San Francisco, and Richard Mersereau, policy director for the Assembly Republican Caucus.

"They started talking about the State of the State on multiple levels for two hours," Salerno said. "The students said, 'We can't believe how well they get along together.' They came to understand that today you may be on opposite sides, but tomorrow you may be working together."

The students got a close look at how the Legislature reacted to a new administration that came to power through a historic recall.

Schwarzenegger's staff also had to react quickly.

"They had to start building their files in mid [legislative] session," said Callegari, who had been placed in the governor's office. "They wanted their own agencies' analyses and not those done by the previous administration. I got exposed to more of a broad range of bills and issues but at less depth than my counterparts."

As the Legislature sent bills to the governor, Callegari's job was to review the agency's analysis, look at constituents' views and prepare an executive brief, which a deputy reviewed and submitted to the governor, who would decide the bill's fate.

"I got to incorporate a big component of professor Salerno's teaching on statutory interpretation, spotting any ambiguity, analyzing how it could lead to unintended consequences, and actual drafting techniques," Callegari said.

Callegari had worked for five years with a private environmental consulting firm in Southern California before seeking a law degree. He is clerking at a San Francisco law firm this summer. Although interested in politics, he doesn't plan a political career right now, but he said the clinic has affected him profoundly.

"It will be something I will follow more closely rest of my life," Callegari said.

Euler, who said she wants to be a deputy district attorney, got a chance to work with a former prosecutor, Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, R-Orange.

"I carried six bills," she said. "It was about half of the ones he was carrying this session. I was the one who prepared them for committee, did background on them and got him ready to go to committee on them. I met with constituents and responded to some constituent letters.

"I saw him every day. We'd talk. Not all students had the same experience. It was just exciting."

Dominguez, who also is clerking for a law firm in San Francisco this summer, hopes to find a job working in the Legislature.

Salerno said he tells all of his students they have an attorney-client relationship with the officials they work for.

"Once you accept the job, you have to do it in a very professional manner," Salerno said. "I tell the students that because you can have such an incredible impact on people. We discuss the ethics up front, in the first week of orientation."

Salerno asked each student about his or her political beliefs, the issues that interested them and for their top three preferences for placement.

Halfway through the semester, he learned that one student felt uncomfortable working with a lawmaker whose views differed radically from the student's. The student was supposed to have been working with a committee the lawmaker chaired but wound up working more directly for the politician, Salerno said.

He quickly arranged to have the student shifted to a more moderate committee consultant.

Jung said it is important for students to learn their role as a lawyer, especially when working in the legislative process.

"Does a city attorney have to share the views of the mayor?" Jung said. "Can one do legal work for someone with a different affiliation and still do the right thing? We spend several weeks just talking about that. The idea is that a lawyer can tell you what the law is and whatever you want to do with it is up to you. I would almost hope that students discover their political philosophy is not always the same [as their clients']."

Several students, including Briana Morgan, who worked with the Assembly Public Safety Committee, and Joel Buckingham, who worked with Sen. Charles Poochigian, R-Fresno, said they were impressed by the commitment made by the lawmakers and their staffs.

"Right now there's such a negative [public] opinion of the capital in general," Morgan said. "This semester has changed some of that for me. It's so full of people who really believe in what they are doing."

Salerno said he wants the clinic to give students a "nuanced view of the law."

"I wanted them to understand the external pressures - whether it's a new governor, or special interest groups, or how administrative agencies connect to the process," Salerno said. "Law isn't just what the Legislature enacts, but what happens to it when it goes to an administrative agency. Finally, I wanted to show them how their legal education fits into the fabric of the law. It's a tapestry."

[Update: So, one of my email programs automatically spell checks before it sends mail. Apparently, Bill Gates is Italian and hungry. For the reporter's name, the suggested correction was "Rigatoni," for my friend Chris, his last name would've become "Calamari," and my former boss? I thought he was Armenian, but apparently "Sicilian" is the better form of "Simitian." Amusing.]

Pedro in the News

And I'd said having Mayor Hahn didn't get us more coverage. Seems I was wrong.

Original 9/11 plot also a study in organizational management

Here's WashPost coverage of the 9/11 Commission findings on the extent of the original attack plans, which included up to 10 planes headed for targets on both coasts. Of particular note, however, is this description of an unfulfilled part of the plan:

"The centerpiece of his original proposal was the tenth plane, which he would have piloted himself," it says. Instead of crashing it in a suicide attack, Mohammed would have killed every adult male passenger on the plane, contacted the media from the air and landed the aircraft at a U.S. airport. Then he would have made a speech denouncing U.S. policies in the Middle East before releasing all the women and children, the report says.

When bin Laden finally approved the operation, he personally scrapped the idea of using one of the hijacked planes to make a public statement, the report says.

All that death and destruction and that part would've been the centerpiece? No wonder OBL nixed the idea. But still, it warrants a good thought or two on what would lead someone to that now-very-old-school-terrorism conclusion about what would make a point. That the idea existed and was ditched lends credibility to the "no, they don't win if we're afraid, they win if we're dead" notion. Think about it - I think there's a lot of fun symbolism and meaning in this abandoned idea.


"Given the catastrophic results of the 9/11 attacks, it is tempting to depict the plot as a set plan executed to near perfection," the report says. "This would be a mistake. The 9/11 conspirators confronted operational difficulties, internal disagreements, and even dissenting opinions within the leadership of al Qaeda. In the end, the plot proved sufficiently flexible to adapt and evolve as challenges arose."

The article goes on to discuss the various personality conflicts and organization problems that prevented the attack from being more successful. As distrubing as the subject matter is - it would make an interesting chapter in a management class text - right between the Bay of Pigs and Challenger chapters - an example of limited success while balancing people, ideas, and influences.

One of the pilots takes on a more human role in the article as he pines for a girlfriend in Germany and almost loses his place in history over her. The article sites him as seemingly more "westernized," but sites only gregarity and missing-girl-ishness as examples. Interesting implications there too.

And on the question of where the PA plane was headed? One communication prefered an early September date because "Congress would be in session." OBL prefered the White House, but it was a smaller target. The article says the matter seems unresolved as late as two days before the attack.

Of course, one of the more talked about aspects of the Commissions findings is the lack of collaberation between Iraq and al Qaeda. Not for lack of trying, it would seem, but Saddam never bit and the two didnt' cooperate. Leading of course to:

The conclusions provide the latest example of how the Sept. 11 commission has become a political irritant for the Bush administration. The 10-member bipartisan commission, initially opposed by the White House, has frequently feuded with the government over access to documents and witnesses and has issued findings sharply critical of the Bush administration's focus on terrorism prior to the Sept. 11 attacks.

I HATE it when independent investigatory commissions ditch the script.

Take this next paragraph and a sleeping pill and see what your head does to you tonight:

As al Qaeda developed, its terrorist training camps in Afghanistan provided fertile ground for its operatives "to think creatively about ways to commit mass murder," it says. Among the ideas that were raised: taking over a nuclear missile launcher in Russia and forcing Russian scientists to fire a nuclear missile at the United States, carrying out mustard gas or cyanide attacks against Jewish areas in Iran, spreading poison gas through the air conditioning system of a targeted building and hijacking an aircraft and crashing it into an airport terminal or nearby city.

But say, how does one fund such things anyway?

"Contrary to popular understanding," the report says, "bin Laden did not fund al Qaeda through a personal fortune and a network of businesses," and he never received a $300 million inheritance. He actually received about $1 million a year over about 24 years as an inheritance, a significant sum but not enough to fund a global terrorist network.

"Instead, al Qaeda relied primarily on a fundraising network developed over time," the report says. It says the CIA estimates that al Qaeda spent $30 million a year, with the largest outlays ($10 million to $20 million annually) going to fund the Taliban.

"Actual terrorist operations were relatively cheap," it says.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks and the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan, "al Qaeda's funding has decreased significantly," the report says. But the group's expenditures have decreased as well, and "it remains relatively easy for al Qaeda to find the relatively small sums required to fund terrorist operations," the report warns.

Another highlight - the finding that al Q is far more decentralized now, "with operational commanders and cell leaders making the decisions that were previously made by bin Laden." Gee, that's good news, isn't it. Remember what happens when you try to kill a starfish? See regeneration. The way we're fighting this war doesn't work. We're killing starfish, planting dragon's teeth, and whatever other metaphor you'd like to try.

Information is step one. Truth is step two. Step three remains to be determined.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004


Pistons 100, Lakers 87.


The Wit and Wisdom of Jon Stewart

Here's a contribution from Phoblog roomie B. It's Jon Stewart's Commencement Address at Willam and Mary:

. . . Today is the day you enter into the real world, and I should give you a few pointers on what it is. It’s actually not that different from the environment here. The biggest difference is you will now be paying for things, and the real world is not surrounded by three-foot brick wall. And the real world is not a restoration. If you see people in the real world making bricks out of straw and water, those people are not colonial re-enactors—they are poor. Help them. . . .

It's a pretty good speech. I don't know if it's Conan-caliber, but it's good. (I shouldn't say that without rereading the Conan speech, it's been awhile). The Stewart speech is probably funnier if you are a Daily Show viewer and can imagine the delivery - since this kind of comedy surely sounds better than it reads. It definitely has its moments, however.

Just for you guys - I'll paste the text of both speechs in the comments box below, in case navigating away from Phoblog is too scary for you.


How's that for an acronym?

Thanks to L.A. Observed for linking to a funny post on Scourge of Entertainment. There doesn't seem to be a direct link - so here's a direct quote:

Angeleno Defamation Watch - GQ cited!
The League for Protecting Angelenos Against Condescending Putdowns Or Half-Praises By Easterners Who Are Not As Bright As They Think (TLPAACPOH-PBEWANABATT) issues its first Norman Mailer Award/citation to
Gentleman's_Quarterly Magazine. First, for this little drool piece of snootery, buried deep in paragraph two of "Jake, Rattle and Roll", a profile of the philosopher Gyllenhaal, by Brian Raftery.

Responding to JG's comment that people are oft surprised to learn he is an LA native, Raftery observes:

In a way, he seems too real for that town - capable of expounding on the merits of Howard Dean's candidacy; conversant in this week's issues of both US and The New Yorker; as excited about OutKast as he is about the excellent steak he just ate a celebrated Manhattan restaurant.."

Yes, what a shock it is to learn that Angelenos can talk about Howard Dean and read The New Yorker- and enjoy steaks at fancy restaurants no less!

I'm not even going to start quoting New Yorker west coast sales stats. Lemme just say, wasn't there a time when musing on other people's depth in the space of a Gyllenhaal profile was, like, um, illegal or something?

The same issue features "A GQ Guide: LA the Next Capital of Style" a shopping guide to the City of Angeles. The piece's author, Glenn O' Brien,
introduces his treatise on expensive furniture stores thusly:

In Los Angeles, to live is to shop. Angelenos shop their scripts, they shop for deals, and as they transit the sunny palm-fronded grid from point A to punta B, they shop not for what they need as much as for what they can imagine.

If only it were so Glenn O' Brien. If only...

In any event, you two, this time we'll let you off with a fifty dollar fine and a promise from you not to turn up next week bragging about having sold the rights to your half-finished novel to Paramount.

Yes, it's true that I frequently warn about the hazards of becoming an over-booster, someone so into undoing other people's snobbery they out snob the snobs, but in this case, the post struck a cord.

East Coasters do exhibit an unnerving tendency to want to reward the unfortunate Angelenos when we manage to get up in the morning or differentiate between Manet, Monet, Money, and Manolo.

Like - for example - west coast is suckered by Enron et al in the energy market - power goes out a few times - billions are lost - moderate local news coverage. New York City goes dark and more people than usual have to take the Ferry - BREAKING NEWS COVERAGE ON ALL CHANNELS FOR HOURS. WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT. HOW WILL THE REST OF THE COUNTRY SURVIVE? PEOPLE HAD. TO. WALK. DOWN. STAIRS. NOOOOOO!

No respect, I tell you.