Tuesday, August 31, 2004

It's Crasstastic!

At least, that's what The Daily Show has dubbed this week's Republican National Convention.

The overriding theme? "Unmitigated Gall," which is expressed via daily themes, like Thursday's "F#$% you, what are you going to do about" theme. All presented by the President, "whose compassion, like the Olympics, triumphantly springs forth once every four years."

Still not watching this show? You're missing out. Catch a repeat of tonight's show tomorrow at 7pm (check local listings). New shows air at 11pm.

And while you're watching, keep in mind the end goal of satire and its impressive record for successfully changing minds. Then go pick up some Swift and brush up on your activism.

Son of a . . . .

Nader makes Florida ballot

Natch.

How Many Movie References Can You Fit in One Speech?

Many, apparently.

The California Governor - you may know him from such films as Jingle All The Way and Junior opened with a trifecta of movie and "industry" references - the Oscars, True Lies, and his own acting prowess (or lack thereof).

He added the frequent hey-I'm-an-actor grace note to his stories - like when telling his "I was a scrawny Austrian running from evil Ruskies" story, he let us know he "wasn't an action hero back then." Thanks for clearing that up.

I couldn't help thinking what savvy rhetoric Arnold employed. After all, the Republican Party has never gone wrong using cold war imagery to sew up an election. Except for that one time in 1992.

Keeping, perhaps unintentionally, with the 1968 redux outside the Garden, Schwarzenegger attacked Hubert Humphrey and praised Tricky Dick. In fact, he wanted to be just like Nixon. Warms the heart, doesn't it?

He touched frequently on the American Dream, saying he's proof that if you work hard and play by the rules you can achieve anything. Yes, kids, steroids were part of the rules way back then. None of that anti-doping wussy crap you saw in Athens.

Best unintentionally funny line: "it doesn't make any difference who your parents were." (Says the man cheering for Bush II, married to a Kennedy).

During his first "repeat after me" section, he listed had a list of you might be a redneck - I'm sorry - a Republican if item. "If you believe this country and not UN is best hope for democracy then you're a Republican." Okay. But all I could think of was Chris Rock's Head of State opponent's refrain: "god bless America, and no place else."

Then, the exacta:

Bush will "terminate terrorism."

And:

[To those who are pessimistic about the economy] - "don't be economic girlie men." This was one of the biggest, if not The biggest applause line of his speech.

He also cited the pessimism of 20 years ago (wait, who was president then. 2000-20=? Yeah, that's what I thought too).

Then we get the Bush twins.

They called "gammie" Barbara Bush unhip - then went ahead and became poster children for uncool themselves.

In a daring example of self-deprecating humor gone wrong, they called themselves "young and irresponsible" and said they really aren't that political but, gee whiz, love their Dad enough to not hang back. And they needed something to do for a few years - like dad. No really, they said all of that.

I'm trying to imagine Chelsea Clinton lightly laughing at her own political ignorance. Unlikely. High in my book of pet peeves are girls who think they look cooler if they appear happily, willfully disengaged. Guys don't make passes at girls who act like asses.

[Update: From the Chron, just now:
The girls, just graduated from Yale and the University of Texas, referred to hijinks that sometimes landed them in the newspaper headlines.

"We spent the last four years trying to stay out of the spotlight," Jenna Bush said to laughter from the delegates. "Sometimes we did a little better job than others." Their father once referred to his youthful drinking as a "young
and irresponsible" stage of his life.] (For the record, if a Dem kid joked like that, they'd be strung up as a threat to Family Values. Dems don't get the youthful indiscretion card.)

And if anyone can explain that line about "bushies" and a hamster . . . . I didn't get that at all. [Update 2: Chron explains it - it was a reference to the Kerry kids' hamster and their dad's efforts to save it. Theirs didn't make it. Okay, I get it. But it was delivered poorly. Comedic timing isn't a Bush family trait. Read the full article for more highlights from the short, but steep rise of the Bush Twins Public Phase.]

Then we get GWB live from a baseball game in Pennsylvania - how American! How good, clean fun! Then, "Isn't She Lovely" Laura Bush. Then a boys choir. Ennnnd Scene.

I missed last night's coverage, but tonight was everything I hoped it would be. Arnold got my heart-rate up, Jenna and Barbara made me wince for the future of women in politics, and Laura was, well, Laura.

I can see, however, how all of it was quite effective for GOPers out there. There were bits for every corner of the party (maybe even Log Cabin types - Laura Bush did thanks the WHOLE Cheney family, after all). I suppose the chinks in their armor were more apparent to me because I was watching with a hyper critical eye.

Conventions don't do anything. But all the other "news" coming out of the affair blocks the good whacking Bush should be taking for his we-can't-no-we-can-no-we-will flip-flop this week.


Ah, Memories . . .

Phoblog thinks fondly back to her senior year of college when reading Class Maledictorian's post about the Secret Service investigation into Indymedia's posting of RNC delegates contact info.

Mal's story comes from Volokh, which in turn, get's its background story from Fox News.

So what does my senior year have to do with it? My two neighbors and former coworkers posted Electoral College members' contact information online in 2000 as part of an effort to get them to jump ship and elect Gore, winner of the popular vote. Their organization, Citizens for Democracy, got quite a bit of national attention, and on more than one morning I was trapped in my apartment because of a pile of cameras and mics on the patio out front.

And citizen action grand?

Maledictorian notes that no one investigated Dave and Matt back then. Those were different days, though, weren't they? When activism didn't come with a promise of a federal house call and an invasive background check?

Volokh says he doesn't know if such posting is per se illegal. I doubt it is. As with the EC members, and other such efforts, the problem is seldom the information individually, but when it's aggregated and easily accessible that we have a problem. The hosting service has been subpoenaed so the feds can track down Indy folks.

Their concern is that the organizers could be planning to hurt the delegates. But from the one posting quoted, the message was that the delegates should know what people think of the Reep platform and that "they aren't welcome" in NYC. The second part of that statement may be cause for concern, if it's paired with a call for violence (Never a protected form of speech, and rightly not). But since it is a website, a new, mostly transparent medium, there shouldn't be too much to investigate. There's no mention of anything flashmob-ish. And the point of a website is that it's an easy, one step, fairly passive way to get instructions and comments out to an infinite group of people.

I'll note also that the Fox News article doesn't link to the Indy site. So here's the delegate site: rncdelegates.com, and the Indy site: Independent Media Center. I'll be reading them and updating this post later. (Assuming power has been restored to Casa de Phoblog. Ah, charming old SF victorian).

Whoops, Did I say 'can't win? I meant can, hell, 'will' win

Naturally, Bush's handlers took him out back and beat the snot out of him until he came to his senses and then proceeded to clarify that not only can we win the war on terror, we will win the war on terror.

Kerry and Edwards respond with "duh." (Though I think Bush's comments betrayed a touch of honestly uncommon in American politics today - always from the ones you least expect, too. But Americans love them some victory - just take the last 2 weeks in Athens - so "win" the war we will.)

The article also proivides a nice recap of the first night's festivities. Include the previously mentione Michael Moore quote that I'd missed.

Field Report 1: Hutch Scopes The Nightlife; Misses La Rouchies

Where have all the protestors gone?

That's the question I've been asking. If you're watching the convention coverage on TV, you'd think New York was swamped with unwashed masses protesting everything from abortion to Iraq to their misfortune for not being born in a more protest-chic era. However, I have yet to spot (or smell) a single protester. They do exist, of course. And Holly Hunter did heckle one of my coworkers. But no sign of the crazed LaRouche/IMF/hemp posse so far. And yes, I have indeed walked away from the Garden and outside the barricades.

Last night was fun. Caught a bit of McCain's speech, including the Michael Moore line - which just killed in that audience. Missed everything else because I went to get dinner with the aforementioned coworker. Went to PJ Clark's on 3rd Avenue, which I highly recommend. Not too pricey, can cook a medium rare burger correctly, great atmosphere, and great service. Scored a VIP ticket to the GA party at Roseland Ballroom featuring Martina McBride. Concert and venue were great and food and drinks were free, naturally. Incidentally, Roseland is where the Bush twins held their party on Sunday
night. VIP pass afforded me access to the 2nd floor, better views, and a better bar. Then I crashed.

Yes, I did just spend far more time discussing everything BUT the convention - but that's why we're really here right?

On tap for today - state delegation breakfast with rah rah speeches from BC04 surrogates, community service project, party with Clint Black, and then the Yankees game. And maybe the Governator's event if I can score a ticket.

-- Chris Hutchison

[Ed. Note - Sadly, Phoblog missed McCain's speech, including the "Michael Moore line." Why? Because I was phoning for friend and fellow CMCer Sean Elsbernd. Of note, perhaps: SF is such a politically active city that many of the people I called, presumably Dems, said they couldn't talk because they were watching McCain's speech. I was jealous.]

Monday, August 30, 2004

On the Record, For the Record

In the comments section of the post below, I responded to a Phoblog reader's comments by pulling up some examples of a time when Bush thought winning the war on terror was worthy of federal spending and whatnot. I submit for your consideration:

  1. The 2004 State of the Union Address: Many of our troops are listening tonight. And I want you and your families to know: America is proud of you. And my administration, and this Congress, will give you the resources you need to fight and win the war on terror. Applause.)
  2. Office of Management and Budget: Winning the War on Terror: CONCLUSION - President Bush is steadfastly pursuing a comprehensive approach to winning the War on Terror.
  3. A Los Angeles Times article on a Bush press conference that I blogged on 14 April 2004: The president replied: "I don't plan on losing my job. I plan on telling the American people that I've got a plan to win the war on terror, and I believe they'll stay with me. They understand the stakes."

Funny, who knew his plan to win the war on terror was to, un, not win it because it's unwinnable! Brilliant, daring, bleeding edge, fantastic. And before I get a string of "he said we couldn't have a conventional victory" caveats - let's be clear that it was Scott McClellan who "clarified" things. The Prez, per usual, said what he said and left nuance to those who can spell the word.

Come on readers - find me more - I know there are even better quotes out there! Bust out those Lexis passwords and get to work . . . .


He Said What?

Ah, yes. See the problem with trying to snatch the other guy's line? Now look where you are.

So Bush says we can't win the war on terror. His staff helpfully clarifies that he meant "win" in the conventional, white flag, Appomatox Courthouse sense.

Edwards says in reponse that "the war on terrorism is absolutely winnable."

So, okay, fine. You know what this makes me think of? The founders called themselves Federalists, even thought they weren't. Then the other guys, seeing their rightful title jacked, had to call themselves anti-Federalists. Except they weren't either. So now each side is stuck with the wrong basic talking points and nomenclature.

Actually, that analogy only sorta works.

My point is this: no, the war on terror isn't "winnable." Especially not when we're breeding new and exciting forms of terrorists with all our hearts and minds gathering in Iraq. But Bush sold his schtick well - so well that the Dems had to come up with their own plan to "win" even though a more honest answer would've been: "No, this isn't winnable, but we'll do our best to protect our country while encouraging global diplomacy and understanding; and pouring massive R&D money into getting ourselves an economy based on anything not originating in the Middle East."

But nope, we didn't do that. So now the president comes clean and we're left with some red cheeks. (Note, however, Kerry's response to Bush's assertion that Kerry's fuel economy standards proposals would hurt Michigan. Kerry has, from the start, included the need for alternative energy sources in his campaign. For that, I give him much credit.)

Ten extra credit points for anyone who can adequately define "catastrophic success." It's poetically true if you go with definitions 3 or 4.

At any rate - Bush will likely get a pass on this more recent idiotic statement and we'll miss a chance to point and yell "liar" as loud as we can. Oh, excuse me, point and yell "misleader."

Guess turning the corner on terrorism doesn't have anything to do with winning.

Other On-Location Bloggers

Back for another round, Phoblog fav Harold Meyerson is blogging from NYC (along with a host of other LA Weekly bloggers).

In his first installment, Meyerson looks at the relationship between host cities and convention action, saying, "What's never happened before is that a convention has come to be viewed by its host city as an alien intrusion . . . ."

And:

This is so far from the norm of how a city and convention interact that it is almost in a class by itself in American political history. Last month's Democratic Convention in Boston, for instance, featured outdoor concerts for delegates and locals alike. No convention planner even contemplated such a mixing of populations here in New York, however. Delegates travel through the city in buses with police escorts; their parties are cordoned off by the cops; getting into their hotels requires running a gauntlet of separate security forces. At times, you get the feeling the Republicans may as well be holding their convention in Baghdad. . . .

. . . There was, from time to time on the parade route, the chant "Whose streets? Our streets!" But the Republicans are happy to cede the streets to protestors, Democrats, and just plain New Yorkers (many of whom, of course, are protestors and Democrats). They've got their hotels, their convention, all encased in the most heavily policed bubble anyone has seen this side of the Green Zone in Baghdad. It's in good part directed against threats of terrorism, of course. But, as with most everything that the Bush Administration does, it's also in good part directed against us.

Note also: the irony of several hotel meeting room names - apparently, the RNC didn't brush up on its theater history; his drop into a party hosted by notable CMC alumnus David Dreier ('75 and the Chairman of the House Rules Committee) where he ran into GOP consultant Allen Hoffenblum (perhaps of note only to my family - Hoffenblum ran the campaign of the evil Reep who beat my Dad in the 1980 State Assembly race).

For bloggers at home with the RNC, Robert Tagorda recommends David Adesnik's Oxblog.

Meet the Reeps

While coverage won't be as extensive this time out, I have wrangled the following guest bloggers to cover the RNC in NYC.

I believe you've already met Jim Pinkerton of Newsday, FOX News, and Phoblog's own DNC Convention Coverage.

We've also tapped fellow CMC and Rose Institute alum Chris Hutchison to join the fun. Chris currently hails from Capitol Hill, though his heart is forever in St. Louis. He's a staffer for a Republican House member and has a background in redistricting policy and survey research. He reports he'll be proudly displaying his Cardinals hat at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night and he expects to make it to the floor this year to make up for his exclusion in Philly 4 years ago (where he was relegated to "mooching beers from the fine folks in the hospitality tent").

We hope to have our first reports sometime tonight or tomorrow.

Okay, Break's Over

Two of Phoblog's favorite sites are back in action today: Kevin Roderick's L.A. Observed and the ever elusive LibertarianJackass.

Kevin has substantive stuff up, LJ delights us with tales of island travel. Welcome back, boys.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Quick Take on the Trouble with Journos Today

The Daily Show's Rob Corddry (as quoted by Fox News Watch's Neal Gabler):

[I'm a reporter, Jon]. My job is to say half the time what one side is saying and half the time what the other side is saying.
Yup - that about sums it up.

[An Aside: I'm watching the MTV Video Music Awards (because the closing ceremonies are boring) - there are 4 daughters - 2 for each candidate - pleading for increased voter turnout and youth involvement. The crowd is booing more audibly than it's cheering. I wonder if they know that the ones on stage are the Kerry daughters. Then again, this is Florida. The Bush girls are talking via satellite from NYC - it's harder to get the accurate audio that way. It was an interesting moment to watch.]

Finally, A Funny Republican

Interesting piece in the New York Times on stand-up Republicans - a tour called ("inevitably and without much comic promise") "The Right Stuff" at a comedy club in Times Sqaure.

The premise of the tour: right-leaning comics are under-represented, most comedy, stand up and situational, targets the right. Of course, perhaps the NYT can't contain it's own liberal media bias since one of the "jokes" it offers as illustrative of their brand of humor involves "political correctness so tyrannical that the automatic teller machines have a Braille alternative even at the drive-in bank." (har har. a) old joke. b) easily explained by economies of scale - their all the same damn machines. there, i killed it with logic and i don't feel bad). [Update: blogging too soon is dangerous. Later in the article, the Times credits the ATM comedian as "genuinely clever" in his case against PC-ness. Clearly, the author doesn't get out much.]

I also find it difficult to argue that comedy can be "liberal" or "conservative." Comedy generally comes from either incongruity or from subverting the prevailing powers. This means what's funny with one crowd isn't necessary going to translate to another. To wit:

For the show, each of the three comedians did a set of about a half- hour, and interestingly, the outright political jokes sprinkled through the evening - which was, for the most part but not entirely, free of vulgarity - provided the most strained and least rewarding humor. The comics were better when they were showing off their different styles and personalities.
There was at least one good "political" line:

. . . she mixed some familiar female humor in with her political observations, noting, for example, that seeing slender women with small behinds on the street was the only thing that made her feel like a Democrat: "It's so unfair that some people have so little."
In certain respects, of course, "Republican" comedians will sweep the nation the same way Air American did. In other words, it won't. Once one side succeeds, it will take awhile for the other to find its own claim to the medium. The Daily Show, then, may be able to build counter-Fox News power, though it's an equal opportunity mocker. Especially with comedy, it isn't enough just to sub-out your language in someone else's tested framework (I'm going to say in advance that this is why Joey will tank even as it tries to use the Friends framework).

Axing the Electoral College

Ho-hum: The NYT presents a call for the abolition of the Electoral College.

It presents no novel arguments. In fact, it kinda overlooks basic logic in the opening paragraph when it says "It's hard to tell New York City children that every vote is equally important - it's winner take all here, and whether Senator Kerry beats the president by one New York vote or one million, he will still walk away with all 31 of the state's electoral votes."

True, but, if we moved to a direct election then the winner could walk away with the presidency with just one vote, or one million.

And, for the record, Gore likely won Florida and therefore its electoral votes as well - the Supreme Court just chose to create its own constitutional crisis by selectively dumping the political question doctrine. But whatev.

Second error in math: "The Electoral College also heavily favors small states. The fact that every one gets three automatic electors - one for each senator and a House member - means states that by population might be entitled to only one or two electoral votes wind up with three, four or five."

Okay, also true. But if each state starts with 3 automatic electors, that kinda resets 3 as the baseline, right? And that's an absolutely necessary component of our republic - the guarantee of state representation (if not for the provision allowing the direct election of senators, I think this would be more easily understood by Americans). The remainder of votes, as with the remainder of the House of Representatives, are approtioned among the states according to population - making the college correctly representative based on our founding principles.

As a Californian, yeah, I wish California were more of a question mark because . . . . well, I want candidates to pander to me like they pander to Floridians or Iowans or whomever. That's really what it's about - and I don't even think that's wholly bad - after all, call it "pork barrel" politics or legislation, but those are real roads, real jobs, real projects that positively enhance citizens' quality of life. But it's kind of California's fault, isn't it? California is a gathering of like-minded people (Orange County readers, save it, I know this is an oversimplification).

And what would happen if we directly elected the president? New Hampshire wouldn't see another candidate, nor would the majority of red states, as would-be presidents focused on urban, high density, high vote areas. Why go to Cheyenne when you can focus on Atlanta? Why go to either when you have Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City? We could see even more localized, intense campaigning - good for the city-o-centric coasts, from which media empires are directed - making the echo chambers that much louder and that much less able to expand beyond the hyper-politicized.

The NYT editorial (which I'll paste in comments below for you non-subscribers) closes by saying the small states are already significantly overrepresented in the Senate.

Depends on how you define representation, doesn't it? (I'll pause here and have myself a thesis flashback. Go Athenas).

Every vote does count, it just might need to be used more effectively. Think. Strategize. Work a little. And while you're at it - brush up on your American history. We've almost completely abandoned the notion that we are United States.

Your thoughts? The Electoral College: love it or dump it?

Best. Signs. EVAH

In honor of next week's festivities:

A great link sent in by a reader, here's a collection of Bush/Cheney signs generated by the now defunct Sloganator.

Some highlights:
  • So Conservative It Makes Your Head Hurt
  • Subverting Democracy One Election at a Time
  • We can detain you, you know
  • We lied about WMD
  • We Cuddle Firemen
  • Steady Horsemen for the Apocolypse

Sadly, my least favorite blogger is associated with the project. But I respect good comedy enough to look beyond that. Enjoy. And you know what, if you want, go ahead and come up with your own in the Comments box (My Reep readers can go for Kerry - but make it good. Bonus if you can avoid Swift Boat unfunnies).

Saturday, August 28, 2004

At Least 3 More Unspecial Interests

This rundown of the Legislative session includes a fun nugget on the our Gov's travel this week:

His trip to the Republican National Convention in New York City this week will cost about $350,000 and is being underwritten by major companies such as SBC and Time Warner. Included on the list of donors are Pfizer, Abbott Laboratories and Amgen, three representatives of the pharmaceutical industry that have battled the prescription drug bills that now await Schwarzenegger's decision.
I'm just SO glad the people of California tossed a lifetime public service in favor of someone who won't yeild to or cut deals with the drug industry, the telecom industry, Indian tribes . . . oh forget it. I'm too tired for sarcasm. A cynic would say he's just as bad as the rest of 'em. I'm not a cynic, but he's at least as bad as recall advocates said Davis was.

At any rate - read the rest of the article for a rundown of legislation now moving through the horseshoe.

And if anyone can explain to my why Schwarzenegger would rush to introduce a solar energy initiative to a hostile legislature - a cloudily constructed measure at that - that'd be great. Why invite a defeat? Stay tuned for more on this solar issue as well - the Legislature had several chances to set the groundwork for an energy policy that could help save (excuse me while I dream big) the nation.

A Non-political, Non-policy Aside: Go see Garden State. Zach Braff is very, very talented. For that matter, if you aren't watching "Scrubs", you should start. A good comedy is hard to find. You know, outside of the nightly news and most presidential press releases.

Two Things to Keep in Mind

Both from MLK, Jr:

  • In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
  • Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Coverage from the Pros

From the SF Chron: Kerry focuses on economy in visit / In Bay Area, he says he'll aid consumers

LAT: Kerry Hits Bush With Latest Economic Report

Wheels up - Now Back to Blogging

So, what have I been up to for the past 24 hours or so? If you live in San Francisco and tried to get around the city this morning or this afternoon, then you might have run into us.

Yes, I was a driver for Democratic nominee John Kerry's motorcade. And it was awesome. This will be a straight geek post - I'm not ashamed - so if you don't dig geeky political enthusiasm, you may as well just check out the photos and wait for the meaty stuff later.

No, I didn't drive John Kerry himself, duh - that would be Secret Service territory. I drove some of his key staff, however. Hardworking bunch, lemme tell you. They were uniformly considerate, nice people - which is saying something for a group that likely hasn't had more than 3 hours of sleep a night for the last who-knows-how-long.

The gig was mostly waiting time: waiting at the Fairmont, waiting at SFO, waiting at the Fairmont (again), waiting at a high school in Daly City, etc. During those waits, however, we met various members of the Kerry campaign staff, chatted up Secret Service agents and police officers, and looked imposing guarding our "clean" vehicles from many curious passers-by. The actual driving time was short but surprisingly tense. Surrounded by SFPD and CHP, we wound through city streets and onto a clean swept 101 for the runs between Daly City and the Fairmont.

On the way into the city last night, some poor soul on a motorcycle found himself entwined in the procession - not where you want to be when you're 4 cars from the potential future leader of the free world. He was finally wrangled by two bike cops and a CHP cruiser - halted at the side of the road - likely as confused as we were. There's an art to following closely enough to, yet safely distanced from, the car in front. You can't tap the breaks too much, because you have 4 staffers with laptops and deadlines behind you. Leave too much room and clueless drivers try to merge - resulting in some really testy maneuvers by CHP cruisers.

And then there's those guys with the big guns sticking out of the windows all around you. I felt safe - yet surely expendable.

Come to think of it - I won't bore with too many more details - and this will probably be edited later as I come down from this adrenaline and fatigue.

So for now, here's some photos of the day. We got handshakes by the plane - and I placed myself strategically at the end of the line, promising to get pix of my fellow drivers' brushes with greatness. With the understanding that the other guy with a camera would get me. We don't think that ocurred. He got too excited and may have forgotten or messed it up. Sigh. Oh well. Next time . . .



He's in the first green SUV. In the second green SUV are many friendly agents who will kill you no problem if you try anything crazy.



Ever tried to get a motorcade through the crowded, narrow streets of Chinatown? Good times.



Me and the motorcade crew - along with Marvin Nicholson (the taller one in the back with the great tie), Kerry's "Charlie", if you will.



Hello to you too, Senator Kerry!



No! Wait! I don't think they got my handshake photo!



Finally - my photo with John Kerry . . . 's airplane.

But it's proof. I was there.

Social D(em)

Phoblog is doing her civic duty today by volunteering for the Kerry Campaign.

After that, she heads for scenic Kernville for the weekend.

Fun Phoblog Fact of the Day: Phoblog hates to camp! She wishes you all a happy, non-camping weekend! If you live in San Francisco, go to the beach for me (if this is the only nice weekend, I swear . . . .)

Go read the news and do some campaign work yourself . . . .

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Fairly Imbalanced

Josh Marshall has become quite used to taking to task CNN for it's "continuing decline." He catches some great examples, the one below provided to him via one of his readers:

O'BRIEN: All right, we are listening to Max Cleland, former senator from Georgia and former Lieutenant Jim Rassmann, a former Green Beret whose life was saved by John Kerry in the Mekong Delta in 1969. Although, that is a point of dispute, given what has all transpired here with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
I've seen it said in many places now that in an effort to be balanced or "objective," journalism as a profession seems to have gone overboard to find a con to match every pro, or, as in this case, give unnecessary weight to allegations contrary to initial conventional wisdom. Sometimes, however, it may be possible that there is one truth, or one closer-truth, that needs no contrary answer.

I, and it seems, Josh, seem to have missed the landmark news story, event, or case that bestowed upon political ads a presumption of truth. I'd always thought things ran the other way. Of course, I guess that's what's led us into this mirrored hall of a campaign. Truth accosted as lies, lies presumed truth, the real truth uninteresting to all since it lies hazily in between. Where does that leave the voters? Confused.

More importantly, where might that leave the future of American people and the American idea? Sunk.

Is That Like 'Shock and Awe?'

"Comabtive" Secretary of State Kevin Shelley finally met with the met with the San Francisco Chronicle to answer some fairly serious allegations of money laundering and general shadiness.

He said he was "shocked and mystified," by allegations that several sizable donations might have violated state and/or federal law.

He also said: ""Except for the stories over the last couple of weeks about me being an - - hole, all the rest of it is bull -- ."

Hey - he said it. Silver-tongued devil, isn't he.

Offsides

From today's SF Chron:

Judging from the reactions of Iraqi fans, the people of war-ravaged Iraq are proud and excited to be fielding a soccer team at the Summer Olympics in Athens. The team's members haven't been pleased, though, by the way George W. Bush has co-opted their participation in the Games and manipulated it for
political purposes.

The problem: a Bush-campaign TV advertisement titled "Victory." The ad starts with footage from the Munich Olympics in 1972, when Palestinian terrorists killed 13 Israeli athletes. Then a narrator's voice, heard over an image of the fluttering flags of Iraq and Afghanistan, declares (and clearly suggests that it's thanks to Bush), "At this Olympics, there will be two more free nations and two fewer terrorist regimes." (Times; subscription may be required)

The online edition of the American magazine Sports Illustrated broke the story of the Iraqi soccer players' discontent. They "find it offensive that Bush is using their team for his own gain when they do not support his administration's actions in Iraq," Sports Illustrated reporter Grant Wahl wrote from Greece.

He quoted the team's coach, Adnan Hamad, who said, "My problems are not with the American people. ... They are with what America has done in Iraq: destroy everything. The American army has killed so many people in Iraq. What is freedom when I go to the [national] stadium and there are shootings on the road?" Midfielder Ahmad Manajid told Wahl, "I want to defend my home. If a stranger invades America and the people resist, does that mean they are terrorists?"

Hamad's remarks were picked up and echoed in other news-service and newspaper reports around the world. "You cannot speak about a team that represents freedom," he also said. "We do not have freedom in Iraq -- we have an occupying force. This is one of our most miserable times." (Reuters)

(Simultaneously, Bush's campaign was accused "of illegal use of Olympic symbols" in its political ad. That's because "[o]nly the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), or its sponsors and partners, are allowed to use the symbols in [advertisements], under American copyright law." A USOC representative said the organization had requested a copy of the TV spot. (Times))

The Iraqi athletes' comments were reported to be an "embarrassment" for "their media handlers in Athens." (Guardian/Sydney Morning Herald) "Officials from the Iraqi Olympic delegation sought to downplay the political implications of the players' statements ..." and alleged that "journalists had deliberately provoked an angry response from the ... athletes." (Deutsche Welle)

Mark Clark, one of the American officials who have been working with the Iraqi team, said, "It seems the story was engineered. ... The players are not very sophisticated politically; they are a little naive. Whoever posed these questions knew ... the reaction would be negative." Still, Clark allowed, "It's a free, new Iraq and the players are entitled to their opinions, but we are disappointed." (Reuters/Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

Politically sophisticated or not, the players quoted by reporters certainly sounded impassioned. As Manajid told Wahl, "How will [Bush] meet his god [after] having slaughtered so many men and women? ... He has committed so many crimes."

I yet yet to watch the ad with audio - but conceptually, it's rather galling, isn't it? More on this later.


From the Veteran Who Matters Most to Me

This week, my father, a Vietnam veteran who earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his service, travels to Washington State for a reunion of his army unit.



I can't imagine such an event is easy - especially now, given the intense national focus on my father and his fellow veterans.

Last night, he told me that he wore a Vietnam hat while on his way Northwest. He received many thank yous and nods of acknowledgement. He also received a free upgrade from the rental car agency when the kid at the counter asked my Dad what he thought of the Swift Boat vets flack. He explained that regardless of all the Reep hoopla, to get on a swift boat, you had to volunteer. Kerry could've easily gotten a cushy job on a ship safely bobbing in the ocean somewhere. But he didn't. The rental car kid asked my Dad for whom he'd be voting. My Dad said Kerry. The kid said "right answer" and upgraded him to an Envoy.

(Yeah, and I took a moment to ponder the layers of the Envoy upgrade. Besides the meaning of the word, I poked fun at my Dad for accepting a big SUV for just him and my mother - a big, oil-economy-encouraging vehicle that's part of the problem. He said yeah, he knew, but it did drive great. Has that new SUV smell. And he got it for 6 days for $200.)

Update: Per some reader inquiries - on the question of medals, my Dad says while they're subjective, of course, they weren't given out like candy. On the question of Kerry's post-war activities, no, other vets weren't loving it - but then again, no one really liked the war either.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Yes, Quite

Seems there was a tiff today at the roadblock guarding Bush's summer home. Former Senator Max Cleland tried to deliver a letter to the President. No one would take it, or not the person Cleland wanted, etc, etc.

Apparently one person tried - a Texas state official and Vietnam veteran, Jerry Patterson. What happened?

"I tried to accept that letter and he would not give it to me," said Patterson. "He would not face me. He kept rolling away from me. He's quite mobile."

x - 58,245 =

The number of Americans qualified to comment personally on the Bush/Kerry/Swift Boat ads situation, where x = the number of Americans who actually served during Vietnam.

The New York Times presents a sampling of Veterans' opinions, ranging, predictably, from "who cares," to "I now hate Bush," to "Kerry should stop using Vets to his advantage." On balance, I'd say the opinions expressed here lean toward the "I now hate Bush" side of things. A common thread, however, is the football fatigue Veterans feel as they are tossed from one camp to the other.

I often wonder how Vietnam vets feel as they listen to the lauding of the "Greatest Generation," their fathers praised for heroism from the day they returned home to the day they died. Vietnam veterans were "baby killers," until the Gulf War (I) made us thankful for servicemen and women again and we realized we'd dropped the ball on the earlier crowd. So we made up for lost time - perhaps going overboard, no longer able to objectively evaluate the performance of our soliders for fear of seeming unappreciative.

Not everyone in uniform serves honorably. Most do. But not all. Since becoming a nation guided by fear almost 3 years ago we've lost the ability to analyze critically what is done in our name.

So no wonder we're stuck in a situation where the soldier seems in the weaker position than the coward. Most of us don't want to question anything a Vietnam veteran says about his service. So find a few who are willing to go after Kerry, sit back, and marvel at the herd in the headlights of national debate.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Nice to Meet You, Mr. President (Pro Tem)

6:42pm: It's official, State Senator Don Perata is the new President Pro Tempore of the California State Senate. Perata represents the East Bay (Alameda, Berkeley, Oakland, etc). He'll take over for termed-out legend Senator John Burton. Perata’s selection likely makes NorCal members happy given SoCal’s dominance in the Assembly, with their last 4 Speakers hailing from the greater L.A. area. It was a contentious race between Whittier's Martha Escutia, Santa Monica's Sheila Kuehl, and Perata.

The Los Angeles Times, and a lot of Building folks, favored Kuehl. She lacked the bigger money powers of the other two however. Of course, she also lacked the ethical question marks and less-than-stellar reputations of the other two. And she's also a former child star. And a lesbian. And from SoCal. She was likely the better choice. And doomed from the start.

The Bee, and others, say the position is "widely considered the state's second-most powerful position."

It's a testament to the power of lazy journalists. It's much easier to just take what the Senate calls itself as fact. They certainly act superior.* A look at the structure of the Senate, combined with the deleterious effects of term limits means there's really little difference between the houses now. Aside from the Senate's role in the confirmation of gubernatorial appointees, not much difference between it and the Assembly.

There are no "upper" and "lower" houses in the California Legislature.

For further proof, take a look at who's running for what in November. We have Senators stuck without a Senatorial future jumping back "down" to the Assembly because they still have time left to serve there. That would've been very odd 30 years ago - when the structure and reality of the Senate made it more powerful (largely out of its collective experience).

Want more "I'll take any office, thanks" wackiness? Check out the targeted race in the 54th AD (Phoblog's home field). We have an incumbent Senator Betty Karnette who was an Assemblywoman from 1992-1994 (hey, remember '94, THAT was a year, wasn't it) running to reclaim her seat. Her opponent? Why, it’s former State Assemblyman Steve Kuykendall. Oh, and he was also a Member of the United States House of Representative.

Don't tell me the Assembly isn't a hot ticket.

Who thinks there's going to be some voter confusion in Pedro and Long Beach precincts in November? It's a safe bet to assume more than a few voters will scratch their heads thinking one or both of these candidates is already their Assembly Member.

*Disclaimer & Disclosure: I have worked for two Assembly Members and my parents were both Assembly staffers. This legislative nut didn't fall far from the trees - and I still have a strong allegiance to the much maligned, 80 member fun house.

Update: At 4:39pm, Calraces said they would be the first with the scoop on the results of the Pro Tem race. At 5:37 they called it for Perata. I got my link above from Sac Bee, time stamped after 6:29pm. Oakland Tribune had it at 6:07pm. And as of 9:17pm, the Los Angeles Times has nada on the vote. Really - no where that I can find (using their search function and a quick ctrl+F on the front page. Good scoop, Calraces.

Toro, Toro, Toro

Phoblog convention guest blogger Jim Pinkerton takes to task Dem nominee Kerry today, arguing that Kerry's convention strategy emphasizing his war record was tantamount to waving a red flag in front of Vietnam Veterans angry with his post-war protests.

Pinkerton correctly cites the fundamental campaign rule: "know thyself." That is, be aware of your various Achilles heels and either don't jump in heel first (or hang a lantern on, uh, your heels. Okay, it was awfully mixed just then, but go with it, please. My apologies to Chris Matthews). Pinkerton also posits that Kerry could've avoided this latest battle if he'd presented himself as a four-term senator, highlighting differences on health care policy and Iraq.

It would be nice if an alternative health care plan would have attracted as much attention. It would also be nice if we were sure about Kerry's Iraq strategy or opinions (other than that bit about how he'd have voted for the war even today - or he wouldn't have. or, wait, what . . . .).

Kerry should have had stronger, swifter responses to the Swift Boat Captains, especially knowing that Bush and his supporters use this tactic (see: McCain, John). If the Dems had been, or could still be, in better control of Kerry's Message, the strategy would've worked/could work great. Kerry's service distinguishes him from Bush. Reasonable minds fogged by war, passing years, intense personal entanglement with the aftermath of Vietnam, and the need for self-preservation will differ on what happened on a river halfway around the world.

Kerry's problem is that his Iraq-tions don't match his post-Vietnam actions. If he were as zealously and unequivocally against what's been done in Iraq he would still have the same Swift Boat opposition now. In fact, I would argue, even if he had gone with Pinkerton's suggested strategies, the same issues would've been used by Bush/Bush supporters. The difference is that he would have a stronger base - he could've out Deaned Dean by having the practical, ski-free experience the Vermonter lacked. His narrative would've been more linear as well - surely an easier sell to the American people.

As I've mentioned before, post-Abu Ghraib, Kerry's Vietnam accusations seem more plausible, don't they? War does terrible things to young men. I've never been. Nor have I served in the military. But from film, literature, and news accounts, it seems that the basic psychology of war requires young men and women to dehumanize the opponent. At some point, that may break down and lead to actions considered shameful in any other context. Remember the glee with which young Marines in Fahrenheit 9/11 played their high tempo music and shot the holy hell out of a city? Remember them taking photos of prisoners there?

Why couldn't Kerry have said, "look what it did to us then. I know what the worst can be. I'm afraid of that happening again. So I'm against the war now. Some issues don't change. This is one of them."

Kerry couldn't have said that because we don't live in a world scripted by Aaron Sorkin (who'd have been more erudite than I just was). Rather than avoid his service record out of fear of this kind of attack, Kerry could've stayed truer to his own history and provided us all the record to back him up more fully.

Phoblog Horn Tooting

Phoblographer* made news on Around the Capitol.com today:


Best Blog : Calraces.com by Matt Rexroad, Tom Ross, Anthony York and Syrus Devers
Runners Up: Phoblographer.com by Christiana Dominguez & California Insider, by Dan Weintraub


Full disclosure: I was one of the Award voters in all categories, though "blog" wasn't one of them. I did joking suggest a "best blog written by a former fellow" category, however.

So, thanks Around the Capitol.com!

(Of course, on the off-chance this drives some new readers to the site, it makes me a little nervous, considering the slow rate of posting over the past week or so. It's like watching a car of unexpected guests pull up in the drive and glancing around the house to find it unvacuumed. Accordingly, I urge those new to blogs, and this blog in particular, to note the August blog vacation tradition. Yes, I'm calling it a tradition. If L.A. Observed takes off, I think Phoblog can slow it up a bit as well).

Monday, August 23, 2004

Truth in Advertising

The story so far: Veterans, disgruntled over Kerry's post-service, anti-war testimony, take to the airwaves to set straight his service record - they were flesh wounds, there were no enemies, Kerry's a grandstander and a coward. Meanwhile, official Naval records show the group's most serious claims to be false or at least questionable. Wingnut and moderate Reeps pick up the slack saying, "well, what about the stuff that isn't categorically false." To which Dems and Kerry supporters say "what, are you kidding me? Bush et al. pull this crap every time. Don't you care about truth?" You've got famous Veterans on each side using the same facts to construct fuzzy truths via which they hope to persuade voters. Yup, that about covers it.

Kerry's reponse, however, of continuously blaming Bush and asserting his official connection to the ads is wearing thin.

It may be true - literally or by implication. Certainly, Bush isn't going out of his way to shut up this jungle mud slinging.

But instead of wasting news cycles trying to get Bush to cop to something he won't (come to think of it, he has yet to accept responsibility for, I don't know, anything), why not say, "with friends like these, do YOU really want to support the president?"

If the Swift Boat group's message is working - and some polls imply it's slowly chipping away Veterans' support for Kerry - then just linking their work directly to the President won't affect the desired result: disproving the allegations and reestablishing Kerry's war record as a positive attribute for office.

It's the same tactic used with fundraising. If "Kiddie Pornographers for Candidate X" sends a $1000 check, Candidate X should send it back because that's not what Candidate X supports. If he doesn't, Candidate Y should beat voters about the head with X's refusal to disavow his connection to the bad guys. Right now, Bush says, "hey, we didn't do it," but he's not really begging for them to stop.

So Dems need to switch lines and say, "look who supports Bush? Men who once served with honor but have been driven by Bush's divisive Republican politics and age-old hurt over a tumultuous period in our nation's history to disparage the service of another Veteran who's only real crime was coming home to exercise the freedoms he helped them to defend."

The new Kerry ad calling for Bush to denounce the ads comes close - but all the talking points should focus more on that and less on arguing Bush's direct connection.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Funny, Aren't Campaign Reports on His Website?

(Yup, there they are.)

So, California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's troubles with the law continue.


(Photo via the Sacramento Bee. Look at how concerned he seems. Probably fretting over his inability to fire civil servants. Feel free to post captions in the "what is he thinking" vein in the comments section if you'd like.)

At issue are a series of questionable contributions and interactions with a San Francisco business woman.

It seems that within weeks of being paid with state funds for services connected to a Sunset District community center that was never built, those payees made notably large donations to Shelley's campaign. Now, people show appreciation in different ways - but, of course the nature of our current political system is to avoid the appearance of impropriety at all costs (whether we avoid actual impropriety is debatable, I suppose). So this Chron article rightly raises the question: who at the campaign didn't see a $50k check and look into things a bit? You would assume, or at least hope, that the candidate, fundraisers, consultants, and the treasurer would have a procedure in place or at least know at this advanced level what to look out for. And for a campaign this size, the treasurer is usually going to be a law firm (which it was in this case).

You should definitely read the article for the details of the head-scratchingly convenient transfers of money. Oh, I suppose the more technical term would be "money laundering."

[Ed. note: Kevin Shelley - sweetness and light to the public - is a mean man to work for. I've seen him dress down staff attempting to give him phone messages and his reputation around the Capitol is less than stellar.

There are two kinds of members - those who treat staff with respect and those who do not. Those who do not, seem to think that simply by being elected, they have become royalty or somehow better than everyone else. Think "citizen legislators" without the damn term-limits convention.

I've been privileged to work for 2 members who treated their staff very well. There's not enough money (or course credits) in the world to get me to work for a Kevin Shelley.

Mean people shouldn't be rewarded with higher office. Inconsiderate people with little regard for others shouldn't be rewarded with higher office.

So, while Kevin Shelley has never been mean to me directly, on behalf of staffers everywhere, I say, bummer for you Mr. Secretary, but I don't feel so bad.]


Update: Thanks to calraces.com for linking to this article on Shelley's legendary, lousy 'tude. Read it and you'll like him even less. We're responsible for our own leadership in this country. We only get the "bad ones" if we vote for them and let them behave that way. Blame for this falls heavily on our party as well as we, the people.

Inherent Humor



Iconic Munch Painting Stolen from Museum in Norway

The reaction's kinda in the subject, isn't it.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

And Speaking of 'Earned'

It's what I always heard "respect" should be.

From today's NYT on Reep convention themes:

Mr. Bush's advisers said they were girding for the most extensive street demonstrations at any political convention since the Democrats nominated Hubert H. Humphrey in Chicago in 1968. But in contrast to that convention, which was severely undermined by televised displays of street rioting, Republicans said they would seek to turn any disruptions to their advantage, by portraying protests by even independent activists as Democratic-sanctioned displays of disrespect for a sitting president. . . .

"I think the Democrats are going to have to be careful about not letting the protesters get out of hand," Mr. Gillespie said. "The line between the official Democratic Party and labor protesters, environmental protesters and antiwar protesters is fairly blurry, and I'm not sure they want to have Democrats engaging in violence in New York against our convention. It would seem disrespectful and antidemocratic."


Hey - here's an exercise, readers. Play Reep MadLibs. In that last graf, replace "Democraticy Party" with "Republican Party" and all the Dem interests with the various anti-Kerry Vets and play ou the same logic. Oh wait. All those obvious overlaps between the Swift Boat captains and the Bush's are coincidental and don't confirm any Bush orchestration of the attack. Duh. Sorry, I forgot.

Actually, I'm willing to concede that point - because people involved in one political organization are usually involved in many, similar groups with common goals. Our need to fake pure independence is the problem here. But if Reeps are going to try to goose Dems on their accusations of collusion, they'll have to take a gander at rhetorical fairness.

Lies and the Lying Liars . . . .

So, I checked out the new ad - you can google it - and it's brilliantly done, I'll give them that. The SF Chron looks at the issues today - citing the White House's "mocking" Kerry again, this time for "losing his cool."

Neener neener neener! Oooh, little war hero all mad about the other war heroes being mean? Haha - cry, little whiny-head!

Charming.

Ladies and gentlemen, your American leadership.

As brilliant as the ad, the group is, naturally, handing it out to the news before the it begins running on airtime they've actually purchased. We call this "earned media." (Go ahead, take a moment to ponder the use of "earned" in this case.)

On the issue in question: Let me get this straight, we have a president who had his daddy call in a favor so he could avoid actual danger while preserving the appearance of service. Then we have a candidate who went to war voluntarily, saw some bad shit, and won some medals.

Even phoblog readers have succumbed to the insidious message "well, fine then, so Kerry can show that we lied and were wrong about 98% of our allegations - But What About That Last 2%? Huh? Huh? What about that?" It's almost enough to make a girl start learning the words to "Oh Canada."

This new ad features POWs angry about Kerry's post-'Nam allegations of war crimes. One particularly heavy charge is that Kerry gave "The Enemy" for free what POWs were tortured to pry out of them: confessions of atrocities.

I couldn't help but think how much more effective these ads would've been pre-Abu Ghraib. Turns out Americans are capable of bad shit too because they are - get this - human. And war is hell. (Remember that book? Think Bush has read it? I don't think so either.)

Did the POWs testifying in the ad do anything untoward. Probably not. Were they paying for the sins of others and the sins never committed. Definitely. Does it make Kerry's words categorically false? Probably not. This whole conflict makes me feel like I'm at an acquaintance’s dinner party and the parents just announced they're getting a divorce. You knew there was some bad mojo there. You kinda new who was doing something wrong and no one was blameless. You kinda knew they'd have some crap to work out for the rest of their lives. But you just don't want to be help captive at the dinner table while these two hash things out in all its ugly, hurtful glory.

Friday, August 20, 2004

When Good Service Goes Bad

Check out this in-depth look at the Swift Boat Capatians for Truth ads from today's NYT:

The strategy the veterans devised would ultimately paint John Kerry the war hero as John Kerry the "baby killer" and the fabricator of the events that resulted in his war medals. But on close examination, the accounts of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth' prove to be riddled with inconsistencies. In many cases, material offered as proof by these veterans is undercut by official Navy records and the men's own statements.
The twists and turns of this story - the connections, the statements, corrections, and restatements - combine to form one mess of muddled memories. Perhaps the worst aspect of this operation is how it has taken a broad band of brothers and turned them against each other. It's ugly business - from start to finish.

The "Truth" guys' real problem, of course, is what Kerry did when he got home. I can understand their anger - in some respects. America treated its Vietnam veterans shamefully. Part of the blind allegience to the Iraq war comes from the fear of doing to these new veterans what we did to Vietnam vets. The trauma of war is what's most striking for me here. The mental wounds causing some veterans to lash out at Kerry for old violations of battlefield loyalties illustrate the permanent effects of service. It's about loyalty. It's always about loyalty. Kerry broke the code. He's paying for that now.

The group said it would introduce a new advertisement against Mr. Kerry on Friday. What drives the veterans, they acknowledge, is less what Mr. Kerry did during his time in Vietnam than what he said after. Their affidavits and their television commercial focus mostly on those antiwar statements. Most members of the group object to his using the word "atrocities" to describe what happened in Vietnam when he returned and became an antiwar activist. And they are offended,
they say, by the gall of his running for president as a hero of that war.

"I went to university and was called a baby killer and a murderer because of guys like Kerry and what he was saying," said Van Odell, who appears in the first advertisement, accusing Mr. Kerry of lying to get his Bronze Star. "Not once did I participate in the atrocities he said were happening."

As Mr. Lonsdale explained it: "We won the battle. Kerry went home and lost the war for us.

"He called us rapers and killers and that's not true," he continued. "If he expects our loyalty, we should expect loyalty from him."

No one wins this kind of war.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Happy Kansas Trees



I won't force you to sit through vacation pictures. But I'll share a few from time to time as I sift through the 700+ photos. This one just makes me happy.

(By the way - I realize, as I've mentioned before, that content is pretty bloglite right now. But it seems a 'sphere trait for bloggers to take an August holiday. So while things settle down in my real-world - Phoblog might have a higher fun-to-message ratio. Enjoy it now. There's much work to be done between now and November. And after.)

Swinging Singles

I can't put my finger on the exact reason why stories like this bother me so much. It's another run down of this year's soccer mom demo - the mythical single young woman, she's never voted before, but somehow, reproductive rights or war or something should spur her on like nothing before.

Yes, yes, we're polarized, yeah, yeah, it's all about the swing voters. But these kinds of strategies seem to encourage the problem, don't you think. Giving yet another carefully defined subset a reason to go "yeah, what about me? Why isn't my vote being courted. What have you done for me lately?"

This single girl will vote. And I hope I can convince other single gals to vote without having to focus on reproductive rights to prove my point. I'm kind of concerned that Bush's actions are endangering my uterus to begin with. I won't even have the chance to face an unplanned pregnancy if he continues to mismanage this country's response to terrorism and trash our reputation in the world. So don't pander to me or my friends and let us continue to navel gaze. Don't get me wrong - I want the law the hell away from this topic. But if we're going to encourage women to plug in - let's aim for breadth as well, shall we?

We, Dems and Americans, laud JFK daily. We build him libraries, we put plaques on his birthplace, on the pew in the church where he and Jackie got hitched (just saw it, incidentally). But we have long abandoned asking not and only ever ask what our country, our party, our leader can do for us. Not we the people. Me, the person.

The polarization and razor thin margins are proof that consultants have done their job. We're so busy waiting for the wooing to start that we'll sit by until something massively bad happens - and even then, we won't change.

Sad, isn't it?

Sure, Why Not

Dem. Sen. Miller to Be GOP Keynote Speaker

Okay, I'll bite. We had a Reagan, afterall.

He's a colorful character, to be sure. I don't think he has quite the name recognition as a Reagan, but the Reeps will trumpet the "D" as much as they can. It's not like they got Chelsea Clinton or anything.

When you read the article, check out how he balances his voting record with the time he spends with his wife. It's an honest view, I'm sure, but also a little odd. At least he was out chasing votes and not skirts. Though I haven't fully googled him, so perhaps that last statement isn't wholly true.

Reader Participation

No, it's not a caption contest, unfortunately. Phoblog's chronic technical woes are annoying enough when it comes to dealing with the blog. When it causes her to lose coursework, however, well, that's just not something anyone should have to deal with. Consequently, I'm officially looking for a new computer. I feel like I'm taking a chance just typing that statement on this computer - like it knows I'm about to cheat on it - leave it for someone younger and hipper.

So here's my request for advice - what do you have, what do you like, what have you heard? I need a laptop - lightweight, wifi ready, pretty, not a mac. Enter any thoughts in the comments box. Help me keep you informed. Thanks.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

USA! USA!

So, I almost went to bed - after all, I have an early class - the first of the year at that - but no, I thought, why not watch the end. I'm sure Paul Hamm is going to lose. But I'm a sucker for American sportscaster pathos - so I watch. Could I have logged on to any one of 1000s of websites to see what happened. Sure.

But the point in is in real [okay, NBC edited] time, I got to watch Paul Hamm, half of the freakish tumblin' twins from Wisconsin, win the first-ever Mens American all-around gold medal.

By .012 of a point. Add that to today's Women's 4x200 freestyle ass-kicker (and yesterday's male-version of the same, but closer) - and you get one, slightly teary blogger.

I don't like it when they reach to find SOMETHING to make an obvious American win less obvious, but when a little guy in a unitard goes from 12th to 1st in just a few seconds - well, shoot. And the olive leaves and the "oh say can you see." Okay, you got me. By .012.

[Ed. note - best place I've ever watched Olympics: last night on the plane coming heading home. jetBlue with their direct TV enabled about half or more of the people to watch coverage. I feel sorry for whatever poor dude wasn't watching when the majority of passengers cried out in sympathetic pain at a gymast falling off the bar - must've scared the crap out of him. Collective cheers for the swim wins, etc. Was a nice bonding moment. Pretty good - for an airplane.]

PostLite

Things you learn after you buy too much lettuce at the farmers' market: On how to store lettuce properly -

To preserve, cut off about 1/8-inch from the stem end. The leaves should still be attached. Plunge into 95 to 100-degree water for three to five minutes. Drain with the stems up for 10 minutes, then put the lettuce into a vegetable crisper. Don't dry the leaves. In about an hour, the lettuce will go into shock and will stay crisp for nine to 14 days.

The lettuce will go into shock? That's awful. Besides, don't you think it's kind of been shocked since being wrenched from the ground? I now feel like I should talk with my lettuce more often.

Miss Me?

That's okay - you don't all have to respond, I know you did.

I am floored by the volume of email through which I must now plow, having arrived home last night to a still ailing computer and 3 quota-busting email accounts.

Things will be slow for the next few days - but there will be new content, never fear. Thanks for sticking with Phoblog over the past few weeks. The vacation was much needed and much enjoyed.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da

How the life goes on. It's good to know things continue charming in my absence from the 'sphere.

The FBI is shaking down punk 20-something protesters to make sure no one does anything violent at the Reep-fest in New York. One quotation caught my eye, from an ACLU woman, about the nature of the FBI's housecalls: "but what's so disturbing about all this is the pre-emptive nature - stopping them from participating in a protest before anything even happened." Uh, how is this surprising. At least it's a uniform application of the principle, right?

And, of course, on a less snarky note, we continue to win hearts and minds in Iraq. The upside is that because it always seems to be the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in the news, I know where my friend Kendall is. The downside is pretty damn obvious, isn't it.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Not the Only One

When short on quality blog time and presented with a brief window in which to scope out the 'sphere, it makes a blogger feel much better to see that other bloggers take vacations too.

I'll be posting trip photos and some additional highlights in a few days. Until then, consider this an "I'm still around" post and a way for me to keep my syndication folks paying attention.

Go read the papers.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Oh Canada

this is an audio post - click to play

The Blues is Alright

Chicago, Il. - It isn't until I see the room's framed art that I realize the Almalfi in The Amalfi Hotel refers to Italy's Amalfi Coast - or so I assume.

The hotel, a splurge - a lucky Orbitz choice - turns out to be like a W's milder cousin. Brighter, more earth-toned, perhaps more midwestern. It's lovely. And it has free wifi. The allure is so strong I'm freehanding this text for later transcription because I can't wait to start using the wi.

Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone . . . .

I'm scribbling at Blue Chicago - a smoke filled blues bar in downtown Chicago. "I'm going to Kansas City," sings Eddie Shaw of Eddie Saw and the Wolf Gang. In truth, I've just come from Kansas City. We had BBQ - from a restaurant in a gas station with one glass wall looking into the liquor store next door. In Kansas, beer has statutorily limited alcohol content: 2.3%. Down the street in Missouri, you can double your buzz with 5% beer - and liquor stores on the Mo side of the border paint "5%" on their windows and outline the figure in neon. I think fondly of Eldo's in the neighborhood back home with it's 6, 7, or even 8.9% beer.

Wednesday was a long day's drive from Independence through St. Louis and up to Chicago. St. Louis's Gateway Arch was awesome - in both the traditional and slang senses. It looked like something out of the movie "Contact" - the space aged swoop and impossibly high windows, little slits some 600+ feet off the ground. We contemplated a ride to the top, but as I began to wonder if I had a little fear of heights going on, we saw the trip took more than 60 minutes - too long for our scheduled day. I breathed a sigh of relief as we left. On the way in I was stopped and had my bag checked by a park ranger. This was before going through the standard metal detector and x-ray machine at the door. Guess I had that questionable look about me - taking too many photos. Multi-colored straw bag a sign of - uh - something. At lunch we ate toasted raviolis - only because they were a favorite of St. Louis native, and phoblog friend Hutch's - the absence thereof was something he lamented every time we went out to eat in college. It was the only "St. Louis food" I could think of. Tasty, if unremarkable.

Driving the 55 North through Illinois our trip took a turn for the worse as "ooh, barn" turned into "if I see another corn field . . . ." I was surprised that Illinois looked more farm-like than Kansas or Oklahoma had. Not that they weren't agrarian as well, but the barns of Illinois were each postcards of middle America - red and white, peeling paint and rusted silos, weather vanes and sunbleached porches.

If not for David Sedaris's Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim we would have driven into a corn field long ago. The author read his work from the cd player and made us laugh more than we'd laughed in several hundred miles. It's a short story collection, creative, autobiographical - my favorite genre. At times, he seems self-indulgent: why is his somewhat goofy family really that worthy of 6.5 hours of writing? I suppose they wouldn't be, except he can describe them better than most of us. I wonder about how his siblings feel hearing his mocking - sometimes gentle, frequently ruthless. He even addresses the topic, but doesn't really apologize.

Don't start me to talkin'/I'll tell everything I know

I enjoy his voice and storytelling so much that I spend the rest of the day watching the world in his voice. It's similar to how I increasingly watch the news: in Jon Stewart's voice. Transcribing each incident and scene in my head, writing my own short stories based on a cab ride, on dinner, on a blues bar. My mental notes are every bit as brilliant and clever. Getting it on paper, of course, would be impossible - though I try, frantically writing with a BIC roundstick on a found pad of paper in a carcinogenic, Windy City bar. How can you not get lyrical, listening to the blues. How can you not want to write as the sax dances and the bass guitar sways in Shorty Gilbert's hands. In my head, I'm already a book on tape . . . .

As Eddie pulls out the harmonica and Willie Davis riffs on his guitar (the drummer, bored and sleepy-eyed, is never introduced), we decide to leave - since it can't get much better and we couldn't stand it ending on anything other than these perfect notes. Besides, the bandwidth is calling - free wifi, free wifi - like a siren. And there ain't no sunshine when she's gone. There's no blogging either.

To Curb a Mocking Bush

Bush is beating Kerry up fairly well this week, so it seems, over the war vote issue. It's creative - Bush is putting his failures on Kerry to explain via his vote, as the article describes. It illustrates Kerry's carefully balanced position - self-imposed difficulty if you ask me. Kerry needs to tell Bush to cut the crap, and then he needs to cut it himself. Of course the vote and all of the rhetoric at that time was incredibly nuanced - though it's now portrayed as a blunt-force issue traumatizing the Dem's campaign. I'd hope Americans wouldn't accept "but you voted for it" as an excuse for the travesity that is the current Iraq situation. Blame could easily be shared by many in Washington, but that doesn't excuse the Commander-in-Chief. We shouldn't let him win this argument too.

On a related note - it's been curious this week that Kerry has been appearing in almost every city through which we've traveled. Maybe I should try to get on his advance team. Or maybe he's following us . . . . okay, yeah, probably not. I do, however, display my Kerry/Edwards pin on my bag in every state through which we pass. Especially the swinging ones.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

God Bless T-Mobile Hotspots

Greetings All! I'm writing from a Starbucks in Independence, Mo. this morning. Birthplace of Harry S Truman. Or Harry S. Truman, according to the sign. In his own hometown. Oh well.

We've covered a lot of the country so far, yet each time I look at the map - whew - so far left to go. The most pleasant surprise so far has been this nation's beauty. I know the stereotypes, sure - but I didn't know I'd find the Arizona mountains so tree-filled, the New Mexican desert so lovely, or the rolling Kansas prairie so zen-like with its expansive green and blue.

I catch only snippets of news - which bothered me no end for the first few days - a blogger without the internet is an unhappy girl indeed. But yesterday and today, I sort of gave up on it and took what I could get via papers and the quick few minutes of MSNBC I caught in the Wichita Airport HoJo (yeah, Phoblog does it in style) yesterday morning.

Rain in Independence last night made the fireflies I'd been waiting for 4 states to see scarce. There were a few - I guess that will have to be enough.

We've got a long time on the road today - to Chicago - and then in the days following, we'll take this show international as we head to Vermont via Toronto and other Canadian points of interest.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Greetings from the Open Road



In Italy - and most of Western Europe/the civilized world - August is a time for vacations. Not just a week or so, as I am preparing to take, but the whole month. Good idea. But I'll take what I can get.

Tomorrow, August 7, I'll hit the road bound for the East Coast via an as-yet-undetermined route. I'm not counting on much - if- gasp - any - web access, so this blog will go from your trusted source for insightful commentary on the day's news and caption contests to cd's audio-diary. I'll be using the audioblogging feature of the site to share interesting anecdotes from the road (and because it's an easy way for my Mom to know I'm still alive). I'll endeavor to keep things more interesting than your neighbors' post-vacation slide show, promise.

While I can post remotely, I can't add titles - so you'll have to listen to find out where I am and what I'm doing.

Or you can wait until August 18 to check in again - when I'll be back and blogging.

Don't forget about Phoblographer* during this brief hiatus! Now's a great time to catch up on all the great content here on the sight - go take a scroll down memory lane. We'll be thinking about how to bring you the best fresh blog content possible throughout the remainder of the campaign season . . . .

And we're working on Reep convention guest bloggers as well - so if you're a Reep and you're NYC-bound - let us know.

Take care - and we'll be back soon.

Af-where-istan? And Other News

Today's Krugman column in the NYT takes to task Americans for Afghanizing of Iraq - that is, the virtual blind-eye turned toward the war since the "handover" in late June:

One thing is clear: calls to "stay the course" are fatuous. The course we're on leads downhill. American soldiers keep winning battles, but we're losing the war: our military is under severe strain; we're creating more terrorists than we're killing; our reputation, including our moral authority, is damaged each month this goes on. . . .

Should we cut and run? No. But we should get realistic, and look in earnest for an exit


And check out Herbert who relates Bush's most recent linguistic slip:

The pressure may be getting to Mr. Bush. He came up with a gem of a Freudian slip yesterday. At a signing ceremony for a $417 billion military spending bill, the president said: "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

And he condemns our current sorry State harshly:

The United States is the greatest military and economic power in the history of the planet. But it lacks a unifying sense of national purpose at the moment, and seems uncertain, even timid, as the national security challenges continue to mount. That is what a failure of leadership can do to a great power.

And in other news, Job Growth Grinds Nearly to Halt in July, Labor Dept. Reports. Oh yeah, Bush is doing a Great job.

On a happier note - here's more on the "supe of the day," newly appointed District 7 Supervisor Sean Elsbernd:

An unassuming, quiet presence, Elsbernd is widely known around City Hall for his ethics, honesty, loyalty, and ability to get along with everyone, including Gonzalez -- Newsom's rival in the mayor's race -- and Supervisor Chris Daly, a staunch Newsom critic.

Now Ear This - Who Wants a Caption Contest?



This one didn't come to me with a caption - so it's all you . . . . Click on "comments" and make with the funny.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

GO STAGS!!!

Phoblog has been off the news all day - so imagine her surprise when she checks the SF Chron site and is greeted by the following headline:

Newsom appoints aide to Board of Supervisors

Okay - that's not much - but who'd he appoint?



Fellow Claremont McKenna grad and Phoblog friend, Sean Elsbernd! Like Phoblog, Sean was a Manager at the Rose Institute of State and Local Government, and we share a few other resume similarities. This gives me hope for the future.

I can't imagine anyone better for the job. Congratulations!

Here - read the article.

Minarets and Maple Leaves

Here's a fascinating article on the meeting of Canadian and Muslim law. I'd intended to comment on it and not just post it - but today, as you can tell, wasn't a blogging day (oh the horror). So for now, read this, and I hope we can chat about it later. Post your comments, etc . . . .

August 4, 2004
LETTER FROM THE AMERICAS
When the Koran Speaks, Will
Canadian Law Bend?
By CLIFFORD KRAUSS

TORONTO, Aug. 3 - If the kimono or chicken curry eventually join the maple leaf, the hockey stick and the beaver as Canadian icons, then so be it. Thus goes the thinking of multiculturalism, the official doctrine of the government for nearly 50 years, and by now a value ingrained on the broader society.

The minaret has been welcome, too, in this otherwise secular society where fewer and fewer people go to church but more than a hundred mosques have cropped up in recent years.

But even here, tolerance has its limits, and the question of where to draw the line can be a tricky one, especially when an increasing number of immigrants come from societies with vastly different values.

A group called the Canadian Society of Muslims is testing those boundaries by
establishing the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice to apply the legal code called Shariah, based on the Koran, to settle disputes over property, inheritance, marriage and divorce.

The prospect of Shariah's operating openly here has already stirred a powerful controversy centering on an uncomfortable issue for any liberal society with an expanding Muslim population that now numbers 600,000: Can a predominately Judeo-Christian society trust Islamic religious rules to protect the rights of all individuals?

The Muslim group is acting under an Ontario provincial law passed in 1991 that gave
religious authorities the power to arbitrate civil matters as long as the people seeking arbitration do so voluntarily and are free to appeal those decisions in Canadian courts.

Under the law, Jews and Christians have settled a relatively narrow number of issues without going through the courts. Rabbis have granted religious divorces, decided on matters relating to kosher dietary laws and arbitrated business disputes. Catholic couples have gone to priests to annul marriages, while churches of various dominations have settled disputes related to inappropriate behavior of ministers and monetary disagreements within and between parishes.

But the Islamic Institute wants imams and other arbitrators to decide a broader range of issues. For Syed Mumtaz Ali, 77, an India-born Islamic lawyer and scholar who is the driving intellectual force behind the institute, a Muslim cannot be a Muslim without following Shariah.

"Basically, Muslims live a different kind of life from the Western life, which is secular," he noted in an interview. "Everything we do is governed by religious law." For Mr. Ali, it is perfectly acceptable that a son receive twice the inheritance of a daughter and that a man have the automatic right to divorce while a woman does not.

Muslim arbitrators have not made a single public decision yet, but Canada would presumably never allow the stoning of adulterous women or cutting off the hand of a thief, both allowable forms of punishment in some Muslim societies under an extreme variation of Shariah.

Critics say that Shariah contradicts the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canada's bill of rights, which guarantees the equality of men and women. Under Canadian family law, for instance, men and women have equal rights to inheritance and property acquired during a marriage.

Canadians voluntarily waive their legal rights all the time, but it is the obligation of the courts to ensure that they have independent legal advice before doing so. Critics of Shariah say Muslim women would be deprived of their rights because, even after emigrating, they frequently live in isolation from the broader society and are beholden to men who routinely tell them what to do and say.

"I don't see how it can be voluntary," said Shahira Hafez, 53, an Egyptian-born anesthesiologist and treasurer of the Toronto chapter of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, "when all these women from Pakistan, India and Afghanistan are kept isolated in their own communities, do not learn English and only deal with the outer society through their husband and their husband's family."

As Mr. Mumtaz Ali sees it, there is no contradiction between being a good Muslim and being a good Canadian. "Shariah has the elasticity to adjust itself," he said, adding: "I draw the line where the Canadian law asks me to do certain things. I have to obey Canadian law."

The late Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau dreamed of a Canada in which distinctive customs and identities could live side by side in harmony. Turning nationalism on its head, there would be no dominant Canadian identity, no melting pot, no official culture.

H. Donald Forbes, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, said he
cannot be sure how Mr. Trudeau would have responded to the idea of Shariah tribunals, "but I think he would go along." He added that as long as the arbitration is voluntary, Mr. Trudeau would probably have concluded that "this kind of meaningful accommodation was in the spirit of multiculturalism."

Nevertheless, Shariah is not generally accepted in other Western democracies, and some Canadian Muslim women - who say Muslim law is already applied behind closed doors - say efforts to apply it openly in Canada's most populous province would represent a dangerous precedent.

"Here in Canada, girls are segregated from boys at private Islamic elementary schools, then forced into arranged marriages through Shariah at the age of 13, 14 or 15 to men over twice their age," said Homa Arjomand, 52, an Iranian-born counselor for battered women. "How much choice do these women have?"

In response to such concerns, the Ontario government has appointed Marion Boyd, a feminist activist and former provincial cabinet member to review the 1991 arbitration law.

It would not be the first time laws have changed to balance religion and secular rights. A group of Canadian Jewish women pressed the federal government in 1990 to enact a law to help Jewish women seeking a religious divorce against recalcitrant husbands who under Orthodox rules have the upper hand in such cases.

In the end the arbitration law may be revised to assure that arbitrators are screened and trained, and that women entering arbitration have sufficient counseling to understand their Canadian rights. It may be narrowed to limit the powers of religious arbitrators, excluding such sensitive issues as child support, alimony and access to children in cases of divorce.

"How do we honor two commitments, to multiculturalism and equity to the rule of law, that often seem to come into conflict?" asked Ms. Boyd in an interview. "We have been struggling a bit. There really are conflicting values.''

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

On Guard



Steve Breen/San Diego Union Tribune

It's a sign, part 2



This morning's California Report featured an interview with the mysterious and elusive Freewayblogger (about whom we've blogged before.)

He's been at work in the Sacramento area - perhaps my Sacto readers could keep an eye out and report back. The radio bit said he was headed to the Bay Area today for more truth-in-signage work. During the segment, in which a reporter rode with him while he posted signs and negotiated his way out of a ticket or other formal police reprimand, the FB likened himself to a great literary figure (though not the one by which he signs his emails). The figure? Don Quixote. Perhaps not the Best analogy ever - but the FB says that the Don lived in a beautiful world. True, I suppose. (For a better treatment of Don Q with the war in Iraq, etc, see this article).

I must admit, while listening to the piece I was cataloguing some of the better overpasses I've seen around here. My advice - drive the 280 (280, for you Northern Californians) - there's some choice fencing there just waiting to be adorned.

I also wondered, however, if the signs won't be preaching to the choir in these parts. The messages are valuable nonetheless, but what about inland? Far North?

What about swing states (through many of which Phoblog will be driving in a few days time)? Yes, I thought about where I could acquire enough poster board and bungee cording prior to my departure - surely Ohio has overpasses. But with technical difficulties plaguing my access to various jurisdictions laws on such activities, it may not be the wisest endeavor.

Or maybe it would be the most important.

We wish you well, Freewayblogger, may your font stay true and your overpasses be plentiful.


(photos from Freewayblogger)