Monday, January 31, 2005

'On a Lighted Note' or 'Pretty in Pedro'


It's A Wonder We Can Eat With Utensils*

Back in the early 90s, San Pedro was home to a series of tragic teen suicides. When Time Magazine used us as framework for an article on teen suicide, the author opened by saying - and I'm not paraphrasing by much here - that with all the industrial port machinery and refineries, how could anyone not want to off themselves, living is such a lack of beauty.

Clearly, that author had never been to San Pedro.

And neither has the staff writer responsible for today's LAT coverage of last night's Bridge lighting.

Returning the the only leitmotif most of the city's ever been able to come up with for San Pedro - that gawky little neighborhood that's just not Westside enough - the reporter refers to us as "broad-shouldered," "hard-working," and our lights as - wait for it - frivolous. We certainly don't shy from work in this town - and we're damn proud of it - otherwise the LA economy would collapse (taking with it large chunks of state and national trade as well). Here's a highlight, however:


Apart from the graceful, green-painted frame of the Vincent Thomas Bridge, San Pedro's most visible landmarks are the cargo cranes that loom over the Harbor Freeway and the Port of Los Angeles, the nation's busiest container port. They are imposing, ungainly instruments that announce, proudly and literally, that this is where Los Angeles' heavy lifting occurs.

Yet the fight for the lights — a pretty, frivolous addition to the waterfront skyline — has unified San Pedro's business leaders, dockworkers and housewives.
Yes, it's just SO UGLY here. Those twinkly, view-giving harbor lights that increase property values and cause legal battles over view easements. Of course, if non-Pedrans managed to make it past the first mile of town, they'd see Los Angeles's last bit of unspoiled, un-overdeveloped coastline, etched in stony cliffs, lined with stately palms, with smog free air, unobstructed views of Catalina Island and dolphins playing in the surf.

Forget, too, for a moment that the article makes no reference to those who put forth the effort - the Vincent Thomas Bridge Lighting Committee (full disclosure: it was helmed by my Dad, so, yes, my beef is personal - but it's about slamming my hometown even more than slighting the people who did the work. "Locals" isn't a credit).

Nancy Wride, the Times Staff Writer credited as a contributer to the report, interviewed the Bridge Lighting Committee Chair - so it's not like more of the story wasn't there for the article's primary author's taking. And I appreciate space concerns - the whole inverted pyramid level of informational importance - yadda yadda - but isn't "WHO" part of the story?

And when you're writing about the "WHERE" try to reach beyond tired themes that prove you care little about a story.

Little Pedro, always tugging on its own bootstraps, so poor, so downtrodden, so working class, so amazing when it can do anything. So time to move past this narrative, LAT.

All city districts are deeper than the stereotypes we quip about at cocktail parties. To my knowledge, few call the Hollywood sign (formerly just a real estate ad, mind you) "frivolous." And if anyone did, Hollywood residents - and much of the city - would raise holy hell.

San Pedro, The Bridge Lighting Committee, and the City did accomplish something great last night. A strong work ethic is respected in the American narrative, but always with a hint of pity, a moment of Scarlet O'Hara hiding her newly calloused hands from polite society - because the American Dream is all about working until you achieve wealth and don't have to work anymore. All good-for-you-working-class stories, in their "we have so much to learn from the little guys" glory, are inherently condescending.

Find a new meme.

Update: Thanks to L.A. Observed's link to my post (I'm figuring), I received a response from Richard Fausset, the Times Staff Writer who authored the article to which I took umbrage above (posted with his permission):


Christiana:

Hello, & first off, thanks for bothering to read our rag. I thought you made some valuable comments about my story. Not mentioning your dad's contributions was an unfortunate oversight on my part, but very late last night -- on a tight deadline with tight space restrictions -- I had to make some tough editing decisions, and he ended up on the cutting room floor. I didn't like doing it, but c'est la guerre.

As for my characterization of San Pedro, I guess it's your prerogative to see it as condescending, but I certainly didn't mean it that way. As a non-Californian, my conceptions of San Pedro were formed years before I'd stepped foot in it, spun by Charles Bukowski & the Minutemen, mostly. The latter, especially, created this idea in my head of a town that was the antithesis of fickle, status-hungry, trendy L.A., and if I'm guilty of anything, perhaps it's that I am still in thrall to this myth. It's the prism through which I've processed all of my San Pedro experiences -- hanging out at Ports O'Call on Sunday & jostling with Latino families for a fried fish plate, killing hangovers at the Pacific Diner, interviewing dockworkers during mock terror drills, &, among other things, last night's bridge lighting. I'm sure they are more limited than your experiences, but they never really punched holes in the idea of San Pedro that Mike Watt spun for me back when I was a teenager. For better or worse, Pedro seems to be largely defined by the fact that it hosts one of the largest and busiest ports in the world. San Pedrans seem peculiarly proud of that fact, and of their city in general.

Anyhow, for what it's worth, I thought the idea for the bridge lights, and the locals' enthusiastic response, was pretty cool. My other SoCal memes may be equally tired, but I can't imagine hundreds of West L.A. residents showing up for the lighting of anything.

Regards,
Richard Fausset
First off - and though it may seem like a small thing - I give him much credit for spelling my name right.

While he and I will continue to disagree over whether I was right in my gut reaction to his piece, I will give credit when due to someone who does, in fact, walk the beat - he has enough familiarity with San Pedro to reference the right things (Pacific Dinner, how I miss you when I'm away). And he has good taste in music.

Place Your Bets

No, not for the Superbowl (I'm not even sure where I stand on that one, since I worked for a Massachutten in Philadelphia) - for this week's State of the Unionm.

How many times do we think Bush will use the following words and/or phrases; or alternatively use this list as a scavenger hunt/drinking game:
  • Freedom
  • Liberty
  • Elections
  • Iraqis vote (or any iteration thereof)
  • Cast first votes
  • Freedom haters/enemies of freedom
  • Blessings
  • God's will/plan/destiny/call
  • Any phrase that with fewer than 4 word changes could be directly drawn from the Monroe Doctrine
  • Allusion to 9/11 (points for who can catch the most creative, subtle nod to the day)
  • Thinly veiled allusion to the length of time we'll need to be in Iraq ("generations")
  • Creatively spun foundation for invading Iran.
  • Carefully spun rhetoric carving out actual, nuclear armed enemies or oppressive regimes
  • We love troops
  • And - in how few words can Bush make passing reference to domestic issues?

I suppose he could surprise us and focus entirely on the homefront since he used his inaugural address to cover the rest of the world - but even if that's the case - count on him couching all discussions in "liberty, freedom, Iraq, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, first elections, Iraq, Iraq, liberty, liberty, liberty."

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Ooo, Ahhh, Ooooh



I'm still working on getting a good photo of the newly lighted bridge - but for now, some fun fireworks celebrating the hitting of the switch this evening. The lights are visible at the top of the cables and along the road bed, but they aren't as brilliant in this photograph as they are after dark . . . .

More later.

A Quarter Bummed

Well, it's finally our turn - the Cali quarter comes out Monday. I should be wholly happy since we've waited so long for our turn. Yet, I'm just not lovin' it:



The article here calls the coin a compromise - chosen over overtly biased options (the Golden Gate vs. palm tress; movie cameras vs. cable cars). Of course, the whole state is bordered with beaches, so that would've worked fine. Instead, the Sierra Club, interior dwellers, and camping types can raise a toast to John Muir. It's not that John Muir isn't important. But how many outside California will know who the dude on the quarter is? Maybe they'll think he's a 49er. Other states have pretty things - magnolia flowers, trees. Or obvious things - little boy with sap buckets for Vermonters, etc. I think we went a bit too obscure. There were quarters that did compromise - the Golden Gate with a palm tree - there, done! But no, this is what we got.

That's my two bits worth.

Friday, January 28, 2005

'A Wait is Lifted'

More on the Bridge Lighting excitment from today's Daily Breeze:

"It's going to be a great celebration," said Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn. "This is a testament to the human spirit. When that moment comes, when they turn on those lights, people will feel such great pride."

Assuming all goes as planned, the bridge will glow in tiny blue lights every night after that, from sunset to midnight.

It hasn't been easy.

Lighting up the bridge took years of fund raising, political arm-twisting and dodging difficulties that raised all kinds of artistic and environmental obstacles.

Vincent Thomas Bridge Lighting Committee Chairman Louis Dominguez and his committee members deserve most of the praise, residents agree, for never giving up, even when the project appeared to be doomed.
Ooh, see, drama. Seriously, there were birds, other birds, energy crises, it was goofy what cropped up. Read the rest of the story here . . . . .

Let There Be Light

If you're in Southern California this weekend - clear your Sunday night schedule and come witness the lighting of the Vincent Thomas Bridge!

The ceremony starts at 4pm at the new Cruise Ship Promendae right under the Bridge and many local restaurants are featuring dinner specials for $20.05 per person (we're talking filet and lobster here, folks).

Hope you can make it!

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Fease Torts

A huge thank you to Class Maledictorian for this link. That I find it so funny and blog-(uh, blawg)-able is very sad. But shoot, I'm a law student after all (shout out to DR who won a special place in all our hearts first year when she came to school on Halloween as little Brian Daly, an Intentional Tort):





take the WHAT INTENTIONAL TORT ARE YOU test.


For the record, I'd like to say I was neither the popular girl, nor a bully in the 6th grade. And IIED isn't even recognized in CA anymore. Right? So technically I couldn't be both a Californian and an IIED. Wait, there was something about IIED I learned relating to CA. Hmmmm. Well, thank god for BarBri, eh?

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Gurgle Gurgle

There's a scene in a relatively unknown movie called Erik the Viking where the king of a sinking Atlantis continues to affirm that everything as fine as the water swallows him and his words, dispite his daughter's pleading for him to face facts and save himself and his kingdom. It's something that's run through my head often over the course of this war. Not hard to understand why when Dick Van Bush keeps urging us to put on a happy face:

Communicator in Chief Keeps the Focus on Iraq Positive
By ELISABETH BUMILLER

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 - President Bush's opening statement at his news conference on Wednesday was striking for what it left out: any mention of the 31 Americans who died overnight in the crash of a Marine helicopter in Iraq, the largest number of American deaths in a single incident since the war began.

Mr. Bush instead focused on his long-term goal of "ending tyranny in our world," and then cast the Iraqi election coming Sunday as part of a march of freedom around the globe. He said that if he had told the reporters in the room a few years before that the Iraqi people would be voting, "you would look at me like some of you still look at me, with a kind of blank expression."

The president's words were part of an aggressive White House communications strategy this week and next to frame the risky Iraqi election - a critical test of his assertion that the country is on the path to stability - in the best possible light. The goal, a Bush adviser said, was not only to lower expectations but to avoid any definition of success. . . . .

When the president was asked to define what a "credible" turnout in Iraq would be, he quickly side-stepped, saying only, "The fact they're voting in itself is successful."
[Ed. note: I can't help but think that Kerry managed to turn out record numbers of voters. Yet in our case, the fact they're voting in itself wasnt actually successful. I suppose it depends on what your definition of is is.]

I will say, to be fair, that the article's front page teaser ("President Bush's decision not to mention a helicopter crash at a news conference was part of a strategy to frame the Iraqi election in the best possible light.") was undermined by the admission in the article that Bush did, in fact, acknowledge that a helicopter did crash and people did die. He still deserves the ding for waiting for someone else to bring it up, however. Though perhaps I should be glad he didn't use it to spin for freedom again. Ooops, did I blog too soon?

By Wednesday afternoon, in an interview with Al Arabiya, the satellite television network, he had incorporated his response to the crash into his larger message about freedom.

"Today a tragic helicopter accident is a reminder of the risks inherent in military operations," he said in the television interview, again in response to a question.

"We mourn the loss of life. But I am convinced we're doing the right thing by helping Iraq become a free country, because a free Iraq will have long-term effects in the world, and it will help the people of Iraq realize their dreams and aspirations and hopes."

Mr. Bush's decision not to mention the helicopter crash in his opening statement, the Bush adviser said, was part of a longstanding White House practice to avoid having the president mention some American deaths in Iraq but not others.

"It's almost a policy," said the adviser, who asked not to be named because the president does not want aides talking about the inner workings of the White House, "because if you mention one, you have to mention them all."
Finally, the slippery slope argument comes to war PR. I enjoy it so much in the classroom, it's nice to see its applicability in action.

I've heard even from friend who have served in Iraq that there is good stuff going on over there that doesn't get covered, that it's not all bad news. I wish good news sold more papers too. However, when the subject is war - not sensational auto accidents or celebrity trials - the awesome prices being paid by both Americans and Iraqis should be relentlessly front-paged lest we forget exactly what is going on. War isn't humanized in school construction. It's humanized in death.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Bag It

SF may start charging for grocery bags.

Sigh.

Now, the 17 cent per bag fee won't break me. But it will annoy me. I'm sure the cost of the bags is built into the markets' operating costs and the idea that charging will make people less likely to litter is a bit far-fetched.

Some voice concern that the fee would be a regressive tax on lower income shoppers. I guess that's because, what, only poor people buy food? Only poor people buy a lot of food? I suppose, yes, 17 cents would be a higher percentage of lower tax-bracketers' earnings. And higher paid folks have basically a negative birthrate - so fewer mouths to feed = fewer grocery bags . . . .

On the other hand, perhaps the fee will cause people to buy less food, helping both the environment and the rampant obesity sweeping the nation. Or it will just make people cram more into fewer bags. Causing the bags to break and creating more litter.

[Thanks to reader FS for the initial tip on this story. I posted a similar story at the Metroblogging San Francisco site.]

Monday, January 24, 2005

Hasn't This Story Been Done To Death?

It concerns me that in a city filled with technological wonder, the Chron expends the energy to write another "oooh, blogs" article.

Did you know that blogs, blah blah blah. Yeah we do know, jeez, how '04 . . . .

Make sure to check out the vocab at the bottom. "Blurker" was my favorite.

In other news: "Congresswoman's son, four others charged with slashing Republican van tires on Election Day" - the article notes they were all Kerry campaign employees. For the record - no, we had none of that in Philly. At least not to my knowledge.

It Works! Sorta!

There's really no way of knowing for sure until the morning or the next time I shut down and attempt to restart this bad boy.

Here's a self-indulgent run down of my day - Mastcard-ad-style:

Parking ticket acquired by being 1.25 minutes late after the class you had to drive to so you could then drive to Best Buy: $35

Special collector's edition DVD of comfort movie purchased to ease trauma of leaving Vaio in questionably capable hands of "Geek Squad:" $5

Theraputic Trader Joe's Shoppping: $79 (but typically low calorie/high taste)

Cab fare to retrieve Vaio: $5

Returning home, pressing the button and having the Vaio still not boot the first 4 times: Pricelessssss.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Technical Difficulties. Or: How the Vaio Broke My Heart

So all last week in classes I proudly displayed my pretty lil'Vaio that had so little time in class last semester.

Then it went haywire.

So posting will come when it comes . . .

Update: After 2+ of messing around, installing service packs, updating graphic drivers, and general tinkering, I fell asleep last night confident that the Vaio would turn on and run fine this morning.

It didn't.

So I can take it in for servicing, wait and deliver it into the capable hands of family and/or friends, or continue my current service plan of chanting pleading incantations over the thing while choking back the blinding rage that only other bloggers and net addicts blocked from net access can truly appreciate.

Does this mean I'll actually have to buy a newspaper? That newsprint is so icky.

Now HE Was Funny

Thanks to reader AK for the [sad] tip:"

Johnny Carson, America's Late-Night Host for Decades, Dies

Jay Leno ain't got nothin' on Mr. Carson. He was, and will remain, the best.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Finally! A Hook for a SpongeBob Post

Group sees gay hook in cartoon / SpongeBob alarms conservative activists:

"'We see the video as an insidious means by which the organization is manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids,' he said. 'It is a classic bait and switch.'"

You're now all invited to make your own "bait and swtich"/Bikini bottom/SpongeBob jokes . . . . .

Long Hair, Earphones, and cspan.org

All you need to witness history unfold from the comfort of your Wills & Trusts class.

Mindful of the consequential times in which we live . . . . The history we have seen together . . . the shipwreck of communism . . .the survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends . . . on liberty in foreign lands . . . America's influence is considerable and we will use it confidently . . . .

There are more possibilities here for Fun With Rhetoric than I could've imagined. He pulled no punches, minced no words, expressed no humility.

To sketch his themes broadly: Iraq, 9/11. 9/11, let freedom reign, bring it on, 9/11, liberty liberty liberty, we shall overcome, Frontier spirit, GI's are magic, Social Security, education, ownership, god, god, abortion bad, god, liberty, god, liberty, 9/11, strength, resolve, 9/11, Iraq, liberty. God bless America.

That about covers it.

But, of course, we'll cover it more . . . .

Step Into The Way Back Machine

A Literary and Historical Aside

Red Line, DC Metro, January 20, 2001, 9:00am - Light glints off a silver belt buckle. A lady's fur-covered arm brushes my face. Many children talk. There are many tourists lurching and grabbing for the sticky silver poles. A man carries a white sign with red letters. Three more women in black hats carry red signs with green, dripping words. A man in a Stetson herds his gilded wife through the doors. Parents bundle their children in a blanket filled stroller. It is inauguration day. The metro slows and stops in the dark tunnel. The tourists shuffle. The commuters sigh. A girl fusses with her earmuffs. Her mother tugs at her scarf. The grandmother adjusts her rhinestone pin - shaped like the state of Texas. There is a large W in the center. The W is made of red, white, and blue jewels. The grandmother smiles.

The metro doors open. The transfer station platform teems with people. Most look lost. Others look frustrated. A man wears a shirt with a donkey on it. The man is not smiling. His son, also wearing a donkey, smiles. My feet ache. It is only 9 o'clock. The air is cold. Sleet falls from the sky. The train descends into another tunnel. A group of people laugh. They are carrying large rolls of canvas. The canvas is white. Across from them sit a group of school children. They are carrying flags. Next to me sits a couple. They are talking about tickets. The women looks angry. The man looks tired. The doors open and close again. The metro driver barks instructions at the passengers. The passengers look up at the speakers in the ceiling.

A boy wears a red sweater with a blue W. The boy gets out of his seat. He points to it. An old woman lowers herself into the seat. She has a cane and a stack of leaflets. The leaflets are green. The metro stops. The lady and the girl and the boy and the old woman and all the signs and all the flags get off the train.

Four years ago to the day, I sat on that Metro and observed a bit of America playing itself out, thinking it a touching moment of togetherness before the still warring factions left for their respective displays of patriotism: some to protest downtown, some to cheer on the mall. I wrote that piece on my return for my creative journalism class (and yeah, that was really a class).

The Supreme Court gave us our President and, having not been to DC in a year, I decided to attend the first inaugural of George W. Bush. At the time I was sure he'd be the sorbet of presidents - as would have been Gore - something to clear the nation's palate while fresher leadership ripened for the picking. My former employer - a Democratic Congresswoman - generously provided me with her husband's ticket - so I had a seat within literal spitting distance of the man who would later lead us to war and lead me to leave law school. What was most memorable that day wasn't the speech - I couldn't tell you know what he said if my life depended on it - but the cold. Wind, freezing rain (or was it sleet? I'm told there's a difference), and relentless, pervasive, bone-chilling cold shrouded the days events in an air of is-it-over-yet-iveness.

It's hard now to admit I was ever there. It doesn't make me less of a Democrat. I suppose it makes me a witness to history - though the exact nature of that history is unknown. I have my ideas, of course, and they ain't good. But at the time, my sorbet attitude, and pre-9/11 innocence, left me a less solemn observer than I would be today. If only we'd known . . . .

This January 20, at least I'll be warmer. I, for one, won't be lamenting another stolen election - though some will. If it was stolen, it was stolen slowly, with carefully constructed rhetoric and a series of unfortunate events - not from the ballot box, but from the minds and dreams of American voters. What would President Kerry's inaugural have been like? Or President Dean's? We'll never know.

Today marks the end of a chapter of sorts for me. Having watched the first inaugural, spending a week in frozen New Hampshire last winter - where I watched John Kerry effectively clinch the nomination, and leaving law school for the great unknown, I'll end the journey without much fanfare. I doubt I'll even watch the events. I've got class and TVs on campus are hard to find. C-SPAN can brief me later.

Will the same scene play out on the DC Metro today? Probably. Though a similar piece would include descriptions of soldiers in fatigues and large, dully shining weapons at the ready. But even if the actions are the same - I doubt the emotions will be. The fight for Democrats continues, but has changed. The fight for the hearts and minds of our faithful must be linked to the failing fight for the hearts and minds of far-flung nations. We have 4 years until the next inaugural, 2 and a half years until the next presidential campaign, and 1 year until the midterms. Protest today. But tomorrow, turn the page on this chapter - keeping it bookmarked - and figure out what comes next.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Why It's Going To Be A Long Semester: A Blawg Post

For the second consecutive first day of my criminal procedure course (second consecutive because last semester I had a first day with a different professor), the professor has commenced class with a speech on what this course isn't: a course in criminal procedure.

No, really.

"[The title of the book implies" it's about criminal procedure. But not really."

The subtext here, of course, that was explicitly driven home by last semester's professor is that if you're taking this class as a "bar class," don't bother. Because this class is better/deeper/different/whatever.

I should be brilliant enough to be able to pass the Bar without spending upwards of $4k on a prep course. But I'm not. In fact, most people aren't. The passage rates with the course training is far higher than without it. Why, then, the $100k legal education? Shouldn't there be some relationship between the preparation you receive in law school and the exam that enables you to practice in the profession for which you were supposedly just trained?

My main objection is to professors who speak with pride on the first day of class on how little their course has to do with the Bar exam. Such rhetoric deflates my hope for the semester.

I don't suppose I have any law professor readers who'd care to comment?

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I Bet There's No Mothman In This Show

And it's set in the wrong Point Pleasant. Who goes to Point Pleansant, New Jersey?

Everyone knows this Point Pleasant is way better.

Things On Which You Will Not Find Phoblog

Superstitious, Irish-Catholics with a highly developed fear of flying won't be riding on this anytime soon.

But I bet it's cool to watch.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Rage-Inspiring Policy Justifications

From the Why Are You Angry? You Brought This On Yourself Department:

President Bush said the public's decision to reelect him was a ratification of his approach toward Iraq and that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments in prewar planning or managing the violent aftermath.

"We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. "The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me."
Mr. President, on the eve of your second inaugural, please keep in mind: It wasn't that big a mandate. A margin of voters smaller than the population of the City of Los Angeles is all that ratified your policy. Past those 3.3 million, we were equally divided. And while you can claim an actual majority rather than a the usual plurality, the stakes these days are far different than they were 4, 8, or 12 years ago. Please bask no further in the glory of your victory. It proves nothing. You don't get to write history and it isn't finished anyway.

Oh and this doesn't surprise me in the least:

For the first time, Bush said he will not press senators to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, the top priority for many social conservative groups [But do read the article for the easy-to-predict, patented McClellan clean-up call].
And the last highlight:

As for perhaps the most notorious terrorist, Osama bin Laden, the administration has so far been unsuccessful in its attempt to locate the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Asked why, Bush said, "Because he's hiding."

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Sure Beats 'Some Teen Partying'

This is a Phoblog Entertainment Report aside:

Over the holidays, I watched a fair number of movies, and was consistently amazed by the number of intricately phrased categories warning parents (or simply those overly sensitive) against drugs, nudity, and even "some teen partying." I haven't yet found an example of "extreme teen partying," or "mildly raucous game nights" or "droll cocktail events."

The LAT, however, has developed a new level of detail which likely demands its own warning label.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Relief, However, Should Be Offered

More than just La Conchita was effected by the rains. In Glendale, a family near and dear to Phoblog - and many of our readers - suffered a devestating loss of property, though, most importantly, not of loved ones.

I hope the state does take care of these other victims - helps them recover so they can find safe, stable places to live.

On a personal note, I'd like to ask readers who understand the importance of this article to offer a prayer or support or a moment of good thinking toward the mentioned family. I hope they already know how many fans exist out here and how much we'd be willing to do to help in any way we can.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Coopting Imagery - Vol. 2589745

Even FDR's family says cut it out to those using FDR's image on Bush's side of the Social Security debate. The rebuttal is especially clever:

"My grandfather would surely oppose the ideas now being promoted by this administration and your organization," James Roosevelt Jr., wrote in a letter to Progress for America, a private group that supports conservative issues.

Roosevelt, who served as the Social Security Administration's associate commissioner for retirement policy in the Clinton administration, said, "On behalf of my family, I would ask that you cease using my grandfather's image in your advertising campaign."

Progress for America, in a statement, said it appreciated the feedback from Roosevelt but "will continue to air the ad in its entirety. ... Strengthening Social Security continues FDR's legacy and giving younger workers the option of a voluntary personal retirement account is an important part of this effort." . . . .

To compare the courage needed to create Social Security "to the courage it will take to dismantle the most successful social program in history is simply unconscionable," Roosevelt, 70, wrote.

Where Policy And Movie Pathos Collide

Remembering my seventh grade english class, I recall the three main categories of conflict that most lit falls into: man vs. man, man vs. himself, and man vs. nature. (if those are wrong, let me know - but it sounds about right).

The man vs. nature plot lines unspooled themselves this week in the California town of La Conchita, with devestating results. For the second time in a decade, a mudslide demolished homes, and, tragically, this time, claimed lives. Many of them.

So after fires ravaged the area, and the second mudslide tore through La Conchita, what's the most logical course of action? Rebuild, of course!

Governor Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in La Conchita, and issued an apparent jihad on the forces of nature.

I've heard residents of the area, surviving residents, that is, speak of it's close-knit feel, it's proximity to the beach, it's natural beauty.

Don't think me callous - though it may come off that way - but, really, what's more important? Sticking it out in the face of impossible odds - at the risk of your well being or your children's well being - or moving away to somewhere geologically safer? It's a basic human urge - or maybe an American one - to stay, fight, and prevail. But no retaining wall is really enough. So why drain resources and risk death to keep the nice view?

I've never had to leave my home behind, so I suppose I can't completely understand. But a photo of a 14 year old girl reacting to her father's presumed (now confirmed) death was more than enough to let me know what my choice would be.

Update: The LA Times article on the aftermath captures a few more of the questions I would hope someone would ask the governor:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger encouraged residents to rebuild as he toured the damage during a midmorning visit Wednesday.

"In the last few days we have seen the power of nature to cause damage and despair," Schwarzenegger told reporters and residents. "But we will match that power with our own resolve.

"The people that live here in this community are very strong," he said. "It's something I noticed right away. One of the first things they said is, you know, 'We'll be back.'

"I would say that I'm going to help them so they can come back here," the governor added.

That pledge appeared to leave Ventura County officials nonplused. Kathy Long, head of the county Board of Supervisors, said after a meeting with Schwarzenegger that officials were unsure how they could make La Conchita safe.

"The devil is in the details," she said. "If the governor can work with us on the technical analysis and develop proposals on how to make that happen, and provide funds to make that happen, we'd be more than willing to work with him."

Since a mudslide in 1995 destroyed nine homes in the hamlet, county officials have warned that the area is unsafe but have said that they lack legal authority to order residents to leave. . . .

As searchers continued to probe the rubble, residents debated whether to return.

Julio Varele, 53, said he and his wife, Annelle Beebe, would. Even though he lost a close friend, Tony Alvis, in the mudslide, Varele said he couldn't fathom living anyplace else.

"We've had the most incredible time with our friends in the house. There's the warmth, the atmosphere, with food and good times," he said. "People love to come to visit. How can you put a price on that?"
I don't know, but I think I'd price it somewhere below my family's lives.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Mark This Day

In case there was any doubt:

The search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has quietly concluded without any evidence of the banned weapons that President Bush cited as justification for going to war, the White House said Wednesday.
Now that medals of freedom have been awarded, the dead have returned to Dover, the instigator has been reelected . . . now at least we have some answers. Finality, however, probably isn't in the cards.

Monday, January 10, 2005

But You Don't Have to Take My Word For It.*

Phoblog's friend Class Maledictorian has accepted the 50 Book Challenge. As I pack up a basket full of shiny new books - some of which were acquired this Christmas, too many of which were acquired during Christmases past and trucked down here in hopes that I'd read them - it seems like a good idea to hop on the 2005 literacy wagon myself.

There are some rules out there, but I'd say it's a personal choice kinda thing. What books count? Most anything, really. I plan on first attacking the stack of biographies I've gathered (Adams, Franklin, Truman, LBJ - all of 'em, Brown (Willie), Burton (Phil)). I won't count "Understanding Securities Regulation" toward my tally, promise.

I don't know if I'll actually hit the goal. But it will be fun to try . . . . Recommendations welcome, natch.

*quick - identify that reference!

Jack On Kevin

Claremont's most-quoted Professor sums up Kevin Shelley's political future:

"It would take a comeback of Nixonian proportions to put Shelley back into contention for higher office," said Pitney.
Fantastic.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

The Week Ahead

This day had to come.

On Thursday, after a semester away (well, if you count the Sacramento semester, a full year), I have to return to campus and resume my legal education.

Bummer.

In college, I ran out of time to take all the classes I thought sounded interesting. In law school, however, I got nuthin' but time, it seems. Budget cuts are rough - fewer classes offered at fewer times by fewer faculty. There's not even an election law class this spring. C'mon guys, that's the only type I know! There are a few highlights, though - foremost among them - Securities Regulation. No, really. I loved Corporations - largely because of the professor (for Hastings students reading this - it was Lambert, and yes, I really did love the class). Also, a class called Sexuality and the Law and hopefully, if the waitlist gods are good to me (long shot), some practical courses in negotiation and arbitration - skills I wish I'd had last summer.

I tend to shy from navel-gazing posts, which this surely is, but posting has been light lately due to my imminent departure - there are visits and errands and the like. I do have some substantive posts coming, but I can't guarantee it'll be soon (though I seem to say that just before posting a ton at one time. whatevs).

Tuesday will be a driving day, Wednesday and Thursday will be administrative days - buying books, watching waitlists, actually attending classes - and along the way, I'll post what I can. And then I'll finally be back in SF so I can get back to posting over here, too. And, of course, I'm most excited about starting another summer job search! Yeah, shoulda done that already, right? I know, I know . . .

Look out world: Phoblog, Law Student, returns . . . .

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Yeah, Well I Heard He Was a . . . . Nevermind

CNN Will Cancel 'Crossfire' and Cut Ties to Commentator:

There are outlets for the kind of show Tucker wants to do and CNN isn't going to be one of them," he said.

Mr. Klein said he wanted to move CNN away from what he called "head-butting debate shows," which have become the staple of much of all-news television in the prime-time hours, especially at the top-rated Fox News Channel.

"CNN is a different animal," Mr. Klein said. "We report the news. Fox talks about the news. They're very good at what they do and we're very good at what we do."

Mr. Klein specifically cited the criticism that the comedian Jon Stewart leveled at"Crossfire" when he was a guest on the program during the presidential campaign. Mr. Stewart said that ranting partisan political shows on cable were "hurting America."

Mr. Klein said last night, "I agree wholeheartedly with Jon Stewart's overall premise." He said he believed that especially after the terror attacks on 9/11, viewers are interested in information, not opinion.
Guess that also explains CNN's recent - and quite clever - commercials featuring CNN bigshots like Wolf, Anderson, and Paula offering helpful news to particular consumers, one with the talking head saying, "I'm a reporter, that's what I do."

I also heard that CNN's ratings are back up due to their tsunami coverage. Guess they are America's most trusted source for news. FNC is just funner for less important, local goings-on. Like selecting presidents and stuff.

At least we'll always have this. Somewhere, I hope Jon Stewart is puffing on a cigar, doing a Mr. Burns "exxxxcccellent."

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Thankfully Cine-minimalist

Nothing shocking here, but I will applaud the Governor for a well crafted, well delivered speech that was, to date, the best thing I’ve seen him do. Aside from a few indirect nods to past cheesy references early on – and one reference to last year’s unblown-up boxes, he stayed blessedly cine-minimalist.

He outlined the same reforms we’ve read about this week, plus a few others, and some old standards: 1) Financial situation, 2) Pensions system, 3) Education of our children, and 4) Making California’s elections democratic again (ie: Redistricting reform).

That pension and redistricting got the least amount of lip service speaks to their inherently unsexy nature (well, I think redistricting is one hell of a sexy topic, but I’m a raging nerd). Factor that with their presentation sandwiched between popular, populist-friendly budget and education reform rhetoric, and you have the best indicator yet that the administration’s current plan likely involves offering redistricting reform as a small piece of a large package of reforms.

Most shocking moment: his reference to a possible SUMMER special election. That’s very soon. The good news is it’s, from what I can figure right now, much too soon for Costa to qualify his language (unless the legislature chooses to use his language, which they won’t). The bad news is – that’s really soon. Too soon for well-reasoned proposals.

A lot of smaller proposals were mentioned – some of which – like his prescription drug plan – I’m not sure how he’ll pay for. I loved his commitment to transportation issues, freeways and roads, etc, but wonder how far we’ll get, since he says we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. (Talk about glass half-full/half-empty land).

I think Schwarzenegger is finally finding the right balance of chest-thumping, hey I’m a immigrant movie star, opting this time for more gentle references to the romance of not just the American Dream, but the California corollary to that dream – one a bit more special and golden. He did refer to his immigrant background, using it effectively to describe his shock at gerrymandering and shoring up his outsider status a few years into his term.

Last year’s boxes remain unblown, he admitted, but claimed victory for having “lit the fuse.” I think that lets him off the hook too easily.

It’s interesting to note, at this point, the disjuncture between his speech as delivered, and the immediate local coverage of the content. Much more focus on redistricting than he had in his speech. That’s the magic of sound-bite journalism, I suppose. I’m sure the papers will focus on the deeper reforms than the window dressing issues peppering (yeah, alright, they’re all mixed metaphors tonight) the address.

While I wait for the “pros” to deposit their two-cents, I’m going to get dinner and let you read the text of his address (minus some premeditated ad-libs that clunked anyway), in the comments section below.

We’ll be back with more on the policy, proposals, and populism later . . . (and oh what populism there was).

State of the State Address

It's that time of year again . . . .

Tonight. 5pm. Figure out what station in your area is broadcasting it or watch it online here.

Key words to watch for: redistricting, reform, special session, and anything IMDb-able.

For the record: I predict 3 movie references in the intro section a lone, plus at least one general, action-movie-esque threat.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Guess that Pitzer Class on Malls Wasn't Such a Dumb Idea

A few days ago, I took my first trip up to The Grove at Fairfax and 3d in LA. I'd heard a lot of good stuff about it: it was pretty, novel, full of the kinds of stores in which I most frequently shop. And despite developer Rick Caruso's Republican campaign contributions, I liked the idea of new retail development that was cutting edge or sought to imbue a sense of place.

I was an idiot.

The LAT's Steve Lopez agrees and for most of my reasons.

What I never considered in the months of thinking about Caruso's struggles to develop other Groves (like the Americana at Brand in Glendale), is the practical reality of what those places are. They're fakes.

Think about - these open air malls are all the rage. Developers are literally taking the roof off of existing malls, declining in popularity, hoping to give them the edgey newness of Caruso-type developments (The Avenue up in PV, plans for Del Amo's conversion are in the works). But as I was walking down the "street" at the Grove, I was struck with the most obvious realization ever. Caruso has created . . . . a downtown.

WOW! Golly Gee Whiz Bang. There's fancy architecture, facades, restaurants with patio seating, a one-block trolley (populated by, as Lopez aptly puts it, people who'd never be caught dead on actual public transit), and storefronts on sidewalks, rather than on annexed-from-parking-lots mall concourses. Hello, people. It's about as retro as you can get.

Did you know this is how most cities operated until the introduction of modern malls in the 50s? Lakewood Center - arguably the nation's first "mall" - was thought doomed because the stores didn't front on the street, but where encased in walls and separated from thoroughfares by vast parking lots. Welcome car culture, good-bye community.

The Grove really is beautifully constructed. It's vibrant. But it's imaginary. It's visiting a downtown that never was and never will be. Caruso will keep building more downtowns - leading to a more segmented Los Angeles - if that's possible. I heard one argument that people shopping at home isn't all bad. It's not - except that I'm not from the Fairfax area and I was shopping there. Caruso isn't coming down and putting a Gap into the lovely, camera-ready downtown San Pedro storefronts. I wouldn't want him to, either, if he bulldozed them to recreate them in Toonville proportions. West LA, the Foothills, and Valley have plenty of traffic and attractions. Sticking more fakes there is redundant.

It's personally difficult for me to make these arguments because I also firmly believe that each new Banana Republic is a small gift from heaven. If you can incorporate that new Banana into an area that needs it, however, rather than just fabricating its new home out of an idea-of-place that separates the public from, well, reality, then shouldn't that be the way to go? Stop bringing the mountains to mohommad-masses and try to encorage smart commuting and shoppping.

The Grove is nice as a shopping center. But as the wave of the future, it's a sad, history-killing, ignorance-dependent throwback that undermines redevelopment, preservation, and smart growth. There's a lot of potential in the underlying concept - creating public spaces that encorage gathering, etc. But let's take it a step further and really recreate communities - not simulacra.

Sports Rant of the Day

Team Name to Be 'Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim'

What?

That's dumb. Personally, I've always been more of a "California Angels" fan than an "Anaheim Angels" fan. Lawsuits are already flying over this name - Anaheim will be mad they've been downgraded and the City of Los Angeles has problems with it as well. No team name should be that long to begin with. And though one of the given reasons for the name change is to broaden the team's appeal - marketing to expand their appeal "throughout Southern California and elsewhere." Two problems with that: 1) Do they think people in LA or Torrance or whatever will suddenly wake up and think "wow, you know what, I used to think the Angels were too OC for me, but if they're an LA team . . . . did they move closer?" and 2) "Elsewhere?" People in other parts of California look for reasons to dislike Los Angeles, not to embrace it.

Way back when, the team had "Los Angeles" in the name. But with rampant growth - and a hit TV show - Orange County has developed its own identity. Anaheim Angels was still bothersome, but this goofy name is just geographically dishonest.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

The Year Ahead

You can expect this site to pay a lot of attention to the impending redistricting reform debate. Start reading up on things now - here's another article on the issue.

It's important to remember that, in any reform effort, the people involved frequently make the difference. The best idea ever can be sunk if the wrong folks back it. And of course, as our Governor can so capably demonstrate, bad ideas with marquee-worthy backers have legs.

This article cites 8 attempts at reform since 1926 - all of them failures. It also quotes Ted Costa, calling him a "grassroots political organizer" - a technically correct, if laughably misleading ID (to me "grassroots" implies a certain earthy, poor, scrappy effort to overthrow the establishment or unite the workers. If Costa is "grassroots," it's in a multinational agribusiness kinda way).

Costa's proposal - on which he's desperate for gubernatorial support - would redraw the lines before the 2006 cycle. Forget the rest of the language - that there pretty much guarantees incumbents and both parties (yeah, the Rs too, if they're smart) will run screaming in the other direction.

The article speculates that Schwarzenegger may use the threat of a special election on the redistricting question to "bully Democrats into supporting his efforts to streamline state government and trim the budget:"

. . . But a bitter, drawn-out campaign over redistricting could make the Democrat-led Legislature even less willing to compromise with the governor. And if voters see the redistricting changes as a political ploy to put more Republicans into office, it could endanger all of Schwarzenegger's government reform efforts.
Very true. And it would be a shame, since this reform - as opposed to most "reforms" - is actually a good idea for the state. It does have about a 75% chance of becoming just another football. Perhaps part of a ball bin if it gets lumped in with a reform package - a method some say is the only way to gin up enough public interest in redistricting reform. I think that will just hurt it - but I can understand the strategy since maps aren't necessarily a sexy issue.

Reform supporters argue that the results of the last drawing should be proof enough that the time is ripe for reform:

"I'm sitting on the Sunset Strip (in Los Angeles) and my state senator is (Democrat) Sheila Kuehl,'' said Hoffenblum, a former GOP consultant. "Her district extends from the Farmer's Market in Los Angeles to Oxnard (Ventura County). It's ridiculous that the people in Oxnard should have a state senator from West Hollywood.''
I hate to agree with anything Alan Hoffenblum says (fun phoblog family fact: Alan Hoffenblum was my father's opponent's campaign advisor way back when), but he's right. If you look at my area - we've got an Orange County congressman whose district follows a teeeeeeny stretch of land around the coast to pick up the Palos Verdes Peninsula - along the way it also separates the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach from their parent cities. Fortunately, by a matter of blocks, I managed to stay in a blue district. Of course, perhaps the PV Republicans appreicate not having to worry about voting anymore - since they're totally packed into a friendly district. Wonder how much time Mr. Rohrabacher spends worrying about PV? Though he does have some great PR opportunities with the Ports (all that fun homeland security rhetoric, wohoo!). And don't ge me started on my State Senate District. I got sucked into a district centered much further north in the city - completely annexed from the South Bay generally.

But how many people have walked the borders of their districts? Or even examined a map? Not many. And I do hate the idea of selling a measure using divisive "not one of us" language, which is what would happen, but these districts mock basic notions of representative government. Though I believe people are capable of "Representing" a lot of diverse interests, views, and communities, there's no reason to make a brain teaser out of a basic unit of democracy.

So get ready, kids, it's going to be a fun year.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Phoblog's Year in Review

Lessons from '04

  • January: For a government nerd, paradise bears a striking resemblance to the bar at the Holiday Inn in Manchvegas.
  • February: If you want to understand what something is, try it yourself.
  • March: Never ask a question the answer to which you do not want to know.
  • April: Springtime in the State Capitol is lovely and temperate. Unlike budget battles.
  • May: Such a pleasant month when unmarred by finals.
  • June: Turns out I may be able to do this lawyering thing after all (p.s. who wants to hire Phoblog this summer? I thought I'd be studying for the Bar, but now I have to get another job. Believe it or not, I don't get paid to be a witty, intellectually stimulating blogger. I know, it shocks me too.)
  • July: When planning a convention, choose your theme carefully.
  • August: Two days of volunteer work can plant one hell of a big seed.
  • September: Montani Semper Liberi.
  • October: From country roads to the streets of Philly, America is easy to find if you get out there and look for it.
  • November: Losing sucks.
  • December: There's always more work to be done. And plenty of reasons to believe that this year may be better than the last.

And, of course, we'd like to thank the following people for making 2004 memorable, wonderful, productive, educational, and noteworthy: my parents; JP; JP; KR; SC; Josh Orum (for fixing my site everytime I break it, which is often); all-star readers BF, SK, JW, JG, JB, LJ (despite a disappointing lack of posting and linking lately), AT, NT, CP, MS, and everyone who doesn't leave a hello but still checks in; MH; CYD; CMC; all my fellow campaign staff alumni; and the entire state of West Virginia.


But You Said Help Was On the Way, Mr. Manchin

From a NYT article on the "why we lost" question:

Joe Manchin, the new governor of West Virginia, a Democrat whose anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, anti-gun-control views lifted him to a double-digit victory even as Mr. Kerry lost his state by 13 points, said last week that he had little doubt about why Democrats lost the presidency and seats in the House and Senate.

"It's the values - my goodness, it's the values," he said, adding: "But to allow any other party to say that the Democrats aren't for family values, they are not for people who go to church, they are not for people who like to go hunting - that's wrong. For the Democrats to sit back and allow that to happen, is even more wrong."
Prize for the first WV FO or other staff to explain the humor in Mr. Manchin's comments.

New Year, Same Song

The Governor will be calling special sessions to deal with budget woes and redistricting reform.

It's reported that he'll use his State of the State address on Wednesday to reiterate his commitment to fixing our sorry finances and to call for reforms in the way districts are drawn - which would likely change the face of California policy by changing the faces of policymakers.

Of course, he'll again threaten to go straight to the voters, should the Legislature fail to do his bidding.

Anyone believe that anymore? Or better yet, anyone still believe he'll fight against special interests? The same ones that cease to be special once he cuts deals with them? The same deals that resulted in the same kind of bad budget policy we've had for years? The article tells of the Governor's belief that the recall "was fundamentally about reforming California government and California politis and our finance system. There should not be a delay in seeking that reform."

So, what, 2004 was just a warm up, no really, he'll start blowing up those boxes this year?

Right.

As far as redistricting reform goes, regular readers (and most of my friends) know that I'm all for it. Not just any reform, of course, but if the Governor gets the language right - and if Ted Costa is kept on the bench - I'd support it. The article implies that should the system be reformed via a special election ballot this fall, new boundaries might be drawn and implemented for the 2006 season. That's HIGHLY speculative and depends entirely on the language of such an initiative. I'd be against that. Leave mid-decade antics to Texas Republicans, thanks.

The Democrats - judging by Fabian Nunez's recent editorial (looking for the link, sorry) - are taking a "no" position on this - but they would be foolish not to deliberate on this a bit more.

The Wednesday night speech (usually broadcast solely on NBC - kudos to them - and perhaps some cable or public station) should be, at the very least, entertaining.

And, anyone who cares to place a bet on the number of movie references and/or the pacing of such references is welcome to do so. For instance, at the RNC last summer, Arnold pulled a hat trick in the first 5 minutes of his speech.

Still waiting for the "Jingle All the Way" reference. C'mon, Arnie, don't disappoint me!

Appropriately, Some Musings on Endings

From today's SF Chron, endings: what they are, the form they take, and what they mean:

Patently artificial as they may be, fictional endings behave in satisfying ways that events in real life often stubbornly refuse to. Deaths, divorces and assorted other partings happen -- suddenly (or sometimes far too late), messily, incoherently. Even innocently arithmetic endings often remain opaque. The last day of the year comes whether we're ready to make sense of it or not. We bully ourselves into musing retrospection and halfhearted resolutions, inventing a story to fit the end. . . .