Sunday, February 27, 2005

I'd Like To Thank The Academy

For a bunch of stupid format changes.

Idol-style, "who's gonna win" on-stage line ups?

Awards handed out in the audience.

Fix it next year, please.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Campaign Things That Bug, Vol. 154809

From L.A. Observed:

Bob Hertzberg's suggestion to break up the L.A. Unified School District is more of an idea than a plan, since even the candidate admits there won't be any specifics unless he's elected and appoints a task force to look into it. Nonetheless, today at 3:30 in Santa Monica, Hertzberg is meeting with Gov. Schwarzenegger to "discuss the plan." From the press summons:

The meeting is closed to reporters. Cameras will have access to the meeting for still photographs and file footage/b-roll. Following the meeting, Hertzberg will be available for questions and comment outside of the building.
Oh and remember, the Gov says he isn't endorsing anybody in the race. Hertzberg today also cancelled a press screening of his new TV commercial.
Funny, I don't think the fine print on his commercials or web ads say "Nah, can't really break up LAUSD, but I'll look into it." Most voters, of course, love, love, LOVE the creation of task forces to solve problems. They're usually so effective. Makes me think back to countless conventions in which down-ballot statewide candidates aver their support of a woman's right to choose and increased education spending, labor support, etc. All very important things, but last time I checked, the State Controller or Treasurer just isn't tasked with those duites - cut the checks, balance the books!

I don't fault Hertzberg for latching onto a very powerful LA meme for change. But I will fault the switched bait result, should he prevail in the fall.

Breath of Air in Film Ratings Miasma

The body responsible for assigning those oh-so-helpful letter ratings to films tried to give a war documentary an R. For it's violence? No, because of soldiers' salty language.

Feel free to pause and shake your heads in dismay.

As the film's director says, when a mortar round hits your compound, "golly gee" probably isn't what leaps to mind.

Ever-outdated Jack Valenti claimed a success for the system since the film won it's challenge and had the rating lowered to PG-13. He gave the old line about the system being about parents making informed decisions and not about censorship.

Hint to parents: if the film is a documentary featured real life soldiers in a real life war, figure it out.

At least in this case, the country was allowed to continue its pro-violence tradition. Bare a breast or utter the F word, no luck. Blow some sh*t up on screen, drech things in blood, eh, you'll probably be okay.

As a moviegoer, Los Angeleno, and former 17 year old, the ratings process offends me deeply.

Anyone Else Having Unsettling 'Koko's Kitten' Flashbacks?

This is possibly one of the creepiest lawsuit stories I've ever read:

Ex-worker is third to sue over gorilla / Woman says she had to show her breasts to Koko

Marines Fret Falluja Effect

The Few, The Proud, the, uh, Few:

Recruiters and other military officials say the "Falluja effect" - a steady drumbeat of military casualties from Iraq, punctuated by graphic televised images of urban combat - is searing an image into the public eye that Marine officers say is difficult to overcome.
Ya think?

"What the recruiters are telling us is that they have to spend more time with the parents," General Hagee said. "Parents have influence, and rightly so, on the decision these young men and young women are going to make. They're saying, 'It's not maybe a bad idea to join the Marine Corps, but why don't you consider it a year from now, or two years from now; let's think about this.'
Well, my mom doesn't even like me driving from here to L.A. - I'm guessing her protection instinct might kick in a bit stronger if I were going to - say - a war zone.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Guess Who's Home?

Aww, look who's back from the Vaio hospital? With a new motherboard and fresh heat conducting aluminum whatever inside? Yes, Phoblog's pride and joy is home and seems to be function. Best news: though I had backed everything up in-case, it came back data-intact, so no scrambling to reload programs or documents.

Thanks to Dan Tompkins for guest blogging these past few weeks, and thanks for your continued patience and readership.

I'm on a tight project deadline for the next few days, so regular blogging returns Monday afternoon.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Stars Without Make-up

There's is literally a show by that name on Fox right now.

Seriously.

It seems to be a collection of paparazzi shots of our favorite stars: carting groceries! giving the camera the bird! just getting off transatlantic flights looking like they just got off transatlantic flights! look at Britney's extra pudge! Don't you feel better about your sorry, sorry lives now?

I fear for humanity.

This is one of the cruelest things I've ever seen. It sounds like the voice of the guy who does the commentary on the Animal Planet show America's Funniest Home Animal Videos or whatever - but he's certainly not cooing over a cute kitten. Look how fat post-baby Debra Messing is! Look how fat Christina Aguilera was!

Pause for a moment over the family tree that brings us this program: Fox, Murdoch, Fox News, family values, George W. Bush. Red states don't like this crap either.

If you haven't hit your quota of misogynistic material for the day, quick, grab the remote.

Twenty-six Miles Across The Sea . . ..

Interesting item linking the post-9/11 sea marshals with the practical shopping realitis for the Catalina Island's illegal immigrant population.

Bison are getting off the island fine. Undocumented workers, apparently, not so much.

Hmm, Going to Have to Think About This One

L.A. Observed brings news of LA Councilwoman Janice Hahn's recent, heavily religious speech, which is linked to her council website.

Naturally, site readers are calling for Hahn to "explain how this is appropriate on a city-owned wesbite."

I'm curious as to your thoughts, after you read it. I'm predisposed to support Hahn, and think I can come up with an intellectually honest defense of her witnessing here - as opposed to Bush's "Jesus told me to bomb 'em" politicking. It's tough, though, I won't lie.

People are inspired to service for many reasons. If that inspiration bleeds into how they serve, that may raise flags. If it comports with law, and doesn't invade the private sphere of spirituality of others, fine. But this is a maze of fine, trip-wire lines she's stumbled into. Not the greatest example of her smarts ever.

From making jokes about singles bars to witnessing the power of Christ in a few short weeks. It'll be interesting to see where this goes.

In Race-y City, Little Race-y Politics

Like I was saying, though I adore L.A. politics, the Mayor's Office, the Council, and the whole 9, I just don't think L.A. identity is as politics centered as New York or Chicago or Philadelphia. We've got our hands full with the Industry.

From today's LAT, a raised eyebrow over the lack of electoral "enthusiamsm" in the Latino community.

Last time, it was all about bloc voting - Hahn carried the African American, Jewish, and White voters, Villaraigosa the Latinos - but according to this piece, the Latinos are not so much with the caring this time. (This Latina cares, for the record.) In 2001, there was much hyped excitment about the possibility of Los Angeles electing its first Latino mayor - and many furrowed brows over Congressman Xavier Becerra and former Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa spliting votes and thwarting the Latino victory.

I'll pause here to say while representative (literally) elected officials are important, the best person for the job trumps all other identifiers for me. And you can bet we'll return to this issue should (should, ha!) Hillary pursue the '08 nomination.

Arturo Vargas of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials says the reduced fuss is a sign of "the maturing of the Latino community."

There's also Villaraigosa's campaign elephant that I haven't seen get as much press as it deserves: he swore to his council district constituents that he would serve his full four-year term. While I'd like to think that's led to voter disenchantment, I'm less inclined to think it did more to tire folks than a politically charged fall that's just left people fatigued - Latino or otherwise.

The article closes with one of the most dangerous, derisive political lines as one man ruefully explains that the Latino community let Villaraigosa down: "[He] is a man of the community, he's one of us."

If he's "one of us" how will he govern the rest of them?

That this line is being used in favor of a Latino candidate, however, helps illustrate the rise of the Latino voting bloc - in the 80s it was used as a reason to support the white candidate.

I've made my choice for the Mayor's race, but even if I hadn't, in a city that's about as diverse as it gets, voting based on racial or ethnic identity seems a little dangerous, doesn't it?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

From the 'Make The Bastard Deny It' File

Hertzberg is hellbent on Hahn swearing off going negative, he's issuing strongly worded ultimatum, as L.A. Observed reports:

It is clear that I will become your next target. And I'm ready for it, no complaints and no excuses. Let me be clear: I understand that criticism is a necessary part of the political process. And if you don't think that I should be mayor of Los Angeles, you're certainly entitled to deliver that message to the voters. But I hope you'd have the courage to first deliver that same message to me in person....
So, call me crazy, but does it seem like Hertzberg may use Hahn's refusal to swear he won't go negative, NOT his actually going negative, to go negative on Hahn? Maybe if I had all the direct mail in front of me this would make more sense . . . but from here, this seems like Hertzberg's campaign tactics have become the equivalent of repeatedly asking Hahn if he's stopped beating his wife yet.

Pssst, He's Not The SoS Anymore

One savvy Phoblog reader writes to ask why, if he's out, Kevin Shelley's name is still on the website.

Update: Okay, when Phoblog's a moron, she admits it. His resignation is effective on March 1. So he's still the Secretary of State. Time just not flying fast enough, I guess. Thanks to reader DR for pointing out my mistake (see comments, below).

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Phoblog Art Report: The Gates

No, not those Gates, these Gates. I found themes that overlap both the orange gates and the orange cat to be especially compelling.

The The New York Times even gave its review.

We like art. We like humor. This project, then, is a real winner.

[Note that this Gates creator only emailed 30 people and within 24 hours registered 99,000 hits. Apparently, we're emailing the wrong 30 people.]

Vaio Inbound

The nice folks at FedEx just emailed me to say that the nice folks at Sony San Diego Regional Repair have shipped me a package. I can only assume, and hope, it's a functional, much beloved VGN-S150.

Story developing . . .

Don't Believe You

Give me a good reason to believe you, Mr. President.

Bush Dismisses Idea of U.S. Plan to Attack Iran as 'Simply Ridiculous'

Sorry, just don't trust you.

Phoblog's Vote Goes To . . . .

L.A. Observed gives a nice overview of the latest from the L.A. Mayoral race, and, as anyone could've guessed, it's full of traditional, end-game fun as Bob Hertzberg - greenlighter of dozens of Hahn hit pieces, threatens to "hit back as hard" as he can should someone go negative on his huggable self. Cute.

I have nothing against Hertzberg, per se. I worked for the Speaker who followed him in Sacramento and it was a smooth, congenial transfer of power, as far as I could tell. The man does like his hugs - which would be creepy if he weren't so, um, cuddly, I guess. Maybe it is creepy. Nah, it's his thing. And he throws a nice party at convention each year.

The transition between Hertzberg and Villaraigosa was ugly, from what I understand. The rumors are that these former roomies are making nice - but should they both make it to the run-off - my advice would be to duck.

Continuing my biased, experienced based assessment of the candidates: Richard Alarcon was always quite nice to me at the Capitol - I remember him from his days on the L.A. City Council. From what I hear, there's no staff-chomping Shelleys in this group - which should be a good indication that the City will be in good shape regardless of who wins.

But experience matters. So does campaigning on issues over which you have some control (Bob, you're not running for school board - and look what happened to the last guy's efforts to muck with LAUSD. Something about a multimillion dollar cesspit of an uninhabitable campus, right?). I've never warmed to Antonio. I don't think he's ever come off well in any profile - too much moss in his background.

That leave Pedro homeboy and incumbent Jim Hahn. Remember, I was a Gray Davis fan - I think dull boys rock the ballot booth. One-on-one, the guy's great; stick him in front of a crowd, no so much. In fact, he'd be wise never again to appear in public without being followed by clean-up batter, sister Janice Hahn, who's swiftly developing, deftly applied wit plays well to big crowds. She's his greatest asset, and, unfortunately, the biggest loser if his public service career goes down in flames in a few weeks (she has the makings of a great Mayor, it seems).

Jim Hahn hasn't done much wrong - to which many respond, "well, he hasn't done much right either." Few officials actually accomplish all - or any - of the promises on which they campaigned. (WMD? What WMD? Peaceful Iraq, eh, sorta, whatevs). The PR demi-scandal doesn't seem to have blown up into an understandable issue for voters (granted, I have not seen many mailers, as they're collecting in Pedro and I'm in sunny - yeah, you heard me - San Francisco).

Hahn's paying the price for his sparkle-free personality. He suffers from a lack of star power in a star power hungry city. But that's the curse of L.A. politics. Name me one L.A. Mayor that has the national cache of a Guiliani, or even a Bloomberg. When's the last time any of our politicos hosted SNL? Not likely. Sam Yorty? Tom Bradley got us the Olympics - great for the City - but he didn't even make it to Sacramento, let alone the national nightly news. No, we have our own stars here - and they're mostly way west of Spring Street - which is fine with me.

So I'm sticking with Hahn. I don't trust the Valley guys enough - their inexperience and false - or even genuine - outsider-ness rings hollow with me. For L.A., for Pedro, for Phoblog - it's Hahn.

Update: For an interesting take on what Hertzberg meant by "negative," check out this L.A. Voice post. I don't think I agree with it - insofar as it relates to Hertzberg's intentions. I do think, though, that the bellyaching about "going negative" is foolish. Of course you go negative if you want to win. People tell pollsters they're against it, but if you could be in their heads in the voting booth, well, it's not such bad information then, is it. So take from that post what you will.

The Red State Chairman

For any Dems worried about whether or not Dean would be able to overcome a serious and predictable negative campaign and excite Red State Democrats (myself included on both the worry and the being a Red State Dem); please note that the Chairman's event in Lawrence, KS was sold out in less than 3 hours.

From the Lawrence Journal-World:

A total of 895 tickets for his Friday appearance at a public rally for the Democratic Party at Liberty Hall were sold in about 2 1/2 hours Sunday.

When the tickets went on sale at noon, an estimated 100 people were standing in a line that stretched from the front door of Liberty Hall, 642 Mass., around the corner and east on Seventh Street to The Raven Bookstore.

Very exciting for me. I have been reading the national press on Dean, ABC's The Note, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the LA Times (who can thank Phoblog for my readership of their fine rag), etc. But when I saw this KS article it helped me get to that happy place; that place where Dean is the chairman of Democrats, and Democrats are proud to say so.

The national debate on Dean will never end. What's key to me here is that the Lawrence, Kansas debate on Dean appears to be over, at least for the Dems. And they like him.



Legislation, Press Releases Introduced

The LAT sketches the Sacto rush to introduce bills before the deadline.

Many of the 11th hour introductions seek to resurrect old favorites - like driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. And of couse, as with Congress, most introduced bills will die quietly, providing not so much advancement to public policy as fodder for 199 letters and Fellow bragging.

The article correctly describes many of the bills as placeholders - simple, super short statements of intent with no indication of policy or law that allow legislators to get snag their bill numbers and do the heavy lifting later. But that sounds a bit more cynical than it should - this is just how things work. That's always the problem with this insider snapshots - even if they get the facts right, the nuance is lost. Of course, I used to work there, so perhaps what I see as nuance, the normal Californian would see as a big honking waste of time.

So - what favorites are back for another round? What's new? The LAT picked out some good ones:
  • ACA 6 - Wyland (R-Escondido) A ban on driver's licenses, in-state tuition, health or social benefits to illegal immigrants.
  • AB 5 - Canciamilla (D-Contra Costa) Makes the SoS nonpartisan.
  • A Phoblog Fav: AB 107 - Benoit (R-Palm Desert) Reduces minimum traffic school requirement from 400 to 240 minutes. (You laugh, but you have no idea what it's like dealing with traffic school lobbyists. Things get ugly when the folks from "Happy Yuk-Yuk Comedy Hour Pizza Traffic School" feel threatened.)
  • The Phoblog Prize for Best Sounding, Least Likely to Fix Anything Good Government Reform: AB 16 - Huff (R-Diamond Bar) Bans gov and legislators from accepting campaign contributions during budget negotiations. Sure, this May to August embargo would make things better. We only have a four month memory, after all.
  • Gay marriage - we got bills to legalize it (Leno) and ban it (Morrow) - pick your side and lobby accordingly.
  • Bill most likely to induced 8th Amendment jokes: AB 212 - DeVore (R-Irvine) Ends conjugal visits for violent felons.
  • Because Parents Have to Parent Too Much Already: AB 450 (Yee-San Francisco) Another attempt to "restrict sale or rental to children of video games that depict 'especially heinous, atrocious or cruel' violence." Nah, that's not vague and subjective at all. Why not a bill to restrict parents' paying for these rentals or sales?
  • You Know There's A Story Behind This: AB 282 - Benoit (R) - Imposing fines for displaying porn in a vehicle in public (man! I wish I were going to be at those Trans hearings again).
  • Phoblog's Favorite Bill Ever: AB 13 - Goldberg (D-L.A.) Bans "Redskins" as a school mascot or team name. Still no word on when the peaceful Greek people will be relieved of the violent, hard-tackling image caused by "Trojans."
  • Phoblog's Friends of Ferrets Award: AB 657 - Koretz (D-West Hollywood) Legalizes vaccinated, fixed ferrets as pets. Isn't it time, California? They're so cute and weasely.

Remember - we mock because we care. On the surface, a lot of these bills don't pass the laugh test - but many of them actually do have compelling reasons for being. So give peace, and ferrets, a chance. Better yet, do some research: they're all public documents.

It's Not Reapportionment

First off, Ms. Jeffe, it's "redistricting," not "reapportionment." Reapportionment is the process by which seats in the House of Representatives are apportioned among the states. Redistricting is the process by which states draw the lines to create districts those Representatives will represent.

Got it?

Good. For some reason California policy buffs notoriously make this mistake.

Anyway - oft-quoted policy wonk Sherry Bebitch Jeffe turns her attention to Schwarzenegger's redistricting reform efforts. Jeffe challenges the notion that an independent body's lines would yield a dramatically different political landscape - citing history as a guide.

Redistricting challenges in the 70s and 90s ended up in the courts and both times, she argues, Republicans expected to gain seats - but didn't. We certainly appreciated attention to reality - seldom adequately paid by policy theorists - but, as she says, nothing happens in a vacuum. She both points out and plays down the '92 economy as a reason for Rep losses after the court-ordered redrawn lines went into effect.

A new redistricting process by no means guarantees Ds and Rs an equal number of seats. It's not supposed to do that. While Jeffe focuses on the high altitude view of reform, she ignores the internal effect - the intradistrict, intraparty struggles. Instead, she blames the lack of open primaries for extreme-winged candidates.

Jeffe ends her argument by claiming that Californians are less interested in spending money on a special election to determine this "insider game" than they are in "overcoming threats to their quality of life:" rising healthcare costs, schools, etc.

That's because too many commentators are letting voters off easy. This is only an "insider game" because there have been few efforts to really educate the public. We'll say it until we're blue in the face: WHO decides is the biggest indicator of WHAT is decided. It's time to think outside the box: any true reform has to completely dismantle the system as it exists - no attention can be paid to current district lines. In the end, effective reform might not change the D/R balance - but it will change the intra-D and intra-R balance - which will end up helping those quality of life issues Californians are rightfully concerned about as well. Because when more moderate voices are engaged in a deliberate, reasoned, debate, public policy - and the public coffers - win.

Greatest Gadget of All Time

BBC tells me that the greatest gadget of all time is the Apple Powerbook 100 (1991).

Rounding out the top five were the Zenith remote control (1956), Sony's Walkman (1979), Motorola's Startac (1996), and the CDI mechanical mouse (1970).

Apple, huh? Take that Bill Gates. In all fairness, I don't think software was included in the definition. Still...snarky me, snicker at the headline.

New (Eminent Domain) London

Hometown of Connecticut College, my alma mater.

I don't often get interested in the details of supreme court cases, usually the constitutional principles are sufficient to grab my attention. In this case, both the constitutional argument and the particulars are of interest to me.

The court will be hearing today whether or not a local government can use eminent domain to remove residential and commercial property owners to allow for the redevelopment of land. This is not a highway or a railroad, this is the City of New London taking the land and then transferring it to another private entity for re-development so the city can increase its tax base.

The New Lodon Development Corporation (NLDC) is the entity to which the Fort Trumbull part of town will be transferred. NLDC was created to help the town transition from economic despair and urban rot to a new economy.

I was in New London when this all started and can only add to the news coverage that the NLDC was viewed by many as an outside group, and that the (now former) President of Connecticut College spent an awful lot of time trying to convince the world that the NLDC was a community-centered agent of change that would allow the people of New London to make decision affecting the future of New London. I hope she was able to do so after I left town.

Since Dr. Gaudiani is still on the board I have to assume that she is at least tacitly okay with the eminent domain argument for the greater good, that public use includes the authority of the public body to take from one private owner and give to another private owner with the express purpose of increasing the tax base.

Me, I'm not such a fan.

Monday, February 21, 2005

We Want You, We Want You, We Want You As A New Recruit

In the Navy, You can sail the seven seas! . . . .

Okay, yeah, you got me - part of the impetus for this post is the obvious cornucopia of Village People jokes, but in all seriousness, this is also a telling cultural anecodte on our distance from our former parent country: the Royal Navy is actively recruiting gays.

Governor 'Moonblog'

No, the computer isn't really fixed, and I'm not really back (sorry, Dan, you're still on the hook for another day or two) - but as I hobble along on this old machine - some political blogging news caught my eye - seems former California Governor, and current Oakland mayor Jerry Brown has launched his own blog.

Generally speaking, I don't buy elected's blogs - sure they're cute and chatty, but I'd bet dollars to donuts they're penned by staff, not officials themselves. Of course, if any elected would chance blogging, it'd be Jerry Brown - I mean, have you seen they guy's offical portrait? 'Nuff said. The Chron article quotes from several comments posted to the new blog:

Blogger Flap advised: "Make this blog 'real' and people will read it. Keep on sounding like a press release and it (soon) will be ignored.''

Finally, there was this prediction from Nora: "It will be interesting to see how a politician handles this medium where all your critics are just as visible as you are. I predict either unprecedented enforced honesty, or you'll get bored with this before the election and it won't matter.''
I agree on both points - also with the idea that blog critics are as visible as the authors. Of course, that can be solved by disallowing comments. And you do have click to see the comments, they don't show up on their own. The pushback isn't usually as powerful as the initial push - but the chatter created by blog comments can make waves. This might be interesting to watch - though I tend to think the nature of public office will foreclose on salient elected blogging.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Oppo Gone Wrong

Hiring scandals in Maryland will be a nice Sunday read for what happens when GOP Governors take power after 36 years. Being a sometime oppo research guy myself, I recognize the professional motivations. I like to think that I, as opposed to these schmucks, would keep it to the campaigns. Governing is a more sacrosanct piece of life for me.

For those link-phobic readers, several oppos hacks from Bob Ehrlich's campaigns and days in the Gingrich House are now $75K salaried employees in places like the Public Service Commission, the MD Insurance Agency, and Maryland Transit and Port Administrations. In each case, there are shadowy firings of mid-level career bureaucrats in at-will (though not policy-setting) positions.

One in particular was also the man charged with making sure legislative analysts (me, actually) did not receive timely or sufficient information to analyze the policy and cost implications of energy bills.

Grrrrr.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Common Cause and Arnold - Bloggy Style

Great blog diary over on MyDD about the announcement that Common Cause is working with the Governor on redistricting reform. As I understand the particulars from 30,000 feet:

(1) Gov proposed reform that creates redistricting commission to take the process out of the hands of the legislature;
(2) Congressional GOPers are not happy because they believe this will make it harder for GOP electeds in CA;
(3) Common Cause signed on to support the reform;
(4) liberals and progressives everywhere spontaneously combusted;
(5) Common Cause and allies have responded.

Here is the meat of response from the CC perspective:

"The name Common Cause isn't just a cute throwback to a long extinct political concept. Common Cause means finding the political reforms that make the system work for everyone - i.e. how democracy is supposed to work. If Arnold is willing to pursue the initiative on the table and work with Common Cause on seeing it enacted, then there is common cause between us and there is no reason not to benefit from support from the executive of the world's 7th largest economy in pursuing a very necessary reform."

1) Arnold is only proposing this initiative. It must still be adopted to ballot by the legislature. CA's Dems are not going to sign off on anything that will give all the power to the governor.

2) CC is no idealistic amateur when it comes to negotiating political reforms with entrenched, sneaky, doublefaced politicians - of any political stripe. CC has succesfully been navigating the treacheries of D.C. for decades and knows how the game is played.

3) No plan is going to make the world perfect. The point is to always move forward in a productive way.

4) This plan is not at all what happened in Texas. TX legislators decided to violate their state's constitution and redraw their districts again within the set period. Those districts were drawn by legislators. This plan is trying to fix that exact problem. Go read the proposal.

The diary linked above is the CC response, and it's a good one. I'll be reading more about this through the linked articles in the diary, but don't want to reinvent the blog here.

The Chairman

Consulting is slow, blogging kills time, and this is a solid piece of news analysis on how Howard Dean became chair of the party and what it may mean.

Nichols, unlike many MSM folks, is more than open to the possibility that "Dean has positioned himself as the most camera-ready Democrat in the country. As such, he is in a position to make his party--as opposed to an individual candidate or faction--more newsworthy and potentially more dangerous than it has been in decades."

Yes, Nichols also notes the Scream. Everyone will. For four years and longer Howard Dean will be associated with one night in Iowa. And there may be good reason. There is a chance, one I hope does not happen, that the Dean chairmanship will lurch the party too far out of the mainstream.

By lurch I do not mean the ideology of the party will truly change, or that Dean is even a leftist (see: Dean and budgets, Dean and NRA, etc). I am not advocating Republican-Lite. I am simply stating that the idea of framing, the new Kool-Aid of political strategy, is done better by the GOP than by the Dems today and they have reems of oppo research on the man.

But Dean's election signals something more hopeful to me. The cautious and predictable "party insiders" were not able to stop the grassroots juggernaut. The Senate and House minority leaders were not able to annoint (though it might have helped if they didn't have to pick last on the playground with all the good potential annointees saying no thanks).

Nichols finishes this way, and I'll let him have the last words of the post:

What's genuinely exciting about the Dean chairmanship is the prospect that the party might come to mirror its new chief's enthusiasm for bold stances and strategies. Dean's best applause line in the race for DNC chair was, "We cannot win by being Republican-lite. We've tried it; it does not work." For all the important talk of rebuilding state parties and using new technologies, what matters most about Dean's election as DNC chair is his recognition that Democrats have to be serious about holding out to Americans the twin promises of reform and progress, and that they are not going to do that by tinkering with the status quo. "We just can't let the Republicans define the debate anymore. We have to be the party of ideas," Randy Roy says from Topeka. "Dean understands that we have to be the party that shakes things up."

The Levers of Power

I'll start by way of Ohio, place of my birth (not raising) and scene of the most recent apocalyptic visions of Dems everywhere. There are obvious posts about Secretary of State Blackwell and partisan elected officials controlling elections here, here, and here.

But this lever of power is something new.

The good Secretary is requesting that the Ohio Supreme Court sanction attorneys for filing a case contesting the voting machines and voting irregularities in Ohio. Read all about it in brief here and here. This paragraph is the chilling part. This is the crux of it. Not only can GOP elected officials serve as Co-Chairs for a Presidential candidate's State campaign, not only can they be responsible for distributions of voting machines and regulations by which safety mechanisms must be put in place to ensure votes are tallied and counted, now they can have GOP Attorneys General smack lawyers with fines and censure if the lawyers represent citizens who allege fraud?

As a nice little CA plug and relevant tidbit, your own Bill Jones has supported turning the SecState office in CA into a non-partisan post. Haven't followed this, so I'm not sure if he means it. It'd be nice.

Leave it to the newly re-energized Congressional Dems (Senate and House) to get going on something before the GOP has framed it as a crisis. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) may be well on his way to framing the first Dem 'crisis' of the cycle (though I'll chat on Gannongate soon).

Today, Congressman John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, will be filing an amicus brief in the Ohio Supreme Court with the support of Senator Russ Feingold and 17 other members of the House of Representatives recommending that theCourt not sanction the attorneys who brought Ohio election contest in Moss v. Bush (no.04-2088). Mr. Conyers offered the following statement:

"The attorneys in this case had reason to believe that the election results did not reflectthe will of the electorate. In good faith, they brought a case based not only on statistical probability but the depositions and affidavits of computer experts, statisticians, and electionvolunteers. In only a couple months, these attorneys have amassed over 900 pages of evidence.

"While we take no opinion on the underlying case, we firmly support the right of citizens to challenge elections results in court when they have a good faith basis to do so. Truly, Secretary Blackwell's attempt to sanction these attorneys is meant to send a message to anyone who dare challenge his questionable election administration. For our democracy to work properly, we can't allow this sort of intimidation by state officials.”

This is one of the more frustrating issues for me today because I think that many people, especially those in CA given what CD has been typing for the past few months, are ready to latch on to election reform as a "Democrat" issue. Unfortunately, as a pragmatic thinker (from time to time, don't get antsy yet) I recognize that picking the election reform fight now, with so many GOP SecStates, Legislatures, and national electeds is a dangerous thing to do. What's to stop Blackwell, DeLay, Rove, et al, from just saying: "Okay, let's reform it all." I am not a fan of that kind of reform.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Handing Over The Keys

We'd like to give a warm welcome to Phoblog's newest guest blogger, Dan Tompkins. Dan's agreed to watch things while the Vaio is in the shop and the Vaio's owner weeps in its absence. Dan comes to us well qualified - a veteran of the Maryland Legislature (he's a budget wonk, kids) and healthcare consulting as well as many Demo campaigns. The quick and dirty, in his words:

Grew up in WV, got out (to CT, NY, MD, DC), got smart (CT & NY schoolin'), got back (WV Victory Research Director), got beat (see: President Bush, Term II), getting back again (see: fingers, crossed).
Says Dan, "I want to be the uber-wonk."

We think he's on his way.

While Dan's in charge, Phoblog will meander a bit from its charter commitment to California policy, we’ll still catch the national stuff – through non-Californian eyes. Should be a fun change of pace.

A note on content: The views Dan expresses may or may not reflect my personal views – we differed on our DNC ponies (I won! I won!), but we met working for the Kerry campaign in West Virginia. I vouch for his upstanding guy-ness and policy debate is encouraged. Just remember, if you need to shoot a messenger, aim for the right one.

Thanks for your patience, your readership, and staying with us through these technical difficulties and format experiements!

And now to Dan . . . .

I REALLY Do.

The Anti-Pre-Nup.

Well, The Daily Show introduced me to the term "convenant marriage," and even after reading this New York Times article, I gotta say, I still don't get it.

Okay, I get it, but I'm slack-jawed at it's existence:

Covenant marriage was born out of growing concern about the rise of single-parent families, especially among the poor, and unease among conservatives about no-fault divorce laws, which they say make it too easy to end a marriage.

There is also some embarrassment among religious and political leaders in the Bible Belt that many of its states, including Arkansas, have some of the nation's highest divorce rates.

"We really feel the no-fault culture has been destructive," said Dennis Rainey, president of Family Life, a Christian group based in Little Rock. "There's something wrong when it's easier to get out of a marriage than it is to get out of a contract to buy a used car."
Okay, but, maybe some more pre-marriage counseling is in order? This legal device seems like a rather flimsy band-aid on the actual problem, as I'm understanding it to be from the proponents - the demise of marriage as an institution. Asking someone to submit additional paperwork to ensure they can start planning that golden anniversary party doesn't make much sense, does it? As with those seeking to lower the number of abortions (which is a much better goal than simply overturning Roe v. Wade, which doesn't guarantee fewer abortions), it seems money could be better spent on community based programs encouraging loyalty, commitment, etc. That would be privately funded programs, by the way, since I can imagine few states where they wouldn't be dominated by establishment-clause-violating religious efforts.

Marriage, for most people, already includes to-death-do-us-part language. Somehow, I can't see "but you signed the contract!" keeping someone around when it's really over. If the ring doesn't do it, neither will a loophole-ridden marriage rider.

How Freak Out a Blogger in One Easy Step

Today, the nice folks at Sony sent me a box in which I am expected to place my computer for return to the Sony service center.

Just looking at the collapsed collection of corrugated carboard makes me queasy.

While I have a backup machine, its wireless card is still MIA. This means I'll be without regular net access until a) the wireless card appears or b) the nice folks at Sony return to me my pride and joy.

I can't tell you what a painful separation this will be. I can't guarantee a posting schedule (or an emailing schedule), so please be patient and stick with Phoblog - we'll be back on-line as soon as possible. I hope.

S&W 18/19

"Progress is being made."

C'mon, Mr. President, it seems so much less forceful in the passive voice, doesn't it?

Waking up for an 8:40 class is hard enough without waking up to a Presidential press conference - especially when one's time and computer constraints prevent adequate blogging. But he's in rare form today: circular, ignorantly optimistic, arrogant, and with that delightful hint of you-stupid-reporters-and-the stupid-non-believers-you-represent-head-shaking-ness.

"The international community was convinced that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction - not just the United States."

Right. Who was making the case, though?

So we have a Director of National Intelligence now. He'll have to coordinate 15 agencies. I feel safer already. Don't you? Though I didn't catch the whole press conference, the Charles Gibson expressed surprise after the event that only 2 questions focused on what the new Director would do - how he'd actually function. Details, details.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Losing A Grip On Losing

We hope, anyway.

Newsday's Jim Pinkerton likens newly elected DNC Chair Howard Dean to Reep Demigod Gingrich:

Gingrich the Republican might not like to hear it, but the figure in politics Dean resembles most is ... Gingrich. Both men are hot-tempered, compelling and, above all else, smart. Beginning in the '80s, Gingrich didn't so much revise the GOP's message as repackage it. The 1994 Contract with America was a masterpiece of politics; it brought the Republicans a majority in the House for the first time in 40 years.

But for all his success as a political tactician, Gingrich failed as an overall leader. He dreamed of the presidency, yet he was forced to retire from public life in 1998.

So now to the Democrats, who need a Gingrich of their own to help them retake power. Dean has the smarts for politics but, like Gingrich before him, he lacks the right stuff for the White House. The big question is whether he is smart enough to keep that in mind.
I'm not sure he lacks the right stuff for the White House - he lacked it last time, but that doesn't foreclose on the future. As far as I'm concerned, if he can bring us a tightly-packaged, "soundbite-y" message, and it sells, he can do whatever he wants, including run for President again.

Now that Dean is in charge, I suppose it should be less annoying to hear Beltway types dismiss him, as does Sen. Joe Biden, whom Pinkerton quotes as saying "no party chairman has ever made a bit of difference in the public perception.. . . He's not going to have a policy role." I guess. But how many Democrats, let alone Americans, could pick Terry McAuliffe out of a line up? How many would even know the name? And, as Pinkerton astutely points out, Gingrich's success wasn't in crafting new policy, just in slapping a better package on the old stuff. It's just a question of marketing, isn't it? (Leaving aside for a moment the muddled foreign policy cowardice we've sometimes evidenced as a party - in that arena, if Dean can bring some more peace rhetoric to the fore, all the better).

Hey, Must Be The Money

Post-election, a series of emails went around listing who gave what to whom in terms of business's (note grammar, Roundup) campaign contributions. Now, the Chronicle turns it attentions to red vs. blue buying power - the new alternative to the time-honored boycott:

At the heart of any activist's anti-corporation campaign is an appeal for consumers to take their dollars elsewhere -- which Buyblue.org makes explicit. . . .

For consumers who no longer want to frequent an online bookseller such as Amazon.com, for example, because the majority of its political action committee's contributions (59 percent) went to Republican candidates last year, Buyblue.org offers links to blue competitors such as Barnes & Noble or Powell's.
That 41% went to blue candidates makes little difference, of course. A cursory investigation of Buyblue.org shows an impressive collection of company statistics and the framework for in-depth analysis to be added soon. Without looking too closely, however, I can already tell you that most donations will be to PACs (which can lean on way or the other) and a lot of giving will be on the local level in races that may or may not be of consequence to the parties nationally.

The listservs over which the red/blue donations came to me promptly clogged with caveats galore about how X company may be blue, but they're terrible to their workers, or the environment, etc. It gets to the point where you really can't shop anywhere anynmore - which would be a bad outcome for everyone.

While the article quickly moves from a discussion of the companies' political giving, to Buyblue's advocacy - describing it's reluctance to use the word "boycott," the difficulty of keeping "troops" fired up since, unlike elections, there's no finish line per se - it's worth pausing on the political question. In reality, most companies cast wide nets, since they'll have to talk with whomever holds office - and they're way more likely to still be around after 6 years.

Everyone on my side knows Wal-Mart is the red devil, but past that, savvy shopping gets drenched in pink, peach, teal, baby blue, purple, and about a thousand shades, hues, and tints in between. It's enough to make a shopper go crazy.

Monday, February 14, 2005

V-Day Flicks and Lovers

For a classic, you should go rent An Affair to Remember, but if you're looking for an off-beat Valentine's Day flick, try Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Then, check out the poem from which it takes its title, and this article on the lovers behind the poem.

Hope your Valentine's Day was full of conversation hearts and chocolates. Mine was full of driving.

Salient Point, from A Much Larger Story

I'm the first to admit I've been dropping a lot of news balls lately - I blame continuing computer issues, travel, and a particularly ugly crush of classwork - but in catching up on a media/blogs/procedure/shady Reep stuff story, I came across this closer to a Salon.com article on the outing of fake reporter "Jeff Gannon:"

"All of which begs the question, 'Who are they issuing credentials to?' asks Hudson at the Niagara Falls Reporter. 'Could a guy from [Comedy Central's] 'The Daily Show' get press credentials from this White House?'"
Well, call the point I'm about to make dictum, but yes, TDS guys can and should get press credentials. They're honest about their organization. They don't outright lie about things - comic hyperbole nothwithstanding. They manage to ask hard questions under the cover of being just a trivial show. Some of Washington's biggest hitters are guests because they know the audience is listening (and getting up in the morning to head off to some very important jobs).

Comedy brings us truth, bitter yet nutritious. This Gannon guy? He's not funny.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Raisin More Good Points

[Ed.'s note: Phoblographer* offers a sincere apology for the above pun. But, get it? He's from Fresno! Like Raisins! Nevermind. Please keep reading.]

One more for good measure - on a potentially good measure - this time from Republican State Senator Chuck Poochigian:

Many believe the goal of reforming our state's redistricting process is to make elections fairer, or to skew elections toward one political party or another. The primary goal of redistricting should be to ensure that the voters have effective representation. Efficient government starts with citizens having a clear understanding of who represents them. Voters should choose their representatives; politicians should not choose their constituents.
Because I'm completely Claremont-biased, I'd like to attribute part of the Senator's savvy to his chief of staff, Deborah Gonzalez, a fellow Athena and the winner of the first Legislative Staffer of the Year Award from our friends at ATC. The practical, deliberative CMC-ness is palpable, isn't it?

I'm going to have to break out this redistricting debate and then break it down to explain the procedure, the problems, and the proposals for change.

It's a travel weekend, but stay tuned . . . . new developments on their way . . . .

Southern Comfort

From a Southern Mississippi paper (apparently originally from the Wash Post): praise for Schwarzenegger's reform idea, but with an important caveat:

There is one significant problem with Mr. Schwarzenegger's idea: He wants new districts drawn as soon as his constitutional amendments are approved. We understand his reasoning: Past gerrymandering has produced an unrepresentative legislature, which in turn is blocking some of his other proposed reforms, so, for him, the sooner the lines are redrawn the better. But we think the counter-argument is stronger: The advent of mid-cycle redistricting is a dangerous trend, threatening a new front in partisan warfare as district lines become subject to change whenever the political balance shifts.

Redistricting should take place after each census, once every 10 years, and Mr. Schwarzenegger should push to change the system now but leave the lines in place until 2010. He should not let mid-cycle redistricting pollute his otherwise crucial message.

Hold the Phone

I agree with something Dan Walters said. Mostly, anyway.

It's more on redistricting (get used to it, you're going to see a lot more on the topic).

(Thanks to readers who are sending links and articles on the topic - with our on-going technical difficulties, getting through the normal number of papers and opinion pages just isn't happening.)

Thursday, February 10, 2005

'DOA' DIstricts

The new President Pro Tempore of the State Senate said proposal's to reform redistricting would be 'DOA'.

DOH.

I'll again emphasize that any proposed reform would be wise to avoid the uberhotbutton provision for redrawing the lines prior to the schedule decennial mapping. But if Schwarzenegger drops that, I'd have a much harder time siding with my party in their reluctance. Okay, I already disagree with most of their counterpoints to the good points in favor of redistricting reform. (This is one of those examples of a Phoblog Career Frogger post.)

We have to do something here - or the next step will surely be - the horror - the part time legislature. They're gonna getcha guys - so maybe it's time to step up and get serious about the reforms that make sense - otherwise, they'll have an easy time selling the ones that don't.

By the way, it's interesting that Perata's up in arms over redistricting reform AND questioning Sacred Cow - I mean - Proposition 98. Wish he'd mix it up on the redistricting issue too. I can't overemphasize how fundamental the policy is to every single other policy decision made by every branch of state government. What else determines what's decided more directly than who's deciding?

Still Pretty



From the LA Harbor Department - a long-exposure shot that captures the newly lit Vincent Thomas Bridge.

Legislators v. Lysistrata

This story's making the rounds, of course, since it's fluffy and makes it easy to take pot-shots at electeds: the VA House wants to implement a fine for lousy fashion. As a reservist in the Fashion Police Special Forces, I say, fabulous, fine away.

No, not really. It shouldn't be a law, of course, but it would be nice if this trend would just die already.

I doubt this will pass - like most introduced legislation, let us not forget - but it's sure easier to cover and explain than that tricky social security and budget legislation, isn't it?

Why the greek comedy reference? Well, when is Aristophanes inapplicable, really? I blame women for this trend's longevity. Anytime a high school girl wants to date a cool guy with pants cinched at his knees, we're just perpetuating the problem. So, young ladies, stop letting them dress like fools.

Oh, but there's a race card here too - one opponent called the proposal an attack on young blacks. The article notes both the vocal opponent and the bill's sponsor are Democrats - and black.

This "fashion statement" comes from boys of all races and ethnicities that I've seen. Frankly, at least the boys have boxers covering the area between their waists and their actual pants. At the risk of busting an old fogey (blame my inner camp counselor), the sight of 15 year old girls with visible pelvises is far more distrubing.

So there - there's a post on the silly VA House of Delegates. Who really aren't that silly. The system will take care of this bill - it won't pass - the republic shall survive.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Drawing the Line[s], Part 2

Today's LAT picks up from yesterday's NYT story on the upcoming redistricting war (potential war, I suppose) - focusing on Congressional GOP pushback on the Guv's supposed plan to redraw the lines before the '06 cycle.

For the record, mid-decade redistricting is bad for policy and misses the point of the reform.

Wait, wait, though, if you look at the language, Congressional GOPers aren't against the redistricting, they just want to be exempt. Typical.

A Sacramento area consultant has submitted a reform proposal exempting Congress - one of many proposals you can assume will circulate in the coming weeks. Which is, of course, an excellent example of the problem with the initiative process: try explaining the nuances to the average mall shopper who's more focused on hitting Cinnabon and the Nordy's Half Yearly. Who knows what we'll end up with on the ballot!

There's also no shortage of Stag influence (stagfluence?) on this issue between Big GOPer David Dreier's ('75) opposition and the Rose Institute of State and Local Government's draft language. Dreier fails miserably at shutting down debate, however by offering that he's "sympathetic that we haven't had competitive races, but that's nothing new." Mr. Dreier - you're usually so much more erudite - and that statement lacks a certain vision . . .

The article quotes a number of California Congressional Republicans who really aren't as scared of new lines as they should be. It's a fairly safe bet that even when they envision new lines, they fall roughly around the existing districts. I'd urge them to talk to their Arizona colleauges. At one point, I think we had 12 incumbents drawn into one district. Bummer for them, hooray for Democracy.

So they're right to be afraid in the long term, but in the short term, they could help policy overall by pushing for a proposal that doesn't include mid-decade redistricting. The long term consequences, however, will be unavoidable and potentiall bad for them. But the voters, and the republic generally, stand to be the real winners.

Monday, February 07, 2005

The Doctor Is In

Last man standing wins.

Do something great, please, Governor Dean.

I just wanna wish you good luck, we're all counting on you.*


*quick, name that film!

Drawing the Line[s]

Today's New York Times addresses redistricting reform, citing the issue's seeming ripeness across the country with efforts beginning here as well as Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, and others:

"You cannot believe the number of people and organizations across the country that are focusing on this redistricting issue," said Bruce E. Cain, an expert on redistricting and director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. "It seems like it's poised to become, for the reform community, the equivalent of McCain-Feingold," the bill that overhauled the campaign finance system.
Well, in terms of being high-profile, sure, analogize to McCain-Feingold all you want. But take it from someone still relatively fresh off the campaign trail - good god, don't aim for BCRA like results. But I digress . . . .

Some states have succesfully implemented nonpartisan commissions and drawn less influenced lines:

In Arizona, a nonpartisan commission approved by voters in 2000 has completed its first redistricting, which is viewed by advocates as the most impartial since Iowa created a system 20 years ago to propose maps without taking into account partisan considerations like voter history and incumbents' addresses. The Arizona overhaul was strongly endorsed by Senator John McCain, and his aides said he was considering throwing his support behind Mr. Schwarzenegger's effort and embracing it as a cause in a presidential campaign, should he run in 2008.
[Full disclosure: I served, briefly, as one of the consultants to the AZ Independent Redistricting Commission.]

Given McCain's BCRA success (or "success" depending on how you look at it), his support might make the issue sexy enough to sweep the nation (though it can't ever be more than a coordinated state-by-state effort for obvious - or obvious to a law student - Constitutional reasons).

Regular readers know I'm no fan of the initiative process running around the legislature, and undermining representative government, to achieve interested-parties'-goals-in-reform-clothing:

"I think taking it away from the legislature goes against the intent of the founders of this country," said Representative John T. Doolittle, a California Republican. "It's a very misplaced effort and I strongly oppose it. Redistricting is inherently political. All you're going to do is submerge the politics."
Normally, I'd agree, but there's always an exception - and this may be it. The drawn lines give us legislators less likely to pass reform (see: circle, vicious). Doolittle is, of course, correct that it's an inherently political process and there is a significant danger of a new process masking the politics at play. That's going to be part of the challenge - just as politics is part of the reality.

MOCs are going to be against change, but voters, state legislative leadership (and party leadership, for that matter), and those actually desiring the creation of sound, deliberative, well-reasoned public policy should be for it.

I know what side of the line I'll be on - if the proposal is drafted correctly (a HUGE "if"). How 'bout you?

Everything But the Coffee Cart

My good friends at AroundTheCapitol.com, along with Political Pulse, have a new daily chat sheet called The Roundup. If I haven't said so already - you should subscribe.

It's informative, has good links, and is just cheeky enough to capture Capitol snark without risking anyone's day jobs.

Phoblog's Roundup pick of the day: a New York Times article on redistricting reform efforts across the country (to which we'll be returning shortly).

Also of note, from ATC, Paul Koretz joins the ranks of blogging legislators with his Blogger mobile aptly titled The Paul Koretz Blog. I've stayed away from other members' blogs, primarily based on my prejudged belief that they'll be less than candid - though if I'm wrong, let me know. We'll also be watching for the time when the FPPC and various ethics oversight bodies turn their attention to officals' blogs from some reason they have yet to invent. It'll happen, don't worry . . . .

[And today's technology report: The Vaio is working-ish these days. Aside from the inability to turn it off with the guarantee it will reboot in a timely manner, it's working slightly better today. We're still far from out of the woods - and a full system restore is on the weekend schedule (the horror). In the meantime, we're just happy to be back on a more reliable posting schedule.]

Taking the Initiative

Something Californians have no problem doing, it seems . . . .

Today's SF Chron warns that a special election this November could see a ballot littered with up to 63 inititiaves - none of them controversial at all since they might include measures on abortion, immigrants' drivers licenses, the budget and spending, union political fundraising power - and there's that redistricting question (unsexy but the most important of the group).

Of course, the Chron doesn't add that most of the proposals that have passed through the Secretary of State's office so far will fail to collect the requisite signatures to appear on the ballot, but even if one-third do - it will be a daunting trip to the voting booth for even the savviest California voters (read: hell, I don't even want to read that much language - and I'm a raging nerd).

As I've mentioned before - if constructed correctly, redistricting reform would go a long way to correcting many of the problems addressed in the proposed initiatives that just can't get a fair day in the legislature right now. Of course, the prevailing political culture could take decades to moderate enough to encourage people to re-embrace representative democracy and not this faux-direct democracy process.

My advice - be wary of signing anything next time you're approached at the mall. Not only are there numerous ideas, there are usually many versions of that idea put into circulation as insurance against potential legal issues over the language, political problems, or just as straight decoys. Don't take my word for it: witness the madness first hand.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Pedro, Lights, and Phoblog's Dad in the News Again

Via L.A. Observed (and my Mom): the lights on the bridge are, in fact, two slightly different shades. They were made by two different local companies. The further away you are, the less you can tell one's slightly more tourquoise than the other.

Journo-watch bonus from the Daily Breeze piece on the color difference - a quotation from light maker LEDtronic's marketing manager that starts "Between you and me." Not so much, apparently.

The correct spin on this, by the way, is that the lights on the bridge reflect the variation of color in the water it spans. It's art people - stick with it.

(Oh, and though I didn't carry the story when it happened - the night after the lighting, the lights didn't come on. Whoopsie. Not a huge crisis - Caltrans just had to fix the wiring. They came on the night after, and every night since. You can imagine, however, the number of phone calls my Dad received that night . . .

And a quick gripe - natch: The Breeze article on the Monday night folly quotes a Rancho Palos Verdes resident's thinking that it was "the curse of Pedro. . . . They get it for one night and then all their hopes are dashed." What are we the Sox? What curse? Also - I'm not sure when my Dad became a college teacher, but close enough. Lastly, the article - and several others, makes reference to the Coastal Commission's dusk-to-midnight restriction to "protect migratory birds." There are no migratory birds. There might be someday, so that warrants the restriction. In the middle of a port. A big, working port. With plenty of cranes and work areas. Well lit cranes and work areas. Birds. Puh-lease. I'm sure OSHA prefers our longshore workers don't use night-vision goggles, so if there were birds - which there aren't - they'd already be out of luck.)

Now, A Word From Our Sponsors

Okay, we don't have sponsors - but the Superbowl does!

First off, I'd like to thank godaddy.com not only for providing my our domain name at a low price, but for having one of the best commercialsshown during the game.

Though the Janet Jackson, uh, flap from last year ruined a few spots (who didn't want to see Mickey Rooney's bare bottom?) it probably helped up the quality of most ads - the New York Times agrees - by forcing them above the lowest common denominator. Highlights: P. Diddy's pimped out Pepsi mobile, FedEx's Top 10 (which, you'll note from the rest of the ads, was pretty damn accurate), Budweiser's ark of Clydesdale wannabes, and McDonald's Lincoln fry spots. Questionable: Degree's "Mama's Boy" (those dolls were dirty!) and - as the NYT also pointed out - what exactly was in the casserole Charlie Tuna ate?

For his sake, let's hope it was Soylent Green.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

'Deanism:' Deconstructed and Denigrated

David Brooks calls kettles black in a column explaining how the Dems under Dean are doomed.

Yawn.

To frame this argument, he spends a good chunk of the column waxing nostalgic on 1950s fraternal orders which crossed class lines to unite Americans in common purposes (of, presumably, eating rubber chicken dinners, having drinks at the lodge, and checking on checkstand collection containers). The 70s and 80s, however, brought us NOW, Naral, and - wait for it - the Heritage Foundation, the centralized structure of which forced us all to bowl alone and ceded control over social movements to the dreaded elite academia faction.

The Dem side anyway. Republicans, it seems, got to keep the NRA and churches - allowing them to build winning electoral coalitions.

Hard to argue with the outcome side of his analysis - the Reeps certainly did win the White House. However, the methodologies of each side are more similar than they are different: it's disingenuous to suggest that NOW, but not the NRA, solicits via mass mailing. Pretty much every special interest is structured the same way.

It's possible that what's broken down isn't fraternal associations "that allowed Americans to work together across class and other divisions," but rather the classes and divisions just aren't the same. The uppers are way up, the downers down, the middle class - depending on to whom you speak - are either dwindling, ignored, or too self-centered to care.

Brooks's point, of course, is to trumpet the right-line that Dean is an out of touch, overeducated, lefty peacnik who'll lead the Democratic Party to - as he puts it - "carry Berekely for decades to come," and little else. He cites Mickey's Kaus's Slate observation that Dems are simply following the elite money pouring into Dean's coffers. He's calling us sell-outs for rewarding Dean's ability to pick off more traditional, and I'd have thought politically stronger, candidates for DNC Chair. He also says the "energy and dough are in the MoveOn.Org wing, which is not even a wing of the party, but the head and the wallet."

First off, we need someone like Dean because not only is he unfailiing opposed to the war (so unfailingly that we can pinpoint his position on the war in one word - "against" - unlike most other candidates and electeds) but specifically because he can keep the MoveOn.org winged-headed-wallet in the party. Lose them and then where are we?

My guess is that were you to step into the way-back machine and travel to a point where the newly invigorated religious fervor folks were laying the groundwork for their usurpation of "Republican" and "conservative" nomenclature, you'd see much the same argument from a Democratic specator. Oh what are they doing? How can they follow the money, how can these non-Reeps move on in. Those in power today, of course, applaud such success - even as true conservatives' heads spin over the rampant spending and liberal change-the-world-ivity of the Republican Party. For my money - while I don't agree 100% with MoveOn.org or the far left wing of the party - I think an infusion of peace-seeking blood will save lives - including our political ones.

(And, of course, aside from his direct opposition to Bush's foreign policies, Dean really ain't all that "liberal" at all. Hello people, the guy got nuthin' but love from - you guessed it - the NRA when he was the governor of Vermont - a happy hunting ground if ever there was one).

When it comes to coalition building, the Democrats really do need a coaltion of as many willing factions as possible. It's not about the demise of the Elks or the Lions. It's about vast economic inequalities, dangerous nation-building, and artistic renderings of truth. Each side has its intelligentsia - and for that matter, why is it more "American" to shun book learnin'? (It's not, of course).

Brooks is right that Dems haven't put together the best electoral strategy lately - but we'll learn - just as the right did in the years leading up the perfect storm of 1994. Our growing coalition members, however, aren't a liability - they're a necessity.

If we - DLC-type, those MovingOn, liberals, etc - don't hang tight together, we will surely hang out separately - on the losing side of the vote tally.

Friday, February 04, 2005

The Running Fool

Tomorrow morning, Phoblog embarks on another race.

Oh no, not that kind. This kind.

Shelley resigns as secretary of state

Well, I'll be . . . . .

Shelley resigns as secretary of state

Despite his not getting the deal he wanted: basically immunity and a golden parachute [trying to contain snide remark as he is technically on my team], he called it quits today.

He's a Hastings Alum, too. Good thing my school hasn't seemed to ever care a bit about touting its accomplished alumni.

While the end of any political career is a sad thing - at least for the career's owner - Kevin Shelley wasn't a nice man. Worse, he wasn't a nice boss. One key to restoring respect (yes, that implies it was there to begin with) to elected offices is for those elected to adhere to the Golden Rule and act like the democratically elected representatives they are - not like dictators or generally angry, rude people.

His career might have ended the same way regardless - but more people would miss him had he been a touch nicer along the way.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Happy Birthday To Us!



Phoblographer* is one year old today - who'd have thought we'd make it this far. Well over 10,000 unique visitors have stopped by (small shakes compared to some, but not bad compared to others), and the hits just keep coming. We've covered a primary, 2 conventions, one general election, a lot of hot cultural issues, political headaches (and bellyaches), random news, funny events, and we've done so, we hope, with wit.

A heartfelt thanks to loyal readers and to new folks for giving Phoblog a chance.

One year down - many more to go . . . .

(and yeah, that's an cake with custom designed orange frosting. homemade. natch.)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Happy Groundblog Day

This morning, my computer saw its shadow - which means 6 more (figurative) weeks of its winter of discontent.

We're working on the technical issues - thanks for your patience.

Oh, and if anyone knows where I can purchase the Sony 888 number soundtrack, let me know, it's just so in my head these days . . . .

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Dean Hot, Melts Frost

My hope for the future of our party just keeps growing. I didn't think Dean had a shot at first, but . . . .

I have friends who support Donnie Fowler, but I'm still for Dean.

Not that I have a vote.

Update: The New York Times is more upbeat yet:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 - Howard Dean emerged Tuesday as the almost assured new leader of the Democratic National Committee, as one of his main rivals quit the race and Democrats streamed to announce their support of a man whose presidential campaign collapsed one year ago.
I don't believe any case-closed rhetoric (see e.g.: Polls, exit) - but I know at least one DNC voter (there are only 447) who backs him - and I know he's not alone.