Thursday, March 31, 2005

Are You Kidding Me?

And they're meeting in Tombstone? Seriously, 'Minutemen? Google yourself up more on these guys - it just gets crazier and crazier.

From this article, the AZ governor expresses concerns over where the First and Second Amendments collide with actual law enforcement:

"People are entitled to exercise their First Amendment rights and entitled to assemble," she said. "That's why you can't stop the Minutemen from coming even though, from a law enforcement perspective, it's worrisome to have untrained people, potentially armed, performing what should be a law enforcement function."
Worrisome? Yeah, I'll say it's worrisome . . . .

Extra credit: Note retro-California-eque ballot measures recently passed in Arizona as well.

D.U.I.

That's Decision-making Under the Influence.

The Washington Post's David Broder takes a rather uninspired look at California's redistricting reform efforts noting a lack of vocal California-based opposition (MOC's being the loud voices of dissent harkening from the east). The article notes Speaker Nunez's caveated support - he agrees neutral is better, but continues to disagree with the timing (as do we. If it's before 2010, vote no).

Most eye-catching, however, was Broder's calling California the "largest and most influential of the 50 states."

Are we?

I know we're the biggest, population-wise. By far. (And really, until we've got that budget thing figured out, no matter how fair-weathered our Rose Parade, if you non-Californians could not move here for awhile, that'd be great. Oh, but keep spending your tourism dollars here. That's cool.)

What about influence? What kind of influence? Electorally speaking, we got nuthin'. We keep changing the primary date, but still nuthin'. Some argue California - in particular, San Francisco's Gavin Newsome - influenced the presidential race this year in all the wrong ways (depending on your point of view).

Certainly, California has been the incubator of sweeping cultural-political reforms: populist tools, environmentalism, Full House.

It might be true that no one ever feels influential, even when they are. California should be the Union's 800 pound gorilla - but nationally, are we too much of a foregone conclusion to matter?

Or do we think about it at all - happy here in our sundrenched glory, our world's-5th-largest economy giving us world class entertainment and fresh sprouts, content to engage or ignore Washington, New York, and the dominant east so long as it lets us be?

As former Speaker Herb Wesson once said more elegantly than I'll paraphrase him here: the winds in this country blow from west to east - but how fast, and what do they carry?

Do you feel influential?

Sigh

Panel: Agencies 'Dead Wrong' on Iraq WMDs

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Never Grocery Shop On An Empty Stomach

Not only because it may cause you to make unhealthier food choices, but because it may cause you to lash out at your local signature gatherer.

Short of standing next to the table and dissuading every would-be signer to save their ink for worthier endeavors, there isn't much I could've said to slow the inexorable march toward ANOTHER FREAKIN' statewide election this fall - especially as I staggered from the market laden with a few pounds of london broil and a laptop. As I saw the petition circulator ensnare a young mother with her young daughter via some meaningless save-education rhetoric, I lost it.

Lies, all lies! Don't sign!

I didn't look back to see if she signed or not.

I did, however, get a "Right On!" from a heavily pierced, punked out dude walking next to me. Ah, San Francisco . . . . A city so forward and progressive, they'll sign anything before pausing to realize it's backed by raging, monied Republicans. We should be our own country here.

In related news: Via The Roundup - since the court ruled that Schwarzenegger's controlled committee can raise unlimited cash, a Governor's aide warns Democrats that they'll "Face everything we've got.":

Everything, in this case being, lots and lots and lots of money. Oodles of it. Good policy and a buck-fifty gets you a cup of coffee. Ambiguously constructed, half-baked policy and millions gets you a special election.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's political team [that's the California Recovery Team types] is moving to take over his special election campaign after last week's court ruling that allows politicians to raise unlimited money for ballot measure efforts at the same time they fully control them.

Before a Sacramento court judge ruled in Schwarzenegger's favor, his political committee was limited to how much it could raise from individual donors. A business committee [that's the Citizens to Save California types] with close ties to the Republican governor could raise unlimited funds as long as Schwarzenegger didn't direct its activities.

"Any advantage the Democrats thought they'd have because of the bifurcated nature of the campaign has evaporated," Mike Murphy, Schwarzenegger's top political adviser, said in an interview Tuesday. "Now they're going to face everything we've got. If I were them, I'd make a deal."
Nothing makes me want to negotiate more than threats, arrogance, and unadulterated bravado, that's for sure.

The article notes quotes on academic type arguing that it will be easier for people to support (monetarily) the measures with Schwarzenegger directly related to it, free of the guise that the campaign is operated by an independent expenditure committee. I recall, however, seeing a recent Citizens to Save California spot, however, featuring the Governor - so take from that what you will - at least as far as measure qualification is concerned. The pre-decision tango:

Before the regulations were tossed out by Chang, Schwarzenegger's California Recovery Team could only accept individual donations of $22,300 or less. To get around the limit, a business committee with close ties to Schwarzenegger, Citizens to Save California, was established to help raise what he has said will be $50 million from contributors around the nation. But the committee had to keep arm's length from Schwarzenegger and his political operatives.

Co-chaired by Allan Zaremberg, president of the California Chamber of Commerce, and Joel Fox, an anti-tax activist who is also president of the Small Business Action Committee, the CSC is free to pull in individual donations of several hundred thousand dollars or more, which it has been doing.

But because the FPPC rules said the contributor limits would apply if such committees are run by politicians, Schwarzenegger's lawyers gave strict instructions for the governor and his team to keep their distance. They could offer advice and guidance, the rules said, but they couldn't be in charge. That meant Murphy, a campaign consultant who has helped elect more than a dozen U.S. senators and governors, including Schwarzenegger and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, could not call the shots for the committee that was raising and spending most of the money. . . .

Schwarzenegger also had to stay somewhat removed. He could appear at CSC fund-raisers, but he couldn't tell the committee which initiatives to endorse or how to spend its money.
I think the word I'm trying to find for these various campaign finance laws and regulations is "untenable" - but if you have a better one, please let me know.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

So Many Navels, So Little Time To Gaze . . . .

Via L.A. Observed, a piece from the Sunday Times on the bloggers-as-journos question.

L.A. Observed's Kevin Roderick gets it right when he questions whether the column's author, David Shaw, has visited the 'sphere he's so quick to diss(miss).

Shaw frames the issue though the recent Santa Clara Superior Court decision holding that the publishing of Apple's trade secrets was publishing stolen property, not journalism protected by California shield law. The judge "declined to say" whether bloggers are reporters. Wisely so, since I'd love to see how he'd figure it out. About dasterdly, lazy bloggers, Shaw writes:

BLOGGERS require no journalistic experience. All they need is computer access and the desire to blog. There are other, even important differences between bloggers and mainstream journalists, perhaps the most significant being that bloggers pride themselves on being part of an unmediated medium, giving their readers unfiltered information. And therein lies the problem.
As Roderick says in his post, Shaw ignores the many journalists who blog and the blogs that have broken (legitimate, grammatically correct) stories.

Shaw gives passing credit to bloggers' role in Rather's memogate, but follows it up by citing bloggers' speculation about the bulge under Bush's debate wear. "No credible evidence has emerged to support that charge," writes Shaw.

Hmmm.

Most major papers took the lead in circulating speculation about Iraq's WMD and no credible evidence ever emerged to support that charge either.

Weak sauce.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Playtime's Over

Plenty of ink today on the Legislature's post-spring-break return. Now's when things really heat up: budget battles, ballot measure jockying, oh yeah, and they might have some legislation to work as well.

The word of the day: money. Who's gathering it, who's spending it, how much, how much on the mossy side of the law, how much of a difference it will make. Rough & Tumble has your highlights. Enjoy.

The Daily Show's 'Congressional Meddle'

In case you missed it, check out Jon Stewart's brilliant coverage of Congress's Shiavo actions.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

For God And Country

This guy gets angry a lot. I like it. Even if he can be a bit alarmist at times (not necessarily here).

Campaign Finance: Just Making It Up As We Go

So, Arnold wins - this round - as a Superior Court judge stopped the enforcement of a new regulation that would've limited donations to the Governor-controlled ballot measure committees.

Anyone else remember those days when the world slammed Gray Davis for fundraising too much? Apparently not.

Also, via The Roundup:

After a promising, though modest, start last year, Schwarzenegger has embraced a hastily developed, hazily defined, harshly partisan agenda that promises to roil the waters of California politics all year long. Notwithstanding the “theatrics” — Schwarzenegger’s own term — of seizing the national stage in this election off-year, the program is less than it appeared, its prospects problematic.
Ouch.

LA Weekly takes to task a Governor it sees as failing to live up to his own PR. The piece highlights the repartizanization of the Governor - with disappointing results:

Although he had worked closely with Democrats, Schwarzenegger was persuaded by Chief of Staff Pat Clarey, Communications Director Rob Stutzman, Legislative Secretary Richard Costigan and Political Consultant Mike Murphy to try to win Democratic seats in districts he carried in the 2003 recall. All 11 of the governor-backed candidates in those districts lost. Privately, he didn’t like losing and spun the results. He blamed a pro-incumbent redistricting deal struck by Democrats and Republicans.

Actually, his candidates were poorly vetted. Several had embarrassing personal scandals. Most disagreed with his moderate Republicanism. And Schwarzenegger’s decision, urged by the Republicans on his staff, not to endorse even one Democratic candidate was bad PR for a “bipartisan guy.” . . .

After the November election, reapportionment emerged as a leading element explaining away the defeats, and partisan hostilities increased. Emboldened by their success in the legislative races, and increasingly miffed by the governor’s alternately cajoling and belittling them — they were cigar buddies one day, “girlie men” and “losers” the next — Democrats, notably Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, became annoying to Schwarzenegger, shooting off an endless barrage of sniping statements.
Also mentioned in the piece, growing concern that there's insufficient time to redraw lines for the 2006 election even if Schwarzenegger gets his reform. Well of course there's insufficient time. There's also insufficient data. But that doesn't matter. It's a red-herring. A bluff. A bargaining chip. Oh, gee, you guys will go for it if we drop that part? Why don't you work on some language, dear Legislature. Then we'll drop that ballot measure.

And any pretense that we'll get actual reform out of any of this nonsense.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

On The Bonds Of Marriage

Class Maledictorian posts an excellent piece on why the law should permit spouses, not parents to decide life-and-death issues.

It's easy to imagine arguments running in the other direction, and all cases are unique, but her points are well made.

On a much lighter note: Also from CM, a quiz from The Guardian that matches your mood to a poem. How literary.

VNRs: The Saga Continues

In the grand American tradition, the debate over the Governor's use of video news releases heads for a courtroom thanks to a lawsuit filed by SEIU, the Nurses, and the Cal Labor Federation.

A law student might try to parse the claims the 3 unions are making, but since we've got none of those here.... wait, what? Damn. Alright, here's what the Chron says:

The lawsuit also asserts that the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency secretly shared two versions of its proposed regulations with representatives for California businesses, and that it suspended judgments on meal break disputes while trying to get a new regulation in place. . . .

The case, filed in Sacramento Superior Court, asks a judge to bar the administration from producing more such segments with public funds. It stems from two of the videos made by agencies under the Schwarzenegger administration, one promoting its plan for new rules that could scale back lunch breaks for hourly workers, and one promoting its effort to strike down nurse-to-patient staffing ratios that were previously written into state law. . . .

"There is no statutory prohibition against the use of public funds to produce video news releases," Evans said. "No court has expressly disapproved the expenditure of public funds for VNRs. It is our responsibility to provide the public with information on regulatory issues. We do that with press releases all the time. This is another vehicle for that."
That sound you hear is the sharpening of pencils over at LegCo as lawyers start drafting hasty anti-VNR laws.

Just for kicks, wonder if anyone has calculated how much of your nightly local news broadcast is VNR-originated. Not just from the government, but from business, interest groups, etc.

In other news: Keith Richman is running ads on Rough & Tumble touting his bid for State Treasurer under the tagline "Restoring California to Greatness." How, exactly, does the Treasurer accomplish that? The message should be good news for '06 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides, however. Who knew his current office is such a powerful post? We hate slamming idealism. But we hate grandstanding on little-known statewide offices more.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Voice Votes

For those who didn't pick it up in the articles on the Schiavo bill, the Senate approved the measure on a voice vote.

That means no recorded dissent. That means, no Dems - or trule states' rights oriented Republicans - spoke up. Bummer.

NewDonkey Ed Kilgore, guest blogging at Talking Points Memo address Dem Leader Harry Reid's somewhat confusing statements last week:

As for Frist, I think my colleague Marshall Wittman (a.k.a. The Bull Moose) probably hit it on the head in a quote that he served up to the London Times today: “I suspect that Senator Frist has his eye more on the Iowa caucus than the Hippocratic oath."

Phoblog Sports Report: Juice It Up!

Or don't!

Either way - keep it out of Congress, and stop making it seem like investigating it is more important that investigating Iraqi policy, the failure to find WMD, Bush's questionable appointments, etc. Argh.

So much bellyaching over homerun wunderplayers McGwire and Bonds. Puh-lease. Those two benefited from expansion teams diluting the pool of strong pitchers, plus the MLB's need to have something to nab fans' attention after the players strike.

And in case you were wondering about our highly juiced Governor's take on the steroids issue, George Skelton might have some answers for you.

In valid sports news: The Mountaineers clearcut Wake Forest this weekend - winning 111 to 105 in double OT (thanks to Opps for pointing out I missed the game entirely. If it means they keep winning, I'll keep not watching). West Virginia faces Texas Tech (boo Texas!) later this week.

Congress Saves Shiavo's 'Life;' Kills Federalism

There is nothing okay in this story. Absolutely nothing.

If you weren't afraid of the federal government before - for their actions across the globe that may have placed us in jeopardy - perhaps this will scare you: they have no problem coming after you. Specifically. You. Your family. Your life. Your death.

This is your government, America. Fortunately, you still have the power to change things.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Pop Quiz, Hot Shots

Which state do you think has a better shot at keeping its bases open and its residents employed?

In Florida, Governor Bush and the state's Congressional delegation are waging a campaign to protect 21 installations that generate $44 billion a year for the economy, behind only tourism and agriculture in the state.

In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed a California Council on Base Support and Retention, whose co-chairman is Leon Panetta, the former Democratic congressman and White House chief of staff. Mr. Schwarzenegger has also hired Clark & Weinstock, a Washington consulting firm headed by the former congressmen Vic Fazio and Vin Weber, to help protect California's military installations. Of California's 91 major bases in operation when the base closings began in 1988, 29 have been closed or realigned.
Florida seems to win when it comes to federal anti-terrorism money for ports, so why not let them keep their bases as well?

Were I Governor Schwarzenegger (for one thing, I'd be shorter, but that's beside the point), I would make this one of my top priorities for "saving" California. Not only would closed bases mean lost jobs, but they seldom mean infrastructure or economic benefit to the state - at least not for a very, very long time. Ask the folks out around El Toro. And the LAX folks who could've used the volume break they won't be getting from a needed additional regional airport.

I'd also suggest to Jim Hahn that this wouldn't be a bad cause to play up right now. Band together with El Segundo, the other beach cities, and state government and protect the city. San Pedro, especially.

The Terrible Twos And The Peace Movement

The Chron has an article on the troubles facing anti-war efforts.

And, for those not noting the date - today is the war's two year anniversary.

Pray for peace. And vote for change.

Friday, March 18, 2005

'Culture of Life'

There is no non-stomach turning aspect of this story.

There's too much to choose from here, but here are a few grafs that are particularly painful:

George Felos, the lawyer for Ms. Schiavo's husband who had fought for nearly two years to allow his wife to die, blistered both parties in Congress for what he portrayed as a politically motivated, 11th-hour interference in a case that has existed for years without previously attracting much attention from Capitol Hill.

"It was odious, it was shocking, it was disgusting and I think all Americans should be alarmed," Mr. Felos told reporters in Florida.

And he had a warning for Democrats who would deign to veer from longstanding opposition to federal intrusion in such intimate medical decisions: "If they don't stand up for Terri Schiavo, they deserve to be the minority party."

Many Congressional Democrats were biting their tongues Friday as they witnessed what they considered an egregious misuse of power by Republicans. They pointed to public opinion polls that show support for Mr. Schiavo's right to decide his wife's fate, but they also fear the power of the mobilized right.
For the rest, read Comments below.

You have to admit, though, this move is downright Sorkin-esque:

Earlier in the day, the House committee issued subpoenas for Ms. Schiavo, 41, and her husband, Michael, to appear at Congressional hearings this month. A Senate committee made a similar move. Since Ms. Schiavo is incapacitated and cannot speak, the lawmakers were hoping that by issuing a subpoena they could block the removal of the feeding tube through a law intended to protect people called to testify before Congress.
And all this from the party of states' rights:

After Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube was removed, Republican leaders of Congress expressed disappointment and promised to work through the weekend to try to strike an agreement on legislation that could shift the case into federal court.

In The Name Of Research

On the way home from San Francisco for Christmas Break, I had the chance to interact with a friendly CHP officer in Monterey County. Nabbed for the first time for a moving violation (Phoblog advocates safe driving speeds at all times and I assure you I was not driving recklessly), I was given the option to take traffic school instead of acquiring a point on my record and giving a nice windfall to the friendly folks at State Farm.

First off, I had no idea this was such a long, drawn-out process. I waited a month and a half for instructions on payment and opting into traffic school. Then another 3 weeks or so on traffic school instructions. They arrived today.

Now for some background - part of which I've mentioned before. Last spring semester, I interned in the Capitol where one of my duties was monitoring the Assembly Transportation Committee for my boss. One of the many bills passing through the committee dealt with traffic schools. As you might - read: should - know, each county has it's own Superior Court which incorporates traffic courts and determines the juridictions rules for traffic schools, etc. That's 52 separate systems: some allow internet schools, some don't, and each county certifies which schools count and which don't. To oversimplify what was really a set of related bills, the controversy last spring was over whether to regulate - at the state level - whether and which internet schools would count. The issue wasn't resolved during my time there. But man was it one of the most annoying debates I've ever seen in state government.

On one side, the brick-and-motor (no, not a typo, and no, I didn't make that up) schools seeking to protect their take. On the other, emerging internet business. Scattered about - the public, many of whom (psst, right here) would love to have the internet option right about now, and who would hopefully benefit, cost-wise, from the right kind of regulation. Of course the physical schools are concerned - one would assume business will fall off dramatically should internet traffic school become a state-sanctioned option (it is in some counties, but not all, and not Monterey County, unfortunately).

Now, we're all for jobs for Californians - but I don't see much evidence of protectionist legislation saving blacksmith jobs so that horses can be properly shod, nor any number of old technologies that, rightly, have given way to The Next Thing.

At one point, I had a lobbyist for the brick-and-motors (in a Hawaiian shirt, no less) give me what could only be described as "a talking to" because some proposed amendments for a bill on the issue hadn't been run by him first. Um . . . . it took every fiber of my being not to ask him exactly which district had elected him to office again? Job-lover or not, it's hard to sympathize with the following traffic schools - all real, all included the official list sent to me by the Monterey County Superior Court - who supposedly exist to instruct drivers and improve general road saftey:
  • Pizza For You - Comedians 2
  • Great Comedy School
  • Comedy for Less Traffic School
  • Live N'Learn With Humor
  • Great Comedians Traffic School
  • Cheap School
  • Pizza 4U - Great Comedians
  • Saturday or Sunday Painless Schools

Riiiiight. Now, hey, learning should be fun - but the names alone kinda make a mockery of things, don't they?

There is, however, also an insert implying that Take Home Traffic School (available at your local Blockbuster for the low, low price of just $39.99) is okay too. And it does seem to have a computer component - at least judging by the cartoon on the flyer.

Sometimes, the forces working against public policy are so obvious, so amusing, and so greedy, these posts can just write themselves.

I hate unemployed comedians as much as the next blogger - but I'm not sure protecting their right to teach traffic school is ever an efficient use of lobbyist mojo or legislative time.

Playing Catch-Up

Via The Roundup, a smart Skelton piece that takes Schwarzenegger to task for denying that he's a politician. Skelton quotes Phoblog's favorite Voice of Reason:

Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College, says Schwarzenegger probably considers himself an outsider because "he has a life outside politics." But, the professor adds, "He's a politician by definition…. When you're in government and you maneuver to get your way, you're a politician. And in that sense, one has to be a politician to be an effective governor."
Skelton says Schwarzenegger's biggest challenge is to be a good politcian not "just another politics-bashing demagogue."

Amen to that. Big pet-peeve of ours. To wit: failed LA Mayoral candidate Steve Soboroff's campaign signs that said "A Problem Solver . . . Not A Politician." I'm sorry, but if you have campaign signs and you're name is on a ballot - guess what . . . .

In other news, there's a renewed effort to nix the state law making the Lieutenant Governor the acting governor whenever the actual governor is outside state lines. To my knowledge, this really hasn't been a problem. Sure, there are threats all the time, but Cruz hasn't really signed anything or vetoed anything on his (frequent) watches. It may be an antiquated law, but who is it hurting? Twenty-nine states allow their Governor's to carry their powers with them on vacation. That means the rest don't. And all the states continue to function properly, so really, who cares?

Arnold's hatchet team, The Citizens to Save California, announced their complex list of endorsed ballot proposals. Good luck figuring out that structure. And good luck figuring out what you're signing in front of your local WalMart. Phoblog's advice - stick up for representative democracy and tell petition circulators to stick it (politely, of course). It seems Tony Quinn has issues with the special election too.

And, of course, the real winners in this tug-of-war are political law firms. It'll be a litigatory free-for-all. Lance Olson has fired one of the first shots over the proponent's campaign committee finance structure. Hooray for camapign finance rules: so incomprehensible, such moving targets, so quick to ignore practicality, political reality, and reason - yet, such great fodder for columnists and academics.

Good Sports, Bad Sports

Number 7 West Virginia are moving on to face #2 Wake Forest - good luck, Mountaineers!

And in other sporting news: so, why, exactly, is this so important? I know just because some things (war, lack of WMDs, about a million other things) are more important doesn't mean we ignore the other stuff. But . . . . I mean, really? Congress slams baseball's integrity?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

With Liberty And Justice For All

Of course it will be appealed, but for now, it's still good news: Judge Rules State Can't Bar Gay Marriage.

Readers who have been around since the very beginning of this site will remember that we've spent a fair amount of time on the topic.

The only downside is that you can bet this will be on my Sexuality and the Law final - which means reading this case over break. Small price to pay, however.

The blawg-able aspects of the case:

"No rational basis exists for limiting marriage in this state to opposite-sex partners," wrote San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer. "Same-sex marriage cannot be prohibited solely because California has always done so before. . . . .

In his decision, Kramer said the state laws violated a person's fundamental right to marry and illegally discriminated on the basis of gender.

He dismissed the state's contention that gays and lesbians can be denied the right to marry on the basis of tradition. Similar arguments had been made in favor of laws banning marriages between people of different races, he noted.

He also rejected Lockyer's argument that because California provides domestic partnerships it does not need to allow gays to marry. "The idea that marriage-like rights without marriage is adequate smacks of a concept long rejected by the courts: separate but equal," the judge wrote.

The judge also rejected the argument that matrimony was intended for procreation and therefore naturally limited to opposite-sex couples.

Many opposite-sex couples marry without ever having children — or even being able to conceive — and gay couples can have children through adoption and medical technology, he noted.

"One does not have to be married to procreate, nor does one have to procreate in order to be married," Kramer wrote.

Some opponents of gay marriage have argued that allowing same-sex couples to wed would open the way for legalized incest or adults marrying children.

Kramer rejected that argument as well. The state can limit who is permitted to marry if there is a legitimate governmental interest for doing so, Kramer said. But, he said, state officials have provided no such justification for barring same-sex unions.
The slippery slope argument - a perennial courtroom favorite - just fails. How can you draw a line? Easy, you just do. This is my whole problem with the law: life's messy. Try as you might to fashion some multi-prong test or scruitiny rule, sometimes, you just can't. "I know it when I see it," where the seven most honestly written words in the history of American jurisprudence.

According to The Daily Breeze (AP), the judge is a Republican Catholic. Or a Catholic Republican, I suppose. Either way, that makes me like the ruling even more. And it makes sense: church doctrine or not, Catholics (at least the way I was raised) aren't so much on the hatin', and if he's a true conservative, he should be prone to supporting anything strengthening institutions that make for a stable society - like marriage.

Phoblog's Turn As Guestblogger

No, not on this site - over at blogging.la, the O.G. Metroblog and sister site to Metroblogging San Francisco.

I've been a fan of blogging.la for quite awhile - which is what led me to the SF gig.

Of course, I keep crossing jurisdictional boundaries, which hinders my blogging for either of the sites - like tonight I ventured into Metroblogging Orange County turf. There's no San Diego metblog either. But I've got plenty to say about my fair L.A. So check it out when you get a chance. And if you're without a spring break and want to travel at your desk, check out with the goings-on in cities like Bangkok, Istanbul (not Constantinople, so if you have a site in Constantinople, she'll be blogging in Istanbul), Dallas, Vienna, New York, and over 20 others.

We got the whole world in our blogs.

[Ed.'s Note: A sincere apology for the They Might Be Giants reference. Phoblog endeavors to keep the hardcore nerding to politics, but sometimes, the nerd force is just too great . . . .]

Monday, March 14, 2005

In Case I Haven't Mentioned It Before . . . .

Especially during this light posting time here - when I know you're all just lost and lonely without guidance on what to read - check out The Roundup. I scan headlines of tomorrow's news each night before I go to bed and in the morning, when I read the day's Roundup, I find that not only have they linked to the same articles to which I'd have linked, but they're picking up on some of the same themes and focus bits I would've as well.

Of course, this in no way means you should read only their site - but you should add it to your daily reading assignments.

Of note today: a the same Chron piece on the guv, highlighting interestingly open criticism from Republican Abel Maldonaldo; Dan Walters fretting over the state ignoring the transportation crisis; and more redistricting fun.

And the most important question of the day for us: why was it 85 and gorgeous last week in San Francisco and it's overcast and 60-ish in Los Angeles this week? It's not June, why the gloom?

Housekeeping: Lastly, you'll note that there's a little spring cleaning of the sidebar going on. I've added The Roundup, taken down Priorities & Frivolities (we miss you, RT) and moved around some of the other items. If you have thoughts on format and layout, email me at the link in the sidebar. I'd love to know if you think it's worth having the "recent posts" section. It comes pretty far down after the links anyway - does anyone use it?

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Springtime In The Capitol

Nothing says "spring has sprung" like the return of that "time-honored Capitol deal-making process - proposals, followed by acrimony and threatened deadlines, followed by serious talks."

Sigh, how we do miss this time of year in The Building.

The Chron reports signs of the guv and legislature moving to talk turkey on various reform efforts even as the first "Citizens to Save California" ads ("come on, sign the petition! Arnold wants you to! You know you want to!") air. This may be a first - though I welcome evidence to the contrary. Commercials advocating support or opposition for ballot measures are nothing new - but ads to get the process to the point where support and opposition can start running support and opposition ads? Yeah, we're dizzy too.

I only hope Californians read what they're signing.

Last week's NorCal heatwave is just an inkling of what's to come. It's going to be a long, hot summer.

Sunday Highlights: A Few For the Road

  • Jack Pitney directs attention to CMC (Go Stags!) student Andrew Lee's op-ed on Social Security privatization and its potential benefits for the gay community (guaranteed to generate reader response up here, I'd assume). His basic position is valid, so far as it goes. But to frame the issue as a slam-dunk for gay rights overlooks a number of important details. Statutory language would be required to ensure that contract (probate too?) law allowed for beneficiaries to collect despite almost guaranteed next-of-kin, or other challeneges seeking to terminate agreements as violative of public policy.
  • Another Chron op-ed looks quite intelligently at the blogger-as-journo question: It's not whether bloggers are journalists, it's which are. The piece includes a nod to the emerging blog-question that frightens us most of all - the FEC's exploration of whether campaign finance laws "apply to partisan bloggers whose work may, in effect, be akin to donating their services to campaigns." Ain't nobody ever going to tell Phoblog what, when, how, or who to blog. Especially not the Federal Elections Commission (are there still Stags on the commission? Hope so). Same goes for California's FPPC, for the record.
  • Maureen Dowd offers her take on the latest intra-jounro row over whether op-ed pages feature enough women. We endorse her opinion that men take professional criticism more personaly when it comes from a woman: "While a man writing a column taking on the powerful may be seen as authoritative, a woman doing the same thing may be seen as castrating." For more on the background conflict - Susan Estrich's attack on the L.A.T, check out L.A. Observed which has done a good job of following the war as it's developed. (Estrich, unfortunately has behaved less than professionally herself, damaging the whole gender and giving great material to the "chicks are shrill" societal narrative.)

The Last Spring Break

This is it.

Finally.

The coming week marks Phoblog's last spring break ever. Doesn't mean there won't be any blogging, but it might. You never can tell. So if our publishing is sporadic this week, don't hold it against us. And don't stop reading.

We'll be checking in and checking up. But posting may be light.

Since you'll be lost without us - read The Roundup everyday. That should keep you up-to-date and give you your daily allowance of educated-snark. Enjoy!

Friday, March 11, 2005

Uh-oh, Anyone Tell Novak?

Potentially bad news for bloggers, too, as Apple wins its case against online publication of trade secrets: "Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg ruled that no one has the right to publish information that could have been provided only by someone breaking the law."

So why does the means override the ends here? Because it's online? If Apple's secrets had been leaked to the Times, would that be different?

I don't necessarily think that journalists get to cover their ass unequivocally - but some continuity across media would be great.

What's In A Name

The LAT's Steve Lopez thinks Villaraigosa would do better if voters could pronounce his name.

For those who don't know, his last name was Villar, but when he married Corina Raigosa he merged the names into one. Which, for the record, is on a shade or so off from traditional Latino naming traditions (perhaps more Spanish) where the "de" construction was used when uniting couples, families, and names. In a way, I suppose, shouldn't feminists be happy with the move?

Lopez, however, thinks Villaraigosa took a perfectly good name, "slapped on three syllables and made it impossible to remember, let alone prounounce. You can barely get it on a political button."

You know, I've never had trouble with it. Turns out if you just learn someone's name, you generally remember it. Lopez's argument is akin to "you know, why isn't everyone's phone number 555-5555, all these other, superfluous digits are impossible to remember." The last point is a good one - fitting names on chum is an important consideration, but perhaps not important enough to warrant a name change.

I should know from difficult names, too. Growing up as Christina Dominquez - OOPS - I mean, Christiana Dominguez, has been easy. In fact, I've frequently considered changing my name from "Christiana" to "No-it's-Christiana."

Also, I don't think "Villar" would've saved him much trouble either. Is that Villar like the architectual element supporting a building? Or Villar like Vee-yar? Good luck.

Not to play my own race card here, but I'm somewhat surprised that a columnist named Lopez takes such issue with Villaraigosa's name - even if it is just a nice lead-in to get him to the question of ethnicity in LA elections. Just because he lucked out with the easy Hispanic surname is no reason to gloat . . . .

On the question of whether L.A. is "ready" for a Latino mayor - well, my research on voter behavior in judicial elections in Los Angeles County showed no anti-Hispanic-surname bias. Races with much, much less notoriety, sure, but frankly, that makes them better candidates (no pun intended, unless you thought that clever, in which case, laugh away) for blatant ballot box bigotry.

I had a heated discussion once with a friend on the topic of changing one's name after marriage. I don't plan to. He thought this was awful. Among the list of reasons I gave - I'm attached to it, I like it, there are no sons in my family to carry on the name - I mentioned that there were political considerations too.

He was outright horrified. How could I capitalize on ethnicity to score political points. The sheer game of it all.

Well, for one thing, there's no proof - as the Lopez piece argues - that it wouldn't be better for me to marry a nice Anglo boy with a nice, simple, button-friendly name.

But for another thing - it's my name. It's not a calculated political move - I was BORN with the name. I'm not faking the Mexican part guys, it's there, in the blood. After so many years repeating my last name, spelling it out for people, correcting yearbooks and diplomas, I think I've earned the right to hold on to it.

The article discusses the notion that names so unpronounceable can become memorable. On ballots, I'd imagine, even if a voter couldn't remember a long, complicated name accurately, he could run his eyes up and down the choices and eliminate all the Jones, Smiths, and Does and just look for the name that juts out 3 feet further than the rest.

But with time, and even the scantist bits of concentration, people can master even the most difficult names.

Remember when people were sure our governor would be called simpy Arnold.

We all leared to spell Schwarzenegger. We could learn Villaraigosa too.

Of course, for reasons that have nothing to do with ethnicity or nomenclature, I'm still voting for Hahn.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

It's Still Bad Policy, Dammit

I'm not letting this one go: benefits to the environment are SECONDARY benefits to carpool lanes. Eased congestion is the primary benefit. Therefore letting hybrids into carpool lanes - especially when there are waiting lists for hybrid vehicles - is bad for public policy, bad for trafffic, and just bad generally.

Dammit.

Honey Walnut Politics

George Skelton writes on the death of Wing Fat, son of Frank Fat, of the restaurant by the same name.

In it's heyday, Frank Fat's may as well have had voting buttons installed on it's tables - but with the passage of tough lobbying restrictions, term limits, and "stiff drunken driving laws" (okay, that's a positive thing), Fat's isn't what it was when legislators cut deals on cocktail napkins.

Some say the food isn't good - I disagree. It's probably the only Chinese place I really like - honey walnut prawns, the New York steak, and, of course, banana cream pie. My inner political nerd loves to go there and try to feel connected to old school California politics.

And no other restaurant that I know of can really get away with neon pink lighting.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

L.A. Observed On Exit Polls

L.A. Observed says, astutely:

The Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University did an exit poll yesterday. It overestimated Villaraigosa's total and had Hertzberg beating Hahn. That's why they count the votes.
Thank you.

Seriously, exit polls are so 2004.

Also, from the same L.A. Observed post, a link to Joel Kotkin's New Republic Article (just a clip here, need to be a subscriber for the full thing) saying Hertzberg's loss may signal bad news for L.A.'s middle class:

If these results hold, more revealing than who made it to the second round of balloting will be who didn't: former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg. (Right now, Hertzberg trails Hahn by several thousand votes, with 99 percent of precincts reporting.) Hertzberg ran as the candidate of the city's middle class, tailoring his appeal largely to the San Fernando Valley, the city's most suburbanized area. He focused on issues like traffic, taxes, police protection, business growth, and dysfunctional schools--topics that are the chief concerns of middle-class homeowners. Yesterday Hertzberg won the bulk of these voters. The problem? Middle-class residents here may no longer have large enough ranks to elect one of their own to citywide office. This may have turned the famously energetic Hertzberg into the little engine that could not climb the demographic hill. Whatever the merits of the candidates in this particular election, one thing is clear: The underlying demographic factors that doomed Hertzberg's campaign spell bad news for Los Angeles, and for the American city in general. . . .

Say what?

Um, I've seen Jim Hahn's house - my kid sis went to elementary school across the street. I know I've taken issue with folks for trashtalking the P-house before - but to say that we're middle class is fairly accurate. Jim Hahn is the son of a lifelong public servant - hardly a cash-cow career. And, from what I recall of the last race and this one, Hahn campaigned on traffic, police protection, and a host of middle class issues. If anyone subscribes to The New Republic and can get me the whole article, I'd like to read it. As well as proof that any class other than middle carried the most electoral weight yesterday.

What If We're Attacked AT Noon on Tuesday?

So that's what that noise was. Thought it was an air-raid siren, it was. Except the one I heard, while working out with my traininer in Golden Gate Park must've been located somewhere a fair piece away. Couldn't hear one sounding from my Inner Sunset neighborhood. Yup, SF now has it's own outdoor warning system.

Phew. I feel safer already.

Guestpost: Scenes From A Polling Place (Part II)

[Ed.'s note: the second entry from a guestblogger in the field yesterday:]

So do you ever wonder who works in a polling place? I mean, besides your (see part 1) responsible over achieving political nerds? Well, today I am supervising three ladies, lets call them A, B, and C. A showed up before me, and was starting to freak out cause I was 5 minutes late (it was 6:05am lady, cut me some slack. State workers go to work around 9am…if!). B came in around 6:30, but she’s a pretty smart and organized person too. Both are in their later 40’s early 50’s, bookish looking, and not first timers like me.

C is somewhat of a different story. Unlike those of us who aren’t doing this for the money, she probably is. In fact, she lives in the apartment complex adjacent to where we are currently located (off Broadway and 5th for those of you familiar with Sac). Since her arrival this morning her diet has consisted of a steady stream of junk food to the tune of donuts, vending machine snacks, candy, Taco Bell for lunch, and multiple cans of soda. Right now she’s offering me Starbursts…earlier she was wandering around here complaining about gas cramps…I almost felt like saying something about her diet.

So that Asian guy finally left, I guess his doctor’s appointment couldn’t wait anymore. Either that or the rejection was getting to him. Special shout out to my girlfriend too, for bringing me lunch, and walking in here all sassy and pretty like and making my precinct coordinator guy jealous.

C also steps outside to smoke every half hour. Her personal story is about as fascinating as her diet, apparently she’s been married for 20 years, but she and her husband live in separate apartments in the same complex. Why, do you ask? Well, her husband lives with his ex-wife, because apparently she can’t do anything to support herself.

To the tune of general voter apathy - I’m not surprised by the lack of turnout, it’s a special with one office on the ballot. Neither am I surprised by the significant turnout of Asian voters (Matsui pull if I read it right). Nor am I surprised at the lack of young people here today. What did surprise me was the statistic I heard on NPR, that CD 5 in Sacramento has turned over twice in the past 50 years…holy crap! You’d think that more people would turn out for a seat that is so infrequently contested.

- Guestblogger R.I.

A Few Simple Truths On 'Direct Democracy' In CA

The Bee's Peter Schrag gets it right on initiatives:

If Hiram Johnson and the California Progressives who wrote the initiative, referendum and recall into the state constitution had ever been suspected of planning anything as goofy as this, they would have been run out of Sacramento on a rail. This is the initiative process on steroids.

None of these measures originated with "the people" in whose name Arnold Schwarzenegger has been Hummering around. Few would qualify, much less pass, without the big bucks that deep-pockets interest groups pony up.
[Emphasis added, of course]

This is the one of the best columns I've read yet on Arnold's tactics and the danger of turning a once-populist tool into a sham instrument for bullying representative democracy. Read it via the above link, or the text will be in the comments section below.

Talk Radio Is Bad For Public Policy

Exhibit A: now-heavily blogged John and Ken clip.

Some hear what the show's host called "a Hahn meltdown," I heard a pompous jerk criticize the mayor primarily by running over each response he gave. And to those who say he should've kept his cool, why? Conventional wisdom says Hahn's biggest problem is his lack of personality - no fire, no fun. Well this is fun. Get scrappy, Mayor. Go get 'em, Tiger.

The show host went after Hahn for traffic especially. Buy you know what never comes up? The population increases in LA County. The place just keeps growing. More popularity, more traffic. Terrible, isn't it? I wish they'd go home too - it's a shame when your city is just so great that everyone wants to be here - yeah, nothing proves failure like mass migration TO a place.

Well, I suppose this is fighting old battles. Or maybe not, since it seems that, as Hahn said on the show, he's still standing today ready to fight again.

Hahn Has Some Work To Do

Unless things change it's Hahn vs. Villaraigosa. Hahn bounced back from a similar primary result to pick of Villaraigosa last time - can he do it again?

The scramble for endorsements begins . . . .

LA Election Results: Fogged In

Phoblog's Dad - and the LA Times - report that heavy Valley fog has grounded the helicopters usually used to fly ballots in for counting.

What's interesting, however, is that Hertzberg's campaign attorney has been in contact with the city clerk's office, concerned, apparently, that city employees are driving boxes in without independent supervisors present.

The clerk's office says it's neutral and unclear as to what the campaign's concern is.

It is a bit funny if you think about it. How wise is it to attack the integrity of the people you're hoping are soon to be your employees? I don't know if these particular employees are at-will or civil service. I'm guessing it's the latter. In which case, it doesn't matter who wins, they'll keep their jobs.

Perhaps Bob is laying the groundwork for any legal challenge that might keep him in the game, or at least get him some useful sympathy for his next run, since as of this writing, he's in 3d place, slowly slipping further back from Villaraigosa and Hahn.

But it's early - and if late votes really are all Valley votes, then let us not count unhatched chickens . . . .

Side note: The LAT is running a headline predicting Villaraigosa wil come in first, based on exit polls. I'm wondering how many fellow '04 campaign alums see the words "exit polls" and want badly to run screaming from the room.

By the way - for election returns, click here.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Guestpost: Scenes From A Polling Place (Part 1)

[Ed.'s note - in honor of Election Day, a guestpost from the field:]

So there’s this guy in here talking to one of my precinct workers, asking her out on a date. He’s about 65, looks somewhat Asian, came in to do his civic duty, and obviously felt that we needed a little stimulation in here. He may be right on that one, its dead. 95 voters and its 1:45pm in the afternoon…civic responsibility in America? Only if you spend $900M in an election year to get it.

This all started several weeks ago when I got the hankering to be a precinct crew person. Over beers at our happy hour watering hole (Pyramid to those in the know), a friend mentioned overseas election placements, and said that getting involved in local elections was one way to start. Intrigued, I called up the Sacramento County Registrar and inquired about participating in the March 8th special election to replace Robert Matsui (CD5). Marlin, who answered the phone, said “Sure! We’re always looking for good people.” Gave him my info and thought nothing more about it, until the phone rang two weeks later.

Yup, it was Marlin, asking if I wanted to be a precinct inspector. You see, we had gotten to talking last time, and I sort of dropped that I worked in the State Capitol (read: responsible over achiever political person) and apparently it rubbed off. Not only was Marlin calling with a place to work, but asking me if I wanted to supervise my very own polling place! Of course I had to accept, what else could I do?

Now she’s showing him the scanner, our little doodad that scans every voted ballot and keeps track of it electronically. I still don’t think she going to say yes… he just dropped that he doesn’t have a job and he’s going to see the doctor…good one man. I think this guy needs some lessons…

So last Saturday I had to go in for 1 ½ hours of training and pick up my supplies. The preparation end of this deal is pretty sweet, they load everything in your trunk and off you go. You know that blue ballot box, the one you stuff absentee and provisional ballots into? Well, that had all my supplies, including paperwork, signs, voter reg cards, ballots, provisional ballots, etc. They also gave me 6 suitcases…the kind you see in the movies chained to some sinister looking guy’s wrist (the guy who’s going to get killed cause how else are they going to get the case)…which turn into the voting booths you see standing around. Sort of like transformers, the legs and lights and cords are all packed into them, and voila, 30 seconds later you have a voter booth. One of them is even shorter than the rest, for disabled people. What will we think of next?

- Guestblogger R.I.

Put Me In The 'Don't' Category

Hometown paper, the Daily Breeze (News Pilot, we still miss you) looks at partisan politics "infiltration" of local, non-partisan races, nothing that some view this "as an alarming trend. Others don't."

First, a disclaimer - the article opens telling of mailers calling candidates of one party candidates of another party. That kind of political "infiltration" is bad. In fact, it's not partisan politics at all; it's just plain lying.

But party endorsements or campaigning on behalf of candidates in non-partisan races isn't evil. In fact, it's helpful. Look at it this way, the neatest, most direct shorthand information on a ballot indicating to voters the views, values, political leanings, etc, is the party ID tag. Take that away and what's left? Names? Potentially fluffed occupation tags?

Of course, in states like West Virginia where - outside the presidential race (argh), all real races are determined on primary ballots pitting Democrat against Democrat - everyone is a Democrat whether they are or not, so party ID isn't always as telling as it could be. One quoted PoliSci prof says unveiling the partisan influences allows voters to reject it if they don't like it, and reaffirms that some may appreciate the activity as offering another voting cue.

One outgoing beach city councilman calls it "disappointing" that it has come to local candidates looking to parties for money and endorsements, saying "as an elected official, your constituents are whom you answer to."

Well, these people - at least some of them - don't have constituents yet because they're still trying to get the job. And when/if they do get the job, those constituents will still be partisan and free to write checks or withhold support as they choose.

Term limits at the state level are partly to blame for this trend. Local governments may have always been Sacramento farm teams, but players' movements up and down are accelerated by the few terms they're allowed to spend in the Legislature. Parties feel they have to develop next season's lineup earlier and with more guidance.

Also, any reader out there with experience in both local and larger races might raise a brow at the notion that "the worst aspects of politics in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. are starting to invade the beach cities." Partisan money may cause some waves along the coast - but there are few things in the world as nasty, brutish, and long as local politics. Neighbor against neighbor, the battle for a dog park, community center, or zoning change is usually ten-thousand times dirtier than a statewide budget battle or even the national social security debate. They aren't quite as ugly as student council races - but to paraphrase an old political adage - the lower the stakes, the more vile the campaign.

LAT on MT

In typical "how-do-they-get-it-so-incomplete" fashion, the MSM, in this case, the LAT (which I don't hate as much as some people, it's still what I mean when I say "The Times") takes a half-educated look at blogging by focusing on Six Apart's Movable Type blogging platform:

Together they developed a software tool for designing and organizing weblogs called Movable Type. Market statistics are rare in the informal blogosphere, which is estimated to include 8 million blogs. But considering that it's hard to find many weblogs, save for the most rudimentary, that don't run on Movable Type, it's not a stretch to say the product is probably the world's leading blogging tool.

It allows bloggers to generate pages, archive their postings by subject or category and distribute content in other Web-friendly formats. Six Apart says that Movable Type and TypePad, its paid Web hosting service, have at least 1 million registered users between them (though it doesn't break down the numbers further). Google Inc.'s Blogger weblog publishing program and BlogSpot hosting service are competitors, but they are largely free and aimed mostly at novices.
A-hem.

We here at Phoblog love that with Blogger we have one less site-related bill to pay. And, at exactly what point does someone cease being a "novice" blogger. I never thought I was an expert - until I was contacted by a writer working on a blogging book and several other parties seeking insight on starting blogs and attracting readers. But hey, you know, like, whatever.

I do agree with writer Michael Hiltzik on the folly of trying to pin down the 'sphere's true identity:

During last year's presidential campaign, it seemed to burst into broad public consciousness; partisan bloggers' noisy role in some of the more contentious episodes of the election started people talking about whether blogging is good, bad or indifferent for society.

My own take is that the question is irrelevant. Blogs are tools for self-expression, no better or worse than the thought that goes into them. Some are indispensable, others vacuous; some brilliant, others infantile; some left, others right; some have things to say to the entire world, others seem to speak exclusively to their owners' navels. I couldn't say which way the balance tips in any of those categories, but I suspect that it's the same balance one will find among American newspapers, movies and the inventory at Barnes & Noble.
Well, I agree with everything but that last conclusion. I don't think there's a BN big enough for all of the 'sphere's many corners.

One blogger, linked from my other blog's sister site, blogging.la, captures the same, scrappy, hey-we're not chopped-liver reaction I had to the summary dismissal of the Blogger platform.

While Phoblog runs off Blogger, my other creative outlet, Metroblogging San Francisco, uses Movable Type. So which is better?

I don't know.

It comes down to which you're more comfortable with. I started with Blogger, I know how to use it, it does everything I need it to do - and probably some things I don't even use it for yet. MT has more bells & whistles, so I'm told, but I haven't found anything on their platform that is so must-have that I'd move Phoblog over. MT can categorize by subjects? You can index things? That's great, I guess. But you can also just google search if you want to know all the times I've mentioned "Jim Hahn" or "George Bush sucks" on this site. It's likely more accurate too, since I would no doubt suffer from enough laziness to index incorrectly or not at all.

And, as mentioned by blogger Tony Pierce, I too would rather have a Google-backed product. Those guys seem pretty good at what they do, and as they chomp up more 3d party add-on providers, etc, Blogger just gets newer and cooler stuff anyway.

The final blow to MT's street cred, however, comes in the article's closing quotation from consultant Barak Berkowitz - former Apple and Walt Disny Go Network (is that still around?) guy who helped with the decision by financial backers to invest in MT:

"The future of blogging is not about bloggers who want audiences of thousands," Berkowitz says. "The majority will be those communicating with four others or so." He may be right: The key to making an invention useful is to turn it from a technology into a tool.

Say what?

The hell I'm writing this thing to reach four people. Sure, maybe that's all I get, but at night, I dream of Josh Marshall levels of readership. Again, Tony Pierce sums it up well: to communicate with four others, use email - another free and presumably novice form of tech-ed out communication.

The key to making an invention useful IS to turn it into a tool. Which many have done - from MT to Blogger to others. MT's just a brand, though, they aren't Google-like in their invention, as far as I know. They're part of a group of pioneers, not THE pioneer.

Vanity projects want four readers. Tech-centered bloggers might care more for MT's nuances. Content-driven bloggers, like Phoblog, care that our platforms publish when we tell them too. That's pretty much it. It's a creative tension I feel when working on the SF Metro blog - is blogging a substantive entity, or merely a language, a procedure by which information is disseminated. I'd argue the latter. This article, goes with option A and manages to get even that much wrong.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Staking Our Place in The L.A. Mayor's Race

Tiny plug in today's campaign rundown at L.A. Observed.

Shameless self-promotion? A little. But the site is still the best location I've found for the meta-view on tomorrow's electoral activities.

(Observed does point back to Hertzberg's Change For LA clip list - which we've landed on a few times now. Don't know how much of that is auto-generated or handpicked - but we'll take 'em however we get 'em)

Also: L.A. Observed points to a rundown of election night shindigs, none of which, according to the linked LAT article will take place in downtown LA. Observed, though, counters that Bernard Parks will celebrate at the Biltmore.

The others: all decidely west and Valley-centric. And, though I still wholly support his candidacy, it'd be nice if Jimmy hung out at, say, the Dalmatian American Club, or similar Pedro party space. Hello! We're still part of the city? Anyone? Anyone? And, though I need to check the zip code on this, it'd be nice if Villaraigosa's party were in his district since he's itching to skip out on his peeps as soon as possible.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Is It Apathy If We Just Don't Care?

Gregory Rodriguez addresses the notion of apathy in Los Angeles politics, arguing, along the lines that we have, that it's not so much a problem as the status quo. In a good way:

Political scientists blame L.A.'s sprawl and fragmented political institutions for much of our municipal apathy. The county provides social services; the city polices the streets and fills potholes. All this leaves some residents confused about which local political jurisdiction they live in.

San Francisco is the antithesis of Los Angeles. Relatively small, dense and with city and county boundaries the same, it has remarkably high rates of civic engagement, according to Richard DeLeon, a professor of political science at San Francisco State University. The City by the Bay is a caldron of social movements, a magnet for migrants eager to be part of the city's political mix.

By contrast, people don't generally come to L.A. to join a civic enterprise. Since the early 20th century, they have come to realize suburban, not urban, dreams. Migrants from the Midwest sought health and happiness in the sunshine. Civic activism wasn't on their minds. . . .

Defying the fantasies of civic activists, L.A.'s Mexican immigrants haven't much changed our political culture. The iron gates and fences that enclose the front yards of so many of their homes testify to the Mexican idea of the relationship between family and civic life. The immigrant group with one of the lowest rates of civic engagement is perfectly suited for L.A.
I'd certainly take exception to one quoted website's endorsement of The Industry-created notion that L.A. a city of disproportionatly distrustful, disloyal sorts; as well as his assertion that we "just haven't resolved the tension between our fundamentally suburban lifestyle and our aspirations to be a great city." To that, I say, where's the tension?

What makes L.A. fantastically separate from every other city in the world - what makes it New York City's peer and not its competitor (as San Francisco, I would argue, so desperately wants to be) - is its historic refusal to be a city in the commonly understood meaning of the word. Rodriguez, in fact, agrees with this idea as he argues for acceptance of this duality instead of an artificial push for pan-basin cohesion:

Ray Bradbury called L.A. a town with no elbows, "where you pick your neighbors 10 miles off and ignore those across the fence." In our city, alienation is not just a dirty word; it's another way to say freedom.

If huge numbers of Angelenos stay away from the polls Tuesday, it doesn't mean they don't care about their city. It may be that they're busy enjoying the openness and margin of safety this sprawling city still provides.
I've read that California is home to two kinds of liberals living along the coast. The southerners are more libertarian, freer even, than their northern cousins. Little proves that as easily as Angelenos' voluntarily divorcing themselves from traditional notions of civic activism. It's an odd line for me to argue, given that I love L.A. politics - hell, I grew up running around City Hall as a child, looking forward each Christmas to our family photo with Mayor Bradley. The Council was right up there with the Dodgers - in fact, to this day, I could likely spout more Council stats than Dodger stats. If only Vin Scully could call a close vote . . . .

I care vehemently about who wins on Tuesday. But if my L.A. neighbors don't, it doesn't anger me as much as their lack of attention to the Presidential election would. More of that Angeleno duality: ocean and mountain, sea and sky, Hollywood and bustling port. It's not hard to find a reason to love a city such as this one, its only truths in its contradictions; its only loyalty to those truths.

L.A. Mayoral Race Humor

It's hard to find, but yes, Virginia, there is good L.A. mayoral race humor out there. This is a quicktime movie of a very candid mayoral debate - all candidates take their lumps. (via L.A. Observed)

For you L.A. city residents - don't forget to vote on Tuesday.

Friday, March 04, 2005

¿Cómo usted dice: Guestblogger?

A guest post from Mark, capitol insider:

¿Se Habla Espanol?

Republicans speaking Spanish? What’s next, Democrats balancing the budget? NPR and other media today reports that Republican Assemblymembers are taking Spanish languages classes at the State Capitol once a week on Thursday mornings.

Assembly Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, or “jefe” as he is now known, says that the course is designed to help members communicate with their constituents who don’t speak English.

As expected, there was a rather mocking response by members of the Democratic Latino caucus. Says Juan Vargas (D-San Diego), "(Republicans) think if they learn a little Spanish, people are going to vote for them. I think they'll [quickly] learn… 'No votamos por ustedes' " which means, "We won't vote for you."

I doubt that Reps are naive enough to think that the basics of the Spanish language are going to persuade voters to come to our camp. The reality is that although many Hispanics identify with the Republican social positions on life, marriage, drugs and religion, what drives Hispanic voters to the polls are the inequities in education, jobs, and healthcare. Before you can ask someone to vote for you, you have to address the basics of equality first.

Personally, I applaud the initiative taken by these members, and appreciate their efforts to improve communication with their constituents. Remember these Republican members run in safe districts and therefore really don’t need to increase their base to win seats. However, they represent large Hispanic populations, especially those members from the inland empire/central valley areas of the state. Good government starts with clear communication, and the commitment of these members to understanding their constituents should be noted.

Ed.'s note: The Roundup highlights Republican Mountjoy's reaction to the lessons:


Dennis Mountjoy won't be joining the Republican caucus' Spanish lessons. The Bee's Jim Sanders gets the quote "'If I go to Mexico, they're not going to speak my language, I'm going to speak theirs. ... Why is California so unique that we have to learn their language?' Mountjoy asked."

When the caucus starts offering classes in how to speak Mountjoy, please let us know.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Nail in the Coffin

L.A. Observed, ever the great site for LA Mayoral campaign links, tells of most-huggable candidate Hertzberg's press conference and pot-hole spotting gimmick with Richard Riordan.

In case I wasn't sure about my feelings toward Hertzberg before . . . . his buddying up to Schwarzenegger was annoying. A Hertzberg-Riordan lovefest is one thing, however, we just can't back.

Which brings up a disconcerting thought: what if the latest polls prove accurate and the fall runoff is between Hertzberg and Villaraigosa?

In that case I might have to vote for Hertzberg since Villaraigosa is still shafting his constituents after promising to serve his full City Council term.

My vote for this round, however, has already been cast for Hahn.

Blowing Hard, Going Soft

A duo of articles from each side of the country today on Schwarzenegger's latest reform efforts . . . .

First, the New York Times highlights Schwarzenegger's admiration for the original ballot badass Hiram Johnson, the state's 23d governor who swept into office along with the three political wundertools of initiative, referendum, and recall. Johnson and the populist reforms sucessfully booted O.G. special interest railroads from Sacramento. Clearly, Schwarzenegger would like to be remembered as the same kind of heroic reformer.

To that end, he's decided time's up for the Legislature. Yesterday, he hopped into a Humvee and raced to the nearest Applebee's to start gathering signatures for his four horsemen of the fall ballot: redistricting, pension, teacher pay, and, uh, hell something else. Anyone know? Raise your hand if you're just f-ing tired of voting already. Jeezus, another election???

No word on whether it was his personal Humvee, or whether, if it was, its internal combustion engine had been replaced with a hybrid one, per campaign promise.

He should have considered ditching the Humvee in favor of a more efficient, longer range Prius, since, as the Los Angeles Times reports, his proposals are already running out of gas.

The administration is reportedly backing away from demands that state employee pensions be replaced with private retirement accounts - this in the face of increasingly loud objections from both anticipated foes and usual allies.

The administration's response is that they have never been opposed to negotiating with legislators - much in the same vein as last year's workers' compensation reform efforts.

One wonders, however, how long the "I'm gonna kick your girlieman asses in the ballot booth" threats will work if the Dems and other opponents sense that Schwarzenegger may lack the necessary follow-through.

Such posturing also bolsters arguments that this latest initative push is intended less to achieve actual reform and more to keep Schwarzenegger on convincing election-fatigued voters to sign those petitions and ensuring he's in our living rooms so often all possible 2006 opponents are dead in the gate.

We're starting not to buy it anymore (okay, we never did) - but more importantly, Democrats are starting to get their pushback on again, a welcome change from the corner-cowering of the past 18 months.

Between the Field Polls' actual numbers and the increasingly negative spin given them by media commentators, it seems the honeymoon may really be over.

And not a moment too soon.

Representative democracy may yet survive.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

A DNR For VNRs?

In Jack Pitney's Politics of Journalism class, one of the terms on our final was "VNR." A VNR, short for "video news release" is like a press release - just on tape.

That was 1998.

Apparently, however, VNRs are news to the, uh, news. That they've been around quite awhile doesn't make them less sneaky, but it does mean media's being a bit fake in their shock over the news that Schwarzenegger's administration has used one to promote proposed changes in workers' administratively mandated break times.

A Chron article notes that Bay Area stations airing the report, added footage of Capitol protests against the proposed change.

I'm as tough on Schwarzenegger - and Bush, also hit with charges of VNR deception - as anyone, and I'm not necessarily arguing with the idea the VNRs are dangerous. But acting like this is a new phenomenon, refusing to turn the critcism inward to the hundreds of lazily constructed news articles that rely on press release supplied talking points, is just a lie.

An underlying lie doesn't excuse the administration, but it certainly helps tell the rest of the story.

Phoblog Fashion And Mergers Report

Great, now every department store will feature overpriced Macy's brands and a lower level of customer service, Federated Department Stores is buying May Co., meaning, as far as I can tell, there'll be just one giant department store company left. One. And if there's anything better for consumers than one, sole operator in an industry, I don't know what it is.

On the brightside, makes post-Christmas returns easier.

What a shame - I much prefer Robinson's May. And what of Filene's Basement? (eastern readers know what I'm talking about.)