Thursday, July 28, 2005

In The Immortal Words Of The Go-Gos

Vacation all I ever wanted/Vacation time to get away . . . .

Nah, it's not some fabulous Hawaiian get-away. It's not even a cruise to Mexico. It will eventually be a road trip to Omaha, right after YDA by the Bay.

No, sometimes, a blogger just has to hang up the keyboard for a bit. We might find someone to guest for awhile, or we might not. But Phoblog will definitely be back, live from the road, August 12. We'd like to promise a spiffy new design, but we're too honest for that . . . .

In the meantime, remember to check out Metroblogging San Francisco and the whole Metroblogging family - now 33 strong - from Lahore to L.A.. Voted Best Of The Web By Forbes!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Zing

Tony Quinn lays it out:

In the annals of California politics, rarely has anything been as incompetent as the run-up to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Nov. 8 special election. Another pearl of his "year of reform" turned to dust last week when a Sacramento Superior Court judge struck his redistricting initiative, Proposition 77, from the ballot. He should immediately move to cancel the election. . . .

Mistake No. 1: Instead of carefully crafting an initiative on the complex and often arcane subject of redistricting, vetting it properly and building support, Team Arnold did nothing for months. Then realizing they needed a measure for the November special election they were dying to call, they made mistake No. 2 by embracing a slapdash initiative drafted by political activist Ted Costa.

The governor's lawyers then committed mistake No. 3 by rewriting the Costa measure to enhance its political viability, thus creating several confusing versions. Mistake No. 4 was placing Schwarzenegger's prestige and his agenda for reform in the hands of Costa's operation, where a low level clerk sent the wrong draft of the initiative to the printer.

That was followed by mistake No. 5: Schwarzenegger's political team and his allies in the business community qualified an initiative they apparently had never read. So, of course, nobody figured out it was the wrong version. . . .

Is it any wonder this hackneyed special election has all but destroyed Schwarzenegger's standing with the voters? He is facing virtually sure defeat this November with his few remaining ballot measures, and even if he runs for re-election in 2006, it is doubtful he can win.
Damn, dude. That was good. And this guy is a Republican.

That last graf I quote above makes me think, though, about the Schwarzenegger production company and what rhetoric will result if, as one would expect now, his Special Election gives him zero wins this November. I think it would go something like this:

"The special interests have done it again, subverting the will of the people and using their sans-consent provided union dues to tout lies and misrepresentations of these much needed reforms. Thus, the people were hoodwinked. You weren't, however, hoodwinked when you signed the measures. You knew your will then. But they got to you with their brain washing. The people haven't really spoken because the unions yelled louder than your votes would've if they hadn't spent all that money. So you should only listen to me from now on. My will - I mean, your will - through me will be done next time. But not their will, even though you seemed to vote on their side."

Nah, that doesn't seem to work. Wow, he really might be sunk.

Unless that perception turns out to be just entertainment since no Californian can preceive anything truthfully, right Mike Murphy?

And In Hate News . . . .

Everyone's favorite little bigot Randy Thomasson and friends are circulating a measure for signature that would ban gay marriage. Yeah, you're right if you're thinking "wait, didn't they do that already." They did, with Prop. 22 - but that was a statutory amendment. This latest proposal would amend the California Constitution, kicking a leg - the leg - out from under gay marriage supporters' strongest legal argument: that disallowing marriage for some violates our state guaranteed equal rights.

The proposal would also alter domestic rights currently guaranteed in statute, according to the Attorney General's summary - a characterization that Thomasson argues is political posturing on the AG's part. Thomasson's argument in the Chron article is that Lockyer ignores "the chief points . . . the whole issue is the protection of marriage."

See, Milton isn't being fired, they're just fixing the glitch.

Lockyer's title changes the proponent's working title from "The Voters' Right to Protect Marriage Initiative" to "Marriage. Elimination of Domestic Partnership Rights."

To be fair, it is a fairly political name. To be fairer, I'd challenge anyone to come up with a title and summary that wouldn't be political.

And from the Gone But Not Forgotten Files - Pete Knight's widow has submitted a competing amendment that would not only ban gay marriage in California, but would forbid the state from recognizing gay marriages in anyway. Because that whole United States thing was overrated anyway . . . .

In case you forgot, by the way, Pete Knight's son is gay. Paging Dr. Phil, you're needed in studio 22, Dr. Phil to studio 22.

This second proposal came about because its proponents thought Thomasson's was too soft - leaving room for godless sodomite legislators to "confer legal and economic rights to same-sex couples as long as they aren't already reserved for marriage."

To paraphrase the Bible: Jesus weeps. Over this kind of blind hate.

You can check out proposed initiatives on the AG's website here. Here is the text of the "Elimination of Domestic Partnership Rights" proposal (pdf). The second measure is not yet available on the state site.

(Cross-posted at Metroblogging San Francisco.)

And Then There Are the Soundbites That Sound Pretty . . . .

And yet are completely meaningless if you really think about them. For instance, an article linked via The Roundup (yes, I rely on them too much, but on days when I oversleep or run, they've already covered everything I'd have covered, so efficiency wins out), quotes Schwarzenegger chief political strategist Mike Murphy as saying, "Perception is the entertainment of politics but substance is what counts."

Okay, aside from the statement's falsity, it's also just goofy.

And ironic considering we're getting increasing evidence of just how thinly constructed Schwarzenegger's gubernatorial facade really is. He's entertaining alright. And he's also 100% perception and 0% substance. Good luck with that client, Mike.

Quotations That Make My Eyes Cross

Via The Roundup, the Sac Bee reports that the 3d DCA has stayed the trial court's Prop. 77 toss pending the appeal. This allows the Secretary of State to include the measure in the public review period that starts today and ends Aug. 15 - a requirement enabling legal challenges of text, ballot arguments, fiscal analyses, etc.

Here's the quotation that frosts:

"We hope this is the first step toward restoring the rights of the 951,000 people who signed petitions to put Proposition 77 on the ballot," said Dan Kolkey, an attorney for the proponents.
Look, maybe had the proponents been a teensy bit more careful, you could've avoided this little problem. However, either way, don't whine to me about the "rights" of less than 1/36th of the state population. What about my rights as an affirmative non-signer? What about the Californians' right to settled, enforced laws based on public policy designed to protect them from shady initiatives? Again - no proof of a bait'n'switch (and I'm tired of hearing Nancy Pelosi and others whine about that too) - but just because it didn't happen here doesn't mean we toss the policy out with the bathwater so Ted "But I Have Lots Of Money" Costa can get his project cleared.

Second runner up for today's Dumb Redistricting Measure Soundbite, however, goes to Schwarzenegger spokesman Margita "Check Out Arnold's New Clothes" Thompson, who characterized opposition attorney Lance Olson's comments that Costa and the Guv made this bed in May and have been lazing in it to their own detriment since, as "grasping at straws."

Lady, you guys are probably going to lose this one and Lance is grasping at straws?

And: "What is it that they are afraid of?" [Thompson] asked. "Why are they afraid of having this initiative reach the voters?"

Sigh. I'll tell you what I'm afraid of: that Arnold "I'm Going To Blow Up Boxes" Schwarzenegger approves this kind of tired political rhetoric.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, you blew it guys. Now use the time you have left in Sacramento to sac it up and wrangle some kind of legislative deal.

Psst - Nunez, Perata, you could be heroes if you had the vision and the ability to sacrifice for the greater good. Just a thought.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Good Luck

To the Hastings Class of 2005 members getting ready for the Bar which starts tomorrow. Also to fellow blogger Amber and others out there who I'm likely offending by leaving them off this list (sorry in advance).

You'll all do great - and while I'd love to have your company in Februrary, I know you'll pass with flying colors and be around to give me pep talks all winter . . . .

Professional Protectionism: Exhibit A

No, it's not the Bar Exam (which will be administered to my stressed, physically ill friends this week - best of luck, all), this is about the against-regulation-use of scissors in threading. Uh-huh.

It's sort of like that who-gets-the-ankle scuffle of years ago. Except stupider ($8k in training and licensing should not be required to nip a few stray hairs).

(via The Roundup.)

Sunday, July 24, 2005

London Coverage

Some good stuff up at Metroblogging SF's sister site, Metroblogging London.

'Every Liar And His Lawyer For Themselves'

Frank Rich on the Plame story, cover-ups, excuses, and media wrangling. Worth the read. Though I do think the assumption that Gonzales would've been Bush's obvious choice for the S.C. nomination is a bit overdone and underthought. If nothing else - is Gonzales the only Hispanic in America?

The White House's "culture of revenge," however, seems very real.

More On the Fall Of the Fall Election

From the Chron's Carla Marinucci another look at what Schwarzenegger is up against and how the various factions view his options:

"The grassroots would not go along with backing away" from the special election,'' said Tom Del Beccaro, president of the California Republican Party County Chairs Association, Saturday. "Disappointing would be a mild word. Their hearts in this, and they want it. They've been fired up all year. And they're ready, and we've been organizing ... the people are going to press ahead. For them, there's no turning back.''

But Duf Sunheim, the California GOP chair, signaled Republicans must get behind Schwarzenegger whatever happens.

"Are there going to be disappointments? Yes,'' he said. "To me, it honestly is irrelevant'' (whether voters decide on these measures in November or next June. It's his call. He's our leader, and if he thinks it's best to do it in November, we're there. Whenever it happens ... we're not giving up our goal of reforming the system.'' . . .

[Barbara O'Connor, professor of political communication at California State University, Sacramento, says ] "I think it would behoove the governor to gracefully fold his tent and say 'rational minds are prevailing' and the election is going down in flames. People forgive much better when a politician acknowledges he made a mistake.''
Things do look fairly bad for the administration right now. I would only urge Dems to proceed deliberatively with any strategy they (we) pursue. Arnold ignored the "Caution, Hubris-Illustrating Situation Ahead" signs. We'd be wise to heed them and act accordingly.

Lloyd, Lloyd, Lloyd . . .

Will you accept this rose and be my constituent?

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Ahead Of Our Time

Perhaps we spoke too soon, but now, it seems, the honeymoon is officially over. Governing is hard. Shocking, isn't it.

He still has a dangerously powerful PR machine working for him, but at least for now, it seems that the foolishness that is his administration is revealed.

What's The Point?

Another one bites the dust. Let's get the rest booted and save ourselves the trouble of this ill-conceived Special Election, eh?

Friday, July 22, 2005

Marathon Aside

Things about which you do not want to be prompted to read nine days before your marathon: Exhibit A.

Expert Commentary

Demographic and redistricting expert and Republican consultant Tony Quinn (also an editor of the influential California Target Book) offered Phoblog this expert commentary - just in case you didn't believe me when I said some of the state's top Republicans are, shall we say, dismayed at what's become of redistricting reform efforts:

This is now a dead issue for several months. I was at the hearing today and the judge's ruling was far harsher than I expected. No stay. The Costa initiative is a corpse very unlikely to be revived by the court of appeal or supreme court. The judge's findings of fact are simply devastating.

This is entirely the fault of Team Arnold and their incompetence, and on the facts at hand this Republican-appointed judge had no choice but to toss it off the ballot. Redistricting reform will need be to be rebuilt from the ground up, and is probably several election cycles from another ballot measure.
And just to make sure you understand how much Schwarzenegger has let down those he should've been impressing, Quinn reiterated that "[n]othing has been as incompetent as Team Arnold on this initiative. This is what happens when you let Ted Costa and his gang of clowns do your work for you."

We never much cared for him either.

Morning Map Blather

If you can, get your hands on a copy of this morning's Capitol Morning Report (which is a subscription service so I'd feel wrong uploading a copy here), which includes a page and a half or so of various redistricting decision talking points.

Reader Warning: those with sensitivity to hyperbole should exercise caution when reading the statements of Californians for Fair Redistricting Chairman Bill Mundell and U.S. Rep Nancy Pelosi; those with sensitivity to incorrectly comprehended legal issues should exercise caution when reading the statements of Stacie Hewitt, an Elk Grove U.S.D teacher (and she is?), John Kehoe of the CA Senior Action League, and California Women's Leadership Association's Julie Vandermost. Alternatively, those who appreciate political savvy, and - wait for it - reasonable statements should appreciate the words of Republican State Senator Abel Maldonado, Democratic Assemblyman Tom Umberg, and even, almost, Assembly Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy.

The most frustrated people I've heard and heard from so far are Republicans and/or Schwarzenegger supporters who are outraged that something so incredibly stupid could knock this measure off the ballot (and no, I don't mean the decision is stupid, the decision was legally sound, I mean the mistake was stupid). Think of the donors, said one reader, how do they feel now?

And more importantly, how likely are they to continue bankrolling what's increasingly a comedy of errors staring a guy who we know sucks in comedic roles?

The Governor, of course, (prior to the ruling) was crying "partisan politics!" and blaming the Dems for using trickery to kill a policy with which they do not agree. But he misses the point, as do so many political neophytes. Arnold, dearest, it wasn't the policy that got you, it was the process. You didn't have to lose this initiative: your people just messed up, and messed up bad, on fundamental laws enacted to protect Californians from the misuse of this awesomely powerful popular weapon. And really, we expect more from Ted Costa. Remember, without him, Governor Schwarzenegger, where would you be?

And now our best shot in decades at a much needed reform is dead. NPR reported this morning that any other initiative would basically need to qualify by next Tuesday to meet the in-print requirement before the ballot pamphlets are circulated. Costa et al are good, but they aren't that good.

And actually, I think they just proved they aren't good at all.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Court Says . . . .

Here is the Superior Court ruling (thanks to Election Law Blog via Doug Johnson).

As case law suggested, the substantial compliance doctrine wasn't enough to save the defective Prop. 77 because the difference were textual. Judge Ohanesian keeps her eye on the policy implications of too much judicial opinion interfering with initiative language:

There is no good reason to put the courts in the position of having to decide what is good enough for qualifying an initiative measure for the ballot when actual compliance is easily attainable. The initiative process is too important to so broadly apply the doctrine of substantial compliance . . . . To rule otherwise would run the risk of the court inappropriately interjecting itself into the "political thicket." The court finds that the purposes of the constitutional and statutory requirements at issue would be frustrated if the court were to apply the substantial compliance doctrine to excuse the clear defects in this situation.
The Judge also notes that proponents can recirculate the proposal for the June 2006 ballot (though, and please correct me if I am - and I surely could be - wrong, isn't there still time to re-qualify the matter for November?).

Plain language also saves the day here as the Judge scolds the parties for pained linguistic arguments:

All parties have been very adept in their arguments at mincing words to their barest of letters. [Proponent's] argument that "copy" does not necessarily mean "exact copy" is one example of mincing and then stretching the meaning of words beyond reason.
I can envision Jack Pitney somewhere right now smiling in approval at both the counselors' attempts and the judge's smack-down of those attempts (said smack-down perhaps giving him reason to forgive her passive voice and use of "the fact that").

Rick Hasen highlights some of the same text and gets more deeply into the question of what gets reviewed on appeal (de novo, etc) with links to SoCal Law Blog, among others.

It seems a sound decision to me - as much as I believe reform is needed. Again, though, as I've said already, maybe this is a unexected, but beneficial, opportunity for the proponents. If there is time to qualify measures for this fall - go fix those glitches, take out the mid-decade provision, and get those professional gatherers a-gathering.

Show ain't over yet, guys. Hell, does the circus ever end here?


Previously:
A Primer On 3 Current Proposals: Part 1
Following Up on the Redistricting Prop's Legal Snag
Great, Now We Can All Get Back To The Really Important Stuff
Add This One For Good Measure (The MALDEF Proposal)
Map Fights Might Be Starting Already
Athene's Op-Ed
Can't Hardly Wait
This Should Do Wonders For The Negotiation Process
A Primer On 3 Current Proposals: Part 2
More On Redistricting Reforms Potential Benefits
It's For The Best, Boys
Hey, Let's Have A Hearing!
Breaking News: Judge tosses redistricting measure off ballot
An Opportunity

An Opportunity?

Here's a thought, what if this Prop. 77 "set-back" is an opportunity for a better reform proposal - one without the dreaded mid-decade redraw provision.

Though the expense of qualifying another proposition is high - it's probably no higher than litigating the issue all the way up the courts. Plus, it'd be an easy PR sell for Costa, et al, as they whip out their violins to play Beethoven's 192d, "Requiem for Thwarted Direct Democracy."

So Phoblog urges all sides to take a big-picture view of this and perhaps save this reform from yet another ugly death.

Previously:
A Primer On 3 Current Proposals: Part 1
Following Up on the Redistricting Prop's Legal Snag
Great, Now We Can All Get Back To The Really Important Stuff
Add This One For Good Measure (The MALDEF Proposal)
Map Fights Might Be Starting Already
Athene's Op-Ed
Can't Hardly Wait
This Should Do Wonders For The Negotiation Process
A Primer On 3 Current Proposals: Part 2
More On Redistricting Reforms Potential Benefits
It's For The Best, Boys
Hey, Let's Have A Hearing!
Breaking News: Judge tosses redistricting measure off ballot

Breaking News: Judge tosses redistricting measure off ballot

From The Sacramento Bee:

Judge tosses redistricting measure off ballot
By John Hill and Jim Sanders -- Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 4:47 pm PDT Thursday, July 21, 2005

A Sacramento judge Thursday tossed Proposition 77 from the Nov. 8 special election ballot, saying proponents of the redistricting overhaul initiative did not follow legal procedure in circulating their petitions.

Backers of the initiative said they would appeal Judge Gail D. Ohanesian's decision.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed the suit earlier this month, asserting that the initiative's backers should be forced to play by the rules that require his office to approve measures and give them titles and summaries before they're circulated among voters.

Proposition 77 was intended to strip the Legislature of its power to draw political district lines every ten years. Instead, a panel of retired federal or state judges would draw distinct lines for the U.S. House of Representatives, the Legislature and the Board of Equalization.

The version used by Proposition 77 backers to gather signatures differed in several ways from the one submitted to Lockyer. While the first said judges would be "selected" to draw elective district lines, for instance, the second used the word "nominate."

The one circulated among voters did not contain a paragraph, referring to "fair and competitive districts" drawn by judges in earlier decades, that was part of the initiative submitted to Lockyer.

Proposition 77 backers said that the differences, the result of a clerical error, were "stylistic and immaterial" and should not be allowed to prevent voters from considering an important measure.

Lockyer, on the other hand, said that accepting the differences would open the door to "bait and switch" initiatives in which voters saw something different that what was reviewed by the Attorney General's Office.

Of 80 measures submitted to his office this year, Lockyer said, only Proposition 77 failed to meet the requirements, and "should be sent back to the starting line."

When Proposition 77 proponents discovered the mistake more than a month ago, they notified Secretary of State Bruce McPherson. McPherson then asked Lockyer's office whether he had the authority to decide which version to put on the ballot.

McPherson said that he intended to put the initiative on the ballot unless a court ordered him not to.

The initiative is one of three being pushed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The others would put strict limits on state spending and making it harder for teachers to get tenure.
Hat tip to CS for the heads-up.

Rick Hasen and others predicted (and I agreed) this would happen. This is, of course, only round one - there will be appeals, etc, so don't go celebrating yet if you were hoping for its removal. Frankly, given that we'd perhaps be left with the Legislative proposal, don't celebrate at all.

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Even if you lose everything you've been hired to win, you can still make a mint and count on employment for the rest of your electoral cycles.

Reader JG alerts us to this Drudge item (I don't think I've ever linked to him before . . . but at least he's not W_nk_tt_) on a new reality TV to find the next American political idol: America's Next Top Political Consultant.

This new "Are My Polling Number Hot or Not" will cram 12 aspiring consultants into one Georgetown townhouse to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start flagrantly violating BCRA on national television . . . .

Oh - BCRA, right, and every other jurisdictions' campaign finance and ethics laws . . . wonder how that'll work out. The blurb says the last consultant standing wins $1m to spend on a cause or candidate in the 2006 election.

Wow - better not be a California cause or candidate, $1m is chump change in our media markets.

For you BCRA/PRA minded folks - play around in your head all the ways in which this program could violate the law or pretzel itself through enough loopholes to get off the ground.

I was/am fundamentally opposed to the "American Candidate" show awhile back. And, I suppose, a really classy consultant would rather the spotlight not be directed to him or her, but rather to the candidate or cause. But this is celebrity America, after all. And for every young singer who dreams of being the next Kelly Clarkson on the 15-minute rocket ship, there must be some young campus organizer who stares adoringly at his Joe Trippi poster nightly.

JG suggest a Phoblog application is in order. Well, I'm no consultant. I fancy myself more like those two old balcony sitters from the Muppets, but with a tad less snark. Mostly.

Hey, Let's Have A Hearing!

From The Roundup:

Apparently feeling the dual lawsuits filed by the attorney general and by civil rights groups are insufficient, Democratic chairs of the elections committees of each house announced yesterday that they would hold hearings into whether proponents of the redistricting initiative intentionally used different versions for obtaining a title and summary and for circulation. "The questions are whether there was any horsing around with the process of qualifying this initiative," said Sen. Debra Bowen (D-Marina del Rey), who will conduct a hearing Aug. 17 with Assemblyman Tom Umberg (D-Anaheim).

"'The what, when and who - that's what I want to know,' said Assemblyman Tom Umberg, who chairs the Assembly's elections committee. 'What did they know? When did they know it? And who knew it?'"
Since you can't see it through the computer right now, you should know Phoblog has her head in her hands and is openly weeping from frustration . . . .

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Sad Day For Trekkies Everywhere

I'm givin' this post everything she's got - but if i push her any harder, the whole thing will blow!

James Doohan, Trek's Scotty, has been beamed up a final time at age 85.

I was just going to accuse Legislative leaders of Scotty-ing this morning, as a matter of fact, after reading so much gloom-and-doom over the probability of compromise removing (constructively) proposals from this November's ballot.

Scotty-ing, for the uninitiated, is the process by which you really dramatize the difficulty of completing a task in time or at all, thereby reaping much praise when you are able to deliver the goods ahead of schedule. This is more clinically referred to as playing the expectations game.

A: Because Of A Litte Thing We Like To Call The Constitution

Q: CRP spokeswoman Karen Hanretty doesn't know why "we need to tolerate the cheap artwork of a gadfly with a world view that is so offensive toa majority of the people." (via The Roundup)

You don't have to like it. But, technically, I think this implies you have to tolerate it.

Is it ugly and a bit overblown? Yeah. In California does it probably represent almost the majority view, however. It's a bit much to have it in a government building, but then again, some Californians likely view posting the Ten Commandments in state buildings equally offensive.

More Blog Than Blawg

I've received email from many of you asking why no Roberts commentary yet.

Well, this has always been less of a blawg than a blog and I don't know enough about Roberts to add anything to the discussion. I have sources, however, and once I shake them down, if anything good comes out, you know you're the first ones I'll tell.

From what I heard on NPR this morning, he's not all bad, aside from getting hammered by NARAL already for briefs written when he was with the solicitor's office on why Roe should get the boot. I've heard several liberal commentators urge caution in going after this guy who, by most accounts, is a decent, well-regarded fellow.

So that's all I got for now . . . . The Comments section is always there for your two-cents, too . . . .

(P.S. I didn't have time last night to read up on Roberts because I was here.)

When Voter Ed Is Just Too Hard

Nail him on PRA loopholes and conflict law violations. Not exactly a groundbreaking strategy, but as a quick scan of this morning's top Rough & Tumble headlines shows, the "gotcha" route seems the way to go.

Supplement ban vetoes, PAC rent money, whatever, it's sure easier to get Schwarzenegger - or try to - on technicalities than to nab him on substance. Wonks, of course, would much rather trumpet his budget-plan cop-outs, his failures to accomplish much touted reforms, and his inability (unwillingness) to really deal with the legislature.

Schwarzenegger does owe some explanations on these conflict violations and Reform Act issues. But from a defensive-strategy perspective, it's much easier for him to cry "partisan politics" over this and win back the public by playing the martyr than if the Dems could effectively explain his substantive failiings to California voters. It's not easy. But it would be a much more stable platform from which to take him down.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

FPPC Fun!

Democrats file complaint on Schwarzenegger ethics violation

The FPPC has 180 days to act on the complaint the party filed today. I'm sure if they hadn't file it, someone else would've.

And in a showing of renewed reason since his attempt to intervene in the Prop. 77 litigation, Speaker Nunez says he'll stay out of this one:

Although one of the complaints filed with the FPPC came from the Democratic Party, the ranking Democrat in the Assembly said he was not interested in conducting a legislative investigation.

"My decision is to stay as far away from this as possible," said Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles. "It's going to take a lot to convince me that the Legislature ought to have a role."
Note too a similar complaint was filed by Petaluma parents who claim their son's death was tied to steroid use. It'll (obviously) be easier for the Gov to browbeat the CDP over their complaint than a teary-eyed Mom and Dad.

League Of Extraordinary GentleBloggers

(okay, the title is a reach, but c'mon, it's not easy to keep them catchy all the time)

Sac Bee columnist and blogger Daniel Weintraub columns about blogging the Bear Flag way at this past weekend's Bear Flag League conference.

Weintraub sees a strong future in political blogging (we agree), analogizing it to the "long tail" demand curve theory. He's likely right, though I'm not sure that lots of little hits equal the big impact of one big hit - say a nightly newscast, etc - mainly because with blogs, it's hard to know who's reading along with you, while TV and newspapers have extensive ratings and profiling systems. We're still an insulated world . . . .

Btw: though Phoblog isn't listed with BFL (mainly because this isn't a conservative blog - well, not in the way they mean it), we have been linked by some Bear Flag member sites such as So. Cal Law Blog and CalBlog. Hat tip to each . . . .

Speaking of blogger conferences, however . . . . Fellow Metroblogging SF author Morey alerts us to tonight's Electronic Frontier Foundation Bloggers' Rights conference.

Here's the 411:

WHAT:
BayFF on Bloggers' Rights

WHEN:
7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 19, 2005

WHERE:
111 Minna Gallery http://www.111minnagallery.com/
111 Minna Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
Tel: (415) 974-1719

WHO:

Kurt Opsahl- Moderator
Kurt Opsahl, who leads EFF's bloggers' rights campaign, is also one of the attorneys representing online journalists in Apple v. Does, the case in which Apple Computer, Inc., is seeking to unmask the journalists' confidential sources for articles about a future Apple product. Read more about bloggers' rights and Apple v. Does at www.eff.org/bloggers

Violet Blue - Panelist
Violet Blue is a hardworking sex writer, editor, adult book and video reviewer, and machine artist. By day she works as Assistant Guest Editor at the popular erotic blog Fleshbot. Visit Violet's blog at www.fleshbot.com (warning: not work safe).

danah boyd - Panelist
danah boyd is a Ph.D.researcher at the School of Information Management and Systems at UC Berkeley studying how people negotiate their presentation of self in mediated social contexts to unknown audiences. Most of her work revolves around articulated social networks, blogging, and other social software. She blogs at Zephoria , misbehaving.net , and Many-to-Many. Learn more about danah at www.danah.org

Dan Gillmor - Panelist
Dan Gillmor is founder of Grassroots Media Inc., a project aimed at enabling grassroots journalism and expanding its reach. The company's first launch is www.Bayosphere.com, a site "of, by and for the Bay Area." Gillmor, a former columnist with the San Jose Mercury News, is author of "We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People" (O'Reilly Media, 2004), a book that explains the rise of citizens' media and why it matters.

Mary Hodder - Panelist
Mary Hodder is an information architect and interaction designer for several web service companies with social media sites. Previously a web products manager at Technorati, Mary works with companies in open source, photo sharing, and blog aggregation. She blogs at Napsterization and was an original author at bIPlog, the Berkeley Intellectual Property Weblog.

Jackson West - Panelist
Jackson West brings a fresh voice, wit, and style to SFist, the San Francisco outpost of Gothamist. He serves up regular restaurant, book, film, theater, music, and nightlife reviews and edits SFist for free - and he loves every second of it. Visit Jackson's blog at www.sfist.com

This event is free and open to the general public. You must be 21+. Refreshments and birthday cake will be served. Please RSVP to (415) 436-9333 x129 or bayff-rsvp@eff.org

111 Minna Gallery is accessible via BART. Get off at the Montgomery station and use the exit marked 2nd and Market. Walk south on 2nd Street for a block and a half, and take a right down the Minna Street Alley. 111 Minna Street is located between Mission and Howard streets.
Note the inclusion of the younger SF city blog to the exclusion of its elder (that'd be us), but whatever. Out of the -ist family (no, they don't get a link), Jackson seems to be the only non-jerk in a title position. But I digress . . . .

I'm going to do my best to catch the event and report back . . . .

Pop-Culture Pause From The Political

Recently, I was pointing out the best bit of one of my favorite songs, demanding silence in the car so that all might partake of its glory, and I learned that others have, in fact, noted the Best Part phenomenon. It's not just songs that can be great, it can be one part of a song that so kicks it you'll listen to the rest of a so-so song anyway. There's this list, which seems a bit dated (or just a bit too other-cultural to have captured my top bits). So, this being the 'sphere and all, I thought I'd just starte this little meme a rockin' in the free world and see what others would name in, let's say, their top 3 best song bits, from which we can build a bigger list.

Here are mine:
  1. #41 - Dave Matthews Band: The way that man belts the word "here" makes me want to find him and propse marriage immediately.
  2. Don't Walk Away - Electric Light Orchestra: Have you heard this song? I bet you haven't. It's from the Xanadu soundtrack and it's possibly one of my all-time favorite songs period even without the Best Bit Ever. At one point, between the lines "where will I go" and "where will I be," the crooner "oooos" his way into my heart forever. Note, this is the second "oooo" coming after the still great, but not the greatest first "oooo."
  3. Wonderwall - Oasis: At the end of the first verse, right before "backbeat," the full orchestral backing of the song kicks in a sublime rising that makes you just want to pump your fist in the air and squint your eyes in white-man's-overbite heaven.

I'm going to tag the following bloggers right off the bat: Amber, NeoTokyo, FickLtd, Libertarian Jackass (if he's still reading here these days) and Athene.

Monday, July 18, 2005

This Seems More Problematic

Than just his supplements bill veto: Magazine Deal Puts Publisher in Spotlight

Number One Reason To Use Top Ten Lists Sparingly

You know you've been away too long when readers get tired of waiting for new content and start sending in their own.

Former Stag President Josh Walter offers this ranting reaction to the RNC's attempt to top-ten-list their guys' way out of responsibility in the Plame controversy. It is, of course, a fundamental political tactic to scream "partisan politics!" when you are pretty sure you're going to lose the substantive battle but have a slim shot at winning the rhetorical war.

Did you see the the RNC released a "Top Ten" list?

Are they kidding? A freakin' "Top Ten" list? I think Letterman can actually sue for copyright infringement.

My Top Ten ridiculous things about the RNC Top Ten List

10 - Don't they know that a real Top Ten list always goes from 10 - 1? You can't tell everyone the number 1 thing first. Da'a.

9 - I am not an English expert by any means, but what is the deal with not using articles? For example - "Wilson Claims CIA Thought To Ask Him To Make Trip Because He Had Previously Made Trip For Them In 1999, Not Because Of His Wife's Suggestion." - How about using "the" or "a" in there sometimes?

8 - More on the English tip. How about not capitalizing every freakin' word? Crap that is annoying.

7 - In their # 1 (which should have been on the bottom and not the top, that is still pissing me off), they use quotes from VP Cheney and George Tenet to rebut Wilson. Need I say more?

6 - The more I read it, the more it seems to prove George Tenet is an idiot. Example in #2 - The RNC is saying that since Tenet did not brief the VP on the report (which would have hopefully helped determine whether or not to go to war)then Wilson is wrong. Is Wilson wrong? Or was Tenet? Doesn't this prove Wilson even more right?

5 - The whole way through the RNC is trying to discredit Wilson by saying that his report was junk. Do they still think that Niger was selling Uranium to Maddas (Saddam backwards, but I knew you knew that)? How can you discredit someone by saying he was wrong, when it turns out (and I think most of us agree) that he was right? Isn't the RNC throughout their Top Ten, actually just proving Wilson right?

4 - Their # 8. "Wilson Claimed His Book Would Enrich Debate:" They are right. Wilson's book has not enriched debate at all. No one is making up top ten lists years later about it.

3 - Their # 9. Wilson said that his contacts in the CIA told him about the alleged Iraqi - Niger transactions. The RNC rebuttal is that the DO Reports Officer says that he didn't tell Wilson anything. Well maybe the DO is lying to save his ass or maybe the DO is not one of Wilson's contacts. Just a thought.

2 - How does this (as wrong and idiotic as it is) do anything to actually rebut the fact that Rove is the leak and should therefore be fired? I thought that we were past the whole, does Iraq have WMD or not?, issue. In not rebutting the actual story in play right now, you know the one about Rove leaking (don't personify that image)?, are you basically saying that it is true? Turns out we've heard about and know how to change the topic, too.

1. - Don't make Top Ten lists and think that you are being cool or respectable! Top Ten lists are for Talk Shows, ESPN, and VH1. They are not for the RNC or any political party trying to make a serious point about anything! Next they will come out with the Top Ten reasons the go to war with Iraq and in trying to prove themselves right they will ultimately prove themselves wrong, as they did here.
Well ranted, Josh. Though I will say I've read a few top ten lists linked to political parties that I've found amusing. But since we're a partisan blog here, it's fine to live by double-standards when it comes to the employment of comedy in the political area via such lists. I'll take any example of Democrats using any form of comedy effectively, since our "that's not funny"-isms of the past few years have, predictably, given us zero big wins when the President, et al, get to strap on their "neener neener" masks and run amok.

Friday, July 15, 2005

It's For The Best, Boys

A Sac judge denied Nunez and Perata's attempt to intervene in the Prop. suit. Trust me, guys, she did you a favor.

From the Beware of Blogging Files:

Heather Barbour points us to this story about a cop who was retroactively canned for running a rant site for fellow officers.

And From the I Have No Idea What You're Talking About Files:

Former guestblogger and oppo-superhero DT passes on a mdDD bit on the Young Democrats and their, uh, less attractive qualities.

I'm relatively protective of my club - so I don't really feel the need to confirm or deny the allegations of social club inactivity. But I will say that the best thing for any organization is a healthy influx of fresh blood to break up any in-crowd appearance. I've stayed relatively free of the snark-fest YDA can be. CYD, however, is growing by leaps and bounds everyday and it's a joy to be a part of these days.

If you want to check out YDA, come check 'em out with me at the upcoming National Convention: YDA by the Bay.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

More On Redistricting Reform's Potential Benefits

Phoblog's China correspondent RJ points us to this Chron article from Sunday touting competition's benefits and incumbent protection's ills. There's really not much newsworthy or new in this piece, except that it does cite Athena (Scripps) and former Dems of the Claremont Colleges President Catherine Hazelton's study theorizing that increased competition may help up stalled levels of women in the legislature.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Pay No Attention To That Blog Behind The Resume

Via Class Maledictorian (Oh yeah, what you gonna do about it, shorty? They're still the Anaheim Angels, too. Ha!):

::Warning: Blogger Navel-Gazing Ahead::

Kevin Drum blogs on the dangers of blogging. More specifically: the dangers of becoming a googleable entity. Prospective bloggers should know that if they attach their true name to a project, at some point, a prospective employer, loan officer, lover, investigator, whomever, is going to google it up.

Drum isn't saying don't blog. He's just saying if you choose to, think twice about using your name and blog accordingly.

Clearly, I'm ubergoogleable at this point, which is something about which I am both proud and appropriately wary.

Recently, I discussed with a fellow blogger his penchant for obfuscating, sorta, basic facts about himself, his activities, or even the identity of post subjects. He strives to keep his real life self separate from his blog self. He also strives to stay under the radar of people likely to spam him for blogging about them. (For example, we political blogger types know that one friendly - or even unfriendly - link to a candidate's site will likely land us on the candidate's email list or in the site's blogscan. Depending on the candidate, this can be either cool or incredibly annoying - and amusing if we've slammed said candidate).

I've described my blogging as a game of Frogger. At stake: my future political career. I know that. Hell, the monkey comment alone . . . . But I see a huge potential payout as well. Though I forever reserve the right to change my mind on issues big and small, putting in print, er, pixel, my beliefs will keep me accountable later. If the wind ever really changes and I start equivocating my anti-Iraq-war stance, I hope a reader calls me on it using my own words. Of course, given my reservation of the right to change my mind, there's a bit of a cheat in my assertion of intellectual continuity. But at least I'll have to explain myself. And no one can ever accuse me of not holding hard beliefs in something. In a lot of somethings . . . .

Of course, there's another angle to this question of blognymity. A decidedly American angle.

As Atrios says, by way of warning (linked via the Drum post), blogs break out in funny ways. Making reality shows look like three-toed-sloths when it comes to speed of recognition, the right blog post can take a blogger from a 3 person reader base to a 3 million person awareness base in as few as 2 links and a cable news network mention. The spectre of celebrity - better yet, intellect-based or journalistic/investigatory success-based celebrity - hangs heavily over most blogs. Thank the 24-hour news cycle - a tiny scoop can help fill the hours of punditry and create instacelebrities just has it's created instapundits.

Some bloggers may get into this biz just to keep Aunt Ida current on babykins first steps, or to keep the running club up to speed on the latest in gatorade flavors, but in my corner of the 'sphere, we're all a bunch of demurring spotlight seekers: we know we want to be known, and we know how, now we're just navigating the risk of unintended infamy.

Hell yeah I like it when people say "hey, I made Phoblographer." My ego has needs too, man.

But I also frequently irked a close friend who urged me to protect my good name and better political contacts by staying within the lines. Snapping at my own party is stupid, duh. I hope I can use my youth to excuse some of my less politic statements, should they crop up in gleeful oppo-guys' emails later on. But if I can't, at least I know I've said something in my life. Not altogether dumb somethings, just somethings that made someone mad.

Many people have things they want to win an election to work for. But the best political advice I ever heard is that you must have something you'd be willing to lose an election over.

This blog isn't that something. Nor, necessarily, are all the substantive comments in it. But the dream that lively, honest intra-party debate is possible - that might be it.

Googleability be damned. It's my blog, and I'll post if I want to.

A Primer On 3 Current Proposals: Part 2

The belated second installment of our series on redistricting reform proposals:

2.) SCA 3

  • Overview: Adds Section 23 to Article IV of the California Constitution to create the Citizen's Commission on Boundaries and Accountability comprised of seven member appointed by various legislative leaders, the Governor, Judicial Council, and UC President. Amends Article XXI of the California Constitution to vest in the Commission the authority establish and adopt plans for new districts (by 4/7 vote). Does not substantially amend current district specifications. Provides for Commission creation in 2010.
Who holds the colored pencils?

The Citizen’s Commission on Boundaries and Accountability, a seven member body serving 3-year terms. No two members can be from the same county (that’s 2 Sacto, 2 LA, 2 SF, and a San Diegan – why couldn’t they all be from different counties?), all must be California voters registered with either the same party or with no party for the 3 years preceding appointment, and each must commit to being honest, independent, and impartial – but no mention of consequences for failure to do so. Commissioners cannot have been elected officials (note: or candidates), party officials, registered, paid lobbyists, or officers in a candidates’ campaign committee for 3 years prior to service. There’s also a Michael-Berman-Need-Not-Apply clause added to this version of SCA 3 baring anyone with a familial or financial relationship from service.

Commissioners face a short 3-year prohibition from pursuing public office or registering as a paid lobbyist. (Question: how many unpaid lobbyists are there?)

No more than 3 members can be of the same party. Four votes are required for action.

Who chooses them and how?

Here’s the question that garners this plan the most criticism. Commissioners are appointed by the Governor, the Speaker, the Pro Tem and Minority Leaders in each house, along with the Judicial Council and – ever my favorite – the UC President. Just ‘cause.

As with the MALDEF plan, SCA 3 includes language stating a preference for a racially, ethnically, culturally, and gender diverse commission “representative” of California.

When do they get to draw?

The Commission isn’t appointed until after January 1, 2010, so no mid-decade redraw under this proposal.

How do they have to draw?

SCA 3 amends Article XXI, Sec 1 of the Constitution, vesting the redraw with the Commission and establishing very few criteria by which districts should be drawn. The current version wisely eliminates the outdated and impossible requirement that districts be within plus or minus one person or seven persons in Senate and Assembly districts, instead requiring, wisely, deviations as equal as practicable and not exceeding federal standards. Districts shall comply with the US Constitution and the VRA (again, thank got someone’s protecting the supremacy clause). The plan requires compactness, contiguity, respect for geographic integrity, and that districts reflect “communities of interest” – a term SCA 3 defines no further.

Besides some notes on numbering the districts and letting some places keep their numbers, that’s it.

What are the major drawbacks? Benefits? Other fun trivia?

A lot of the drawbacks, we’ve covered already.

The major two, however, working in tandem, are the selection method and lack of process guidance.

While the MALDEF proposal’s selection methods border on the neurotically goofy, the relatively free rein given to appointing electeds here rightly causes reform proponents concern. Judges have their own issues, but at least that process is slightly randomized. Even MALDEF’s incomprehensible system of lists and pools adds a hint of expectation. We can pretty much guess these seven commissioners (all we know is none of them will be Michael Berman thanks to the page 5, line 14 addition).

Proposition 77’s district-specific language might not seem that much more specific, but legislation is an every-word-counts game. It has more words, and for the most part, better words, when it comes to laying out how its panel must construct districts. Even a few extra clauses help define the process. Most importantly, Prop. 77 includes a mandate that all incumbents’ residences be ignored. While willful ignorance is a tough assignment to a body certainly comprised of in-the-know people (remember, they’ve only got to wait 3 years on the bench and they’ll know their own addresses just fine), the results will be an immediate, healthy shake-up. Staffers in the legislature still mourn the absence of Fred Keeley – the poster child for who pays in incumbent-protection scenarios. Every provision we weave to bind the hands of line-drawers is one more stitch in the security blanket of a strong constitution. Under any plan, those in charge can really only mess up as far as we let them.

Prop. 77 clearly edges out SCA 3 in terms of process, but even it isn’t the best. We’ll get to the other options soon.

This proposal dances the lines around Bagley-Keene, but refuses to use the pre-existing open meeting law by name.

Also fun – proposed Sec. 23 (k) kicks challenged plans determined unconstitutional by the Supreme Court to . . . the Supreme Court, vesting in them the right to redraw and adopt a revised plan in accordance with the standards set forth in this proposal. So we could end up with court-drawn plans anyway – after wasting a lot of time and money on a politicized process that’s far from independent. In effect, the proposal codifies the 90s process.

And there’s a lot of other crap about town hall meetings, budgets, and fluffy stuff. Not sure why that needs to be included in a redistricting reform measure, but we’re not going to get into that part here anyway.

Next up: Communities of Interest, Units of Representation, and a Model Amendment . . . the third possible proposal.


Previously:
A Primer On 3 Current Proposals: Part 1
Following Up on the Redistricting Prop's Legal Snag
Great, Now We Can All Get Back To The Really Important Stuff
Add This One For Good Measure (The MALDEF Proposal)
Map Fights Might Be Starting Already
Athene's Op-Ed
Can't Hardly Wait
This Should Do Wonders For The Negotiation Process

New Blog Name Of The Week

The new unofficial Web log of the Log Cabin Republicans of California is called, naturally, Blogcabin California. Well done.

Welcome - I may not really understand how you can be gay and part of the Republican party (maybe the CRP, but certainly not the RNC) - but I do respect those who try to change an organization in which they believe from within.

This Should Do Wonders For The Negotiation Process

Guess who wants in on the redistricting litigation?

I tend to side with the proponents - not necessarily on the substance yet, but on the idea that 77 shouldn't get tossed. Though the continued reference to initiatives as "the will of the people" doesn't win them much favor from this blog.

Legislative leaders Nunez and Perata certainly have an interest in the outcome of this suit, however it remains unclear to me why they should be allowed to - hell, why they should want to - intervene. File an amicus brief, guys, and wait out the storm. It's far from certain on whom this suit's fallout will rain anyway.

It's a dumb gamble - and plays directly into Schwarzenegger's hands. This is a PR guy's dream. Nunez and Perata should've stayed out of it, continued to work on the legislative compromise, and secretly cheered Lockyer on.

I don't see how they win this hand.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Waylaid By Tech Issues. Again

I owe you more redistricting material. And more posts generally. As ever, I beg your patience as I iron out some technical issues and outside obligations.

High Court Representation Issues

Something to watch - in keeping with our recent discussions about the merits of a diverse bench:

Dems Float Names of Hispanics for Court

Monday, July 11, 2005

Mmmm, Fractals . . . .

L.A. Observed posts on LA-based Institute for Figuring and a Cornell math researcher who knits tangled geometric concepts for illustrative purposes.

Makes me think of that time in college I scored a very geometrically pleasing A in a lit class with a paper on fractal geometry and comic theory. Oh yeah, I'm that good. And I love me some math.

Can't Hardly Wait

Via The Roundup:

If you thought you'd have to wait until after November 8 for initiative litigation - think again. Late Friday saw AG Bill Lockyer file (or announce his intent to file, since I can't find much more coverage on the complaint) a suit intended to block Proposition 77 based on language discrepancies.

The suit should also helps establish Lockyer's name in his bid for Gover . . . . wait, I mean, for Treasurer.

Back to the snark-free, substantive discussion: Those of you who read Rick Hasen's Election Law Blog post about the substantial compliance doctrine might recall that fairly recent case law has construed the doctrine narrowly - employing it to save "emphasis" errors rather than "information" errors. Since the policy behind carefully tailored, full-disclosure, non-dodgey petitions is to prevent the hoodwinking of voters, the courts have routinely refused to use the substantial compliance doctrine to cure substantive defects affecting a petition's informative function. It has been used to allow petitions printed in the wrong font size to proceed.

At root is a voter's ability to intelligently exercise the right to vote, according to a 1934 case - an idea reaffirmed in a 1999 case: ""The law is clear that election officials have a ministerial duty to reject initiative petitions which suffer from a substantial, as opposed to a technical, statutory defect which directly affects the quality of information provided to the voters."

In a side-by-side comparison, the differences between the version submitted to the AG and the one circulated to Californians are few and relatively minor - sorta. I say "sorta" because most people would, in fact, think there's not much of a difference between a body being tasked with "selecting" judges and on tasked with "nominating" judges. But you lawyer and nitpicky political types know and love/loathe the fact that such a word can carry the promise of months of litigation and policy review. There are also chunks of differing text in Prop. 77's findings and declarations. While these statements of policy aren't binding, they can provide valuable guidance to jurists interpreting a measure, especially if the questionable provisions lack sufficient ambiguity to allow consultation with outside sources.

Hasen thinks the proposition could get bounced and he's probably right. It would be a small but significant change in the doctrine's application were it allowed to smooth over substantive changes in language - no matter how seemingly insignificant or innocent they might be.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Athene's Op-Ed

The SF Chron runs an op-ed on an oft-ignored aspect of redistricting reform by Athene in California's Heather Barbour.

Her argument: that redistricting reform is swell, but until we increase the number of legislators, Californians still won't be adequately represented. With Senate districts currently housing over 800,000 people - larger than congressional districts and larger than the populations of many states - it's a compelling argument.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Map Fights Might Be Starting Already

The latest article on potential legal action to keep Prop. 77 off the ballot due to discrepencies between initiative language submitted to the AG and that circulated for signatures mentions no cause for blocking the measure except for the language difference.

I mention this only because a commenter (or commenters) have twice mentioned that petition signatures had used the petition version's language implying line-drawers only need to consider voters (not all residents as is legally required, duh) to convince signers in conservative areas to sign on to the proposal.

I've yet to see any coverage of those allegations. But I invite anyone with links to pass 'em on up to the front of the class.

Again, some of the difference could certainly be found material. And, legally, I don't believe there is any burden to prove a petition signer was actually fooled by bait-and-switch action - it's enough that they might reasonably have considered the information important in . . . wait, I was about to bust the materiality standard for securities law, but it's probably close . . . .

Previously:
A Primer On 3 Current Proposals: Part 1
Following Up on the Redistricting Prop's Legal Snag
Great, Now We Can All Get Back To The Really Important Stuff

Actually It's Not Their Meeting

A town council in Washington State banned the words "Wal-Mart," "big-box stores" and "moratorium" from being uttered at council meetings. Don't worry, the ACLU is on it already, natch. But check out the city attorney's comments:

The ban began because council members were fed up with complaints about the proposed superstore and related demands for a moratorium on big-box stores, municipal attorney Brent Dille said. He said officials also didn't want to appear biased if the council ever hears appeals in the matter.

"It's the council's meeting. They can decide what they want to hear and what they're tired of hearing," Dille said. "You can understand if you're barraged for two months at meetings — the same people saying the same thing."
I'm no expert in Washington State Law, but my gut tells me that though the council would have vast parliamentary-based discretion over whom to recognize at meetings, blanket prohibitions of entire subject areas might be, shall we say, overreaching. And it's the council holding the meeting, sure, but I'd also bet it's more of the town's meeting, right? Serving at the pleasure of the voters and all . . . .

List Me Under The 84%

Former guestblogger DT sends some happy news our way: only 16% of Calif. households can afford a home.

I already knew I couldn't afford one anytime soon. Good to know I'm in good company. Or poor company.

Hey, there's always interest-only loans right? Someone is out there who will give credit to anyone. Fabulous way to build an economy, no?

Caved

To Mozilla's Firefox. It was the allure of tabs that did it. And the feeling that I just wasn't nerdy enough these days.

I'm just trying it out now. There's on Google Toolbar per se, but there is a google search fiedl and I was able to download a right-click-reachable "BlogThis" button, which is really all that matters.

Hey, the little fox is cute. And IE is evil - or so I've been told.

Add This One For Good Measure

Or fair to poor measure, as the case may be.

Breaking from our planned 3 part series on current redistricting proposals, we turn our attention to the latest "model redistricting act" brought to us by MALDEF, WCVI, APALC, and California Common Cause. Click here to view their proposal.

At first blush, this seems to mimic, yet miss, traditional legislative writing. There are, of course, many ways to improve upon the current use of language in legislation - this proposal refuses to do so. We'll give them credit for trying - and LegCo would clean it up, were any member to introduce it. In the meantime, however, the plan includes numerous ambiguities, redundancies, and probably some basic mistakes.

Borrowing from the analytical structure with which we view the others (and again, leaving aside the findings sections):

Who holds the colored pencils?

A nine-member Independent Redistricting Commission which "strive[s] to reflect the geographic, racial/ethnic, and gender diversity of California's population." The proposal lists 8 or so prohibitions and restrictions on who is eligible to serve as well as what those chosen are prohibited from doing after their service. On the plus side - this plan is the first to prohibit Commissioners' pursuit of public office for a full ten years after their service. That same subsection, however, seems to prohibit Commissioners' service in an elected or appointed position in any political party. (Section 2(b)(1)(G)) Or it might be excepting that service (poor construction, guys). If it is, as I suspect, just a poorly sequenced prohibition, I'm not sure it's legal. Something about freedom of association or something, I don't know. It's fine to have the prohibition running in the reverse direction - that no current party chairman, etc, can be a Commissioner - but a ten year prohibition on civic engagement? I dunno . . . . The proposal does give consequential teeth where other plans would gum dishonest Commissioners: Section 2(b)(2) requires Commissioners to sign a statement swearing to be good guys "under penalty of perjury." And laws ain't nothing without a remedy.

Who chooses them and how?

Would-be Commissioners file applications with the FPPC (who will no doubt be thrilled to deal with the administration and associated costs of this process). They also must conduct a "facial review" to determine if the applications meet the eligibility requirements. (At this point "facial review" should set off alarms in the heads of term-of-art lovers everywhere).

Here's where we have some fun.

The Speaker gets to nominate 5 from the pool of applications received by the FPPC. They have to reflect California's diversity (at this point, we can turn "spot the potential causes of action" into a drinking game). The Speaker must hand the list of 5 back to the FPPC "along with any supplemental information he or she [that'd be nice, wouldn't it?] has received from the nominees." Uh, when did the nominees get to give supplemental information to the Speaker? One section earlier we're told the FPPC "shall be responsible for receiving applications" (Sec. 2(d)) and now in Sec. 2(e)(1) we get a hint that extra credit assignments are available?

But wait - in subsections e(2)-(5) the Pro Tem, both Minority Leaders, and the Governor all get to nominate 5 people from the same pool (with the same supplemental information) BUT THEIR NOMINEES MUST ALL MEET SEC. 2(b)'s ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS. Oh we know, we know, drafting error, right? Or is it. A court would look at that, and under basic canons of statutory construction, the would seek to give weight to the thing as written and could allow the Speaker to squeak by anyone he wants. No, fine, they would probably construe the eligibility requirements back into his subsection too. But really, no one proof reads anymore? (Those of you about to post comments listing the typos in this post, save it, you aren't that funny).

Just for kicks, Sec. 2(e)(6)(A) lets the Judicial Council nominate 10 names from a pool of retired California federal or state judges it has received from the FPPC (note to FPPC: hey, make a pool of retired judges. or does this mean make a pool from retired judges who might've self nominated? is this all retired judges? willing or not?). Dems and Reeps must be equally represented among no more than 8 nominees. The other nominees must be from a 3d party or no party at all.

Here's where my eyes cross. Everyone have their limes and salt ready?

In Sec. 2(e)(6)(B) (which is improperly formatted in the document, or it's an improperly numbered subpart to (6)(A)), the Judicial Council gets to nominate another 10 people who were "endorsed by non-partisan organizations [501(c)(3)s] . . . whose mission statement as written in their by-laws, or similar document, reflects that they are dedicated to addressing the needs of traditionally under represented populations protected under the Voting Rights Act . . .and the Help America Vote Act . . . from the list it has received from the FPPC." (Hey, FPPC, did you hear that part too?) "Applications with endorsement from a broad array of qualifying organizations shall be given greater weight."

We have just entered legislative fantasyland. And there's something in the back of my mind about race-conscious policy . . . what was that? Down there at the bottom? (And yeah, this would be a constitutional amendment. Which means if it might be in conflict with Prop 209. You know how those get settled, right, if they were both enacted by initiative? If the offending sections can't be severed, you validate the last-in-time.)

Oh, we're so not done yet.

If any of those legislative or horseshoed slowpokes don't get their names in on time, they forfeit their picks to the Judicial Council who names 5 replacement nominees (no, it doesn't say per late bird, just says 5 period) from the remaining nominees described in (e)(6)(B).

Hiccup.

Psst, FPPC, sorry we can't put all your duties in one place, but you also need to make all those applications public (addresses and phone numbers redacted, of course. Email? Doesn't say, yikes!) under (e)(7)(A).

And Sec. 2(e)(7)(B) has our weary FPPC selecting the 9 Commissioners at random from the submitted nominees - that's from a pool of anywhere between 25 and 45 people. No more than 3 can be from a political party. And one each must be from the Speaker, Pro Tem (note: deduct 2 points for the proposal's use of "Pro Tem" instead of Pro Tempore. I can say Pro Tem, but I'm a blogger), each houses' minority leader, and the Governor. Two each must be from the Judicial Council's two pools in (e)(6)(a) and (e)(6)(b). Or maybe they could even come from (e)(6)(A) and (e)(6)(B) pools.

Dunno what happens if those legislative leaders or the governor forfeits his/her nominees, though. Who wants another shot?

And - if you can follow it: The partisan balance math works in very interesting ways. If the Legislative Majority uses its control over the Judicial Council - and it's hard to imagine that it won't - the JC can avoid the "random" drawing. Because there have to be 3 Dem, 3 Reep, and 3 Indy on the Commission, and because the Legislature will name 2 Dem and 2 Reep, and the Gov must name and Indy, from the JC's pools of retired judges and 501(c)(3) names the JC knows that 2 Indy, 1 Reep, and 1 Dem will be named. The JC can kill the Commission by simply not naming any Reep's or by not naming any Dem's (unlikely but possible), or it can guarantee that its Rep and Dem top picks will be on the Commission by only naming 1 of each (or, similarly, guarantee that its 2 Independents will be chosen by only naming 2 Independents).

When do they get to draw?

I don't know - sometime within 53 days of the release of data or March 1st or when they're ready? After the litigation settles on the 8 million litigable provisions so far? Oh - not right away, if that's what you're asking. After the 2010 census.

How do they have to draw?

Districts must be drawn according to a list of goals in Sec. 4(a). No goal can supercede (a)(1) which says districts shall comply with the US Constitution and the VRA. Phew. I really thought the supremacy clause was in jeopardy there for a minute. And the plan "shall neither disperse nor concentrate minority populations protected under the Voting Rights Act in a manner that has an adverse effect on their political influence."

Okay, sort of clear, but it jumbles VRA law a bit.

Sec. 4(a)(2) which may no supercede (1) but of course does under federal law as I understand it, mandates population equality. Also required: geographic contiguity, nesting (though more clumsily worded than in Prop. 77 - and it includes "except where to do so would violate the VRA" language which would be the case even without the clause), lines should use visible geographic features, and compactness.

Sec. 4(a)(5) is almost good: it mandates respect for communities of interest, defining them as including, but not being limited to "shared socio-economic status characteristics, language needs, [and] educational attainment levels. Communities of interest shall not [sic] be defined as a person or group's presence in a particular district or representation by a particular legislator.

Just like there's no crying in baseball, there's also no italicizing in legislation.

And Sec. 4(b) allows party registration and voting history data to be used by consultants and experts hired by the Commission to "test maps for compliance with the goals set forth in [Sec. 4(a)]." Hmmm. Political party may or may not constitute a "community of interest," but it can be used to test for their preservation. Just let that roll in your noggins for a big. The section also disallows consideration of incumbents' residence. That part is good.

There are also several sections on transparency, public access to documents, and meeting schedules. All important, all good. Largely covered by the Calfornia Public Records Act and Bagley-Keene. There's also a section providing for redistricting centers throughout the state - DIY stores for the gov nerd in us all. Speaking of nerd, Sec. 5(a)(3) actually uses the phrase "fully operational," which should be correctly read in the voice of the Emperor.

And at every turn is the mandate to promote, protect, and publicize compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act, which, again, is always required by law anyway. Unless it's allowed to sunset, as it is currently set to, in 2007, of course.

And there's funding language, and standing and jurisdiction language that I might discuss later.

What are the major drawbacks? Benefits? Other fun trivia?

Pro: Boon to election litigators everywhere.
Con: Boon to election litigators everywhere.

This plan's heart is in the right place. Sadly, however, their drafting pencils were not. The ambiguities, likely conflicts with existing state and federal law, and relative shady nature of Commissioner selection make this proposal hard to love. I know many readers will continue to disagree with my views on the importance of a symbolically representative redistricting body, but such is life. There are good things in the plan: no mid-decade redistricting, the ten-year prohibition on running for office. But they should be incorporated into a different framework - this one just has too many problems.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Stag Campaign News: St. Louis Update

Thanks to Mark Mehringer:

Breaking schmooze: From Oval Office to St. Louis County Council?
By Deb Peterson
Of the Post-Dispatch
07/06/2005

RIDING THE Z-TRAIN: Big names are lining up behind a relatively new name on the Democratic scene -- Jake Zimmerman. Zimmy, as he is affectionately know, is laying tracks for a run at the St. Louis County Council seat now occupied by Kurt Odenwald. The Clayton High grad is former deputy chief legal counsel to ex-guv Bob Holden and former assistant attorney general to Jay Nixon. He even has a modest national profile, having interned for Bill Clinton in 1996 -- an interesting time in the Oval Office. Young Zimmy, who celebrated birthday No. 31 this week, is getting support from the barristers at his current employer, top-shelf law firm Thompson Coburn, including former Sen. Thomas Eagleton. Word is that Zimmerman already has raised more than $80,000 for what is expected to be a pricey election in '06.


Remember - checks can be sent to:

Citizens for Jake Zimmerman
c/o Molly McCoy
421 Jackson Ave.
University City, MO 63130

Contirbution limit is $600 per person.

A Primer On 3 Current Proposals: Part 1

So, regular readers know that redistricting reform is a favorite topic here at Phoblographer*. Not only has the site featured regular posts on the subject, but I have at least marginally more direct experience with the mechanics of independent commission redistrictings because I had a very, very small role in the Arizona independent commission process in 2001. More fortunately, however, I have the pleasure of knowing people who know the process and the policy very well, who have worked in the area for anywhere between 10 and 30+ years. Therefore, having duly appointed myself expert-enough for purposes of blogging on the topic, here's the long promised overview and comparison of the two current proposals: the Ted Costa initiative (newly dubbed Proposition 77) and the Legislature's SCA 3.

Caveats: For purposes of this discussion, I'm going to focus on the mechanics of the redistricting proposals, rather than the findings and declarations language (which still has the potential to be important in litigation). Also, for SCA 3, I will largely ignore the several sections of superfluous, um, stuff currently in the bill. Versions considered here are current as of July 7, 2005 (the most recently amended version of SCA 3 and Prop. 77 as it is available from the AG's website - potential court challenges notwithstanding).

First up, the already-qualified, Schwarzenegger support, Ted Costa initiative.

1.) Proposition 77

  • Overview: Amends Article XXI of the California Constitution to vest redistricting authority in a 3-member Special Masters panel comprised of retired judges. Adds more detailed district requirements mandating continguous, compact, nested districts which conform to existing political subdivision boundaries. Disallows consideration of effects of new plan on incumbents, political parties. Provides for redistricting within 20 days of enactment.
Proposition 77's operative language directs a panel of Special Masters to adjust the boundary lines of Senatorial, Assembly, Congressional, and Board of Equalization districts in accordance with the proposition's standards and provisions. (Prop 77, Sec. 1(a))

Who holds the colored pencils?

A panel of 3 retired judges. Special Masters shall pledge not to pursue elected office in Senate, Assembly, Congress, and BoE districts they adjust. They are pledge not to accept state public employment or public office [presumably this means appointment to public office] for 5 years. Exceptions exist for judicial employment, judicial office, or a teaching position. There is no provision defining the pledge or the remedy for its violation. (Prop. 77, Sec. 1(c)(2)(B))

Who chooses them and how?

The Judicial Council selects 24 judges by lottery from retired judges "willing to serve" as Special Masters. The pool can include state and federal judges who have never held political party office or partisan public office, have not changed their party affiliation (voter-reg-wise) since their initial appointment or election to office nor received income in the last 12 months from basically anyone or thing affiliated with the offices whose lines they are about to draw. No more than 12 of the 24 drawn can be from the same party and Dems and Reeps must be equally represented in the pool. (Prop. 77, Sec 1(c)(2)(A)

From the pool of 24, the Speaker, Pro Tem, and Minority Leaders from both houses nominate 3 judges from the opposite political party for appointment. Double nominating is not allowed. The four nominators each have a single preemptory challenge they may exercise against another legislator's nominees.(Prop. 77, Sec. 1(c)(2)(C),(E))

From the 12 remaining judges, the Chief Clerk of the Assembly (that'd be E. Dodson Wilson for the foreseeable future, a man universally loved) draws 3 judges by lot. Provisions exist for securing at least one Dem and one Reep Special Master. (Prop. 77, Sec. 1 (1)(c)(F))

When do they get to draw?

Within 20 days following the Proposition's enactment, the Legislature must appoint the Special Masters so they can adopt a redistricting plan for use in the next set of statewide primary and general elections and until the next required redistricting per the proposition's provisions. Practical effect: If this passes on November 8, by November 28 the Legislature must set the Special Masters selection wheels in motion and by June 2006 we would have new districts. (Prop. 77, Sec. 1(b)).

After the initial redraw, the Special Masters must be appointed by January 15 of the year following a census - in other words, by January 15 of years ending in "1."

How do they have to draw?

Some of the proposed guidelines are already mandated by federal constitutional, statutory, and case law: that district population be as nearly equal as possible, deviating only to the extent allowed by federal law; that districts shall comply with the federal Voting Rights Act; that they follow basic principles of contiguity and compactness.

Section 2(c) mandates a return to nested districts, meaning 10 adjacent Senate districts comprise a BoE district and 2 adjacent Assembly districts comprise a Senate seat. Wonder why that’s important? Ask Johann Klehs, Ellen Corbett, and John Dutra. And their staff. And the state party. Or if you prefer to watch party leadership eat its young and fine legislators knock each other off thus reducing the overall strength of the body, then don’t champion nested districts. Your call.

Section 2(f) is the meatiest of the district requirements demands attention to city and county geographic boundaries with specified language on the hierarchy of political subdivision preservation.

As with the other requirement subsections, this one may not spell it out in big letters, but it’s longer than what we have now, and the addition of even a few words of guidance can vastly alter the implementation and – in this litigious state – the outcome of judicial review of a plan.

Also, Section 2(i) demands willful ignorance of incumbents’ addresses. This means no incumbent protection – it’s the “I Can’t See You!” provision that can result in a one-time scramble for prime real estate. For the first cycle, there may be the same kind of power struggle we see with non-nested districts, after that, however, it will even out. If memory serves, the Arizona plan moved at least 5 legislators into the same district. Sucks for them – but the overall plan was great for their constituents.

What are the major drawbacks? Benefits? Other fun trivia?

Prop 77 contains plenty of contingency plans for vacancies, lotteries that draw an all Reep or Dem panel, etc. Sec. 1(e) applies specified gift restrictions to the Special Masters and requires them to file a Form 700.

At least one commenter expressed concern over shady lawyers exerting influence on hapless old judges, but any attempt to do so would have to be conducted in public since Sec. 1(f)(1) subjects the Masters to the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act (Gov. Code Secs. 11120-11132). Contrast this with the open meeting requirements in the Legislative proposal, below. This proposition also includes an additional mandate that the Masters establish procedures restricting ex parte communications from the public and the legislature on the merits of any plan.

Section 1(g) provides that the lines become effective after unanimous approval by the Masters and adoption by California voters at the next statewide election as provided for in Sec. 1(h). This voter-approval requirement is a bit clumsy. Given California's recently renewed initiative fervor, what's to prevent interests banding together just to cause trouble and dissuade ratification of the new maps? Then again, they already can and do file lawsuits that still hamstring the process. At least this gives a nod to the direct-democracy-delusional out there who still think initiatives represent the "will of the people."

If the people bounce the plan, we call a mulligan and start the whole game over again.

Most of the criticism lobbed at judge-based plans centers around a reluctance to automatically conclude that judges are impartial by virtue of their jobs. I completely agree: judges aren't removed from political pressure or partisan interests. One argument was that the only judges who would volunteer for this gig are the ones crooked enough to game the process or be gamed by it. The selection process, however, seems to be sufficiently randomized after the initial self-selection stage to protect against really gung-ho jurists getting their way. Plus, frankly, one would hope the interested judges are interested because they know a bit about the area of law. California has plenty of Voting Rights Act and federal law considerations that some expertise is a good thing. On the other hand, modern redistricting can be done largely by machine and with Prop. 77's tighter district requirements, their legal wiggle-room for boundary antics is severely limited.

The other major criticism seems to be that judges are old, white men. And pejoratively so at that.

Again, the safety mechanisms here are in both the selection and execution mechanisms. Additionally, though it didn't satisfy some commenters here, this process is intended to last for at least 10 redistrictings. It will only take 2 or 3 more to radically alter the make-up of the bench given current law school trends. And no, that's not to long to "wait." It is, however, too soon to artificially much with undeniable demographic trends.

The additional benefits of this plan will become clearer when we move on to Part 2: The Legislative Proposal. Stay tuned!

More Cali Blogs

The California College Democrats add a new blog to their site redesign. Besides posting on various interest items for College Dems and state political happenings generally, they're also looking for bloggers . . . .

Also stumbled on this site, apparently around since March of this year, called California Democratic Majority located at flackattack.blogspot.com. Subtitled "a project of the California Democratic Party," the site's posts are all authored by Roger Salazar and Andrew Acosta from, I would presume, Sacramento campaign management/public affairs firm Acosta Salazar. I don't know much about the outfit or the blog, but I give an immediate 10 points for an amusing top ten list. Of course, I deduct an immediate 10 points for linking to wonkette (note absence of linkage here). Fortunately, they're back in the plus column again for linking to this ultimate political commentary and analysis site.

Yes, flattery and linkage will get you everywhere here . . . .

Not sure exactly where this blog fits into the greater CDP talking points strategy - clearly it's on-message, but I haven't seen it promo-ed much. When I think CDP and Blog, I think Bob's Blog. Some more net-snooping is probably in order. Of course, since it looks like they read this site, maybe the answers will pop magically into my inbox.

I think it's about time to include a better set of sidebar links to California political sites. Look for that to come soon . . . .