Friday, September 30, 2005

Look Out Below!

If you're wondering where the action is lately - it's down in the comments sections of the recent redistricting, Rose Institute posts. There will be more posted material soon as well, but in the meantime, have fun with the banter.

Update: No really, this post has 19 comments. And they aren't short. We haven't seen audience participation like this since caption contest days (entries for which were tragically lost in the great comments-server fall of '05). Granted, it's mainly a back-and-forth, but still. Yikes!

A [insert profession] Is About To Meet His Match

Amber takes issue with today's movie trailers and the pretentious AmEx ads airing before them.

I happen to think the Kate Winslet one is clever. The DeNiro one is a bit pained, but then again, what do you expect?

Amber's main complaint is that trailers give away the film nowadays. That certainly seems to be true, though, one fun feature of many of today's mostly special-feature-less older films on DVD is that they at least include the original theatrical trailers. As it turns out - they give away every bit as much, just slower, with fewer cuts, and usually with less music. Often, too, trailers seem more informative if you see them AFTER the film, when you know where the scenes fit. I do agree that there's little more annoying than a clever trailer using scenes that never make it to the film, though.

But the linked treasure of Amber's post is a truly inspired, let's call it, re-imagined trailer for a well known film. Click through - trust me, you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Repugnant

All parties, in all ways.

This OC Weekly story made it to my inbox addressed to my CYD leadership address. I'm guessing because of it's "gotcha GOP" themes. It's always fun to watch your opponents fail in a presumably extra-hypocritical way, isn't it?

But this piece's opening is so rife with conflated homophobia/pedophilia issues, so prurient and disgustingly partisan, it's hard to know where to start. That the centerpiece is likely guilty of molesting a 14-year-old initially takes a back seat to the fact that - get this - this guy is friend with Scott Baugh! I KNOW.

What the hell the two things have to do with one another I don't know, except that high ranking party officials should not keep their friends or enemies that close, apparently. See if you can keep your lunch down while the reporter sneers about the subject's stuffed animal collection. He also implies that the OC GOP is where "only open homosexuality is discouraged" - meaning the GOP has no problem with closet cases or child molesters - the two being clearly and unarguably related.

Even if his GOP leadership friends knew of his homosexuality, why would they suspect him of picking up high schoolers?

Shame on the OC Weekly. Shame on the writer. Shame on the subject of the piece, to be sure - but liberal high-horse ridership isn't more attractive than the GOP's.

Foul.

Triple-Dog Dare

The Rose Institute issues a press release today effectively daring Prop. 77 opponents to call UC Berkeley and USC fronts for the Republican Party.

Let's see if anyone bites.

Update: Here's the full report.

Dreier, DeLay, And Da 'GOP's Soul'

A Business Week article shows the GOP is also willing to eat its young to preserve likely albatross issues:

Hastert also met personally with the House's No. 3 Republican, Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), and with Representative Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Blunt's deputy whip, in the weeks leading up to the indictment to prep for what might happen if DeLay was forced to step down. Initially, says one source, Hastert leaned toward selecting Dreier to replace DeLay -- which would have bypassed Blunt, but sources insist no formal job offer was made. Still, in the first minutes after the indictment hit the newswires, Dreier's name was floated in the press as the likely anointed successor.

But when a rump group of conservative members saw the reports, they banded together to block Drier, who one aide grumbled "is not a true conservative." Among Dreier's faults, in the eyes of this group: The Californian's pro-trade stance and his votes going against conservative "litmus-test issues." He supports stem-cell research, and he opposes a Constitutional amendment against gay marriage.

UP THE BACK STAIRWAY. At a meeting in the Capitol basement, about 30 members of the conservative Republican Study Committee gathered to digest the fallout from DeLay's indictment. Led by Representative Mike Pence (R-Ind.), the group had defied their own leaders in denouncing the GOP's free-spending response to Hurricane Katrina just last week and were in no mood to take orders from the Speaker.

In the closed-door meeting at 1:30 that even key staffers were banned from attending, RSC members decided that they could not tolerate Dreier ascending to such a crucial slot, say inside sources. And even as DeLay was telling the media in a conference room overflowing with journalists that this had been "one of the weakest, most baseless indictments in American history," RSC leaders including Pence, Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), and Representative Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) were marching unnoticed up a back hallway to give their thoughts to Hastert.

By then, however, Dreier's ascension may have already been doomed. All across Washington, reps from conservative groups were flooding the Speaker's office with e-mail and phone calls opposing the Californian.
David Dreier - that crazy lefty from crazy lefty CMC! Dreier still has his very powerful post as Rules Committee Chair - and that's the reason his office released as guiding his desire to stay put. Rules Committee is no consolation prize.

But one wonders which Republicans secretly think their party is nuts for not using Dreier's surplus of charm, ability, and smarts to its advantage. The hushed reasons are many, but goofy.

On The Hometown Paper's Failing

From L.A. Observed, the best summation yet of the LAT's utter failure under Tribune control:

In today's New York Observer, Bruce Feirstein attempts to help Gothamites understand why on his block in upscale, literate Democratic-voting Hancock Park, only three of twenty homes get the Pulitzer-winning Los Angeles Times (four receive the N.Y. Times.) He lasers in on recently departed editor John Carroll.

He renamed the Metro section “California,” seemingly oblivious to the fact that while L.A., San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento may exist in the same state, they certainly don’t share the same state of mind. He presided over a book-review section that was arcane and impenetrable. (I know it’s anecdotal, but I used to look at it thinking, “If I’m not reading this, who in hell is?”) He ran a weekly column about life on the Upper West Side of Manhattan that, while well-written, seemed 20 years out of date. Nobody moans that you can’t get a decent bagel out here any more; the Brooklyn Dodgers have been here for half a century. It’s not that Angelenos don’t care about New York, but one had to ask: What value does any of this provide for our readers? What does it have to do with life in L.A.?

And then there was Carroll’s hiring of Michael Kinsley to oversee the editorial pages: a guy who didn’t live here and never moved here full-time. His remake of the weekend opinion section premiered without a single article about Los Angeles; he trivialized the editorial function by referring to it as the “Opinion Manufacturing Division”—seemingly unaware that in L.A., where election ballots run 40 pages long, the L.A. Times serves a vital, and serious, purpose in the community: People walk into the voting booth carrying the L.A. Times’ editorial page. But you’d have to live here, and vote here, to know that.

In short, the paper felt as if it was edited for Bill Keller and the Pulitzer committee rather than my neighbors.
Things may be getting better, the author opines. I'll give it some more time before deciding.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A Comments Request

Readers: lately, this site has enjoyed an increase in comment activity - which I absolutely love. Many commenters, however, default to the "Anonymous" option when posting comments. That's fine, you aren't required to reveal yourselves, though I still believe that signed opinions are stronger than those shrouded in mystery.

However, let me suggest a few alternatives that might help keep lines of argument straight.

First, you don't have to register with Blogger to leave a comment (as most have figured out, but some still seem to think they must). You can, however, register with blogger without needing to start a blog, and have a screen name of your own.

Or, even easier, you can click the "Other" option and just give yourself some initials or be "Anon45" or Donald Duck or whomever. With so many Anonymouses running around, things can get tangled up pretty quickly.

The only caveat: if you adopt a nom-de-blog, don't use someone else's real name. No real-life legislators or celebrities, etc.

Thanks!

The Road To Nowhere Is Paved With Potholes

Via The Roundup:

Sen. Tom Torlakson wants the governor to call a special session of the Legislature focused on rebuilding California's infrastructure. "Our leaders have said infrastructure is one of their top priorities," the Democrat from Antioch told the Times editorial board Tuesday morning. "Once the special election on Nov. 8 is over, we need to move forward and begin to restore the public's confidence in its government."

And what better way to do that than by telling the public you've got a bridge to sell them...
I seem to recall learning once that one of the first things to fall in Rome was the quality of their roads. I've always like Senator Torlakson - cool name and cooler commitment to physical fitness - and anyone fighting for infrastructure gets my vote. I don't think much will come of it. But lord and my car's suspension know we need it.

Breaking News: DeLay Out, Dreier In?

Texas grand jury indicts Tom DeLay.

The TV coverage I'm watching says Dreier's name has been mentioned as DeLay's replacement (I don't think the above linked article mentions that).

Dreier: big bad Republican - and yet, a Stag. Oh the conflict . . . .

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Johnson & Johnson & The Alliance For A Better California

While on the elliptical machine this morning, I happened to look up and catch an ad on the flat screen above me. In it, an attractive, wholesome young woman wearing an outfit implying here name is most likely Nan, checked on an elderly man in a hospital bed. When she looked at his bedside photos and keepsakes, she realized he was either a musician or music enthusiast, and gently placed his headphones on, allowing him some home comforts in the cold, sometimes scary world of hospitals and modern medicine.

The voice over - or, the close captioning, to be accurate - described nurses as caring, noble, necessary professionals. Seeing where this was going, I jumped on my conclusion mat and decided the Alliance folks must've just raked in some more dough because wow, was this a well produced commercial.

Imagine my surprise when the ad turned out to be from our friends at Johnson & Johnson, touting their Campaign For Nursing's Future. There were some other appropriately noble words as well, but I was so knocked back by my own reactions and conclusions to the ad (and pedaling so furiously at that point) that I didn't jot anything down. But as you can tell from the above link - and this one to the related site Discover Nursing - it's all huggy-feel-good corporate land here.

But what of California viewers like me, conditioned over an already long campaign season to equate nurses with "vs. Arnold?" The ad aired on between chunks of CNN Headlines News. Clearly, it was made for a national audience, but one wonders if the Johnson & Johnson folks have anyone on the ground in California to wonder what kind of political twinge California viewers might read into the advertisement.

Exhibit A:

Arnold is attacking California Nurses. Johnson & Johnson supports nurses. Johnson & Johnson must not like Arnold. I think that I, Democratic viewer (or other partisan-politics-hater), will buy some more band-aids or first aid creme today because Johnson & Johnson don't like Arnold and his nurse-attacking ways either.
Or

Exhibit B:
Special Interest and Public Enemy Number 1 California Nurses are playing politics with Californians in need of healthcare. Nurses are attacking reformer Arnold. Johnson & Johnson supports nurses. Johnson & Johnson must not like Arnold. I think that I, Republican (or other partisan-politics-hater) willy boycott Johnson & Johnson for sticking their no-good, national corporation nose into our states business and protest until they cease efforts to thwart the work of our reformer-hero governor. From now on, only
Curad Veggie Tales bandages in this house.
Granted, both exhibits are a bit of a stretch - but I'm not the only political junkie watching ads out there. In fact, I'd guess that CNN's advertisers are betting on the junkie eyeballs to some extent when buying time on Turner news networks.

Will the Johnson & Johnson ads have any bearing on California politics or on the success of Johnson & Johnson products and/or efforts to recruit good nurses? Probably not. But keep your eye out for the ads and see if you get tricked too. I may have planted a seed here now, but trust me, your fertile minds had already been sown.

[If anyone finds a link to the J&J commercial online, please paste it in the comments or email me. I didn't see one on the site, but I could've easily missed it. Here's a link to some Alliance commercials, though, just to get you good and primed.]

Just Possibly

'California Insider' blogger Dan Weintraub weighs in on the heated response to the Rose study. I'm not willing to go quite as far as Weintraub in supporting 77 as fair redistricting proposal (it is still flawed), but it's hard to arge that it is hated by partisans on both sides.

Two things his post bring up (somewhat by inference), however, are worth noting.

First, congressional opposition to redistricting reform can fairly be described as non-partisan. No federal elected wants to admit that states retain control over certain, key factors in their political lives. File this under "Federalism Schmederalism" ideals discussed earlier today.

Second, several papers/bloggers note the study's finding that were brother-of-Demo-redistricting-guru-Michael-Berman Congressman Howard Berman's SFV congressional district redrawn under 77, it would be a majority Latino district.

Few papers/bloggers push that statement further, other than to comment, as Weintraub dows, that Berman's current distrct was drawn to safeguard Howard - cracking the Latinos right out of the picture. The implication, of course, is that Berman couldn't carry the Latino vote.

Feel free to ponder the broader implications of this idea to representative democracy - Phoblog's other favorite topic.

This Is What Happens When We Skip Our Roundup Reading

As noted in the comments to this previous post, the Capitol is a-twitter reacting to the latest Rose Institute Report. The Roundup deems such a glut of redistricting info "a slow news day." Here at Phoblog, it's pretty much what we live for.

And, personally, the Roundup's highlights capture views from friends and former co-workers on both sides. No, really, it's nuts. And fun. Except for that "the Rose is a front for the GOP" talk. Granted, I made fun of my Reep-leaning coworkers for that all the time. But, as with most think tanks, it's a matter of one organization setting force policy proposals finding favor with one party over the other. It's a far different Institute than it was in the 80s, as well. For one thing, in the late 90s, it hired me - so, really, how GOP can it be?

It's not Heritage, guys. Not even close.

Getting My Parliamentarian On

I hope you appreciate the concentration required to spell my title correctly repeatedly.

This post is of interest to members of the California Young Democrats but probably no one else. So skip it if you're not CYD-affiliated.

We've got an E-board meeting this weekend. At the meeting we'll be amending the bylaws. Don't have your copy of the proposed changes yet? Tsk, tsk. Email me (parliamentarian at youngdems dot org) so you have then in advance. You snooze, you lose the right to object to changes on lack-of-notice grounds.

You have been warned.

::Resuming normal content now::

Brownie And The Blame Game

In an unanticipated turn of events, former (and I suppose he would take exception to anyone highlighting the "former" in this now meaningless title) FEMA director Michael Brown blames 'Dysfunctional' Louisiana for Katrina response disaster.

I'm sure that, although the AP and/or the Chron used "blame" in the headline, what they meant was "assigns responsibility," since the President and the administration, its minions and supporters, have repeatedly implored us to avoid playing the "blame game."

Brown said his "biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional." So the thing he'll cop to is not recognizing how crappy Louisiana was. Like people whose apologies consist of "I'm sorry you were bothered by my behavior/failure/actions/etc."

Blame has a place is governing - especially when government fails miserably, as it did here. There is also plenty of blame to go around, I'm sure. But I don't expect the administration - members current or former - to accept much of it sincerely. The hallmark of the George W. Bush years has been a lack of emphasis on responsibility. The buck stops somewhere far from this White House. And it's the buck's fault it did so stop.

No responsibility, no sacrifice - it's like all those Christian principles he espouses but without all those Christian principles. Neat!

Best Of Luck, Mr. Senator

Sen. Byrd to Run for Record Ninth Term.

If he loses, I quit.

Rose Institute and Redistricting Reform: Like Peas And Carrots

A new report from the Rose finds that districts drawn under Prop. 77 significantly increase competition, reduce each party's safe seats about the same, create new majority-minority districts, reduce county fragmentation, and increase district compactness.

The new districts also make julienne fries.

The report, which also highlights historical evidence of past mid-decade redistrictings, each having occured without bringing down the sky or either political party, is available here. Or for those of you with shorter attention spans, try the Executive Summary. Still too long? Fine, here's the 2-page press release.

A Bit More On Redistricting

Via the Roundup, an LAT piece on other states' efforts to reform redistricting:

"To some extent, the power to draw lines is more important than the power of voting," said Nathaniel Persily, a redistricting expert who is a professor of law and political science at the University of Pennsylvania. "The redistricting process is often more determinative of who wins elections than the voting in elections itself."

From California, where Proposition 77 would put redistricting in the hands of three retired judges, to Florida, where a circulating initiative would create a 15-member bipartisan redistricting commission, the usually arcane, once-a-decade process of redrawing districts to even out shifts in population is a hot political topic.

Besides ballot measures pending or in the works in California, Ohio, Florida and Massachusetts, bills to create independent or bipartisan redistricting commissions have been introduced in at least 12 state legislatures this year. In Congress, a Tennessee Republican introduced a bill to mandate independent commissions nationwide.
As to the first quoted graf above - duh. As to the second - 15 commissioners! Good luck, Florida! As to the third - more evidence of the new Republican mantra: Federalism Schmederalism.

There's not much in this article that hasn't been covered on this blog (Google "redistricting" within the site and knock yourselves out), but perhaps eventually the message will seep into the voting American consciousness. Note I said "voting." More voters might mitigate some of gerrymanderings ill-effects - at least a wee bit. That's even less likely to happen, however, than redistricting reform. One bonus: the piece quotes Phoblog contributor and Rose Institute consulting fellow Doug Johnson.

Go-to California soundbiter (well, the other one, Jack Pitney being the first and best) Bruce Cain links reform proponents with the fine folks who brought us campaign finance reform. If that isn't enough to send you screaming from a needed reform, I don't know what is, unfortunately.

There are, again, huge flaws with California's latest proposal, Prop 77 (even aside from the drafting errors stupidly committed by Ted Costa and his band of merry reformers): the mid-decade re-draw, the voter approval clause. But some of the Democratic push-back is unreasonable enough to help 77 pick up votes. No one should believe that the legislature, should they escape 77, will rush to act after having staved off another attack. And likening 77 to De Lay's Texas power grab is akin to casual Nazi charges - the world's most over- and inappropriately-used rhetorical device. Mid-decade redistricting is bad. But another bad decennial districting is worse. And it's not hard to imagine the re-draw being tied up in litigation long enough to make that concern moot anyway.

And speaking of redistricting . . . .

Monday, September 26, 2005

Women And/In Politics, Episode 852460

Via The Roundup, a Contra Costa Times article on the non-newsworthy topic of spouses seeking their S.O.'s former posts.

SACRAMENTO - When Laura Canciamilla decided to run for state Assembly, she knew she had at least one big thing going for her: Her last name.

The 59-year-old school administrator and member of the Pittsburg School Board has almost no government experience but she is married to Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla, who spent decades building his reputation -- and the Canciamilla name -- in Contra Costa County politics.

Joe Canciamilla will be forced out of the Assembly in 2006 by term limits after six years in office, and that's where Laura comes in.

"If not me, then who?" Laura Canciamilla said in a recent interview.

The refrain is becoming a common one among Assembly members' spouses, who are increasingly stepping forward to take over for a husband or wife, prompted in part, experts say, by term limits.
There's at least one husband coming up as well - Judy Chu's. But why so many spouses - c'mon, wives - taking the plunge?

Political analysts offer a variety of explanations. For one, the number of women pursuing political careers has swelled in recent decades, making female candidates commonplace and competitive in legislative races. Also, the constant turnover spurred by term limits makes name recognition a valuable commodity, as candidates often jockey among a field of unknowns for attention.

And, winning a legislative seat requires considerable money and support, which is easier to build with access to Sacramento's political players. Finally, many local officials who spent years building names as county supervisors or city council members moved onto the Legislature when seats opened up over the last decade, thereby emptying the bench, so to speak, of potential candidates with much experience.

Bruce Cain, a UC Berkeley political scientist who co-authored a study critical of term limits last year, said the rise of spouses seeking office is a logical, even if unforeseen, product of the measure.

"Being able to use a brand name, namely your husband's or wife's, is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in advantage," Cain said. "As a spouse, you are plugged into the network already. You know the people to raise money from and get endorsements from."
Yes, all that makes sense. And, from the sisterhood point of view, I suppose at least it's the wives and not the sons or brothers stepping into the new dynasties. And the article closes with Laura Canciamilla commenting on the "coattails" edge of the name-recognition sword. But is it wrong to fear - again, from the sisterhood point of view - that this becomes the way for women to get elected?

One commonly (well, common in some circles) cited unintended consequence of the intended term limits consequence was the depletion of the pipeline: the compiled ranks of qualified, eager woman candidates for state office. We had a bunch, we elected them, they served their time, and, whoops, we forgot to farm some more. Groups such as Emerge are working to fill that void. But while they (we, I'm an alumna from the first Emerge class) work to groom the next crop of women candidates, our current Democratic legislators aren't looking past the dinner table for their successors.

This isn't necessarily wrong.

But what comes next? Is the party's spousal support shortsighted? Does it leave every bit as unprepared for future legislators as we were when term limits opened the door for women to begin with?

There are no easy answers, of course, and there are about a thousand arguments and counter-arguments, all of which lead to messy, equally unanswerable questions on American attitudes toward gender and leadership. On this issue, its every gal for herself as we balance new cultural definitions of marriage, leadership, campaigns, representation, hierarchy, patriarchy, matriarchy, and good old fashioned political self-interest.

Damn Those Nerd Conventions

The one thing I picked up at this weekend's Webzine - aside from the confirmation that I may have a large share of the political nerd market yet a woefully small share of the tech nerd market - is a burning desire for new toys.

And I think I've found the first must have. It's tiny. It shoots movies.

It's orange.

Bleg: Movie Ideas

I don't bleg often, but sometimes one hits a wall and tossing the issue out to the 'sphere is the only thing that helps reach an answer.

I'm looking for films dealing with any of the following: the relationship between the press (media/journalism, preferably newer media) and the courts/legal system/American jurisprudence, etc; the changing attitudes toward the trustworthiness of the press; blogging - are there any films about blogging, or blogging-by-analogy yet?; federal regulations on campaign finance reform and public views about funding candidates; any movie, no matter how low- or high-brow touching on issues of the internet, MSM, blogging, journalism, media, trust, truth, and some healthy dosages of legal theory (either explicit or which you could layer on top, college lit course style).

In the alternative: I had to watch Adam's Rib recently for my Film & The Law class (say it with me now, 3.5L . . . .). The film hits its emotional boiling point as husband-lawyer-prosecutor Adam accuses wife-lawyer-defense-attorney Amanda of breaking the marriage contract basically by humiliating him in court. Adam's Rib, a comedy, of course has a satisfying, happy resolution. But immediately I started digging the shadowy corners of my mind for a film I saw sometime ago in which the husband, always supportive of his non-traditionally successful wife (like she's an attorney or business woman, or somehow pants wearing, etc) hit is breaking point and basically reveals that he actually wants more of a demure, traditional, skirted woman. It doesn't end well, he can't hack it, and they go bust. Or something like that.

Does that ring any bells with anyone or am I making it up?

You have until Wednesday morning to help me. Go.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Zines From The Zine

I am here this weekend.

Four things are clear each time I attend one of these hipster tech events in San Francisco:

1.) I am one of very, very few people without a Mac.
2.) At least I have a sexy little Vaio - seemingly the only accepted non-Mac notebook.
3.) Much like Democratic party politics, there is a very small universe of hipster tech blogging zinester insertpropertaghere people. And they all come to each event.
4.) I am soooooo a front-end user. Most of this stuff goes over my head. However, I did pick up a free copy of Make magazine and plan on creating my own VCR-cat feeder when I get home.

This world and the political blogging world are far apart. Or, more correctly, this world, and the mainstream, new media world are far apart. Suddenly, however, I have a burning desire to learn more about Linux, buy a video camera, and, oh yes, get an iPod Nano. Creepy.

For more on the event - check out Metroblogging San Francisco.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Skelton On 77

One I missed during my recent flu - a Skelton piece on why Prop 77 is crap, even though reform itself is still needed.

Some old points, a few new ones, mostly good - but not groundbreaking.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

On Languages - And Foolish Comments

Via L.A. Observed, this Times op-ed on American attitudes toward foreign language instruction and sadly, California-based linguistic intolerance:

SO MUCH FOR Santa Monica being ground zero for tolerance and progressivism.

Recently at a Whole Foods Market — itself supposedly a beacon of touchy-feeliness — a woman accosted my son Sebastian's baby-sitter for speaking to him in Spanish.

Sebastian, all of 11 months, was eyeing some fruit being offered for tasting, so Ursula asked him, "Quieres probar?" That's when this perfect stranger — let's call her Ms. Xenophobe — swooped in to impart her hateful ignorance: "You shouldn't speak Spanish to that child," she said, "I am sure that's not what the parents want."

She is sure, is she?

Such breathtaking impudence; if only I had been there to give this woman a piece of my mind.

It isn't just that the father of this blond child happens to be a blond half-Mexican, or my suspicion that nosy Ms. Xenophobe might not have minded so much if Ursula had been speaking to Sebastian in Swedish or German. What is most disheartening about the incident is how mainstream this woman's views are about the undesirability of American kids learning a foreign language.

This isn't a plea for immigrants to go about their business exclusively in their native languages. I am not someone who believes that you can be a full member of the American community without speaking English, which is why I have qualms about open-ended bilingual education.

But if it's important for immigrants to learn English in order to assimilate into our society, it's equally important for all Americans — regardless of their ethnicity — to be exposed to foreign languages in order to assimilate into the broader world.

And if people like Ms. Xenophobe think a blond child's command of English will naturally suffer if he is exposed to a second language, they underestimate the dexterity of a child's mind and human intelligence.
I was born into a family with the potential to grow up able to speak English, Spanish, and Italian. What'd I get? English. Grandparents can be softies, I don't blame them. If I needed to hire someone to care for my very young child, I'd prefer my child get the bonus of language instruction along with day care. And all American children - and their parents - should be ashamed that we can't speak any language but our own, nor do we seem to care to.

A great read.

Daily Reading Reminder

Though I haven't linked for a specific reason lately, just wanted to redirect attention to The Blog Formerly Known As Class Maledictorian, by fellow Athena, RISLOGER, friend, and blogger Amber Taylor - now an HLS grad and hard working clerk in a to-remain-unnamed city.

Consistently insightful and thought-provoking, Amber's links vary from feminist issues to discussions of the philosophy of love, marriage, and mating to politics to law to fun to everything in between. Her libertarian slant usually yields refreshing commentary and witty banter in the comments after her most energetic posts.

Give her a read.

How Do You Measure A Year?

Someone asked a while back if I'd do anything to mark election-related anniversaries as they came up. For the most part, I said, I wouldn't.

Except for the big ones.

And for me this particular Thursday, one year ago, was the biggest day of all.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

No Scoop For You!

[rimshot]

Capitol Weekly's Anthony York reports on the Governor's interesting treatment of California's various papers. SF, in. Fresno, sorta. San Diego? Oh, I'm sorry, are you, like, a big-boy city now? And LA? the Governor can't see you now, but you're free to post for photos under the big gold sign outside.

Make sure you check out the county dioramas in the hall.

(link via LA Observed)

Aww, Dammit

Well, there goes that avenue. There's always Song . . . .

And those DirectTV monitors - like, so not helpful in those kinds of situations, right? Wasn't there something, years back, about showing take-offs on the big screens that airlines kiboshed after a flight of folks watched, well, we can only imagine what they saw.

I suppose making a crack about tonight's premiere of Lost would be in poor form?

Sorry, gallows humor. Regular readers and friends of phoblog know I'm not so much for the flying machines.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

'Last Hahn Standing'

A profile in today's LAT on LA City Councilwoman Janice Hahn:

She lost races while her brother made the family proud with victory after victory. It felt like a repeat of all those times when they were kids, when her brother's report cards went up on display while hers got stuffed in a drawer

Now that has changed. Janice, 53, is the only Hahn in public office. With her down-home San Pedro folksiness [Ed's note: insert withering sigh here], she sees herself as the one charged with carrying on the family name and legacy — even if it means taking on Villaraigosa during his honeymoon with the city.
I wish her luck in taking on the new mayor. Based on the none-too-subtle rhetoric snaking its way into the LA Times, etc, it seems San Pedro may be made to pay for housing the ousted former Mayor Hahn. Meaning someone, or many someones, out there should take lessons on winning graciously. Politics is politics, I suppose. But this could still be one sh*tty situation for my hometown.

Good luck, Councilwoman Hahn.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Coke Diet, Diet Coke, Out On CA School Campuses

Citing a statewide obsecity epidemic, Schwarzenegger signed bills today to extend the school soda ban to high schools and raise nutritional standards in CA schools.

My inner runner, responsible adult says "good for you."

My inner child says "awww, man, c'mon, that sucks."

My inner pragmatist says the beverage companies shouldn't worry about losing money because they all make water, juice, and sports drinks - all of which are still allowed. And of course, frankly, many of those things are just as sugary as soda, but I guess the 5% fruit juice gives them the edge.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Meeting The Opposition, Head On

Tonight's opening round (well, not quite opening, but opening in the EIR process, sorta) in what will surely be a continuing saga of intra-San Pedro fighting went down with less of a bang and more of a whimper. That's not to say the meeting wasn't well attended, but the crowd was surprisingly well behaved - as well as well coordinated in its ill-informed opposition to Bridge to Breakwater.

In the grand tradition of public hearings, the strongest and best represented faction pushed an agenda I'll refer to as the "Opponents for Open Space." I inferred from many of their comments that these opponents haven't really lived in San Pedro that long. For them, preserving the status quo is key. That's fine - except they fail to realize those of us in favor of development are also aiming to preserve the status quo. Just an earlier one. San Pedro used to be everything they seem to be against: a destination with retail, restaurants, and attractions that made it one of the places you took out-of-towners - something to show off in Los Angeles.

(Yeah, Ports O'Call - no really, I feel you raising your eyebrows. Ask someone who's lived here 30 years or longer - they get it.)

Those opposing the plans presented at tonight's meeting, hammered on their constant plea for "more open space." More trees. More of a return to nature.

Which, they might be interested to learn, in our chapparal biome, doesn't really include trees. Or green grass parks. But no matter . . . .

And speaking of science:

The highlight of the meeting came from the mouth of a man claiming to be a biologist - a professor who teaches at 5 colleges (I'll have to find his name when the transcript is published, I didn't get it down). His complaint was the proposals failure to include input from Fish and Game people - that the Army Corps of Engineers is filled with bad scientists or non-scientists, or some form of scientist not as scientisty as he is.

His scientific contribution: People in Monterrey don't go to visit Cannery Row and the shops there, they go for the otters at the aquarium (they are cute, I went to see them, I can't argue). And in San Francisco, they visit Pier 39 for the seals there. So why can't we bring the otters and seals to San Pedro? And why haven't we talked about what to do with the mud on the channel floor? If the floor is covered with clams the otters (or did he say seals?) will come to eat them. And if you build a large concrete bald eagle - one bigger than the normal male eagle, the female eagles will be attracted to it. And then because it's not a real male, and now there's all these females around, the real males will come for the females and soon our sky will be filled with our great American symbol.

You think I'm making this up, don't you. I'll link to the transcript once it's available. But because I learned about pinnipeds working down at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, and because I paid attention during California history lessons, I cannot help but respond to his absurd ideas with a few quick facts. We used to have otters. We hunted them out (Spanairds, pelts, read Island of the Blue Dolphins). And at Pier 39, we have SEA LIONS. Not seals. Sea Lions have external ear flaps and a host of other characteristics that make them very, very easily distinguishable.

And this guy is a biologist who teaches at colleges? Five of them?

There were several people who were mostly for the project with a few concerns. Most were against the project. Two people were enthusiastically for the project: an older gentleman who said "build something already."

And me. Natch.

The woman who spoke before me said that we didn't need shops here in San Pedro because people don't need to come here to shop, they can shop where they are. My point exactly. They can shop where they are. And I can shop where they are. And she can shop where they are. But I can't shop here. I can't give my tax dollars to our economy. I can't conserve gas and save our roads and mitigate traffic by shopping local. When I have a family, my kids won't be able to work in San Pedro where I make my home. I won't be able to work where I live. I'll get to sit in traffic with all the other Angelenos to get to the office. Or to the shopping. Or to the restaurants.

One of the first speakers said the tagline for the waterfront development should be "Building a San Pedro for San Pedrans" not for tourists. The proposed San Pedro waterfront development is for San Pedrans. It's for us now and for our kids. Because the town will die as it is. It's already starting to. The kids - that'd be me - haven't a reason to stay or to come home. Why bother, the residents don't seem to want me or anyone else around. They want a park that, in 10 years, won't be watered because California will be bone dry. They want a park that gives little back to the community because the community will be shopping in Torrance or waiting for a table at an exciting restaurant in Santa Monica and then the community will be stuck in traffic trying to get home to San Pedro.

This is just the beginning of the process. If you're in favor of jobs, economic security, and yes, absolutely yes, park lands - acres and acres of park lands and open space - then speak up. Let the Port of Los Angeles know you want a better San Pedro.

All public comment for this round must be received by October 28. To comment:
  1. Attend the next Public Scoping Meeting on October 11, from 6:00 - 8:00pm at the LA Harbor Hotel, 601 S. Palos Verdes Street, San Pedro, CA 90731
  2. Mail your written statement to
    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Regulatory Branch and the Los Angeles Harbor Department c/o Dr. Joshua Burnam and Dr. Ralph G. Appy
    915 Wilshire Blvd.
    Los Angeles, CA 90017-3401
  3. Email both cequacomments at portla dot org AND joshua.l.burnham at usace.army.mil

More project information can be found here, here, and here.

Actually, 40 Years Of Experience Does Make You, Um, Experienced

Today's Letters to the Editor in the Daily Breeze featured a letter attacking, among others, my father as someone who - by inference - has done nothing .to make San Pedro a more beautiful place to live.

I guess the letter's author, Ms. Margaret Litman, has us there.

But Ms. Litman's ignorance doesn't start or end with that charge.

The thrust of her argument - part of the continuing town battle over our waterfront development - is that "living here for 40 years or more does not necessarily give anyone special wisdom or expertise." She names 3 San Pedrans and accuses them of resorting to "name-calling and scare tactics in their attempt to control the direction of waterfront development." Along with my father, Louis Dominguez, she names John Mavar and Mel Bobich.

I don't know Mr. Bobich. But I sure as hell know the Mavar name and to accuse that family - one of San Pedro's oldest and best known - of not also putting in long hours bettering the town is just foolish. And of course, my father has spent his entire life in this town serving it in some way. Ms. Litman is free to disagree with the views of those in favor of development, but when she cites others - those embracing "open space" - as the ones who have put in the real work, she goes too far.

I'm clearly biased. But I think 17 years of volunteer work to beautify the official welcoming monument of the City of Los Angeles demonstrates "tireless civic participation" and a "chief and only goal ... [of enhancing] the quality of life for all of us in San Pedro."

Those she lists as the true heroes of San Pedro - June Burlingame Smith, John Miller, and Noel Park - are in favor of keeping all (despite their faux willingness to compromise) of San Pedro's waterfront open space.

Get this straight: parks are great. Louis Dominguez, and I'm betting, John Mavar and Mel Bobich, love parks.

They, however, are fiscally responsible enough to know that parks cost money. Litman and Park (the only one with whose view I am familiar and thus on whom will comment) haven't noticed that it doesn't rain much in Los Angeles and park land doesn't tend itself.

They also seem to wish financial stagnation on our small port community. Why bring in tax dollars and visitors to our lovely town - money to support the parks that people will enjoy? I can't imagine why I'd want to develop our waterfront - lord knows I absolutely adore wasting time, money, and natural resources wearing and tearing local roads so I can give my tax revenue to Hermosa, Redondo, Santa Monica, Torrance, Long Beach, or any number of other smartly developed, popular destinations.

We're not looking to rebuild the South Bay Galleria on Harbor Blvd. We are looking to give jobs to San Pedrans. We are looking to find smart ways to capitalize on our natural assets and make San Pedro - Los Angeles's waterfront - the jewel is longs to be.

Litman closes her letter by correctly saying that a majority of residents support a waterfront "wish list" that includes areas of open space and parks. There Will Be Parks And Open Space. Get it? But that can't be all there is. Don't be fooled by Litman, Park, and a few others who make it seem like those who truly care about the economic viability - and community spirit - of our town want to remove every tree, bush, and shrub, and replace them with groves of Starbuckses. They want it all for open space. They misstate the position of their opponents loudly and repeatedly.

They don't speak for me. And they don't care about anyone but themselves.

Want to take action? There's an open house and public comment session this evening in San Pedro. Click here for more info and links.

Determining The D

TBD no more, reports The Roundup, as State Senator Joe Dunn has settled on (their language, not mine) running for state controller.

A big Phoblog congrats to Cal-Politics blogger Tim Steed who can now avoid much mocking by political-junkies for his boss's indecision.

To clarify, though, we here at Phoblog love player Joe Dunn, but we hate the game that forces good Democrats to run against each other (or perhaps we hate whatever it is that makes these men bust in on each other's turf. We love John Chiang too).

Joe Dunn was a big winner in the applause-o-meter at this summer's YDA Convention. Great speaker, good message, good presence. We wish him well now that he has chosen a race.

Well, Duh - But It's Nice To See It In Print

Capitol Weekly highlights the shift in Legislative clout to the Assembly - citing a "confluence of personal, political and structural factors [that] have led to the balancing of power between the two legislative houses."

Add to those factors that the Assembly's Fellowship Program is the oldest and most prestigious and it's easy to see why the green house is better. (Senate Fellow snarky emails arrive in 3 . . .2 . . .1 . . .)

Clearly, Senate Pro Tempore Don Perata's legal woes don't help him. But really, term limits but both houses in the same boat and cause members to swap back and forth - anything to stay in the business. How, then, could the Senate claim to be the "upper" house? (Which doesn't exist in California, but which they claim anyway). Save the confirmation power, I can't think of any legitimate difference between the two houses. Membership? Nah - both of 'em represent too many people, and the difference isn't comparable to, say, the United States Senate. And, of course, having been an Assembly staffer of various sorts twice now, it gets awfully tiring to see, hear, and feel the superiority bleeding out of the pink side of the building for absolutely no reason.

Face it, Senate, once John Burton left, you really kinda lost the badass cred.

The Weekly says:

Free from the legal clouds surrounding Perata, Nuñez has focused on opposing Gov. Schwarzenegger’s "year of reform.” The Speaker holds weekly press conferences and, among legislators, has taken the lead in opposing Schwarzenegger’s agenda, which has been the target of protests from teacher, fire fighter and nurse unions throughout the year.

"My boss is the type of person who doesn’t like to have a press availability unless he has something very specific to talk about,” says Perata spokeswoman Alicia Dlugosh, who adds that the ongoing FBI investigation "doesn’t impact our daily lives.”

"He is so media savvy. He is a sound-bite machine,” said Dlugosh. "But what would we talk about every week?”
I don't know, but Fabian Nunez sure seems to figure something out (owing in no small part, I'm sure, to the tremendously talented staff he has amassed.)

The article also correctly explains that it was Willie Brown's outting by term limits that shifted power to the Senate to begin with. It's the people and the circumstances, not the structure, that give a California legislative house the edge.

Berkeley's Bruce Cain opines that the Senate has weakened, as opposed to the Assembly strengthening. There may be some truth to that - but at the end of the day, it's term limits that have rendered the houses all but indistinguishable. Inexperienced frosh Assemblymembers will soon become Senators, remaining comparatively inexperienced to those who have come before them.

Fabian Nunez, by virtue of some good timing and the cooperation of former Speaker Herb Wesson, is able to stick it out in his post for longer than normal (in post-term-limits terms) - so he has more power to burn because he's in a stonger position. The article discusses the internal caucus politics of each house and its leader well, so make sure to read it.

But to sum up - two things give the Speaker the edge: term limits and one hell of a staff.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

AD53 Results

Congrats to newly elected Ted Lieu who, with 59.89% of the vote won today's special election to replace the late Mike Gordon. There was little doubt he'd be the top vote getter, but the recent implosion of the Republican candidate (combined with the fact that there were 4 Reeps on the ballot), gave him the margin he needed to avoid a run-off.

Oh - and the GOP's pick? Mary Jo "Lifelong Republican Since The Late 90s" Ford spent, according to recent reports, upwards of $325k on the race. That amounts to about $42.03 for each of her 7,733 votes. Cha-ching.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Biting The Hands That Feed You

(via a link in today's Roundup) No, no, Arnold wouldn't do such a thing to most of the very special special interests who back him and his foolish attempts to undermine our republican form of government as well as our faith in the potential for human good in government. In fact, it seems you can buy your way out of being the kind of special interest he says are killing the state (you know, those sketchy nurses, teachers, firefighters, and peace officers).

But cheeky new mag Radar reports that the governor's announced veto of Leno's marriage bill will get him off the Christmas lists of his some of his earliest supporters: "gay sugar daddies in the international bodybuilding circuit."

“Arnold has had a long association with rich gay men,” according to Wendy Leigh, author of Schwarzenegger: An Unauthorized Biography. “When he moved to England [around the time of his first Mr. Universe title in 1967], John Dixey, a British businessman and well-known aficionado of muscle boys, was very, very kind to Arnold. You have to understand, before Arnold came on the scene, it was common currency that bodybuilders were less than macho—it was absolutely given and accepted that they supported themselves by catering to the tastes of wealthy gay men.”
I'm hardly an expert on the "gay sugar daddy" demographic - but the veto could be perceived as a slap in the face, couldn't it.

Actually, the various factions within the gay community might have different views on marriage equality to start with (that's my sexuality and the law class talking). Generally speaking, though, I'd say that this is just more evidence that Schwarzenegger doesn't care about being the strong, independent, centrist candidate anymore. Sticking with early supporters - to say nothing of standing up for civil rights - can't hold a candle to pandering to the die-hard, far right base that frequently sinks moderate, decent Republican candidates. Hey, Schwarzenegger can feel free to help the slow, singularity-like implosion of the California Republican Party - no problems here.

But I wonder how the California's dominant Decline-to-State party, centrist Democrats, and other supporters feel about him now. Personally, I don't like it when my candidate abandons me or shows he is fine with ditching others who helped him along the way. Maybe the magazine industry guys told him not to worry about that whole marriage thing, who knows.

At the very least, it's safe to say Schwarzenegger's true colors don't include those in the rainbow flag.

Phoblog Film Review

Two films for thought:

Shattered Glass is surprisingly good. Simple, clean lines; decent acting; timely story; and Peter Sarsgaard simmers better than nearly any other actor out there.

And then there's Crash, which got a lot of rave reviews. I should've known when the DVD cover hailed it as the strongest American film since 'Mystic River'" according to some critic.

I thought 'Mystic River' was so overrated.

And so is Crash.

It's not awful, but it's a bit too pat. It takes a page from Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia, but goes ahead and finishes the book, something Anderson refused to do with his interwoven, yet unfinished set of connections and coincidences. Anderson's piece was far from flawless, but it's 6-degrees stayed separate enough to aid the suspension of belief necessary to carry me through the third act.

Crash, however, wraps it all up with too neat a bow. And the message: America, specifically Los Angeles - oh, that complex, sloth of a city, slouching toward muddy doom - has some race issues to confront.

Thanks, man. I had no idea.

But the film is merciless in its depiction of our lowest common denominator of thought. The knee-jerk, road of least resistance we take when confronted with a crisis involving or against someone we can't recognize. It's hardly a new narrative, but whatever hope this film might offer in the penultimate scene is undone in the closing shot and we are left with what we started with: a city of ignorant, eager-to-condemn f*cks with little regard for fellow citizens.

Los Angeles has its problems. However, compared to many cities, I think we do remarkably well.

But it's not just LA I want to defend from this film - it's film making generally. While Crash features powerful performances (and some disappointingly shallow ones - Brendan Fraser, I expect better from you), the cocktail of racial discord ultimately leaves you shaken, but not stirred.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Yup, Heck Of A Job, Brownie

Funny, but news of Brownie's removal from the Katrina recovery process makes me think of something

Wonder why:

Doubts about Brown's background grew after a Time magazine report questioned his official biography, which claims he served as an assistant city manager in Edmond, Oklahoma, in the 1970s with ``emergency services oversight.'' . . .

A statement released by FEMA earlier today stated Brown was an ``assistant to the city manager.'' That's the way Randel Shadid, a former Edmond mayor and city councilman, described Brown's job in the city, which Census Bureau figures show had a population of 34,637 in 1980.
Oh right - it makes me think of this:

Gareth: I'm assistant regional manager.
David Brent: Assistant to the regional manager.

Friday Morning Quarterbacking

Let's check in with capitol staffer and regular guest commentator MS on the final hours of session:

So, another legislative session come and gone. And other than a few last minute plays and political maneuverings, it was a fairly typical late night session around here; food in almost every office, alcohol flowing freely, staff roaming the halls in search of entertainment while members alternated between caucusing and conducting actual work on the floor (sometimes). The usual legislative suspects were out in force; our friends gut & amend, drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, tax/fee increases, universal healthcare; you name it. And of course the Senate adjourned first, which had staffers in the Assembly pounding desks in frustration as again we sat here for an additional 3 hours.

Of the more interesting actions last night, Speaker Pro-Tem Leland Yee’s violent video games bill made a return to the Assembly despite its earlier defeat this year, and passed with an overwhelming majority of votes – many of them Republican. Last minute deals also continued special tax provisions for your author’s drink of choice last night: flavored malt beverages (or FMB’s to those in the know). Sales of jello shots in California were banned (except at bars), and the use of props on the floor for this bill set a number of nearby staffers (and members) to salivating. A surprising number of environmental/health related bills bit the dust, reminiscent of July’s house of origin deadline when the moderate Dem Caucus (do they really exist?) banded together to defeat those measures deemed unfriendly to business. Speier (SB 739) and Kuehl (SB 646) lost major bills they had managed to move from the Senate. Where’s Carol Migden to cast Assembly votes when you need her?

Perhaps the two biggest issues of the night…SB 1, the Governor’s pet Million Solar Roof’s bill was never set for hearing in Assembly Utilities Committee. The bill, stalled over hostile labor amendments added by the Speaker in the last weeks of session, was unable to be negotiated to movement, although this source has it on good authority that direct talks took place involving the Governor into mid-evening. Also, the building is buzzing about Sen. Martha Escutia’s supposed absconding with 3 assembly bills from the Secretary of the Senate (I mean the actual, physical bills, jackets and all), which then somehow never made their way to the Chief Clerk to be brought up on the Assembly floor. Certainly sounds odd; I was under the impression members were never under any circumstance supposed to physically handle bills.

So the next move belongs to the Governor. The expectation around here is that there will be a large number of vetoes, partly in preparation for the now official campaign season, and in retribution for SB 1, the Senate non-confirmation of Cindy Tuck to the Air Resource Board, and general ill-will between the Gov and Democratic Majority in general. Stay tuned as the veto pen wipes out gay marriage, drivers licenses (again), and a host of other Dem legislation that the Cal Chamber has been opposing all year long.

Stay tuned for the fall drama, and go buy a TiVo now, cause trust me on this one…you’re going to get sick of television commercials long before Nov. 8th.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Phoblog Health & Lit Report: Back To The Big O

Regular readers know my commitment to promoting articles on women's sexual health as long as I'm subjected to Levitra and Viagra ads and as long as health plans are allowed to cover Viagra and not birth control. To that end - I present a book report by Cristina Nehring whose writing I've previously enjoyed in The Atlantic Monthly on O: The Intimate History of the Orgasm.

Nehring is none too happy about the cultural importance given to the orgasm - the holy grail of sexual interaction, the emphasis on which, in her view, leads to stress and fear in the bedroom. Oddly, women's orgasm's specifically turn into a men's issue as woman "fake it rather than risk the traumatization of their mate:"

It's not that the sexual revelations and revolutions of the recent past have not brought considerable good. It's great that men know more about women's bodies than they did, great they no longer imagine, like the cad in Milan Kundera's 1972 novel The Joke, that any sexual exchange short of intercourse is emasculating. What's bad is that now we have books like Margolis's O: The Intimate History of the Orgasm, which insistently and insipidly fetishize orgasms--adding, thereby, not just to our fears in the erotic realm but also, paradoxically, to our boredoms. What may be worse is that such books are in sync with the zeitgeist. . . .

It is hard to imagine anybody reading Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel Brave New World and taking the anonymous copulation and orgasm-inducing machine in its pages for a beautiful ideal rather than bitter satire, but Margolis manages. In fact, he gamely remarks, some of Huxley's vision had already been "aspired to and achieved" in the 1960s! Only the machine itself, the "Orgasmatron" made famous by Woody Allen in Sleeper, remains frustratingly unavailable. What Margolis does for Huxley he does for the King James Bible. Champion of the clitoris that he is, he finds instructions for its use all over the Old Testament. When the female speaker in the Song of Solomon says, "Let his left hand be under my head and his right hand embrace me," Margolis can reach no other conclusion than that the Song, in this line, "certainly advises a man as clearly as possible to stimulate manually his lover's clitoris." As clearly as possible, indeed: With directions like that, no wonder it took men a few more millennia to catch the drift.
The review, and thus this post, is less on the orgasm itself and more on crappy writing and foolish, false histories penned by those content to confuse science, history, and literature. Crappy writing, of course, is another favorite subject of mine. And you have to admit, I had you at "orgasm," didn't I.

Anyway - read the article - Nehring is a great writer. For example:

We have demystified orgasm enough over the decades; perhaps it is time, now, to remystify it. Margolis rightly blames the church for having attempted to make sex a mere tool for procreation: God, he says, gave us a race car; why use it as a tractor? No, God has given us a chariot to the sun, and Margolis, alas, is using it as a Honda Civic. Always reliable, generally available, but just not a lot of magic. Sex is many things to many people and that is as it should be, but the last thing we want is orgasms on tap; an erotic culture of infinite availability and amiable innocuousness is an erotic culture that is bland. There will always be those for whom sex is a snack or a sneeze, but let us leave room for sex as communion, sex as spirit made flesh, sex as a brush with the feathered glory of Leda's swan, a brush with the divine.

Someone Missed His Schoolhouse Rock

More fun with Schwarzenegger's understanding of representative democracy in this LAT article on his further statement promising - or at least indicating - his vetoing Leno's bill. Columnist George Skelton takes Schwarzenegger to task for his ducking the issue repeatedly and calls out the obvious political motivations at work here.

Schwarzenegger's veto announcement, by his press office, said the governor believes there's no more noble cause than civil rights, and "gay couples are entitled to full protection under the law."

But: "The people voted and the issue is now before the courts. The governor believes the matter should be determined not by legislative action — which would be unconstitutional — but by court decision or another vote of the people of our state. We cannot have a system where the people vote and the Legislature derails that vote."

Either way — the court or the people — Schwarzenegger is completely dismissing two branches of government: his own and the legislative. He's sloughing off a hot issue and doesn't care who handles it. . . .

With same-sex marriage, as other issues, Schwarzenegger disregards the republican system of government created by the founders: people's elected representatives exercising power through a legislature.

Yet, he habitually rakes the Legislature for refusing to act. In his same-sex chat with Matthews, Schwarzenegger said: "That's what makes this state interesting. We have different kinds of opinions. And … if the legislators are not willing to solve those problems, I think you should give it to the people and let them make the decision."

In denouncing Mayor Newsom, Schwarzenegger said changing the marriage law is "something that the legislators can do, the people can do or the court can do, but not individual mayors."

OK, the Legislature acted. It sent him a bill.

There are credible reasons to veto it. But he should give a better reason than some vague notion of legislative unconstitutionality.

Q. Little Reggie And A New City

A. What are two things discovered in today's Los Angeles Times.

Seems a new alligator has been spotted in a flood control channel in Harbor City:

It was his family who first spotted the brownish alligator — estimated to be 3 to 3 ½ feet long — in a flood control channel behind their Harbor City Estates mobile home park late Tuesday, and called the authorities. It is the second alligator discovered in this port city in three weeks.
Who can tell me what's wrong with this statement?

Give up?

Unless the LA Times has suddenly gotten all warm and fuzzy about our fine city, referring to the whole of Los Angeles as this port city - and it is, I suppose a port city - we have a big port, yet I think few outside of LA, hell, outside of San Pedro, Wilmington, and Harbor City, would refer to Los Angeles that way.

"This port city" implies that Harbor City is the port city. Nice try. It's a district of Los Angeles. Don't let the name fool you.

To be fair, the article does go on to refer to LAPD officers and an LA City Councilwoman, but still, the "this port city" phrasing bugs me.

'We're At War, Let's Party'

An excellent piece from the New York Times's Thomas Friedman:

On the day after 9/11, I was in Jerusalem and was interviewed by Israeli TV. The reporter asked me, "Do you think the Bush administration is up to responding to this attack?" As best I can recall, I answered: "Absolutely. One thing I can assure you about these guys is that they know how to pull the trigger."

It was just a gut reaction that George Bush and Dick Cheney were the right guys to deal with Osama. I was not alone in that feeling, and as a result, Mr. Bush got a mandate, almost a blank check, to rule from 9/11 that he never really earned at the polls. Unfortunately, he used that mandate not simply to confront the terrorists but to take a radically uncompassionate conservative agenda - on taxes, stem cells, the environment and foreign treaties - that was going nowhere before 9/11, and drive it into a post-9/11 world. In that sense, 9/11 distorted our politics and society.

Well, if 9/11 is one bookend of the Bush administration, Katrina may be the other. If 9/11 put the wind at President Bush's back, Katrina's put the wind in his face. If the Bush-Cheney team seemed to be the right guys to deal with Osama, they seem exactly the wrong guys to deal with Katrina - and all the rot and misplaced priorities it's exposed here at home.

These are people so much better at inflicting pain than feeling it, so much better at taking things apart than putting them together, so much better at defending "intelligent design" as a theology than practicing it as a policy.

For instance, it's unavoidably obvious that we need a real policy of energy conservation. But President Bush can barely choke out the word "conservation." And can you imagine Mr. Cheney, who has already denounced conservation as a "personal virtue" irrelevant to national policy, now leading such a campaign or confronting oil companies for price gouging?

And then there are the president's standard lines: "It's not the government's money; it's your money," and, "One of the last things that we need to do to this economy is to take money out of your pocket and fuel government." Maybe Mr. Bush will now also tell us: "It's not the government's hurricane - it's your hurricane."

An administration whose tax policy has been dominated by the toweringly selfish Grover Norquist - who has been quoted as saying: "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub" - doesn't have the instincts for this moment. Mr. Norquist is the only person about whom I would say this: I hope he owns property around the New Orleans levee that was never properly finished because of a lack of tax dollars. I hope his basement got flooded. And I hope that he was busy drowning government in his bathtub when the levee broke and that he had to wait for a U.S. Army helicopter to get out of town.

The Bush team has engaged in a tax giveaway since 9/11 that has had one underlying assumption: There will never be another rainy day. Just spend money. You knew that sooner or later there would be a rainy day, but Karl Rove has assumed it wouldn't happen on Mr. Bush's watch - that someone else would have to clean it up. Well, it did happen on his watch. . . .

As my Democratic entrepreneur friend Joel Hyatt once remarked, the Bush team's philosophy since 9/11 has been: "We're at war. Let's party."

Well, the party is over. If Mr. Bush learns the lessons of Katrina, he has a chance to replace his 9/11 mandate with something new and relevant. If that happens, Katrina will have destroyed New Orleans, but helped to restore America. If Mr. Bush goes back to his politics as usual, he'll be thwarted at every turn. Katrina will have destroyed a city and a presidency.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

There Are No Words

From Today's Chron Day in Pictures:

Loyal to the end and beyond: A dog maintains a vigil near the body of its master in a gas station parking lot in New Orleans.

The Constitutional Question

Savvy reader MS asks whether the legislature has the authority to pass AB 849 since it could be said to amend what was enacted by Prop 22 - Family Code Section 308.5. We'll return to this shortly. In the meantime, read the code section linked about, the text of AB 849 (this link, I believe, reads as it was passed, though this isn't the enrolled version yet), and, of course, the relevant Constitutional provisions are always nice.

More soon.

Update: According to a legislative counsel source, the likely answer is that Leno's bill is, in fact, unconstitutional. From reading the text of the bill, it seems that the author takes a rather tortured approach to Prop. 22's Family Code Section 308.5. Section 3(k) of the bill reads:

(k) It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this act to end the pernicious practice of marriage discrimination in California. This act is in no way intended to alter Section 308.5 of the Family Code, which prohibits California from treating as valid or otherwise recognizing marriages of same-sex couples solemnized outside of California.
Section 3 lists the findings and declarations of the Legislature, which, while helpful and nice, are not binding unless deemed so (or accepted by the court) if an ambiguity exists in the actual text of the statute giving rise to the court's ability to turn to outside evidence on the legislative intent of the measure.

Section 4 of the bill, the operative language, provides in subsection (b):

b) Where necessary to implement the rights and responsibilities of spouses under the law, gender-specific terms shall be construed to be gender-neutral, except with respect to Section 308.5.
It would seem then that Leno is attempting to change every reference to gender in the relevant code section save the one that specifically limits the relevant defining language to one man, one woman.

Here's where it gets slightly arguable.

Though the numbering of the code isn't really part of the code itself (get meta with me here), it's still guiding insofar as definitions are taken to govern at least the articles in which the term is used, if not the division, chapter, or whole code, unless specifically stated otherwise.

Analyzing from the plain code (as opposed to the Lexis-added titled versions, etc), Section 308.5 is part of the Family Code, Division 3 (Marriage), Part 1. Part one is titled "Validity of Marriage." Marriage is not defined in Division one which contains general definitions we can reasonable conclude are meant to govern the whole of the Family Code.

Prop. 22's proponents made some odd choices when they placed the "Defense of Marriage" measure in front of voters. First, they didn't change the State Constitution, which I would maintain still prohibits the DOMA's selective language. Second, they chose (and I'm think they chose and not the AG, but I could be wrong and welcome correction - DR, are you reading this?) to insert the DOMA within Division 3 and specifically directly below Section 308 which reads:

308. A marriage contracted outside this state that would be valid by the laws of the jurisdiction in which the marriage was contracted is valid in this state.
And, if you recall, historically, California's DOMA was passed in direct response to actions in - was it - Vermont (or Mass or Hawaii). The fear was that some other state would allow men and men or women and women to marry and that California would have to recognize that marriage as valid.

So now we get into broader questions of interpretation - if the court even gets that far. Does it matter what was intended at the time? Or does it just matter what's actually written down? Mr. Justice Scalia, what do you think? And on this topic specifically?

It would lead to an absurd result then, if same-sex California couples could marry legally within the state, but a same-sex couple from another state could not marry in their home state and move to California and still have a legally recognized marriage within the State of California. Wouldn't they have to get remarried here, according to Leno's bill's contention?

The broadest theme here, of course, is that this is what happens when people get to much around in the code and add things wherever they want them added. The position of Section 308.5 within an Article shouldn't matter, but I bet you someone will make that argument. Its position within the Division or Code should matter, but who knows.

Of course, in the last few hours, we've received confirmation from the state's chief executive that he has no idea how laws actually are made, nor any diehard need to safeguard the lawmaking process for the branch constitutionally tasked with making them. Clearly, the theme of his entire administration has been to remove as much power from the legislative branch as possible (and yes, they are responsible for allowing some of that themselves, via bad press alone). The moral of the story: California lawmaking is so far from the ideal it's not even funny. And the man elected to govern all of it doesn't seem to care and is, in fact, responsible for a lot of it, and probably a lot of the bad that is to come.

Back to the Leno bill: with the courts acting the way they are (Prop. 77 and the death of the substantial compliance doctrine comes to mind), who knows how this would play out in court. Since I started this update, I've convinced myself it's less open-and-shut than I thought when I opened the "edit posts" page.

Time to seek out more expert commentary . . . .

Side note: It may be valuable to check out the ballot pamphlet from March 2000 when Prop. 22 was presented to voters. Note that while the pro-argument says it is the "Protection of Marriage Act," the actual text calls it "Defense of Marriage." The court only gets to the ballot arguments if there's ambiguity in the text. The pro-22 argument does cite actions in other states raising concerns, but doesn't say the measure is aimed solely at out-of-state marriage. And while I'm tempted to get all lit-major on the difference between "protecting" and "defending" something (I'd say the former implies pro-action; the latter, re-action), I won't right now. Also - I am far from an expert on the Prop. 22 litigation, which could/would shed light on that angle of this debate, though it's not done winding its way through the courts quite yet.

Undermining The Fundamentals Of Representative Democracy Since 2003

So, Governor Dodgenegger issued the following statement regarding AB 849:

Statement by Gubernatorial Press Secretary Margita Thompson on AB 849

Gubernatorial Press Secretary Margita Thompson today issued the following statement regarding the Legislature's passage of AB 849:

"The people spoke when they passed Proposition 22. The issue subsequently went to the courts. The Governor believes the courts are the correct venue for this decision to be made. He will uphold whatever decision the court renders."
I wonder if Schwarzenegger has ever noticed that most of the time it's the courts who stay decisions on issues until the legislature acts, or refuse to make law in an area by punting the issue back to the branch of government responsible for, you know, like, making the law.

The people did "speak," but technically, they only spoke statutorily. A statute, you may have learned in school, is what the legislature usually makes but here in California, people are allowed to make them too. That means the voice of the legislature is equal and able to override voter-enacted statutes. So you see, Mr. Governor, legislators represent the people, its kind of the basis of our system. If the people wanted to speak more loudly, they should have amended the State Constitution. Of course, some people are trying to go the Constitutional route. But they haven't yet. Once they do, then what the court says on the Prop. 22 case doesn't matter at all.

Arnold Schwarzenegger clearly doesn't understand his proper role in state government as the Governor. Or, I suppose, if you're a cynic, he understands it perfectly.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Only Pedro Shirt I'd Wear

Though I probably won't buy one. I can't stand the "vote for pedro" shirts. But this one is funny: That's your light'n'fluffy post for the day.

When A Mommy Law Loves A Daddy Law Very Much . . .

Via Daily Kos, an LA Times article from when the Senate passed the Leno bill that offers the following insight on Schwarzenegger's likely action:

Signaling a likely veto if it does pass, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's spokeswoman said he preferred to let judges sort out the legality of gay marriage; such a case is moving toward the state Supreme Court.
Hasn't anyone yet explained to the Governor how we make laws in the State of California? No really, it's crazy, Governor Schwarzenegger, but - wait for it - the Legislature passes bill and then, if you sign them, presto! YOU'VE MADE THE LAW!

So the court doesn't get to sort things out unless the Legislature either doesn't or does a crappy job of doing so.

Let the courts do it!? Ack!

Breaking News: Assembly Passes Gay Marriage Bill


7:31pm: CMC alum and Assembly Member Salinas (D-Salinas) was a surprise "aye" on Leno's AB 849: Gender-Neutral Marriage bill, which passed 41-35.

The bill, having now passed both houses of the California Legislature, goes to the governor for his approval. It should be interesting to watch the Horseshoe's reaction, given his low approval ratings, voter views on the special election, and Californian's views on gay marriage generally. Whether he picks up the pen or not, he'll be a hero to some contingent or another. We'll just have to wait to find out which on which constituency he places his political bet.

Of course, in a perfect world, he'd just do the right thing. But, I hope by this point, it is clear that Governor Schwarzenegger is just as human as the next politician.

Good job, Assembly.

And, as ever, Go Stags.

Update: The Chron covers the story. Note their time stamp is later than mine. Woo! I know, no one will no I was one of the first to post. Plus there are likely other bloggers out there who posted fast too. But I'm still proud of my speed-fingers. And, for what it's worth, here's the most recent Field Poll I could find on the question of same-sex marriage.

[Thanks to reader and capitol insider CS for the vote screen shot.]

Yet Another Reason To Love CMC

When I toured CMC, my mother latched onto the Athenaeum as one of the campuses top draws. I thought it was fine, but didn't appreciate it until I began attending CMC. Then it was love. Nightly love.

Reader Josh "Please, Keep Calling Me El Presidente" Walter pointed out this tailor-made for Phoblog ath event: Stag and FEC Commissioner Dave Mason asks "Should Bloggers Be Regulated?

Should the Internet continue to be exempt from the rules governing political activity? Can the government effectively regulate Internet politicking, even if it tries? Should bloggers be regulated?

Commissioner David Mason will tell the unusual story of a regulatory agency - the Federal Election Commission - that decided NOT to regulate, and describe the challenge he and his agency face now that a Federal Court has ordered it to write rules regulating political activity on the Internet. Political activity on the Internet has been a remarkable success. Activists of all stripes see the Internet as a revolutionary citizen tool, but others see Internet activism as a threat.

David Mason was nominated to the Federal Election Commission by President William Clinton in 1998, and currently serves as a member of the Commission's Litigation Committee. Prior to his appointment to the Commission, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, guiding base closing legislation to a successful conclusion.

Commissioner Mason is active in political and community affairs and the home education movement in northern Virginia where he resides with his wife and their ten children.
Oooh, let the nerding out begin. I am so there. . . .

On Private Relief Efforts

Two emails have arrived in my inbox in the past 24 hours about people who just can't sit idly by any longer and are therefore driving to the Gulf Coast to offer what aid they can fit in their cars.

This is noble and well-meaning, but also likely incredibly foolish. If one volunteers via an established organization (and from what I've heard from my father and grandfather, both war veterans, the Red Cross really ain't all that, but you choose your own charities), then more power to you. If you're a doctor, a search specialist, or some kind of expert in a needed field and can do it, get thee to LA, MS, etc.

If you're someone with a big heart and extra resources who can just parachute in, don't.

You're likely going to put yourself in harm's way and drain resources as someone qualified has to come in and rescue you.

There are many ways to be a hero. Showing up in a lawless area armed only with some bottled water and a Honda Civic probably isn't the best strategy for recovery at this point.

Parse This

We're having a NYT run lately, we know - but here's something else from their homepage:

Bush and Congress Announce Inquiries on Government Response
President Bush continued to try to counter the impression that his administration was late in reacting to the hurricane.


Was the administration not late in reacting? Is there a question?

Read the article and see what you think. In the first few grafs, the question of whether Bush was late at all again is raised but isn't refuted - making it a pregnant sort of paralepsised statement confirming the administrations failure - yet lacking the huevos to say "Bush tries to cover ass in wake of delayed Kartina response."

At what point should we hold this guy accountable?

Now might be nice.

And how about this:

"It's very important for us to understand the relationship between the federal government and the state government and the local government when it comes to a major catastrophe," he said.
Keep an eye on this narrative string. As we pointed out yesterday, Bush is semi-subtly tearing down federal responsibility even as he promises we'll be all the stronger for weathering this storm.

And keep in mind everything the administration has asked us to give up since 9/11. Civil liberties. A sense of security in the face of constant "look out look out!" (yet we've never been asked to actually sacrifice anything, a la WWII era rationing, etc). Now we learn that we can give up rights, accept meager amounts of federal funding misapportioned among the states in exchange for zero guarantee that the federal government will aid us in our hours of need.

Anyone want to tackle this equation?

Unexpected How?

I still don't get this New York Times headline: Clinton Is an Unexpected Partner in the Hurricane Effort. Wasn't he part of the dynamic, Tsunami duo not so long ago?

You know who would be an unexpected partner in the relief effort?

George W. Bush.

Overheard In The Lobby

A student, likely a recent graduate, though one I didn't recognize, telling a friend about her new job in Washington, DC. I don't know what the job is. As she left the lobby after realizing she was in the wrong building (apparently her time at Hastings, with its lonely 3 buildings, wasn't long enough to learn the numbers assigned to each, but no matter), she tossed a parting comment to her friend: "so I'm off to fight the fight in DC. Someone sure needs to."

And I was struck with two immediate thoughts:

Firstly, she is hardly the first person to leave San Francisco in pursuit of greater fights.

Secondly, I don't think "the fight" is in DC any longer. And this thought surprises me, though it shouldn't. The fight is in each county, on each elected board and selected commission. It's in the schools and on the streets. It's in law schools and judicial chambers; cafes and at the gym. Confining the fight to one ring in DC - or in all three rings in DC's circus - is ineffective. George Lakoff is making money telling Democrats how to recreate fully executed conservative tactics and we're stabbing at windmills in a few-square-mile area while they're erecting dozens more behind us.

You needn't go to DC to fight the fight. Even in blue California, try Riverside or Fresno. The fight isn't staying put, and neither should we.

Bush v. Science

A long, thorough New York Times piece on the war - if there is one, and I'd say there is one - between science and the Bush administration:

Yet what remains most divisive, according to Kennedy, is not the Bush administration's specific policies, but a more general sense that ''scientific conclusions, reached either within agencies or by people outside of government, are being changed for political reasons by people who have not done the scientific work.''

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Think Carefully About The Bold Text Below

From the New York Times:

With the stranded being brought out of New Orleans on stretchers and by air, bus and train, the president acknowledged again on Saturday that his administration had failed to help many of the hurricane's most desperate victims promptly and promised to resurrect New Orleans and devastated coastal areas of several states.

"I know that those of you who have been hit hard by Katrina are suffering," Mr. Bush declared hours after signing a $10.5 billion package of assistance for the stricken region, which he called a down payment on aid to come. "Many are angry and desperate for help. The tasks before us are enormous, but so is the heart of America. In America, we do not abandon our fellow citizens in our hour of need. And the federal government will do its part."
Believe it or not, I actually don't want to use Katrina as an opportunity to slam Bush. In fact, I don't even like that the DNC has put out documents highlighting the President's failures - I think enough people can and will notice things without the aid of political parties at a time when the obviously-political is rather distasteful.

But consider for a moment the idea that the federal government has a part to do here. An impliedly limited part.

Our country hasn't been truly federal in a very long time. And clearly, the states hardest hit by Katrina are completely tapped out. So how it is that the federal government has only "its part" to do?

While this could easily be attributed to Bush speaking imprecisely - as he is known to do - it more correctly illustrates the victory of the neoconservative movement. For over 20 years they built their new paradigms in think tanks and in small offices around the country. Hell, somehow, even Clinton was made to declare over the era of Big Government. And now, at a time when the federal government's role in these united states should be at its most obvious, the leader of the United States promises that the federal government will do its part - thus limiting the actions required of it to a specified, undefined segment of action.

The federal government shouldn't be doing its part. What he should have said is that we - WE the people - will move heaven and earth to bring swift relief to those who have lost everything, to rebuild a vital part of our national character, not to mention economy, and to ensure that in the future, no American city will ever again have to wait so shamefully long for the aid and comfort of the sovereign nation in which it makes its home.

The federal government's response has been a disgrace. And to perpetuate the myth of a federal government, long since undone at the request of both parties and all interest groups is insulting and immoral.