Monday, October 31, 2005

Remembering When

One year ago, in a storefront on Walnut Street . . . .

You'll note that the once lost comments were resurrected. Google cache shots are amazing things.

Nothing is ever really lost.

Happy Halloween, Happy Campaigning

Catherine Hazelton with a field report showing how activists can unite their holiday spirit and their political passion:

Still looking for the perfect Halloween costume? Here's an idea. . . Last night I attended a Halloween party of non-politicos. With a short skirt, bra straps showing, glitter eyeliner, a backpack, Gwen Stefani on my Ipod, and a bean bag pillow under my tank top, I went as a pregnant teenager. I wore a No on Prop 73 button and used the costume as an opportunity to tell people about the parental notification initiative. It gave me the opportunity to inform people who'd never heard of this "under the radar" prop. I got to change the minds of several people who hadn't thought through the potential consequences of it. Also, I think I convinced a few others, who were already opposed to it, that they needed to get out and vote for it. They didn't know how close the polls were, asking incredulously, "In California??? How could that be?" The night was a success, and a lot of fun. Perhaps I most enjoyed walking around with a gin and tonic and a cigarette drooping out of my mouth, telling people that idiotic teenagers like me really should not be having a baby they clearly don't want. It was a hoot and, I think, effective. For those who hate phonebanking, this might be a fun way to do your duty.
Don't know much about Prop. 73 yet? Check out the text here.

Friday, October 28, 2005

The State Treasurer Race? Are You Kidding Me?

So Bill Simon recognized he still is not cut out to be a candidate and has stopped tossing his hat and started tossing his towel instead - calling off his bid for State Treasurer.

But Lockyer is still in it. In fact, he's a formidable candidate - so much so that Simon got scared off.

Wow. It's like the game the NFL lets you see when the game you want to see is blacked out (as they always are here in SF since neither of the hometeams can sell out their damn stadiums - which might bother me more if I cared about either team. But it's the principle of the thing. rant over).

Two woulda-been horseshoe seekers duking it out over the STATE TREASURER race. No disrespect, Phil Angelides, but c'mon.

It's criminal that John Chiang got squeeze out so Bill "Was That My Political Capital I Set Fire To?" Lockyer could stay in statewide office somehow. I still can't exactly put my finger on why the constant office-switching bothers me so much. I like career service. But this feels more like, well, a pre-determined prom queen - oh, who am I kidding - prom king election. Who's turn is it now? Now, now, you were in the royal court last year, it's Trey's turn now.

Otherwsie fine candidates can't seem to settle on anything - meanwhile, woman almost scored a victory, but instead will likely pick each other off in the primary battling for two offices instead of spreading the wealth since the Big Boys didn't really consult with anyone while they played electoral Twister (Left Hand Insurance Commissioner!).

Does this bug anyone else?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Difference Between Living And Being Alive

Shhhh! We're not supposed to talk about the ones that don't die and are merely injured:

"Personally, I think there's a difference between living and being alive," [combat medic with the U.S. Army, Sgt] Howard said. "A lot of us fear losing an arm or a leg; a lot of guys worry they'll get hurt and lose their genitals. It's the head injuries that are the worst, in my opinion. I fear getting a head wound -- having brain damage and still being alive, but not being able to care for my wife or kids."

Smoking a cigarette as he talked, the 27-year-old father of two from Florida said, "We all think about things like this -- we try not to, we try to distract ourselves with video games or talking trash, but you can't escape from this stuff. Not many of us worry about death except for the effect on our families."

Isn't Losing Their City Enough?

Now New Orleans might lose the Saints to Los Angeles. If there's no place for them to play, then I suppose it does make some sense.

And it's the only place where this sort of name would be both appropriate and meaningful: The New Orleans Saints of Los Angeles. You've got a whole saints and angels thing too - which is kinda cool. Or would it be: The Los Angeles Saints of New Orleans? New Orleans Saints At Los Angeles?

However you phrase it - it is less idiotic than the Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim, which, it was pointed out to me - and I hadn't really thought about before - translates to: the The Angels Angels of Anaheim. Der.

A Swing And A Miss

Unsurprisingly, Miers has withdrawn herself from consideration for the Supreme Court. Hardly a shock.

One wonders - as others have mentioned - whether she was intentionally sacrificed so that the next, true intended one would face fewer hurdles since Bush could play the "when will they stop holding this up" card. Well, he could have. Except it was his side that held up her smooth appointment.

Though articles covering this latest chapter of White House woeage refer to a presidency beset by troubles, it provides little hope to me that the country might wake up to the dangerous, complete failure that has been the Bush administration. A girl can dream, sure, but why waste wishes on one so thoroughly tefloned?

Also - since we haven't seen a Roberts opinion on anything yet, it is fair to refer to Miers or whomever as a pivotal swing justice? O'Connor was, but does that mean her heir will be as well? Seems like until we know where Roberts goes, we won't know the importance of this seat. Historically, haven't many justices turned out to opine far from their predicted course?

I'm really bad at this Supreme Court watching nonsense, however, so you learned readers please correct me . . . .

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Spot The East Sac Landmark!

Want to empress upon the voting public the extent to which you despise Prop. 77? Head to East Sacramento and bring your camera crew! That crazy lady is in front of a house somewhere in the lower range of the Fab 40s, I think. And the newest spot features more angered Sacramentans, er Californians, in front of the Big Albertsons on Folsom (I suppose since Little Albertsons closed, we can drop the big, but locals know what I mean), and walking down more tree-lined East Sac streets.

This almost redeems the intrusion into SATC time, since name-that-location is my second stupid human trick after name-that-random-actor.

Observation Of The Night

Nothing ruins Sex And The City re-runs like political commercials. SATC is for relaxin' - and nothing ruffles my feathers like Prop. 77 ads (either side).

It's like an olive in a cosmo: it just doesn't work.

Milblogs: From 'The Real Embedded Journalists'

Interesting piece from the Sac Bee on the 'Blogs of war'.

Best blog name mentioned in the piece: Texas Army National Guardsman John Upperman's Who's Your Baghdaddy?

Capitol Weekly Introduces New Lunch Invite Guide

Hungry but no longer able to call a lobbyist for chow AND don't know which of your staffer friends is most able to pick up the tab? Fear not, poor Fellows, Capitol Weekly has introduced a new Legislative Salary Search. Not only can you now easily pull up the names and salaries of your friends and enemies, but you can also see the last 20 searches and the most popular searches.

Look - Cory Salzillo is number 2 today! Go Cory!

Salaries are, of course, public record and are usually framed in a "look at the greedy bastards" light. It shouldn't surprise you that I find that angle a load of crap. These people are generally hard working, dedicated, and get little more from the public than bad-mouthing everytime the salaries report is released.

Also handy - the individual search pages present comparisons: as in, the average salary is x, and y people make more, z make the same, and so on.

Though salaries can frequently be used as hard evidence of long suspected largess, this new searchable database gives those in the building better networking guidance and a handy cheat sheet for "who can afford to feed me today," always an important question for the lower ranks of the pay scale.

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

And More On Ads

From the AP: Anti-Proposition 77 ads claim GOP 'power grab'.

If you watch the old lady spot and the judges spot, the message you, the voter, receives is: "politicians are terrible, so vote YES/NO!"

Really, they both say the same thing and pray on the same, tired political shorthands. It's nutty: one ad says politicians (legislators) are awful, good-for-nothings who don't deserve the power anymore so take it away. The other says politicians are grabbing at power so don't let them . . . give it away?

This analysis is a little more analytical than the Bee's version - which parses but never quite evaluates any claims - but only by a hair.

These analyses do, however, illustrate examples of faux-objective reporting. They aren't bad per se, but they do fall back on the "A says, B says" structure that stops short of what comes next - "A means, B means, A is lying, B is overstating, A is closer to the truth, B's claims don't hold up" that is so badly needed today.

Reporting one guy's, then the other guy's, talking points shouldn't cut it anymore.

The Bee's Evaluation Of The Prop. 77 Ads

Prop. 77 ad focuses on judges.

Sounds Like A Color

Are we talking about the same Los Angeles?

So why hasn't Jack [93.1 FM in Los Angeles, 101.1 FM in New York] taken off with New Yorkers? Here's one theory: In a city filled with racial diversity and music that crosses racial divides, Jack sounds pretty darn white.
The above quote is a bit selectively chosen, but it still gave me pause. The article does address some interesting demographic questions of urban population, aging, and music tastes.

Still, it sounds "pretty darn white?"

So Strikes 3 - 8 Weren't The Third?

Slaying suspect's violent past / 8 felony convictions, but he'd never been sentenced to prison.

Sickening. Think of how this girl - this 21 year old girl - lived for the last 3 years. And no one could save her.

Wapner, Whatever

A second version of the Wapner spot just aired showing a stiltedly passionate jurist waxing about a lot more than merely 77's reforms. I'm confused.

I also believe the Wapner spots come not from CA for Fair Rep, but somewhere else - a coalition of legal experts and something something, LLC, something something. That was really tiny font, guys.

Weak.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Special Elections, Lies, And Video Tape*

Ed's note: This post was orginally titled "I Buy My Boxers At K-Mart." The name had to be changed though, when an otherwise light-hearted poke at political ads took a turn for the serious when I discovered a new, lying television spot against Prop. 77.

Oh my god, Judge Wapner is urging us to vote no on 77. At the end of the commercial, they loop him saying "no on 77" so fast even Rainman's jaw would slacken in awe.

Wapner says judges like shouldn't make law unsupervised in back rooms.

Judge Wapner has been out of law school too long.

And voters who believe that unsupervised judicial decision making DOESN'T go on far, far from public sight should immediately - oh hell, I don't even know what they should do, but seriously, can we get and stay a tad real here?

I know, I know - It's asking too much.

Dear No on Prop. 77 people: ooh, you had to push it, didn't you. Now it's a draw on who has the dumber commercial. The Yes side narrowly - and I mean narrowly - beats you. But you both suck. And that's my highbrow analysis for today.

WAIT - NEVERMIND! The No Side has just moved ahead for airing the most DECEPTIVE and MISLEADING ad of the election season thus far (or at least the most deceptive and misleading one on a topic I've been following closely). It's also ballsy as all sh*t for calling 77 the "politicians' power grab." (by the way - as I'm watching the quicktime here, I'm seeing that idiotic old woman ad on TV. I'm being double teamed by advocacy organizations I don't even think I can keep straight, and I'm paying attention).

So a proposal that takes power FROM elected politicians is a power grab by . . . politicians?

But wait, the ad says it gives power to unelected judges. Are elected politicians good guys or bad guys, No on 77?

And guess what - though federal judges can toss their hats in the ring, saying that judges - period, with no exception - aren't elected by the people and aren't accountable to the people is a lie. A bald-faced lie. It is wrong. It is misleading and deceptive and you, No on 77 campaign, should be ashamed of yourselves.

We don't even need to reach your inexcusable race baiting.

Shame! Shame on you Californians for Fair Representation. I don't care who funds you or how much I should shut up on the direct attacks of the politics behind the propositions - this is inexcusable.

Thanks to the legally required fine print, there's the added irony that one of the funds paying for this ad is called the "Voter Education & Registration Fund." Voter Education? What are you teaching them?

I haven't seen this air on television yet, but even if it doesn't reach anyone's eyes via the tube, it is still shameful just existing and being available on-line.

Way to go, guys. Really well-played. The No side's tagline reads Don't play political games with the Constitution.

While we're at it, how about we not play fast and loose with the truth, either.

Update: Before I even had a chance to click Publish, the ad aired on television here in a slightly altered form. The visuals may be slightly different, but the narration is word-for-word what you'll find via the above link: just as shameful, but without the slightly clever Texas allusion.

Update 2: When I goof, I cop to it. A commenter below rightly called out my obvious mistake and highlighted yet another reason it is smart to institute a blogger curfew. Prop. 77 judges are retired judges. So no elections for them. I was wrong. However, in the grand tradition of legal opinions that waste your time for 20 pages just to say "but this argument doesn't hold up, nevermind, on to argument 2," I will punt to the next way in which the ad lies: prop. 77 requires voter approval.

Is that requirement still stupid? Yes. But it exists, dammit, so unless you'd rather swap true voter responsiveness for "Accoutability = vengence against judges," don't discount the black letter provisions.

My goof leads nicely back into the idea of judges as representatives, however. The racial overtones of the spot, as well as much commentary, focuses on the inability of old, white judges to represent a diverse state. Judges should represent the law, not any particular person or group of persons. Following that, judges themeselves shouldn't be "accountable," their decisions and plans, however, should be and, in fact, are.

Did I regain any ground with that chutes & ladders backtrack? I think you have to give me a bit of credit. I was wrong on one point, but the other legs still stand, and the problems with the add have more than just 2 or 3 legs. We're talking squid level here. Giant squid even. Of course, so does the proposition.

Uniting My Hatred For The Special Election And An Elected Judiciary

Via Election Law Blog, a bit of an op-ed (password protected link available through ELawBlog, above) on some of the lesser known mischief inherent to Prop. 73:

Hidden toward the end of the nearly 3,000-word initiative is the requirement that each court publicly report annually "by judge" the number of petitions granted and denied in the trial and appellate courts. Thus, if Prop 73 passes, every judge and appellate justice in this state who rules on a minor's petition for a waiver of parental notification will have his or her own abortion scorecard.

It is not difficult to see the mischief that these annual reports could cause. Advocacy groups on either side of the abortion debate could (mis)use a judge or justice's scorecard during contested superior court elections, appellate court retention elections, or even judicial recall elections. It is not far-fetched to imagine a campaign flier proclaiming that Judge X or Justice Y "ordered the killing of 10 unborn children last year," a statement, incidentally, that would not be far from legal accuracy since another thing Prop 73 would do is define "abortion" as "caus[ing] the death of the unborn child."
Wow - so 73 defines abortion AND gives us a new and nifty way to run judicial elections? FANTASTIC! Sure glad this is on the ballot.

Get your coathangers, law dictionaries, and law signs quick!

At least 73 excepts contraceptive drugs and devices. Phew. Guess loose, godless women don't have to worry so much about an attack on their rights after all.

Read the text here.

Law School, Light And Dark

I've been accused in the past of running a law blog about my law school since google led someone here once who was searching for my law school and blog. I don't, of course, run a blawg, and if I did, it wouldn't be about law school. Especially this one. Of course, I am in law school, so the subject is going to come up sometimes.

Like today.

Several interesting things to note about my alma mater today. Most of them aren't good.

First, a truly awful editorial decision by the new editor of the school's independent website. The editor decided to run an editorial written by a student who finds fault with our health services office. Acknowledging, perhaps, a widely held belief that law students are incapable of reaching a conclusion unless it is spelled out by a professor or contained in an Emmanuel's outline, he decided to post this disclaimer before the piece:

As the new editor here at the "i" I think it's important to not censor. However, please keep in mind that the following is an editorial. It certainly speaks for itself. In order to present a fair view, let me say that there are those that have been served well by the Student Health Services, me included. I just did not want to present an unfair picture. However, please enjoy the piece below. I will try not to preface further editorials with this warning, but this being the first issue of the new "i", I felt it was important to not present an overly biased view.
Perhaps someone should give the editor a copy of Black's Dictionary that includes the word "Editorial" and then assure him that most readers, having perhaps perused a newspaper or magazine once or twice, know that editorial = opinion.

Alternately, the editor could always employ the heading "Op-Ed" and prove that he's completed Publication 101: Sections of a paper.

Of course that's just totally my opinion and doesn't reflect the opinions of anyone reading this site or commenting here. Maybe. I mean, I don't know. Maybe I should ask them.

Sorry, that was mean. But it's a tough world [wide web] out there.

The piece, however, isn't bad. It does, in fact, capture a lot of student frustration here at school right now. The author is a little shaky on school funding and institutional history, but he's a 1L, so we'll forgive him. He loses points at the end for closing with "Thank you for your attention," but we'll let that go too, given the truly absurd opener with which the site's editor has blessed him.

The next bit of campus news involves a wall poster, a student-body-wide notice, and some questions.

Seems that sometime a few weeks back, someone defaced some poster, somewhere, somehow, and some people were offended. I say this with little passion because though we were informed that the defaced documents advertised a La Raza sign and a Students of Color Outreach Day sign, we - the students - have no idea what was said. I suppose it is valid to argue that repeating the alleged offensive remark is unproductive. Then again, it's hard for me to be outraged at "stickers with handwritten racially driven comments on them[.]"

But what has appeared in response to this unspeakable (literally) act of something is a large petition that says the following:

On October 7th, 2005, members of the Hastings community found racially motivated vandalism on the La Raza notice board. Stickers with handwritten racially driven comments on them were attached to both the La Raza sign and flyers for Students of Color Outreach Day.

In light of this vandalism, and in recognition of the history of racism in this country, of which hate speech is one manifestation, we pledge to take affirmative steps to address racism within UC Hastings, whether institutional or personal, that we encounter in our education and our practice.

Further, we pledge to end our complicity in historical amnesia surrounding racism, to continue educating ourselves and our communities about the history of racism and continuing prejudice even at the most rarified levels of academia and professional life.

We call on the faculty, administration, and staff of Hastings to commit to making anti-racist institutional change at Hastings, including the hiring of a diversity consultant, increased diversity in recruitment, hiring and tenure of professors, increased recruitment of students of color and increased support for such programs as Students of Color Outreach Day, diversity workshops during orientation, and a first year curriculum that encourages and facilitates open, honest and constructive engagement with issues of racism in the law.
It should not shock readers that I will not sign this document. But let me explain why.

The "Concerned Students" petition and distributed flyer bears no seal of approval for posting, nor contact name, number, or email.

The lack of detail about the events prompting this petition makes it impossible to thoroughly evaluate the situation at Hastings. These concerned students should go back to Evidence class and recognize that evidence makes your case stronger. I'm not saying I need to see the offensive stickers, but again, how do we know what we're fighting against? There's certainly a problem with anyone defacing flyers generally - vandalism is wrong - but that isn't the problem. Hate speech is. They might want to go back to Con Law as well. The expression of "hate" speech here involved defacing school property. That is a punishable offense. The content of the speech may be cause for immense concern. But again, I don't know what the hell it said.

Also, I am not complicit in historical amnesia surrounding racism. I won't sign a document falsely admitting that I am. This picks up from posts about the VRA over the past few days in which I argue that streets called "Jefferson Davis" should not be our primary targets in easing racism in America. Erasing the word doesn't make the history disappear, just our memory of it. That's bad.

The concerned students authoring and signing the petition, though asking for student action earlier in the document, close with a call only to the faculty, administration, and staff. Perhaps in a fluid campus environment, this is all that can be done since students here today will be gone 3-years from tomorrow. Hiring a diversity consultant, however, is something I am not likely to endorse anytime soon. Additionally, any implementation of "sensitivity" or other similar training can have disastrous results for a community. My undying fear is that Hastings, or any organization, would employ someone like Lillian Roybal Rose who in a single day managed to fracture my adopted family of Fellows nearly beyond repair. But that's my bias on the issue. Either way, the school currently can't afford . . . hell, anything anyway.

There are about a thousand standard retorts to what I've just written about my views on this petition. Most of them would likely chalk my view up to ignorance, cultural insensitivity, or just plain racism of my own, I'd hope that regular readers remember that my views on such things - like the views of most people - are a touch more nuanced than whatever knee-jerk reaction this might provoke. Or perhaps you agree. I don't want to presume things about readers anymore than I want them presumed of me.

Unsigned petitions of unclear origin will never find favor here. This may be a desperately needed call - but who can tell. And who could be asked?

Hastings seems to have a lot of problems keeping bias out of the classroom. To me, this is clearest in the pervasive, openly-hostile attitude toward conservatives here on campus. No one has defaced any flyers, but classroom commentary frequently reveals a bias from both behind the lectern and in front of it. Remember, I'm a Democrat, so that this bothers me should set off alarms. Claremont, for all its conservatism in the faculty offices, kept all of that crap far from the classroom, encouraged open discourse, and made stronger citizens for it. Hastings fails miserably on this front and should be reprimanded accordingly.

If they fail as well when it comes to racial discourse, that also deserves attention. But not like this.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

When Characters Attack

In an unfortunate turn of events for joint fans of The West Wing and Sex And The City, poor, long suffering first middle daughter Ellie is betrothed to none other than Skipper Johnston.

Hasn't that girl been through enough? Fruit-flies are the least of this guy's problems.

20 Second Review: Good Night And Good Luck

Good Luck And Good Night hits the ground running and presumes its audience will buy a ticket knowing the historical context in which it takes place.

That's likely a correct assumption, but the film could've used a bit more flesh to make it a complete work. Don't get me wrong, it was a fine film. The acting is good. The script is tight. It's beautifully shot. Is it The Best Picture Of The Year? Nope.

Good Luck And Good Night, for all its artistic accomplishments and current cultural relevancy, never succeeds in being much more than a vignette of a weighty, monumental moment in American journalism and political history.

One the Phoblog Trademarked Movie Review and Hype Scale*, GLAGN earns 2 1/2 Sideways: it's a good film that will be hyped past its rightful status but still accomplished enough to earn a recommendation.

*1 Sideways = movie is good and has earned the hype. 4 = Sideways = Sideways (dear God, stop the hype).

Friday, October 21, 2005

Yet Another Weekend Away

For a girlfriend's bachelorette spa weekend.

Y'all can keep duking it out on the issues below. Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Let The Next Representation Fight Begin

Election Law Blog links to this from the Mobile Register:

"It's time to let Section 5 die, and thus parole the South from punishment for its ignoble, distant past."

Start your engines . . . .

'FEMA Official Says Boss Ignored Warnings'

Hard to believe, but the emails confirm Daily Show jokes about FEMA blindness:

The 19 pages of internal FEMA e-mails show Bahamonde gave regular updates to people in contact with Brown as early as Aug. 28, the day before Katrina made landfall. They appear to contradict Brown, who has said he was not fully aware of the conditions until days after the storm hit. Brown quit after being recalled from New Orleans amid criticism of his work.
I'd say he quit before well before that.

I heard on NPR in the days following Katrina about the extent to which FEMA rank and file were concerned about the agency leadership's lack of experience, that most of them received their positions based on political relationships with Bush, etc. One hopes, then, that Democrats stand up to the Miers nomination where yet another Bush friend is a candidate for a fantastically powerful position with little to know demonstrated ability in the area - a shortcoming nearly applauded by Bush.

What message are we sending the world and our children about the nature of merit and leadership? One official after another is shown to be little more than a presidential buddy as each freezes in the headlights of dire events. The Supreme Court surely faces less pressure to deal with immediate physical peril, but their long term challenges - though esoteric - are no less serious.

Please, America, get it now. And Democratic Congressmen, act.

I'm Tom DeLay, And I Approved This Mug Shot



Okay, kids: Caption Contest this if you'd like. What is Tom DeLay thinking?

Finders Keepers, Losers English

One of the things I like most about Martime Law is its obvious salty flavor.

Today, while covering the law of salvage, we again engage in that favorite of law student/theorist passtimes: WWED? (Where WWED = What Would England Do? And generally, that's What Would England Do or Have Done Prior To 1791.) It's a hoot, I tell you. Yes, America, we're more tied to mother England that you might thing (some of us especially so).

Discussed in the salvage discussion is the notion of finds - one of those legal terms you know they've made up and are supposed to read and recite without giggling but just can't resist a good chortle at the obviousness of it all.

In England, found property belongs to the sovereign. That tuppance is the Queen's, you theiving bastard!

In America, however, the law is damn near literally finders-keepers-losers-weepers. Found property (in the maritime context specifically) belongs to the finders. That gold piece is mine, f-you, Congress!

But it's the case names that I love most: Gardner v. Ninety-Nine Gold Coins, Peabody v. Proceeds of 28 Bags of Cotton, Chance v. Certain Artifacts Found and Salvaged, Wiggins v. 1100 Tons More or Less, of Italian Marble, and of course, the famous Johnson v. A Goat, A Sack of Grain, and A Wolf, the facts of which are too complicated to get into here.

16-years-old, 5'5", 110 pounds

Bewildering.

No! Yes On 77

Dear Yes On 77,

You know, you almost had me. On technical achievement you were doing better than some who had come before you and you were closer to success than redistricting reformist have been in years. True, you were "written" by Ted Costa, advocate of some peoples somewhere. True, you had absurd voter approval provisions and could've gone farther with your criteria. My main problem was always that you were part of an anti-representative government boneheaded move by a self-centered political amateur. Part of me almost wanted to give you a chance, though, and break my strict "no on everything" rule (that goes beyond this election, too).

But then you started your media "blitz" with this.

While the ABC folks use serious music and stern faces to rightly warn against the perils of the governor's foolish proposals, you go your own way and embrace political commercial making circa 1986. In Kentucky.

Steve Poizner, you've got more money and more brains than this, don't you?

Not like I'd have voted for you for insurance commissioner anyway, but man, I won't know.

If you'd like to see an example of a political ad using goofy humor well, check out Ron Chun's spots for SF assessor. Shots of the 3 stooges (two of the three anyway - which is sneaky, well done, and saves him from clearly avenues for mocking) usually result in immediate disqualification, but the ad is very, very well done. Especially compared to the tripe you pass off as an advocacy ad.

Some crazy old grannie yelling stock sentences about those greedy Sacramento bastards? That's all you got? You'll earn all those no votes, my friend, for flopping completely on artistic impression.

Way to raise the level of discourse, dammit.

Yours truly,
Phoblographer*

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Relay: A Phoblog Exclusive

Ah, The Relay. Yes, as you can see, it was a walk in the vineyard, no challenge for an experienced runner such as myself - it was half the cakewalk that is the Iraq war, it was no big deal, it was . . .

Exhausting. Who am I kidding? The Relay makes the marathon a sprint and the Relay a marathon. Er, or no, maybe the marathon is still a marathon, but the relay is just a really long, semi-sprinting marathon. Um, I think what I'm saying is: there are many kinds of physical exhaustion and the relay's kind was different and, in many ways, better than the marathon's. Or perhaps just made more bearable by the presence of a supportive, enthusiastic team. Yes, I think that's it.

The Relay - for those who refuse to navigate to the website - is run by teams of 12 runners who take turns running 3 legs each all the way from Calistoga to Santa Cruz, California. Total distance: 199 miles. Total time: well, that's up to your team. The catch - besides the distance - is that your team runs continually from Calistoga to Santa Cruz. All day. All night. And a nice chunk of the next day.

As you can imagine, however, the course is about as lovely as it gets - especially wine country and selected San Francisco legs. Over hill and dale, past grapes and cows, under the gentle dawn and the rising moon, our team pounded the pavement, crossing off each mile between us and the next rest period when our companion van of runners took over.

The 12 team members are divided into 2 vans, six runners and a driver each. As each runner in Van 1 runs, Van 2 is resting, eating, and leapfrogging to the next van exchange point. I was in Van 1 which started the race at 7:30 am on Saturday morning in Calistoga. Van 2's reward was sleeping in and joining us in - oh hell - somewhere around noon. Our reward was that after the next set of legs, Van 1 got to sleep during the darkest hours: from midnight to about 4:30am. I don't envy Van 2 being out and about at that time of night.

(no grapes were harmed during the making of this post)

Pictured right to left: Vanessa, Juba, and Captain, Our Captain, Crissy. Look at the energy! It won't be there in a few hours.

So someone yells "go" at 7:30 and our first runner is off onto sleepy Calistoga roads under a threatening sky and in crisp fall air. The weather will end up cooperating for the rest of the event, but we aren't sure about that yet. I start Saturday fairly nervous, having only met most of the team the day before on the drive to our fabulous St. Helena accommodation. I'm not the fastest runner, in fact, so far, I've yet to really embrace the idea that I am a "runner" at all, marathon notwithstanding.

Around 9:30 or so, I begin my first 4.1 mile leg down Silverado Trail past enticing tasting rooms and endless stretches of grapevines. As is easy to do during events, I burst out of the gate way too fast, carried by the cheers of my teammates and everyone else's teammates at the exchange. Since it's now a bright morning, I figure the iPod can come along - as does my cell phone for the first of a few semi-interesting audioposts.

With ELO's Mr. Blue Sky humming in my head, I maintain a surprisingly quick pace and finish my legs at an impressive 10.48 min/mi (I think). For most, that's slow. For me, that's my first sub 11 for any distance over 2 miles. It's a great way for me to start the race and I feel a thousand times more confident than before.

The rest of Van 1 takes their turns, Dan turns in a fantastically fast sub 8 pace for his over 7 mile leg, mostly without the benefit of shade trees, too. Crissy gets the short end of the leg stick with a fairly ugly bit of suburban Yountville - but her stunning set comes later when she gets the GG Bridge around midnight, under the (nearly) full moon.

We finish our legs at a Baptist Church in Yountville where the local ladies have whipped up an endless supply of spaghetti and sauce, salad, bread, and an array of homemade cookies. There are tables piled with towels outside the gym's showers, and in one corner are a dozen or so sleeping runners, each a shapeless mass of sleeping bag and blanket.

While Van 2 heads off, we grub at a bargain $6 each. The need to temper our cookie enthusiasm is at odds with our post race hunger. I eat too many cookies. I'm not alone, though. About half the team showers. I skip this one, keeping my eyes on the prize of our next break at my house in San Francisco. We head for our 15-person chariot and drive down winding roads to the next van exchange at the Marin French Cheese Company. We have about 4 hours to kill - which is good and bad. We all need the sleep (or will at least be glad we had it later). But making a bunch of runners hang out where cheese and wine are available but a bad idea is patently unfair.

It's a lovely factory, however. The deli has coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. While it's warm in the sunshine, it's undeniably fall in the shade, so my $2 hot tea becomes The. Best. Tea. Ever. Half of our van - and everyone else's - drags sleeping bags to the lawn and naps in what's left of the day's heat. I choose a bench seat, wedging my foot on a window sill and using my suitcase and pillow to fashion a fairly comfortable bed.

Cell phone coverage, sadly, is pretty limited in that part of the state, so we have only the shakiest estimate of when Van 2 might roll up. The cheese factory cooks up a tasty-smelling BBQ chicken dinner which we'll all miss. We get an ETA via another team that our van will arrive around 6:30pm which makes their 6:00pm arrival downright shocking as we scramble for our shoes, hats, and van.

As Van 2's Sati chugs up and over a punishing hill and into the exchange, Mike prepares for his 5 mile second leg. The sun is setting, the temperature is low, and the moon is rising over grassy hills and lonely highways. Lonely highways with small shoulders and fast drivers, at that. Mike finishes like a rockstar and Vanessa tackles one of the worst legs - 5 miles of interminable uphill - not dig in your quads uphill - but worse: slow, steady, calf-ruining hill that ends in an joint destroying downhill dark clip. Disobeying traffic laws, we do a good job of following along with Vanessa until I request enough time at the upcoming exchange to get ready for my own dark, uphill leg.

Naturally, as soon as we pull into the exchange, another runner comes in and says "your girl fell!" We leap in the Van and race back to find her, chugging along, bleeding, in pain, but determined to finish. I run her the last 100 yards, then grab the bracelet/baton, and head off on my own, knowing the van will be a bit longer behind me while they take care of her knees and ankle.

It's quiet. Even with the speeding cars, there's a stillness in the air that is unlike anything I've run through before - not hard to imagine since most of my outdoor running is in in a city known for its great running areas. I've rigged up the iPod earphones in my hat so that I can hear the music and - more importantly - any approaching vehicles, cougars, deer, or homicidal axe murderers. There's a little blinky red light on my back and a flashlight in my hand. I'm alone but it feels good. Okay, and scary. But good.

This is my longest leg - 6.5 miles - just over a 10k. Uphill 2 miles then downhill for 4 into downtown Fairfax. The leg feels more like 10 miles than 10 kilometers, especially the winding, thin-shouldered initial drop which makes my hips scream and my knees creak. Once in Fairfax, music from local bars helps distract me from my fatigue and I wonder what bar-goers think of me, sweating, panting, with a reflective vest and blinky light on my ass, chugging past at 10:30 at night.

Finally, I reach the exchange and forcefully throw the bracelet to Dan and race for the gas station bathroom with a renewed energy. Here's the unglamorous part of distance events seldom discussed: running does things to your insides that aren't fit for discussion but become a very real part of pre-race planning and race day stress.

Once back in the van, I'm relieved to be done for another 10 hours or so, but immediately concerned about the last leg which will be early in the morning without the benefit of a good night's sleep or a good meal.

Mike Juba runs his leg along Mill Valley and Sausalito paths where I spent time during the summer training. We pass my office, several restaurants that hold a special place in my heart, and have to backtrack a few times to find the Sausalito exchange so Crissy can begin the crappy run up to and the lovely run over the Golden Gate Bridge. Having run the same roads many, many times over the summer, I take over the navigator's seat in the van and help our driver - the incomparable Al - follow Crissy and take us over the Bridge. Alexander Avenue sucks, no too ways about it, but Crissy tackles it like a champ - never once slowing down or walking.

We get her as far as we can and then jet over the bridge to meet up with Van 2 on the other side.


Best Rest Stop Ever
Originally uploaded by Phoblog.
Van 2 is waiting at the viewpoint at the end of the Bridge. They've spent their break at my house which - who knew - is located a scant mile or two off the course, something I hadn't even thought about until the afternoon before. They were grateful for the beds and showers. Since my house isn't fully occupied right now, it was possible to sleep all six runners and the drivers in non-floor beds. And our hot water lasts a long time too. And it's next to good pizza. Slam dunk.

We pile back in our Van and I guide them to my house. We stow the van in the driveway after slapping a "please ring bell" note on the front. I figure the ample signage and window dressing on the van will imply that we should be left alone, but the last thing we need is a visit from the nice folks at DPT.

In Sausalito, I'd called Milano Pizza to place our order. Dan and I fetched it (after no small amount of frustration) and we returned to the above scene in my living room. Vanessa was swiftly bleeding through another set of bandages and her ankle was getting larger by the hour. Pocket-sized Crissy fit perfectly on the pocket-sized couch, and everyone else sought a landing pad in my home's maze of rooms. I called dibs on my bed, naturally, and waited for my turn in the shower. It was, like the tea, The. Best. Shower. Ever.

The house quieted down quickly, save the sounds of running water and Al's snoring in the next room, and in about 34 seconds (or maybe an hour or so), Crissy came in and said Van 2 was almost done - giving us a very short amount of time to get to Canada College. It was 3:30 am or so. This was, as we all knew, the hardest part.

Wonderdriver Al raced us - safely! - down 280 and we parked at what we thought was the van exchange but - whoops - wasn't. So we raced back into the van and to the real exchange. We make it in the nick of time and Mike takes off on his last, long, lonely, cold, way-too-early leg. The only consolation is that he doesn't have to run after this. In the van, Vanessa and I are at our most nervous. She is already broken and I am fairly certain I will fall down and die somewhere and not be found for several days. Or worse - those damn bathroom issues . . . . Vanessa runs well and I am able to grab another hot tea at a Starbucks open at 5:00 in the morning. The tea - either its caffeine or its milk - completely disagrees with me and I'm forced into a portapotty for a different kind of race to be at the exchange in time for the handoff. I stumble down to the exchange just as Vanessa comes in, and I stumble off on my final leg, trying to fasten on the light, the reflective vest, and the iPod at the same time.

It was 6:00am and still dark.

The leg description implied leg 27 was flat. It wasn't. It was not the worst incline, but not fun either.

I was very grateful for sunrise - a bit after 6:30 - and as soon as it was light enough, the iPod went back in the ears and I chose to play songs on shuffle, hoping it would distract me from the ill feeling growing in my gut, the fatigue in my legs, and the worst runner enemy - the voice in your head that says stop, stop, stop.

I walk exactly 8 steps and then decide to gun it the best I can. Which is not very well. The last 5.6 is my last and my worst run. It's a sub 13 pace, but barely. It's not particularly scenic. Every other runner I pass - er - am passed by looks about as enthused as I am. Then the exchange is in sight, the energy returns, and I sprint in, toss the bracelet to Dan, and limp across the street.

Dan begins his leg which is similar to mine, but ends with a nasty uphill into the Santa Cruz Mountains. Juba and Crissy have two of the most difficult legs to wrap up Van 1's part of The Relay. It's cold in the mountains. The roads are dangerously small. And did I mention the uphill?




Made It!
Originally uploaded by Phoblog.
Crissy tackled those hills like they kicked her puppy. We passed many other runners who walked, but not our gal! At the top of the hill, the most energetic, busiest van exchange yet. Van 2 was there, ready to go, and we basked in the "we're done!" feeling that only a hundred miles or so of running can bring. At the Santa Cruz county line, Van 2 has a long set of downhill and windy road legs to run and we set off for Santa Cruz, the boardwalk, the finish line, food, and most importantly, beer. Of course, after a day and a half of little sleep and little food, the smell of beer alone will probably make me tipsy, but it's no matter.

Unfortunately, the mountain backroads of Santa Cruz get us lost and likely extend our travel time considerably - who knows if we went the right or the wrong way - but for part of it, we're on single lane roads with frightening drop-offs and too many turns for our tired, sickly heads. But no matter, we get to Santa Cruz and the boardwalk, park, and head in.

In Neptune's Palace we get beer and smile for the camera. We're stinky, we're tired, but we finished it together and it feels amazing. What follows, though, is an hour or so of faux drama brought on by a race volunteer who opines that we might've run the race too quickly and are thus subject to disqualification. Short story: we're fine, we finish, we weren't disqualified, and for the most part, the event ends on a peaceful note on a beach in California, 199 miles and nearly 31 hours from where we started.


You Heard Me
Originally uploaded by Phoblog.
Our team, geographically-sensitively named Sac It Up! (tagline: "What? Like You Don't Run A 3am 10k?") finished the race in 30:47:28 placing us 186th out of all 238 teams and 43d out of the 60 teams in our division. Of special note to us, we beat both tag-crazy Flamingo teams who terrorized all other Relay vans with their glass chalk pens of fury. That is a satisfying finish for me, and, I'm betting, my teammates.

The Relay was fun. Period. Much more so than the marathon, though the glory of the number 26.2 is still very powerful. This event took the accomplishment of distance running - a solitary and at times lonely experience - and made it a team event, something that made it both fun and a fantastic study in group dynamics and athletic ethics. A lot of the fun came between the legs of course (damn, that was unintentionally a howler of a line, wasn't it?) - with tagging hijinx as certain vans left their marks on others (if you check out the flickr page, you'll see some examples. And music becomes a big part of things as well with each runner having their serious kick some asphalt songs and also the songs the rest of the team plays to crack them up - a helpful diversion by mile 14. I appreciate tremendously the support gladly given by my teammates - nearly all of whom were strangers to me at mile 1. Unfortunately, the next Relay is this coming April because the Nike 26.2 has rudely invaded the October full moon weekend next year, and I hope to be traveling at that point. But I'd suggest the event to anyone, even novice runners. It would be a great stepping stone to a full individual marathon and equally suitable for shorter distance runners who don't want to tackle the big miles. It requires a different kind of endurance - and a lot more patience - than a marathon, but in many ways, it's more rewarding. Your marathon will be over in a matter of hours - this event, which requires a nearly equal amount of training (for some people, anyway) lasts for days, so you're getting your money worth. Try it, you'll like it.

Thus concludes the run wrap-up. Check back later though as I spell-check and add in the missing links.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

What's Up Ben? Jerry?

Your chocolate fudge brownie froyo got me through first year, but your latest ad campaign on saving the family farm? What's up with that?

IGS, Prop 77, And The Case Of The Missing Report

So an expected IGS report on Prop. 77 has been yanked at the last minute - though only after an Oakland Tribune reporter already wrote about its findings. That article is here, here, here, and here (yep, search for "Bruce Cain" on the Oakland Trib homepage and you get 4 versions):

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's special-election redistricting initiative would create some closer races — even in the populous Bay Area and Los Angeles Democratic strongholds — but it would not shift decisive power to Republicans, a report is expected to show today.

The study by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, is foreshadowed in research papers obtained by the Oakland Tribune, a sister paper to The Argus, and roughly matches previous findings by institutes at Claremont McKenna College and the University of Southern California.
The reason for at least one of the updates is clear: between versions 1 and 2, additional data is discussed with respect to Joe Simitian's AD 21. Unfortunately, Joe hasn't represented that seat since he was elected to the Senate last year, but whatever. Wait, actually, it says that through version 4. Whatever. I think they meant that the data used was current through when Joe held the seat.

But we'll never know since IGS has had a change of heart.

More on this momentarily . . . .

And: So, the reason IGS gives is that the research was never intended to have any relationship to Prop. 77, it's an academic exploration of what happens when competitiveness is assigned different levels of priority in redistricting.

Okayyyy.

Rumors are supposedly flying around the capitol (with Reep communication directors grabbing any and all journalistic ears available)about whether this could have anything to do with IGS programs depending on state funding - that they have several key line items under direct control of the legislature.

But that's a bit much, isn't it? Honestly, it's not Chinatown here - this is a wonkfest of a ballot measure that is so bogged down in nuanced pro/con/basic political self interest it probably won't pass anyway. And IGS is highly respeted institution and Bruce Cain is, from what I understand, the reason why.

But it leaves a bad taste, doesn't it? One reporter has seen something - or not - or has - or whatever - and the cat's out of the bag. So there's a perception problem now - probably an unfair one - but it's there.

More On Ads: Note Agency's Location

On the new military recruiting ads that resemble anti-drug ads:

The Chroncile covers a recently airing set of ads (print spots running as well) to encourage military service by showing kids having serious conversations with silent parents. The voice over says "make it a two-way conversation."

I've seen several so far and at first I wasn't sure if they were really military spots or whether they were sly anti-war messages. They're real military spots and the branches are listed on the ad's closing screen. They are quite powerful - and also a little sad and a little noble. And they also mirror all those anti-drug commercials that urge parents to buck up and talk to their kids about drugs.

The military spots are a little less culturally damning. The anti-drug spots trying to get parents to parent make me want to home school any child I may have for fear they will sit next to any of a number of parentless children.

But one item in the article struck me: the ad firm that created the campaign calls San Francisco home.

Phoblog Entertainment Report: Sorry, Lizzie

I'm not against remakes. I have no problem with creative or even standard reproductions of beloved - or even beliked - works. Sometimes they're good, sometimes they're bad, sometimes they're only scantly related to the original, and sometimes their marketing departments should go back to Frosh Lit.

Let me explain.

I've recently seen several TV spots for the latest version of Austen's Pride and Prejudice. One wonders why anyone would remake the tale after the BBC's miniseries established Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy game over, case closed, hands down, slam dunk, stop looking, in 1995. Sure it's 6 hours, but for most (women) the complaint isn't that it's too long, but rather, that it's too short.

Another reason to ditch the move version: the lukewarm run of Gwennie P's Emma adaptation a few years back which was, I will forever maintain, far less accomplished than Clueless. (Yes, Clueless, watch it again.)

But fine - it's cool - Austen rocks, and she's one of the few pre-20th century female authors to which many freshmen are exposed.

Here's my real problem, however: the trailer. And actually, I might have to revise this post in a bit because I'm really looking for the TV ad and I can't double check that this trailer commits the same sin - but work with me.

Though the film's tag line, as listed on its imdb page, is a reasonable: "Sometimes the last person on earth you want to be with is the one person you can't be without" the TV spot would make both our Lizzie Bennet and Jane Austen roll in their graves.

In it, the conflict is sketched as lower class Lizzie being kept from her love Darcy by the normal forces of evil in British period flicks: class, scary old matriarchs, fog on the moors, whatever. Keira Knightly looks woeful in every shot. Her love can't love her back. What is she to do?

[insert Family Feud buzzer sound here.]

Wrong!

Those who have read the book - hell, those who have read the title - should know it's not that simple. The players could easily be reversed with Darcy being mopey as Keira-Lizzy shuns him. These kids are both pretty pig-headed, that's the point.

Turning Elizabeth Bennet - a strong, eloquent, witty, savvy, killer of a character into a stock longing-gal-on-screen, even if it's just for the commercial, is just wrong. And it sells a completely different story to movie goers. The point of the story is less about societal pressures screwing up their relationship than it is about two people who use societal pressures to excuse their own unreasonable behavior, their pride, and their - wait for it - prejudice. Don't hate the game, it's the players who have to learn in Austen's world.

It's possible that the Bennet gals are slyly undermined from the books famous opening line - but more likely, Austen is loyal to her strong women and if she sometimes cloaks her go-getters in culturally appropriate battles it just proves her smarts.. That television commercial is an afront to Austen lovers.

I'll watch the movie, which is likely truer to the text than the ad, but one wonders why now, when Austen's once cutting edge narratives are commonplace, the studio decided to dumb things down. Would a truer telling really have repelled the audience?

Of course, it still won't have Colin Firth.

Sunday Mornings Are For Males

Not just the football part either.*

In this made-for-Catherine-Hazelton article, the Chron's Joan Ryan discusses a study showing that TV's political talk shows shun women.

The piece also tips us off to SheSource.org, a site that makes it really, really easy for producers to remember the other 51% of the population can both speak and look good on camera too.

The site comes partly from the fine folks at Fenton Communications - who - if memory serves - also have helped out on founding things like Emerge. Good peeps.

*Phoblog loves football. So do many girls. My love of football combined with my mysterious glasses is like spanish fly. Just kidding. Or not.

Of Floods And Urban Renewal

A very interesting New York Times piece on New Orlean's redevelopment challenges.

Back From One Race, Back To Others

Well, that's done.

Rick Hasen links to an AP report on the upcoming VRA renewal process and asks about Section 5's constitutionality.

Also - he (finally) has comments enabled.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Torrance Moves Up, Down In Same Article

In creepy news - a SoCal attorney was arrested for suspected animal cruelty for keeping 300 dead and living pigeons and operating on one after sedating it with vodka.

Ick.

Can't help property values in Torrance - a city (a "balanced" one at that) in the South Bay - that's SoCal South Bay, not San Jose South Bay.

But hold the phone - the article describes the attorney's house as run-down but in a "tony Los Angeles suburb."

Wow. Impressive.

Update: More (creepier) coverage in the Daily Breeze. It clears up the "tony" question. He lived in Redondo Beach, not Torrance. Perhaps. His Starbucks is in Redondo.

And I think that will be the last icky pet story of the day.

Dumping Still Prohibited; Mocking, As Ever, Encouraged

From coverage of yesterday's fire which destroyed millions of dollars worth of rare, expensive wine:

Officials at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the wine and water mixture should not flow into the storm drains or bay waters because it would be harmful to fish.
So, then, a joke about drunken salmon specials wouldn't be well-received?

Thanks, I'll be here all week . . . .

Of Dog Bones and Dog Bones

To break up the political - here's a fascinating piece from the SF Chron on the swiftly changing attitudes toward dogs in Asian countries. Yes, the article addresses both dog chow and dogs as chow, which still happens in some Asian countries. If you just recoiled, consider one source cited in the article who blames Hollywood for anthropomorphizing pooches.

Then think back to how horrified you were at Katrina's human carnage. And then the "Snowball" story. The pet angle really got to you, didn't it?

So what about doggie snacks?

Yet there are those who point out that dogs are no more intelligent than other creatures that Americans quite happily consume -- pigs, for instance. And still others who suggest that by trying to impose their gastronomic morality on those who have no compunctions regarding caniphagia, Westerners are engaging in a patronizing kind of cultural colonialism.
There's a point there. It does seem less necessary to export condemnation of eating dogs than, say, female genital mutilation.

That said, you come near my Patches with a puff pastry and a smile, you will be taken down. Swiftly.

Make sure you check out this Honda concept car as well. (W.O.W. stands for Wonderfully Openhearted Wagon. Woof.)

Which One Isn't?

From a Chron article on Prop. 77, this head-scratcher of a comment:

Costa also has the backing -- and financial support -- of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has made the redistricting effort one of his priorities in the Nov. 8 special election.


The whole damn election is his "priority" - especially now that the honeymoon period is so over the voters may be asking for a divorce soon. (And, no, I mean the '06 election, not some recall effort that shouldn't get any coverage whatsoever.)

The article is otherwise a nice recap of the story so far - the pros, the cons, and the foolish objections: like the argument that retired judges will be evil, old white men who don't get the needs of a diverse state. I still maintain that if people looked at this reform with a lens longer than 10 years it would really help.

The bench is changing. And if it isn't changing fast enough - by all means, start running candidates you like now. You can do that in California. It's a horrible thing that you can do that, but since you can, good god, why not take advantage of it?

The question is, as ever, whom do judges represent?

Whom would a independent redistricting commission represent?

Answer it - I dare you.

Incidently, I asked Peter Shrag the same question in response to his column on Prop. 77 that relies heavily on the evil-white-judge oppo-bite. If he answers, I'll let you know.

(h/t to ElectionLawBlog.org for the links.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Wheels Officially Off The Wagon

When the local news starts covering the increasing chorus of Prop. 77 "noes," you gotta figure things look pretty bad.

The coverage this evening centered on the growing number of Republicans coming out against the measure. Gee, wonder why. The answer comes with another question: which Republicans?

The incumbent ones. Natch.

Monday, October 10, 2005

American Political Rhetorical Devices That Bug, Vol. 1

An article on the upcoming SF City Assessor's race illustrates nicely the campaign rhetorical device I hate most: Non-politicians running for political office.

The in-crowd, outsider narrative is as old as our country (historians rest easy - I know it's older than that, but for purposes of this discussion . . .). We're a country of outsider/outlaws who broke away from mother England and established a republic based on citizen rule which means, depending on which Framer you follow, that legislators should either be short-serving everymen or everyman who can serve a little longer.

David Dreier once told me that he doesn't see a problem with his lifelong congressional service because when the Founders envisioned a government filled with all kinds - farmers, doctors, etc - they would've also been fine with professional congressman. I happen to agree with him (sorta - mostly I'm in awe of the reasoning, brilliant and cagey as it is) but that may be only because my particular skills set and training is pretty much geared toward, well, legislating.

Agree with his politics or not, at least he's honest about being a politician. Many politicians - especially people who are spending thousands of dollars to become politicians - spill a lot of ink and cash insisting they are no such thing.

Former LA mayoral candidate and political offspring of run-government-like-a-business (Device That Bugs, Vol. 2) Dick Riordan, Steve Soboroff's signs read "a problem solver, not a politician."

Newsflash: if you're posting blue and white standard-sized campaign signs around town you. are. a. politician. Or at least you're really hoping to be one.

And frankly, why shouldn't you be? And frankly, your constituents will be much better served if you're willing and able to play the game long enough to bring home the bacon (it's only pork if it's cooking in someone else's district).

In the assessor's race, I wonder how Supervisor Sandoval paints himself as an outsider. The three candidates aren't giving each other any breaks - each charging the other two of being too political and motivated by personal interest, etc. One is accused of being more political than the apolitical he claims to be after having expressed interests in other elected offices.

At the end of the day, it's a wonder we get anything done at all, since it seems voters want assurances that their candidates are qualified for . . . well, something other than leading in government. Some do get by on the experience-in-office narrative (see: Bush, George W. - circa 2004, that is). But for the most part, we the people still allow our would-be representatives and executives to get away with applying for a job and highlighting their inexperience in the interview. Thanks but no thanks. I want someone who can get things done, isn't ashamed about that ability, and someone gusty enough to force voters to raise their expectations of elected officials and of themselves.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Light Blogging, Heavy Jogging

Because tapering is for sissies.

Yes, it hardly seems possible, but this weekend is The Relay - all 199 blessed miles of it - from Calistoga to Santa Cruz. We have our team - Bib #76 Sac It Up. My favorite team name - aside from ours - is probably 11 Turkeys and A Ham. And then there's Bib #2, Team Dean. You'll note the listed start time is 4am . . . on Thursday. That's because team Dean is one man: Dean Karnazes. And yes, he is his team. You may remember him from such things as the cover of Runner's World and the cover of his book. This is an average run for him.

At any rate: between some nice, last minute panicking over the relay, and a host of other things, this week will be a light one, blogging-wise.

But hang in there - you're still free to bash the Rose, redistricting reform, or the No side all you want in the comments sections of various posts below.

And unlike the marathon, I promise-no-really-this-time to toss up some relay coverage.

Read more about the event here.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

California Parents Grateful, Relieved To Have Duties Eased

The Governor signed a few nanny state bills today. Well, one nanny and one perhaps a bit more important. The bills ban the sale of especially violent video games to children and ban the use of dietary supplements by high school athletes.

The Governor said the violent video game bill, AB 1179 by Assemblyman Leland Yee, "gets parents involved in the decision-making process."

Um, I dunno, but, like, couldn't - and shouldn't - parents have been involved in the decision making process WITHOUT THIS BILL? What the hell does the bill do other than ensure a nice dinner-table fight in many California homes. My guess: kids under 15 or so aren't driving themselves to Blockbuster or Best Buy and kids over 15 should be able to differentiate between real and video game violence. And parents of kids of ANY age should know most of what their kids are doing.

One 13 year old interviewed for the Chron article linked above said kids could just order games online or ask a grown-up to buy the games for them (while they're buying the kids' cigarettes and beer, I would assume). And that kids watch movies more violent anyway.

To paraphrase one of my favorite film characters: until mankind is peaceful enough not to have violence on the news, there's no point in taking it away from games that need it for entertainment value.

Two things to love about this bill:

First, it's author is from San Francisco - home of vast respect for individual liberty and choice. So respectful, in fact, it will go ahead and just tell you what you can and can't say.

Second, define "ultraviolent." You'll know it when you see it, right?

I hope by the time I become a parent that more laws like these are enacted so I really only have to check of a number of permission slips and leave it to the cops and retail clerks to make sure my kids are on track.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Phoblog Entertainment Update

How much can a gal handle in a day? Having slacked off in my popculture tracking, I refocused today just long enough to learn that Nick and Jessica might be splitsville AND Katie Holmes is . . . is . . . . No, I can't say it without urping a little in my mouth. It's too much.

Okay, that's enough fluff. It wasn't even fun fluff.

Foie Gras, Women, and The American Way

Have fun playing with this story on force-fed women fighting a gruesome tradition in Mauritania, an Islamic republic on the western edge of the Sahara.

Voluptuous wives have been the historic standard in the country, but DishTV is freeing the women to aspire toward anorexia spawned by the western-world and its global influence.

No, no, I'm not saying force feeding a 12 year old the way you would a goose is a good thing - but the story brings up a nice, multi-layered set of women's issues.

Also - I'm damned curious how tall these women are if, as the article says, their 198 pound weight impairs their ability to walk (granted the weight can also be paired with tortured feet to force the feeding, but the piece implies 198 pounds alone hampers movement. In the words of Sir Mix-a-Lot, only if she's 5'3". Which may be the case . . . .

(Thanks to Amberfor the link).

New Chronicle Election Blog

T San Francisco Chronicle has started a new blog focusing on the 2005 Special Election. Contributors include Chron political writer Carla Marinucci and Sac bureau writers Paul Feist and Lynda Gledhill.

An RSS feed is also available.

Though I haven't read all the content yet, I'm very interested to see how it progresses. In some respects, this MSMing of an alt.media concept seems too niche to make it as a feature. Why not just post short articles? But it's a good resource for checking out the paper's coverage of the political and policy issues at play.

One criticism so far: the use of that awful calendar as a way of accessing archived posts. Who thought/thinks that is the way to go?

Dan Weintraub, you now have 'spherical company.

If You Can't Change Minds, Change Words

Continuing a six year tradition of abusing language to abuse power, Bush tried out a new rhetorical scheme for justifying the Iraq war today:

"We will never back down, never give in and never accept anything less than complete victory," Bush said in a speech on Washington's war on terrorism.

Bush used new and more specific language in characterizing the opponents as part of an Islamic radical movement "with a clear and coherent ideology" and territorial ambitions, rather than dismissing them as the terrorist "evildoers" of his early speeches on the issue.
In a baffling statement better left to the screenplay of Se7en, he ascribed to the terror-artists formerly known as evildoers "a set of beliefs that are evil but not insane." His new name for the ideology (is it really new?) is "Islamo-fascism."

Bush also warned further sacrifice will be required.

What, exactly, have we been asked to sacrifice? Tax dollars? No, he keeps sending those back. Materials vital to the war effort? No, we're still allowed to buy and drive big cars. Our fundamental belief in the ability of the federal government to care for us in our hour of need while nation building in someone else's sandbox? Ding! Done, Mr. President. What else would you like us to give up?

In related, but less dire, word-play news: The Roundup relays Schwarzenegger spokesman Rob Stutzman's recent comments to the LAT on his boss's slumping approval ratings:

"'Californians are not mad at Arnold Schwarzenegger,' chief spokesman Rob Stutzman recently told The Times. 'They are rooting for him. They want him to succeed. And all that goodwill that buoyed us at absurdly high approval ratings a year ago still exists as a reservoir of goodwill.'"
Um, pssst, it might be time to let loose a bit of that stored goodwill. And I'll leave alone his use of "absurdly." Some low-hanging fruit should be left to pretty the tree . . . .

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

First Two Don't Count

Three guesses which side I'm inclined to support (after very little investigation or research so far:

Citizens to Save the Waterfront

or

Piers 27-31

Sigh.

More on this later, I'm sure. Probably here and over at Metroblogging San Francisco. The SF Democratic Party and Pier 39 are among those opposing the project. Pier 39? Gee, wonder what they're worried about. New stores selling cheaper snowglobes and "Alcatraz Psychiatric Ward" t-shirts? And speaking of stores - the no-new-pier-development scary flyer says the mega-mall plan would include 45 - 45! - chain stores. Pier 39 has 110 stores according to its website. Snowglobes over the Gap, though, right?

There's still that unfortunate Gap at the corner of Haight and Ashbury, though - which pretty much explains San Francisco as a concept - but nevermind.

Caption Contest: Wild Kingdom Edition

Longtime readers will recall with fondness our old caption contests, the entries for which were lost in the Great Comments Wipe-Out of '05. Since then, and since the end of the presidential campaign season, not much has passed through the ol' in box or across the screen that has been deemed worthy of the next contest.

But the wait is over.

Since you have all been working so hard politically and academically here lately, here's a chance to flex those creative muscles. For background, here's the story: Python Explodes After Eating Alligator.

Feel free to use your best mixed metaphors to turn the following photo into a savvy political or pop-cultural joke. As always, caption suggestions should be entered in the comments section, below:



Is that, like, totally gross? Yes, it is. But don'd deny it - your inner third grader is saying "cool."

Internet Things I'm Digging Today

If Google is your homepage, you may have noticed the Personalized Homepage link in the upper right corner. Granted, I tend to use the Google Toolbar to google things up more often than I navigate to my homepage, but my new personalized page might change that - or at least change my initial surfing upon booting-up.

The personalized page allows you to add RSS/XML feeds for pretty much anything you want (you can choose from a few preset options in various categories or add any feed you can find). For instance, my page features the pre-set Reuters, BBC, Google News Top Stories, Weather, and Movie times feeds.

And since I can add my own feeds, I threw in the Chron's top news and bay area news feeds, as well as Metroblogging San Francisco, Election Law Blog (since I'm spending so much time on the subject lately), and Phoblographer* itself (just to make sure the feed is working since I've been asked about it in the past).

I may add some more friends' feeds and/or swap some around soon, but too many means I can't see them all without scrolling, which lessens the page's functionality.

So check it out - new toys are always fun.

VRHey!

I submit for your consideration ElectionLawBlog.org author and professor Rick Hasen's 2005 law journal article Congressional Power to Renew the Preclearance Provisions of the Voting Rights Act after Tennessee v.Lane 66 Ohio State Law Journal 177 (2005):

This article considers a single question: Does Congress have the power to renew the Voting Rights Act's preclearance provisions, set to expire in 2007? Beginning with South Carolina v. Katzenbach, the United States Supreme Court has upheld preclearance as a permissible exercise of congressional enforcement power. These cases, however, mostly predate the Supreme Court's New Federalism revolution. As part of that revolution, the Court has greatly restricted the ability of Congress to pass laws regulating the conduct of the states under its enforcement powers granted in Section Five of the Fourteenth Amendment, which the Court has read as coextensive with its enforcement powers under the Fifteenth Amendment. Moreover, in Board of Trustees v. Garrett, the Court made clear that it will search for an adequate evidentiary record to support a congressional determination that states are engaging in unconstitutional conduct to justify congressional regulation of the states. Some of that clarity on the evidentiary question disappeared in the Court's 2003 decision, Nevada v. Hibbs, and even greater uncertainty has been created by the Court's 2004 decision, Tennesee v. Lane.
And it only gets better after that. This paper is a real page turner for even marginal Voting Rights, redistricting, representation, election law, constitutional law, or just plain political nerds. A must read . . . .

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Redistricting Report Report Cards

You might want to brew some coffee and find a comfy chair for this one:

First - my thoughts on the Rose Institute Report:

1.) The report makes a nice stab at the Florida practice of not listing unchallenged candidates on the ballot. It has little to do with redistricting reform - except as a related illness or symptom, but it's still a shameful practice. Of course, the report doesn't mention that the same rule exists in California with respect to judicial candidates for Superior Court. However, since I already said this isn't germane to discussions of redistricting reform, I won't take this opportunity to wax poetic on the ills of a fake populist concept like judicial elections. I did, however, right my thesis on it, so if anyone wants to nerd-out on the subject, I'm your gal.

2.) The report focuses on congressional district abuses but does mention the equally quease-inducing AD and SD lines (more so on the SDs than the ADs, but they aren't perfect either). The fault for those lies squarely with former Speaker Bob Hertzberg whose "protect Cardoza at all costs" requirement royally screwed many a great legislator for the benefit of someone who pounced on a better political opportunity and skipped off to DC anyway. They carved Fred Keeley's district like Christmas goose, cooking his in the process. It was, perhaps, one of the few cases in which drawing a current member's next seat would've been a great thing. Mr. Keely, we miss you so . . . .

3.) I take exception to the reports description of Prop. 77's criteria as "clear" and "specific." I think a few more lines of guidance would improve the process. It's easy for the Rose and a few others of us to read into Prop. 77's criteria our own levels of specificity - but whether the judiciary would infer the same is unknown. For a better alternative, see the Rose's own model reform language - an analysis of which has long been promised and delayed, I know. It requires a complete reform of not only the process, but your entire understanding of the current starting point. New map components and extensive public comment are just two of the plans innovations that can lead to that magical state map that pisses everyone off equally.

4.) And speaking of public comments, the report's assertion that a redraw using 2000 census data would include the '01 process's public comments doesn't make sense to me since I don't recall reading that in 77's language. But I could be wrong. Otherwise, not sure that the court would refer to it - but they might.

5.) The Rose has long been a fan of term limits. That's the one policy concept I never came to embrace while there nor since I've worked for the State Legislature nor at any time. The argument that the number of women in the legislature will be partially aided by term limits was true at one time, but the pipeline has run dry. If that bothers you, send checks to Emerge . . . .

6.) One criticism with which I may, at least initially, agree is that the whole publication would be stronger if it contained maps showing what this bundle of swell representative districts looked like. Frankly, even including just the 1991 and 2001 maps so people could really see the damage would've been a bonus. I'm pretty sure some maps were drawn to come up with the results (can't figure out how'd they'd guess it out in their heads) so why not publish them as well? (Doug?) I don't, however, agree with one of my new frequent-commenter's thoughts on the matter and his reasonings on why the maps should've been released (see comments here).

If the report has any shortcomings, they don't stem from ex- or implicit partisan rhetoric or goals. There's no vote-for-77-or-else, simply the conclusion that 77's system is vastly better than what we've got. The mid-decade argument against it doesn't directly counter the wisdom of the plan (though it once again calls Costa's wisdom into question) - only the folly of a lone provision that a court, given the right slow-pitch brief, could knock right outta the game.

Grade: B-

Now, on the USC Report:

1.) If some argue the Rose report is partisan and conclusory, it is only because the report avoids the passive voice and says "the legislature manipulates the process to reduce competition," instead of USC's touchy-feelier, oh-so-old-school-academia "The legislative redistricting process has been criticized as being manipulated to achieve one of two outcomes that reduce competition . . . ." (page 3) C'mon, USC, who has criticized the legislative redistricting process? (Answer: uh, most people except for a handful of partisan true-believers and Michael Berman).

2.) Favorite factoid diction: in its section discussing other states' reform efforts, the USC report says:

Most redistricting commissions were adopted by legislatures, often as a response to a credible threat that reformers would use the initiative process to establish a commission.
That's amusing in two ways: first, the use of "credible threat" can't help but bring a smile to politicos. Second, it's yet more evidence that California's legislators take crap from no one - even when they probably should.

3.) Table 2 on page 9 of the report presents various criteria and whether they exist under current law or would under Prop. 77. It's a nice graphic, though it implies compliance with the VRA isn't part of current practice, which is sorta true if it isn't specifically spelled out in statute, but not really true because compliance with federal law is seldom optional.

4.) The report states that experience in other states does not indicate that compactness, nor multiple criteria, save plans from litigation or charges of unfairness. This isn't newsworthy. No plan is perfect for all constituencies (meaning, the good-government plan is likely to piss of any number of interest groups defined by ethnicity, race, party affiliation, NIMBYism, incumbency). Who draws the plans and how are called "the most critical factors influencing the competitiveness of a redistricting plan." I would argue that explicit line-drawing criteria are part-and-parcel to that.

5.) Both the USC and Rose reports are limited in their predictive value because Prop. 77 contains as yet untested mechanisms. The USC report is more upfront about the limitation, but both reports gloss over the wildest of wildcard provisions. They can't really help it. It's also difficult to analogize one report to the other in a meaningful way because each is premised on different assumptions.

6.) The USC report says commission plans have been subjected to legal challenges as often as legislative plans. Again, so what? We live in possibly the most litigious state in the country in the most litigious country in the world. If Jesus came down and redrew the lines, someone - probably the ACLU - would file suit the next day anyway.

7.) That damned voter approval provision gets short-shrift here too. Hard to fault anyone for that since who knows how that will affect the process. Hard to fault anyone for ignoring it more because I doubt this is going to pass anyway . . . . oops, reality busting into the post, sorry.

8.) Again on page 12 we're treated to a rundown of current research on the value of a compactness requirement. Shockingly, there is disagreement on how to measure for compactness. This comes from those "political science" types. I'm tempted to go porno on the issue: as in "I know it when I see it." Lois Capps old district was compact. Her current district is not. Let's start from there and use a little common sense, eh?

9.) I disagree with the compactness-as-packing notion. I also disagree with the idea that compactness and competition - STATEWIDE - are mutually exclusive. Certain areas will be safe D or R no matter what you do to them. There's nothing wrong with that. A better system isn't about making 52 competitive congressional districts. It's about letting competition flourish where it would, were it not mashed by the hands of interested artists. Take the Palos Verdes Peninsula and surrounding areas. Were the region kept together in an even slightly logical way, it would be a swing area (San Pedro and the hill would balance each other out - and it's always been swingy). Right now, the hill is - at various levels of government - carved into and out of old districts to keep the pesky conservatives away from the Dems. And their neighbors. And where they most often travel. Because of this, districts were made to snake around the hill and separate, oh, I don't know, ME and my neighbors from those who share our interests more closely than the rest of Senator Vincent's traditional constituents. A compact district there would've been both competitive and would've passed the laugh test.

10.) California's demography - current and predicted - means most of these worries won't apply in 10 years time. New and equally ugly ones will, however.

11.) On the downside of incumbent-blind redistricting: yes it sucks to lose long-time reps when you get drawn out of their district, or they get drawn out of their own districts (see: Keeley, Fred). But I disagree that such a provision may discourage qualified candidates because of the chance the district will change every 10 years. I'm sure there's a Founders-argument in there about a healthy rotation of representatives, but I also don't have much of a problem with career politicians. But it's a privilege, not a right, to have a district all your own. Bruce Cain - if you end up reading this, since its your argument, I invite your comment.

12.) It's worth nothing that the argument comes from a 1984, pre-term limits Cain publication. Term limits already force a job change every so often - so do re-draws make it THAT much worse?

As seems to be a trend with this new USC policy outfit, their Prop. 77 report is more of a meta-analysis of past research on the efficacy of various redistricting plans. There's nothing wrong with this kind of summary, but it's still just an overview. There isn't much in the USC methodology that can be criticized because they don't have a methodology. Everyone they cite has one - but since no one is paying me for writing this blog and I'm paying the state a lot of money for an education, I'm not about to get into their methodologies here. But man, would I be a rockstar if I did. I bet USC has some donors and stuff. Maybe they could do it.

The USC report has more other hands than that giant squid they found in Japan last week. It's a useful survey, but hard to boil down to a solid conclusion. And at its core, redistricting is as much an art as a science. Strict criteria is step one, but a solid policy on which to hang those elements is essential.

Redistricting is a lot like a child's puzzle: those little squares that shift in a 4 by 4 grid with one missing and require the player to form a picture or a correct sequence of numbers. There may be a strategy, but mostly, it's a lot of movement and guesswork that leads to a big picture. In the real-world application, redistricting requires balancing many interests and concepts and coming up with the best case scenario. Sometimes this will mean having a few less-compact districts. Sometimes this requires keeping a community straddling city limits together in one district. Sinking the proposal because there are examples of how each criteria can go wrong is unfair and unrealistic.

That said, Prop. 77's wildcards make it hard to support outright - which is a damn shame because this was a blue-moon opportunity for a badly needed reform. It'd be nice if California's Legislators take this near-miss as a warning and get on with reforming. But I doubt it.

The Rose report says "this plan is good, so do it" which I will continue to maintain is not out-of-line for an academic institution. The USC report is a great overview of existing research, but adds little to the current debate. In fact, I'm not sure what good it really does. But it does no harm, either. And bonus points for making the report available in Spanish.

Grade: D (for just republishing others' work)

Lastly - The No Team's White Paper:

1.) The title tells you pretty much what will follow: "A critical analysis of Proposition 77 - the mid-decade redistricting proposition on the November 8th ballot." So, you're saying the mid-decade thing is a problem, right?

2.) Dear No on 77: it's not a phantom disease. You can oppose 77 on a zillion grounds, but "phantom disease" ain't one of 'em.

3.) A minor point - but please don't start sentences with digits. That's just poor form.

4.) It's really difficult to present reasoned arguments supporting or opposing the white paper's assertions because they aren't reasoned to being with.

5.) Michael Barone may have called CD 23 "elegant," fine. And there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to support the notion that if you sliced Cali into new states, you'd need more than just NorCal and SoCal - you'd need Coastal Cal, and interior South and interior North. But what about the other hack jobs? SD 25? Anyone?

6.) I'm sorry, I tried. I've made it to page 7, but I don't have the time or energy to thoroughly analyze something that's intended for a non-academic purpose. I'll finish reading it and if anything really pops out at me, I'll update this post - which is overlong as it is.

[Update: have read the whole thing. No further comment at this time.]

7.) At one point, the report asks what kind of judge would volunteer to redistrict California. “A partisan judge with an agenda,” say the No folks. Raging nerds like me, maybe? Bored retired judges who like being important?

8.) The gloss on the California judicial selection process offends my inner academic (remember: thesis on the topic). They are right that the “overwhelming majority of state judges are appointed without meaningful public knowledge and virtually no scrutiny.” Yet, no mention is made that all judges could appear on the ballot and that, were they so inclined, voters and parties could game the holy hell out of judgeships with little problem. The joy of an “elected” judiciary. Influencing current judicial elections may not affect 2006, 2008, or 2010 – or even 2020 – redistrictings, but again, this isn’t about the next 10 or 20 years, it’s about the next 100.

9.) Yes, the measure should’ve been excluded from the ballot under the substantial compliance doctrine. Bad Supreme Court, no biscuit.

10.) There’s an extensive Rose-Institute-Bad addendum. Among many things in that section I have a problem with – the notion that women’s opportunities are forwarded under the current plan is goofy. Of the examples of women elected in the current districts one is the sister of a sitting congresswoman and the other is the widow of one who died in office. I’m not trying to take anything away from those women’s accomplishments, nor do I have data to support Prop. 77 makes things better for us, but the paper’s arguments are weak. At the same time, don’t use another two women as an excuse to draw goofy districts. The rest of the addendum is similarly rushed – which the authors blame on the Rose Institute.

Proposition 77 has two major substantive flaws and one major strategic flaw. Substantively: the mid-decade provision and the voter approval provision. Strategically: it's Ted Costa's. That hat trick of trouble, along with an enfeebled Governor, means Prop. 77 doesn't need this "white paper" to help it to its certain demise. One of my commenters referred to it as "excellent." At the same time he/she has yelled loudest about the Rose paper seeming partisan. I'm baffled. Perhaps he/she has withdrawn the implied affection for the white paper, but it's hard to tell.

The paper is very well-written and serves its purpose well. But that purpose is clear, unhidden, and certainly is not a circumspect analysis of a policy proposal. That said, it's hard to argue with something that calls the Governor out on his idiocy. "Blow up boxes" my ass . . . .

Grade: A for rhetoric, C for analytical value.

Overall, the Rose report is stylistically less elegant than the USC report or white paper - but it specifically spells out the difficulties in comparing Prop. 77's provisions to anything in existence and the application of those provisions to California specifically compared to reform efforts in demographically different states. The USC plan does a great job compiling everyone else's research. And the white paper's strength is its unapologetic attack on the initiative's weaknesses - which are significant. The white paper is also the most persuasive of the three. It won't persuade me that reform is unnecessary, of course, and several of its sections are kooky. But like any infomercial, it has enough truth to hook a lot of people.

Prop. 77's wisdom remains a close question. Equally pragmatic people are passionately involved on both sides. Reality proves that incumbents are always going to have the edge regardless of district lines or re-draw methods. Put when term limits force incumbents out, districts' importance rise dramatically. Safe districts aid hand-picked heirs and give us the marginal primary candidates that will - make no mistake - hamper efforts to maintain a Democratic majority in the long run.